11.6 Generators

A generator is a function that produces a potentially-infinite stream of values. Each time the function produces a value, it suspends itself and waits for a caller to request the next value.

Macro: iter-defun name args [doc] [declare] [interactive] body…

iter-defun defines a generator function. A generator function has the same signature as a normal function, but works differently. Instead of executing body when called, a generator function returns an iterator object. That iterator runs body to generate values, emitting a value and pausing where iter-yield or iter-yield-from appears. When body returns normally, iter-next signals iter-end-of-sequence with body’s result as its condition data.

Any kind of Lisp code is valid inside body, but iter-yield and iter-yield-from cannot appear inside unwind-protect forms.

Macro: iter-lambda args [doc] [interactive] body…

iter-lambda produces an unnamed generator function that works just like a generator function produced with iter-defun.

Macro: iter-yield value

When it appears inside a generator function, iter-yield indicates that the current iterator should pause and return value from iter-next. iter-yield evaluates to the value parameter of next call to iter-next.

Macro: iter-yield-from iterator

iter-yield-from yields all the values that iterator produces and evaluates to the value that iterator’s generator function returns normally. While it has control, iterator receives values sent to the iterator using iter-next.

To use a generator function, first call it normally, producing a iterator object. An iterator is a specific instance of a generator. Then use iter-next to retrieve values from this iterator. When there are no more values to pull from an iterator, iter-next raises an iter-end-of-sequence condition with the iterator’s final value.

It’s important to note that generator function bodies only execute inside calls to iter-next. A call to a function defined with iter-defun produces an iterator; you must drive this iterator with iter-next for anything interesting to happen. Each call to a generator function produces a different iterator, each with its own state.

Function: iter-next iterator &optional value

Retrieve the next value from iterator. If there are no more values to be generated (because iterator’s generator function returned), iter-next signals the iter-end-of-sequence condition; the data value associated with this condition is the value with which iterator’s generator function returned.

value is sent into the iterator and becomes the value to which iter-yield evaluates. value is ignored for the first iter-next call to a given iterator, since at the start of iterator’s generator function, the generator function is not evaluating any iter-yield form.

Function: iter-close iterator

If iterator is suspended inside an unwind-protect’s bodyform and becomes unreachable, Emacs will eventually run unwind handlers after a garbage collection pass. (Note that iter-yield is illegal inside an unwind-protect’s unwindforms.) To ensure that these handlers are run before then, use iter-close.

Some convenience functions are provided to make working with iterators easier:

Macro: iter-do (var iterator) body …

Run body with var bound to each value that iterator produces.

The Common Lisp loop facility also contains features for working with iterators. See Loop Facility in Common Lisp Extensions.

The following piece of code demonstrates some important principles of working with iterators.

(require 'generator)
(iter-defun my-iter (x)
  (iter-yield (1+ (iter-yield (1+ x))))
   ;; Return normally

(let* ((iter (my-iter 5))
       (iter2 (my-iter 0)))
  ;; Prints 6
  (print (iter-next iter))
  ;; Prints 9
  (print (iter-next iter 8))
  ;; Prints 1; iter and iter2 have distinct states
  (print (iter-next iter2 nil))

  ;; We expect the iter sequence to end now
  (condition-case x
      (iter-next iter)
      ;; Prints -1, which my-iter returned normally
      (print (cdr x)))))