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To help make the lexer simple, fast, and easy to maintain, while also having g77 generally encourage Fortran programmers to write simple, maintainable, portable code by maximizing the performance of compiling that kind of code:

The above implements nearly exactly what is specified by Character Set, and Lines, except it also provides automatic conversion of tabs and ignoring of newline-related carriage returns, as well as accommodating form-neutral INCLUDE files.

It also implements the "pure visual" model, by which is meant that a user viewing his code in a typical text editor (assuming it's not preprocessed via g77stripcard or similar) doesn't need any special knowledge of whether spaces on the screen are really tabs, whether lines end immediately after the last visible non-space character or after a number of spaces and tabs that follow it, or whether the last line in the file is ended by a newline.

Most editors don't make these distinctions, the ANSI FORTRAN 77 standard doesn't require them to, and it permits a standard-conforming compiler to define a method for transforming source code to "standard form" however it wants.

So, GNU Fortran defines it such that users have the best chance of having the code be interpreted the way it looks on the screen of the typical editor.

(Fancy editors should never be required to correctly read code written in classic two-dimensional-plaintext form. By correct reading I mean ability to read it, book-like, without mistaking text ignored by the compiler for program code and vice versa, and without having to count beyond the first several columns. The vague meaning of ASCII TAB, among other things, complicates this somewhat, but as long as "everyone", including the editor, other tools, and printer, agrees about the every-eighth-column convention, the GNU Fortran "pure visual" model meets these requirements. Any language or user-visible source form requiring special tagging of tabs, the ends of lines after spaces/tabs, and so on, fails to meet this fairly straightforward specification. Fortunately, Fortran itself does not mandate such a failure, though most vendor-supplied defaults for their Fortran compilers do fail to meet this specification for readability.)

Further, this model provides a clean interface to whatever preprocessors or code-generators are used to produce input to this phase of g77. Mainly, they need not worry about long lines.