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5.6 Function Snarfing

When writing C code for use with Guile, you typically define a set of C functions, and then make some of them visible to the Scheme world by calling scm_c_define_gsubr or related functions. If you have many functions to publish, it can sometimes be annoying to keep the list of calls to scm_c_define_gsubr in sync with the list of function definitions.

Guile provides the guile-snarf program to manage this problem. Using this tool, you can keep all the information needed to define the function alongside the function definition itself; guile-snarf will extract this information from your source code, and automatically generate a file of calls to scm_c_define_gsubr which you can #include into an initialization function.

The snarfing mechanism works for many kind of initialization actions, not just for collecting calls to scm_c_define_gsubr. For a full list of what can be done, See Snarfing Macros.

The guile-snarf program is invoked like this:

guile-snarf [-o outfile] [cpp-args ...]

This command will extract initialization actions to outfile. When no outfile has been specified or when outfile is -, standard output will be used. The C preprocessor is called with cpp-args (which usually include an input file) and the output is filtered to extract the initialization actions.

If there are errors during processing, outfile is deleted and the program exits with non-zero status.

During snarfing, the pre-processor macro SCM_MAGIC_SNARFER is defined. You could use this to avoid including snarfer output files that don’t yet exist by writing code like this:

#include "foo.x"

Here is how you might define the Scheme function clear-image, implemented by the C function clear_image:

#include <libguile.h>

SCM_DEFINE (clear_image, "clear-image", 1, 0, 0,
            (SCM image),
            "Clear the image.")
  /* C code to clear the image in image... */

init_image_type ()
#include "image-type.x"

The SCM_DEFINE declaration says that the C function clear_image implements a Scheme function called clear-image, which takes one required argument (of type SCM and named image), no optional arguments, and no rest argument. The string "Clear the image." provides a short help text for the function, it is called a docstring.

SCM_DEFINE macro also defines a static array of characters initialized to the Scheme name of the function. In this case, s_clear_image is set to the C string, "clear-image". You might want to use this symbol when generating error messages.

Assuming the text above lives in a file named image-type.c, you will need to execute the following command to prepare this file for compilation:

guile-snarf -o image-type.x image-type.c

This scans image-type.c for SCM_DEFINE declarations, and writes to image-type.x the output:

scm_c_define_gsubr ("clear-image", 1, 0, 0, (SCM (*)() ) clear_image);

When compiled normally, SCM_DEFINE is a macro which expands to the function header for clear_image.

Note that the output file name matches the #include from the input file. Also, you still need to provide all the same information you would if you were using scm_c_define_gsubr yourself, but you can place the information near the function definition itself, so it is less likely to become incorrect or out-of-date.

If you have many files that guile-snarf must process, you should consider using a fragment like the following in your Makefile:

snarfcppopts = $(DEFS) $(INCLUDES) $(CPPFLAGS) $(CFLAGS)
	guile-snarf -o $@ $< $(snarfcppopts)

This tells make to run guile-snarf to produce each needed .x file from the corresponding .c file.

The program guile-snarf passes its command-line arguments directly to the C preprocessor, which it uses to extract the information it needs from the source code. this means you can pass normal compilation flags to guile-snarf to define preprocessor symbols, add header file directories, and so on.

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