Concrete Instance Bounds

The types of problems that Forge creates and solves consist of 3 mathematical objects:

  • A set of signatures and relations (the language of the problem);
  • A set of logical/relational formulas (the constraints of the problem);
  • A set of bounds on sigs and relations (the bounds of the problem).

Partial Instances

Forge presents a syntax that helps users keep these concerns separated. The first two concerns are represented by sig and pred declarations. The third concern is often addressed by numeric bounds (also called "scope"), but numeric bounds are always converted (usually invisibly to the user!) into set-based bounds that concretely specify:

  • the lower bounds, what must be in an instance; and
  • the upper bounds, what may be in an instance.

The inst syntax provides the ability to manipulate these set-based bounds directly, instead of indirectly via numeric bounds. The same syntax is used in example tests. Because bounds declarations interface more directly with the solver than constraints, at times they can yield performance improvements.

Finally, because bounds declarations can concretely refer to atoms in the world, we will often refer to them as partial instances.

inst Syntax

An inst declaration contains a {}-enclosed sequence of bind declarations. A bind declaration is one of the following, where A is either a sig name or field name.

  • #Int = k: use bitwidth k (where k is an integer greater than zero);
  • A in <bounds-expr>: specify upper bounds on a sig or field A;
  • A ni <bounds-expr>: specify lower bounds on a sig or field A;
  • A = <bounds-expr>: exactly specify the contents of the sig or field A (effectively setting both the lower and upper bounds to be the same);
  • no A: specify that A is empty;
  • r is linear : use bounds-based symmetry breaking to make sure field r is a linear ordering on its types (useful for optimizing model-checking queries in Forge); and
  • r is plinear : similar to r is linear, but possibly not involving the entire contents of the sig. I.e., a total linear order on A'->A' for some subset A' of A.

When binding fields, the binding can also be given piecewise per atom. Keep in mind that atom names should be prefixed by a backquote:

  • AtomName.f in <bounds-expr> (upper bound, restricted to AtomName);
  • AtomName.f ni <bounds-expr> (lower bound, restricted to AtomName);
  • AtomName.f = <bounds-expr> (exact bound, restricted to AtomName); and
  • no AtomName.f (exact bound contains nothing, restricted to AtomName). Piecewise bindings add no restrictions to other atoms, only those mentioned. They can improve readability if you're defining a field for many different atoms. There is an example below.

The specifics of <bounds-expr> depend on which Forge language you are using.

Bounds aren't the same as constraints!

The syntax of partial instances is very similar to the syntax you use to write constraints in predicates. Always keep in mind that they are not the same; bindings have a far more restrictive syntax but allow you to refer to atoms directly---something constraints don't allow.

Froglet Style Bind Expressions

In Froglet:

  • a <bounds-expr> for a sig is a +-separated list of atom names (each prefixed by backquote), sig names that have already been bounded, and integers (without backquotes).
  • a <bounds-expr> for a field is a +-separated list of entries in that field, using atom names (each prefixed by a backquote), sig names that have already been bounded, and integers (without backquotes). Entries are defined using the (arg1, arg2, ...) -> result syntax, and may be either complete or piecewise.
    • a complete bind for a field

Froglet-style bounds

Suppose you have a Forge model like this:

sig Person {
    gradeIn: pfunc Course -> Grade
sig Course {}
abstract sig Grade {}

where Person has a partial-function field gradeIn, indicating which grade they got in a given course (if any).

Given this concrete bound for the Person, Course, and Grade sigs:

Person = `Person0 + `Person1 + `Person2
Course = `Course0 + `Course1 + `Course2
Grade = `A + `B + `C 

you might define bounds for the gradeIn field of Person all at once, for everyone:

gradeIn = (`Person0, `Course0) -> `A + 
          (`Person0, `Course1) -> `B + 
          (`Person1, `Course2) -> `C

or piecewise, one Person at a time:

`Person0.gradeIn = `Course0 -> `A + 
                   `Course1 -> `B
`Person1.gradeIn = `Course2 -> `C
no `Person2.gradeIn

Note that in the piecewise version, we need to explicitly say that \Person2` hasn't taken courses; in the all-at-once version, that's implicit.

This model is available in full here.

Atom names

Identifiers prefixed by a backquote (\) always denote atom names. You cannot name atoms like this in ordinary constraints! (Thus, in the example above there is no one sig A extends Grade {}; there is only the atom \A`.)

in vs. ni vs. =

Bound expressions must not mix the =, in and ni operators for the same sig or field, even within a piecewise definition. It's OK to use ni for one field and in for another, but always use exactly one of them for each field. You should also not mix operators between sigs that are related by extends.

This style of bind expression is still allowed in Relational Forge, so if you prefer it, feel free to continue using it!

Relational-Forge Style Bind Expressions

From the relational perspective, a <bounds-expr> is a union (+) of products (->) of object names (each prefixed by backquote), sig names, and integers. Bounds expressions must be of appropriate arity for the sig or field name they are bounding.

Relational bounds expressions

A = `Alice+`Alex+`Adam
f = `Alice->`Alex + 
g in `Alice->2 

where A is a sig, f is a field of A with value in A, and g is a field of A with integer value. Note that integers should be used directly, without backquotes.

Common errors

Arity mismatches between the left and right-hand sides. E.g., in a standard directed graph where edges is a binary relation on Nodes:

edges in Node

would produce an error, even though the way you declare the field in Forge hides the extra column in the relation:

sig Node { edges: set Node }

Leaving parent sigs unbounded. Forge currently (January 2024) will not permit binding a child sig without first binding its parent sig. E.g., this results in an error if Student is a child sig of Person:

Student = `Student0 + `Student1

To fix the problem, just add the same kind of bound for Person:

Student = `Student0 + `Student1
Person = Student + `Teacher0

inst in Temporal Forge

Temporal Forge also supports inst using the same syntax above.

Bounds apply to all states at once!

If you use a partial instance with a Temporal Forge model, be aware that there's no way to bind sigs or fields per state. Each binding is applied globally, so they can be very useful for optimization, but don't try to write examples with inst in Temporal Forge---you have no recourse to temporal operators in binding expressions!

Notes on Semantics

Bounds declarations are resolved in order before the problem is sent to the solver. The right-hand side of each declaration is evaluated given all preceding bounds declarations, which means that using sig names on the right-hand side is allowed so long as those sigs are exact bounded by some preceding bounds declaration.

A bounds declaration cannot define bounds for a sig unless bounds for its ancestors are also defined. Bounds inconsistencies will produce an error message.

Mixing Numeric Scope and inst

You can mix both styles; just give the set-based bounds after the numeric ones.

Example run mixing both styles

run {myPred} for 5 Person for {Class = `Class0 + `Class1}

However, beware of inconsistencies! Numeric and inst bounds are (as of January 2024) only reconciled right before the solver is invoked, so you might receive confusing error messages of "last resort" in case of inconsistency between the two.