On this page:
_ cprocedure
_ fun
3.6.1 Custom Function Types
_ ?
_ ptr
_ box
_ list
_ vector
_ bytes

3.6 Function Types

(_cprocedure input-types    
  [#:abi abi    
  #:atomic? atomic?    
  #:async-apply async-apply    
  #:in-original-place? in-original-place?    
  #:save-errno save-errno    
  #:wrapper wrapper    
  #:keep keep])  any
  input-types : (list ctype?)
  output-type : ctype?
  abi : (or/c #f 'default 'stdcall 'sysv) = #f
  atomic? : any/c = #f
  async-apply : (or/c #f ((-> any) . -> . any)) = #f
  in-original-place? : any/c = #f
  save-errno : (or/c #f 'posix 'windows) = #f
  wrapper : (or/c #f (procedure? . -> . procedure?)) = #f
  keep : (or/c boolean? box? (any/c . -> . any/c)) = #t
A type constructor that creates a new function type, which is specified by the given input-types list and output-type. Usually, the _fun syntax (described below) should be used instead, since it manages a wide range of complicated cases.

The resulting type can be used to reference foreign functions (usually ffi-objs, but any pointer object can be referenced with this type), generating a matching foreign callout object. Such objects are new primitive procedure objects that can be used like any other Racket procedure. As with other pointer types, #f is treated as a NULL function pointer and vice versa.

A type created with _cprocedure can also be used for passing Racket procedures to foreign functions, which will generate a foreign function pointer that calls the given Racket procedure when it is used. There are no restrictions on the Racket procedure; in particular, its lexical context is properly preserved.

The optional abi keyword argument determines the foreign ABI that is used. Supplying #f or 'default indicates the platform-dependent default. The other possible values—'stdcall and 'sysv (i.e., “cdecl”)—are currently supported only for 32-bit Windows; using them on other platforms raises an exception. See also ffi/winapi.

If atomic? is true, then when a Racket procedure is given this procedure type and called from foreign code, then the Racket process is put into atomic mode while evaluating the Racket procedure body. In atomic mode, other Racket threads do not run, so the Racket code must not call any function that potentially blocks on synchronization with other threads, or else it may lead to deadlock. In addition, the Racket code must not perform any potentially blocking operation (such as I/O), it must not raise an uncaught exception, it must not perform any escaping continuation jumps, and its non-tail recursion must be minimal to avoid C-level stack overflow; otherwise, the process may crash or misbehave.

If an async-apply procedure is provided, then a Racket procedure with the generated procedure type can be applied in a foreign thread (i.e., an OS-level thread other than the one used to run Racket). The call in the foreign thread is transferred to the OS-level thread that runs Racket, but the Racket-level thread (in the sense of thread) is unspecified; the job of the provided async-apply procedure is to arrange for the callback procedure to be run in a suitable Racket thread. The given async-apply procedure is applied to a thunk that encapsulates the specific callback invocation, and the foreign OS-level thread blocks until the thunk is called and completes; the thunk must be called exactly once, and the callback invocation must return normally. The given async-apply procedure itself is called in atomic mode (see atomic? above). If the callback is known to complete quickly, requires no synchronization, and works independent of the Racket thread in which it runs, then it is safe for the given async-apply procedure to apply the thunk directly. Otherwise, the given async-apply procedure must arrange for the thunk to be applied in a suitable Racket thread sometime after the given async-apply procedure itself returns; if the thunk raises an exception or synchronizes within an unsuitable Racket-level thread, it can deadlock or otherwise damage the Racket process. Foreign-thread detection to trigger async-apply works only when Racket is compiled with OS-level thread support, which is the default for many platforms. If a callback with an async-apply is called from foreign code in the same OS-level thread that runs Racket, then the async-apply wrapper is not used.

The atomic? and async-apply arguments affect callbacks into Racket, while in-original-place? affects calls from Racket into foreign code.

If in-original-place? is true, then when a foreign procedure with the generated type is called in any Racket place, the procedure is called from the original Racket place. Use this mode for a foreign function that is not thread-safe at the C level, which means that it is not place-safe at the Racket level. Callbacks from place-unsafe code back into Racket at a non-original place typically will not work, since the place of the Racket code may have a different allocator than the original place.

If save-errno is 'posix, then the value of errno is saved (specific to the current thread) immediately after a foreign function returns. The saved value is accessible through saved-errno. If save-errno is 'windows, then the value of GetLastError() is saved for later use via saved-errno; the 'windows option is available only on Windows (on other platforms saved-errno will return 0). If save-errno is #f, no error value is saved automatically. The error-recording support provided by save-errno is needed because the Racket runtime system may otherwise preempt the current Racket thread and itself call functions that set error values.

The optional wrapper, if provided, is expected to be a function that can change a callout procedure: when a callout is generated, the wrapper is applied on the newly created primitive procedure, and its result is used as the new function. Thus, wrapper is a hook that can perform various argument manipulations before the foreign function is invoked, and return different results (for example, grabbing a value stored in an “output” pointer and returning multiple values). It can also be used for callbacks, as an additional layer that tweaks arguments from the foreign code before they reach the Racket procedure, and possibly changes the result values too.

Sending Racket functions as callbacks to foreign code is achieved by translating them to a foreign “closure,” which foreign code can call as plain C functions. Additional care must be taken in case the foreign code might hold on to the callback function. In these cases you must arrange for the callback value to not be garbage-collected, or the held callback will become invalid. The optional keep keyword argument is used to achieve this. It can have the following values:
  • #t makes the callback value stay in memory as long as the converted function is. In order to use this, you need to hold on to the original function, for example, have a binding for it. Note that each function can hold onto one callback value (it is stored in a weak hash table), so if you need to use a function in multiple callbacks you will need to use one of the last two options below. (This is the default, as it is fine in most cases.)

  • #f means that the callback value is not held. This may be useful for a callback that is only used for the duration of the foreign call — for example, the comparison function argument to the standard C library qsort function is only used while qsort is working, and no additional references to the comparison function are kept. Use this option only in such cases, when no holding is necessary and you want to avoid the extra cost.

  • A box holding #f (or a callback value) — in this case the callback value will be stored in the box, overriding any value that was in the box (making it useful for holding a single callback value). When you know that it is no longer needed, you can “release” the callback value by changing the box contents, or by allowing the box itself to be garbage-collected. This is can be useful if the box is held for a dynamic extent that corresponds to when the callback is needed; for example, you might encapsulate some foreign functionality in a Racket class or a unit, and keep the callback box as a field in new instances or instantiations of the unit.

  • A box holding null (or any list) – this is similar to the previous case, except that new callback values are consed onto the contents of the box. It is therefore useful in (rare) cases when a Racket function is used in multiple callbacks (that is, sent to foreign code to hold onto multiple times).

  • Finally, if a one-argument function is provided as keep, it will be invoked with the callback value when it is generated. This allows you to grab the value directly and use it in any way.

(_fun fun-option ... maybe-args type-spec ... -> type-spec
fun-option = #:abi abi-expr
  | #:save-errno save-errno-expr
  | #:keep keep-expr
  | #:atomic? atomic?-expr
  | #:async-apply async-apply-expr
  | #:in-original-place? in-original-place?-expr
maybe-args = 
  | (id ...) ::
  | id ::
  | (id ... . id) ::
type-spec = type-expr
  | (id : type-expr)
  | (type-expr = value-expr)
  | (id : type-expr = value-expr)
maybe-wrapper = 
  | -> output-expr
Creates a new function type. The _fun form is a convenient syntax for the _cprocedure type constructor. In its simplest form, only the input type-exprs and the output type-expr are specified, and each types is a simple expression, which creates a straightforward function type.

For instance,

(_fun _int _string -> _int)

specifies a function that receives an integer and a string, and returns an integer.

In its full form, the _fun syntax provides an IDL-like language that can be used to create a wrapper function around the primitive foreign function. These wrappers can implement complex foreign interfaces given simple specifications. The full form of each of the type specifications can include an optional label and an expression. If a = value-expr is provided, then the resulting function will be a wrapper that calculates the argument for that position itself, meaning that it does not expect an argument for that position. The expression can use previous arguments if they were labeled with id :. In addition, the result of a function call need not be the value returned from the foreign call: if the optional output-expr is specified, or if an expression is provided for the output type, then this specifies an expression that will be used as a return value. This expression can use any of the previous labels, including a label given for the output which can be used to access the actual foreign return value.

In rare cases where complete control over the input arguments is needed, the wrapper’s argument list can be specified as args, in any form (including a “rest” argument). Identifiers in this place are related to type labels, so if an argument is there is no need to use an expression.

For example,

(_fun (n s) :: (s : _string) (n : _int) -> _int)

specifies a function that receives an integer and a string, but the foreign function receives the string first.

(function-ptr ptr-or-proc fun-type)  cpointer?
  ptr-or-proc : (or cpointer? procedure?)
  fun-type : ctype?
Casts ptr-or-proc to a function pointer of type fun-type.

3.6.1 Custom Function Types

The behavior of the _fun type can be customized via custom function types, which are pieces of syntax that can behave as C types and C type constructors, but they can interact with function calls in several ways that are not possible otherwise. When the _fun form is expanded, it tries to expand each of the given type expressions, and ones that expand to certain keyword-value lists interact with the generation of the foreign function wrapper. This expansion makes it possible to construct a single wrapper function, avoiding the costs involved in compositions of higher-order functions.

Custom function types are macros that expand to a sequence (key: val ...), where each key: is from a short list of known keys. Each key interacts with generated wrapper functions in a different way, which affects how its corresponding argument is treated:

The pre: and post: bindings can be of the form (id => expr) to use the existing value. Note that if the pre: expression is not (id => expr), then it means that there is no input for this argument to the _fun-generated procedure. Also note that if a custom type is used as an output type of a function, then only the post: code is used.

Most custom types are meaningful only in a _fun context, and will raise a syntax error if used elsewhere. A few such types can be used in non-_fun contexts: types which use only type:, pre:, post:, and no others. Such custom types can be used outside a _fun by expanding them into a usage of make-ctype, using other keywords makes this impossible, because it means that the type has specific interaction with a function call.

(define-fun-syntax id transformer-expr)
Binds id as a custom function type as well as a syntax transformer (i.e, macro). The type is expanded by applying the procedure produced by transformer-expr to a use of the custom function type.

For instance, the following defines a new type that automatically coerces the input number to an inexact form which is compatible with the _float type.

(define-fun-syntax _float*
  (syntax-id-rules (_float*)
    [(_float*) (type: _float pre: (x => (+ 0.0 x)))]))
(_fun _float* -> _bool)

A custom function type that is a marker for expressions that should not be sent to the foreign function. Use this to bind local values in a computation that is part of an ffi wrapper interface, or to specify wrapper arguments that are not sent to the foreign function (e.g., an argument that is used for processing the foreign output).

(_ptr mode type-expr)
mode = i
  | o
  | io
Creates a C pointer type, where mode indicates input or output pointers (or both). The mode can be one of the following:

For example, the _ptr type can be used in output mode to create a foreign function wrapper that returns more than a single argument. The following type:

(_fun (i : (_ptr o _int))
      -> (d : _double)
      -> (values d i))

creates a function that calls the foreign function with a fresh integer pointer, and use the value that is placed there as a second return value.

A custom function type similar to a (_ptr io type) argument, where the input is expected to be a box holding an appropriate value, which is unboxed on entry and modified accordingly on exit.

(_list mode type maybe-len)
mode = i
  | o
  | io
maybe-len = 
  | len-expr
A custom function type that is similar to _ptr, except that it is used for converting lists to/from C vectors. The optional maybe-len argument is needed for output values where it is used in the post code, and in the pre code of an output mode to allocate the block. In either case, it can refer to a previous binding for the length of the list which the C function will most likely require.

(_vector mode type maybe-len)
A custom function type like _list, except that it uses Racket vectors instead of lists.

(_bytes o len-expr)
A custom function type that can be used by itself as a simple type for a byte string as a C pointer. Alternatively, the second form is for a pointer return value, where the size should be explicitly specified.

There is no need for other modes: input or input/output would be just like _bytes, since the string carries its size information (there is no real need for the o part of the syntax, but it is present for consistency with the above macros).