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18.2 Foreign Function Interface

The Win32 foreign function interface (FFI) is a primitive and fairly simple system for calling procedures written in C in a dynamically linked library (DLL). Both user's procedures from a custom DLL and system procedures (e.g. MessageBox) are called using the same mechanism.

Warning: The FFI as it stands has several flaws which make it difficult to use reliably. It is expected that both the interface to and the mechanisms used by the FFI will be changed in the future. We provide it, and this documentation, only to give people an early start in accessing some of the features of Win32 from Scheme. Should you use it in an experiment we welcome any feedback.

The FFI is designed for calling C procedures that use C data types rather than Scheme data objects. Thus it is not possible to write and call a C procedure that returns, for example, a Scheme list. The object returned will always be an integer (which may represent the address of a C data structure).

Warning: It is extremely dangerous to try to pass Scheme callback procedures to C procedures. It is only possible by passing integer `handles' rather than the actual procedures, and even so, if a garbage collection occurs during the execution of the callback procedure objects in Scheme's heap will have moved. Thus in a foreign procedure that has a callback and a string, after calling the callback the string value may no longer be valid. Playing this game requires a profound knowledge of the implementation.

The interface to the FFI has two main components: a language for declaring the types of values passed to and returned from the foreign procedures and a form for declaring foreign procedures.