The XS compiler is called xsubpp. This compiler will embed the constructs necessary to let an XSUB, which is really a C function in disguise, manipulate Perl values and creates the glue necessary to let Perl access the XSUB. The compiler uses typemaps to determine how to map C function parameters and variables to Perl values. The default typemap handles many common C types. A supplement typemap must be created to handle special structures and types for the library being linked.
See the perlxstut manpage for a tutorial on the whole extension creation process.
From C this function will be called with the following statements.
If an XSUB is created to offer a direct translation between this function and Perl, then this XSUB will be used from Perl with the following code. The $status and $timep variables will contain the output of the function.
The following XS file shows an XS subroutine, or XSUB, which
demonstrates one possible interface to the rpcb_gettime()
function. This XSUB represents a direct translation between
C and Perl and so preserves the interface even from Perl.
This XSUB will be invoked from Perl with the usage shown
above. Note that the first three #include statements, for
XSUB.h, will always be present at the
beginning of an XS file. This approach and others will be
expanded later in this document.
Any extension to Perl, including those containing XSUBs,
should have a Perl module to serve as the bootstrap which
pulls the extension into Perl. This module will export the
extension's functions and variables to the Perl program and
will cause the extension's XSUBs to be linked into Perl.
The following module will be used for most of the examples
in this document and should be used from Perl with the
command as shown earlier. Perl modules are explained in
more detail later in this document.
Throughout this document a variety of interfaces to the rpcb_gettime() XSUB will be explored. The XSUBs will take their parameters in different orders or will take different numbers of parameters. In each case the XSUB is an abstraction between Perl and the real C rpcb_gettime() function, and the XSUB must always ensure that the real rpcb_gettime() function is called with the correct parameters. This abstraction will allow the programmer to create a more Perl-like interface to the C function.
When using C pointers the indirection operator
* should be considered
part of the type and the address operator
& should be considered part of
the variable, as is demonstrated in the rpcb_gettime() function above. See
the section on typemaps for more about handling qualifiers and unary
operators in C types.
The function name and the return type must be placed on separate lines.
The function body may be indented or left-adjusted. The following example shows a function with its body left-adjusted. Most examples in this document will indent the body.
XSUBs refer to their stack arguments with the macro ST(x), where x refers to a position in this XSUB's part of the stack. Position 0 for that function would be known to the XSUB as ST(0). The XSUB's incoming parameters and outgoing return values always begin at ST(0). For many simple cases the xsubpp compiler will generate the code necessary to handle the argument stack by embedding code fragments found in the typemaps. In more complex cases the programmer must supply the code.
If the XSUB has a return type of
void then the compiler will
not supply a RETVAL variable for that function. When using
the PPCODE: directive the RETVAL variable may not be needed.
The following example will start the XS code and will place all functions in a package named RPC.
Although this keyword is optional and in some cases provides redundant information it should always be used. This keyword will ensure that the XSUBs appear in the desired package.
rpcb_gettime()and the PREFIX value is
rpcb_then Perl will see this function as
This keyword should follow the PACKAGE keyword when used. If PACKAGE is not used then PREFIX should follow the MODULE keyword.
This keyword will normally be used to complement the CODE: keyword. The RETVAL variable is not recognized as an output variable when the CODE: keyword is present. The OUTPUT: keyword is used in this situation to tell the compiler that RETVAL really is an output variable.
The OUTPUT: keyword can also be used to indicate that function parameters are output variables. This may be necessary when a parameter has been modified within the function and the programmer would like the update to be seen by Perl.
The OUTPUT: keyword will also allow an output parameter to be mapped to a matching piece of code rather than to a typemap.
The following XSUB is for a C function which requires special handling of its parameters. The Perl usage is given first.
The XSUB follows.
The following example shows a variation of the rpcb_gettime() function. This function uses the timep variable as only an output variable and does not care about its initial contents.
The following code demonstrates how to supply initialization code for function parameters. The initialization code is eval'd by the compiler before it is added to the output so anything which should be interpreted literally, such as double quotes, must be protected with backslashes.
This should not be used to supply default values for parameters. One would normally use this when a function parameter must be processed by another library function before it can be used. Default parameters are covered in the next section.
To allow the XSUB for rpcb_gettime() to have a default host value the parameters to the XSUB could be rearranged. The XSUB will then call the real rpcb_gettime() function with the parameters in the correct order. Perl will call this XSUB with either of the following statements.
The XSUB will look like the code which follows. A CODE: block is used to call the real rpcb_gettime() function with the parameters in the correct order for that function.
The following examples are equivalent, but if the code is using complex typemaps then the first example is safer.
A correct, but error-prone example.
To support potentially complex type mappings, if a typemap entry used
by this XSUB contains a comment like
/*scope*/ then scoping will
automatically be enabled for that XSUB.
To enable scoping:
To disable scoping:
The following example shows how the input parameter
timep can be
evaluated late, after a PREINIT.
The next example shows each input parameter evaluated late.
(...)in the parameter list. This use of the ellipsis is similar to that found in ANSI C. The programmer is able to determine the number of arguments passed to the XSUB by examining the
itemsvariable which the xsubpp compiler supplies for all XSUBs. By using this mechanism one can create an XSUB which accepts a list of parameters of unknown length.
The host parameter for the rpcb_gettime() XSUB can be optional so the ellipsis can be used to indicate that the XSUB will take a variable number of parameters. Perl should be able to call this XSUB with either of the following statements.
The XS code, with ellipsis, follows.
The following XSUB will call the C rpcb_gettime() function and will return its two output values, timep and status, to Perl as a single list.
Notice that the programmer must supply the C code necessary to have the real rpcb_gettime() function called and to have the return values properly placed on the argument stack.
void return type for this function tells the xsubpp compiler that
the RETVAL variable is not needed or used and that it should not be created.
In most scenarios the void return type should be used with the PPCODE:
The EXTEND() macro is used to make room on the argument
stack for 2 return values. The PPCODE: directive causes the
xsubpp compiler to create a stack pointer called
sp, and it
is this pointer which is being used in the EXTEND() macro.
The values are then pushed onto the stack with the PUSHs()
Now the rpcb_gettime() function can be used from Perl with the following statement.
undefor an empty list if a function fails rather than a separate status value. The rpcb_gettime() function offers just this situation. If the function succeeds we would like to have it return the time and if it fails we would like to have undef returned. In the following Perl code the value of $timep will either be undef or it will be a valid time.
The following XSUB uses the
void return type to disable the generation of
the RETVAL variable and uses a CODE: block to indicate to the compiler
that the programmer has supplied all the necessary code. The
sv_newmortal() call will initialize the return value to undef, making that
the default return value.
The next example demonstrates how one would place an explicit undef in the return value, should the need arise.
To return an empty list one must use a PPCODE: block and then not push return values on the stack.
Some people may be inclined to include an explicit
return in the above
XSUB, rather than letting control fall through to the end. In those
XSRETURN_EMPTY should be used, instead. This will ensure that
the XSUB stack is properly adjusted. Consult ``API LISTING'' for
This keyword may be used any time after the first MODULE keyword and should appear on a line by itself. The first blank line after the keyword will terminate the code block.
-noversioncheckoptions. This keyword overrides the commandline options. Version checking is enabled by default. When version checking is enabled the XS module will attempt to verify that its version matches the version of the PM module.
To enable version checking:
To disable version checking:
-noprototypesoptions. This keyword overrides the commandline options. Prototypes are enabled by default. When prototypes are enabled XSUBs will be given Perl prototypes. This keyword may be used multiple times in an XS module to enable and disable prototypes for different parts of the module.
To enable prototypes:
To disable prototypes:
ixwhich contain the index of the alias which was used. When the XSUB is called with its declared name
ixwill be 0.
The following example will create aliases
BAR::getit() for this function.
The file Rpcb1.xsh contains our
The XS module can use INCLUDE: to pull that file into it.
If the parameters to the INCLUDE: keyword are followed by a pipe (
the compiler will interpret the parameters as a command.
A CASE: might switch via a parameter of the XSUB, via the
variable (see ``The ALIAS: Keyword''), or maybe via the
(see ``Variable-length Parameter Lists''). The last CASE: becomes the
default case if it is not associated with a conditional. The following
example shows CASE switched via
ix with a function
having an alias
x_gettime(). When the function is called as
rpcb_gettime() its parameters are the usual
(char *host, time_t *timep),
but when the function is called as
x_gettime() its parameters are
(time_t *timep, char *host).
That function can be called with either of the following statements. Note the different argument lists.
longbut not a
The following XSUB will generate incorrect C code. The xsubpp compiler will
turn this into code which calls
rpcb_gettime() with parameters C<(char
*host, time_t timep)>, but the real
rpcb_gettime() wants the
parameter to be of type
time_t* rather than
That problem is corrected by using the
& operator. The xsubpp compiler
will now turn this into code which calls
rpcb_gettime() correctly with
(char *host, time_t *timep). It does this by carrying the
& through, so the function call looks like
Comments can be added to XSUBs by placing a
# as the first
non-whitespace of a line. Care should be taken to avoid making the
comment look like a C preprocessor directive, lest it be interpreted as
such. The simplest way to prevent this is to put whitespace in front of
If you use preprocessor directives to choose one of two versions of a function, use
because otherwise xsubpp will believe that you made a duplicate definition of the function. Also, put a blank line before the #else/#endif so it will not be seen as part of the function body.
If the method is defined as static it will call the C++ function using the class::method() syntax. If the method is not static the function will be called using the THIS->method() syntax.
The next examples will use the following C++ class.
The XSUBs for the blue() and set_blue() methods are defined with the class name but the parameter for the object (THIS, or ``self'') is implicit and is not listed.
Both functions will expect an object as the first parameter. The xsubpp
compiler will call that object
THIS and will use it to call the specified
method. So in the C++ code the blue() and set_blue() methods will be called
in the following manner.
If the function's name is DESTROY then the C++
delete function will be
THIS will be given as its parameter.
The C++ code will call
If the function's name is new then the C++
new function will be called
to create a dynamic C++ object. The XSUB will expect the class name, which
will be kept in a variable called
CLASS, to be given as the first
The C++ code will call
The following is an example of a typemap that could be used for this C++ example.
Identify the C functions which modify their parameters. The XSUBs for these functions may be able to return lists to Perl, or may be candidates to return undef or an empty list in case of failure.
Identify which values are used by only the C and XSUB functions themselves. If Perl does not need to access the contents of the value then it may not be necessary to provide a translation for that value from C to Perl.
Identify the pointers in the C function parameter lists and return values. Some pointers can be handled in XS with the & unary operator on the variable name while others will require the use of the * operator on the type name. In general it is easier to work with the & operator.
Identify the structures used by the C functions. In many cases it may be helpful to use the T_PTROBJ typemap for these structures so they can be manipulated by Perl as blessed objects.
The following XS code shows the getnetconfigent() function which is used with ONC+ TIRPC. The getnetconfigent() function will return a pointer to a C structure and has the C prototype shown below. The example will demonstrate how the C pointer will become a Perl reference. Perl will consider this reference to be a pointer to a blessed object and will attempt to call a destructor for the object. A destructor will be provided in the XS source to free the memory used by getnetconfigent(). Destructors in XS can be created by specifying an XSUB function whose name ends with the word DESTROY. XS destructors can be used to free memory which may have been malloc'd by another XSUB.
typedef will be created for
struct netconfig. The Perl
object will be blessed in a class matching the name of the C
type, with the tag
Ptr appended, and the name should not
have embedded spaces if it will be a Perl package name. The
destructor will be placed in a class corresponding to the
class of the object and the PREFIX keyword will be used to
trim the name to the word DESTROY as Perl will expect.
This example requires the following typemap entry. Consult the typemap section for more information about adding new typemaps for an extension.
This example will be used with the following Perl statements.
When Perl destroys the object referenced by $netconf it will send the object to the supplied XSUB DESTROY function. Perl cannot determine, and does not care, that this object is a C struct and not a Perl object. In this sense, there is no difference between the object created by the getnetconfigent() XSUB and an object created by a normal Perl subroutine.
OUTPUT. The INPUT section tells the compiler how to translate Perl values into variables of certain C types. The OUTPUT section tells the compiler how to translate the values from certain C types into values Perl can understand. The TYPEMAP section tells the compiler which of the INPUT and OUTPUT code fragments should be used to map a given C type to a Perl value. Each of the sections of the typemap must be preceded by one of the TYPEMAP, INPUT, or OUTPUT keywords.
The default typemap in the
ext directory of the Perl source contains many
useful types which can be used by Perl extensions. Some extensions define
additional typemaps which they keep in their own directory. These
additional typemaps may reference INPUT and OUTPUT maps in the main
typemap. The xsubpp compiler will allow the extension's own typemap to
override any mappings which are in the default typemap.
Most extensions which require a custom typemap will need only the TYPEMAP
section of the typemap file. The custom typemap used in the
getnetconfigent() example shown earlier demonstrates what may be the typical
use of extension typemaps. That typemap is used to equate a C structure
with the T_PTROBJ typemap. The typemap used by getnetconfigent() is shown
here. Note that the C type is separated from the XS type with a tab and
that the C unary operator
* is considered to be a part of the C type name.
RPC.xs: Interface to some ONC+ RPC bind library functions.
typemap: Custom typemap for RPC.xs.
RPC.pm: Perl module for the RPC extension.
rpctest.pl: Perl test program for the RPC extension.