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CFFI Reference
.. contents::
FFI Interface
*This page documents the runtime interface of the two types "FFI" and
"CompiledFFI". These two types are very similar to each other. You get
a CompiledFFI object if you import an out-of-line module. You get a FFI
object from explicitly writing cffi.FFI(). Unlike CompiledFFI, the type
FFI has also got additional methods documented on the* `next page`__.
.. __: cdef.html
**ffi.NULL**: a constant NULL of type ``<cdata 'void *'>``.
**ffi.error**: the Python exception raised in various cases. (Don't
confuse it with ``ffi.errno``.)
**, init=None)**:
allocate an instance according to the specified C type and return a
pointer to it. The specified C type must be either a pointer or an
array: ``new('X *')`` allocates an X and returns a pointer to it,
whereas ``new('X[n]')`` allocates an array of n X'es and returns an
array referencing it (which works mostly like a pointer, like in C).
You can also use ``new('X[]', n)`` to allocate an array of a
non-constant length n. See the `detailed documentation`__ for other
valid initializers.
.. __: using.html#working
When the returned ``<cdata>`` object goes out of scope, the memory is
freed. In other words the returned ``<cdata>`` object has ownership of
the value of type ``cdecl`` that it points to. This means that the raw
data can be used as long as this object is kept alive, but must not be
used for a longer time. Be careful about that when copying the
pointer to the memory somewhere else, e.g. into another structure.
Also, this means that a line like ``x =[0]`` is *always
wrong:* the newly allocated object goes out of scope instantly, and so
is freed immediately, and ``x`` is garbage.
The returned memory is initially cleared (filled with zeroes), before
the optional initializer is applied. For performance, see
`ffi.new_allocator()`_ for a way to allocate non-zero-initialized
*New in version 1.12:* see also ``ffi.release()``.
**ffi.cast("C type", value)**: similar to a C cast: returns an
instance of the named C type initialized with the given value. The
value is casted between integers or pointers of any type.
.. _ffi-errno:
.. _ffi-getwinerror:
ffi.errno, ffi.getwinerror()
**ffi.errno**: the value of ``errno`` received from the most recent C call
in this thread, and passed to the following C call. (This is a thread-local
read-write property.)
**ffi.getwinerror(code=-1)**: on Windows, in addition to ``errno`` we
also save and restore the ``GetLastError()`` value across function
calls. This function returns this error code as a tuple ``(code,
message)``, adding a readable message like Python does when raising
WindowsError. If the argument ``code`` is given, format that code into
a message instead of using ``GetLastError()``.
(Note that it is also possible to declare and call the ``GetLastError()``
function as usual.)
.. _ffi-string:
.. _ffi-unpack:
ffi.string(), ffi.unpack()
**ffi.string(cdata, [maxlen])**: return a Python string (or unicode
string) from the 'cdata'.
- If 'cdata' is a pointer or array of characters or bytes, returns the
null-terminated string. The returned string extends until the first
null character. The 'maxlen' argument limits how far we look for a
null character. If 'cdata' is an
array then 'maxlen' defaults to its length. See ``ffi.unpack()`` below
for a way to continue past the first null character. *Python 3:* this
returns a ``bytes``, not a ``str``.
- If 'cdata' is a pointer or array of wchar_t, returns a unicode string
following the same rules. *New in version 1.11:* can also be
char16_t or char32_t.
- If 'cdata' is a single character or byte or a wchar_t or charN_t,
returns it as a byte string or unicode string. (Note that in some
situation a single wchar_t or char32_t may require a Python unicode
string of length 2.)
- If 'cdata' is an enum, returns the value of the enumerator as a string.
If the value is out of range, it is simply returned as the stringified
**ffi.unpack(cdata, length)**: unpacks an array of C data of the given
length, returning a Python string/unicode/list. The 'cdata' should be
a pointer; if it is an array it is first converted to the pointer
type. *New in version 1.6.*
- If 'cdata' is a pointer to 'char', returns a byte string. It does
not stop at the first null. (An equivalent way to do that is
``ffi.buffer(cdata, length)[:]``.)
- If 'cdata' is a pointer to 'wchar_t', returns a unicode string.
('length' is measured in number of wchar_t; it is not the size in
bytes.) *New in version 1.11:* can also be char16_t or char32_t.
- If 'cdata' is a pointer to anything else, returns a list, of the
given 'length'. (A slower way to do that is ``[cdata[i] for i in
.. _ffi-buffer:
.. _ffi-from-buffer:
ffi.buffer(), ffi.from_buffer()
**ffi.buffer(cdata, [size])**: return a buffer object that references
the raw C data pointed to by the given 'cdata', of 'size' bytes. What
Python calls "a buffer", or more precisely "an object supporting the
buffer interface", is an object that represents some raw memory and
that can be passed around to various built-in or extension functions;
these built-in functions read from or write to the raw memory directly,
without needing an extra copy.
The 'cdata' argument
must be a pointer or an array. If unspecified, the size of the
buffer is either the size of what ``cdata`` points to, or the whole size
of the array.
Here are a few examples of where buffer() would be useful:
- use ``file.write()`` and ``file.readinto()`` with
such a buffer (for files opened in binary mode)
- overwrite the content of a struct: if ``p`` is a cdata pointing to
it, use ``ffi.buffer(p)[:] = newcontent``, where ``newcontent`` is
a bytes object (``str`` in Python 2).
Remember that like in C, you can use ``array + index`` to get the pointer
to the index'th item of an array. (In C you might more naturally write
``&array[index]``, but that is equivalent.)
The returned object's type is not the builtin ``buffer`` nor ``memoryview``
types, because these types' API changes too much across Python versions.
Instead it has the following Python API (a subset of Python 2's ``buffer``)
in addition to supporting the buffer interface:
- ``buf[:]`` or ``bytes(buf)``: copy data out of the buffer, returning a
regular byte string (or ``buf[start:end]`` for a part)
- ``buf[:] = newstr``: copy data into the buffer (or ``buf[start:end]
= newstr``)
- ``len(buf)``, ``buf[index]``, ``buf[index] = newchar``: access as a sequence
of characters.
The buffer object returned by ``ffi.buffer(cdata)`` keeps alive the
``cdata`` object: if it was originally an owning cdata, then its
owned memory will not be freed as long as the buffer is alive.
Python 2/3 compatibility note: you should avoid using ``str(buf)``,
because it gives inconsistent results between Python 2 and Python 3.
(This is similar to how ``str()`` gives inconsistent results on regular
byte strings). Use ``buf[:]`` instead.
*New in version 1.10:* ``ffi.buffer`` is now the type of the returned
buffer objects; ``ffi.buffer()`` actually calls the constructor.
**ffi.from_buffer([cdecl,] python_buffer, require_writable=False)**:
return an array cdata (by default a ``<cdata 'char[]'>``) that
points to the data of the given Python object, which must support the
buffer interface. Note that ``ffi.from_buffer()`` turns a generic
Python buffer object into a cdata object, whereas ``ffi.buffer()`` does
the opposite conversion. Both calls don't actually copy any data.
``ffi.from_buffer()`` is meant to be used on objects
containing large quantities of raw data, like bytearrays
or ``array.array`` or numpy
arrays. It supports both the old *buffer* API (in Python 2.x) and the
new *memoryview* API. Note that if you pass a read-only buffer object,
you still get a regular ``<cdata 'char[]'>``; it is your responsibility
not to write there if the original buffer doesn't expect you to.
*In particular, never modify byte strings!*
The original object is kept alive (and, in case
of memoryview, locked) as long as the cdata object returned by
``ffi.from_buffer()`` is alive.
A common use case is calling a C function with some ``char *`` that
points to the internal buffer of a Python object; for this case you
can directly pass ``ffi.from_buffer(python_buffer)`` as argument to
the call.
*New in version 1.10:* the ``python_buffer`` can be anything supporting
the buffer/memoryview interface (except unicode strings). Previously,
bytearray objects were supported in version 1.7 onwards (careful, if you
resize the bytearray, the ``<cdata>`` object will point to freed
memory); and byte strings were supported in version 1.8 onwards.
*New in version 1.12:* added the optional *first* argument ``cdecl``, and
the keyword argument ``require_writable``:
* ``cdecl`` defaults to ``"char[]"``, but a different array type can be
specified for the result. A value like ``"int[]"`` will return an array of
ints instead of chars, and its length will be set to the number of ints
that fit in the buffer (rounded down if the division is not exact). Values
like ``"int[42]"`` or ``"int[2][3]"`` will return an array of exactly 42
(resp. 2-by-3) ints, raising a ValueError if the buffer is too small. The
difference between specifying ``"int[]"`` and using the older code ``p1 =
ffi.from_buffer(x); p2 = ffi.cast("int *", p1)`` is that the older code
needs to keep ``p1`` alive as long as ``p2`` is in use, because only ``p1``
keeps the underlying Python object alive and locked. (In addition,
``ffi.from_buffer("int[]", x)`` gives better array bound checking.)
* if ``require_writable`` is set to True, the function fails if the buffer
obtained from ``python_buffer`` is read-only (e.g. if ``python_buffer`` is
a byte string). The exact exception is raised by the object itself, and
for things like bytes it varies with the Python version, so don't rely on
it. (Before version 1.12, the same effect can be achieved with a hack:
call ``ffi.memmove(python_buffer, b"", 0)``. This has no effect if the
object is writable, but fails if it is read-only.) Please keep in mind
that CFFI does not implement the C keyword ``const``: even if you set
``require_writable`` to False explicitly, you still get a regular
read-write cdata pointer.
*New in version 1.12:* see also ``ffi.release()``.
**ffi.memmove(dest, src, n)**: copy ``n`` bytes from memory area
``src`` to memory area ``dest``. See examples below. Inspired by the
C functions ``memcpy()`` and ``memmove()``---like the latter, the
areas can overlap. Each of ``dest`` and ``src`` can be either a cdata
pointer or a Python object supporting the buffer/memoryview interface.
In the case of ``dest``, the buffer/memoryview must be writable.
*New in version 1.3.* Examples:
* ``ffi.memmove(myptr, b"hello", 5)`` copies the 5 bytes of
``b"hello"`` to the area that ``myptr`` points to.
* ``ba = bytearray(100); ffi.memmove(ba, myptr, 100)`` copies 100
bytes from ``myptr`` into the bytearray ``ba``.
* ``ffi.memmove(myptr + 1, myptr, 100)`` shifts 100 bytes from
the memory at ``myptr`` to the memory at ``myptr + 1``.
In versions before 1.10, ``ffi.from_buffer()`` had restrictions on the
type of buffer, which made ``ffi.memmove()`` more general.
.. _ffi-typeof:
.. _ffi-sizeof:
.. _ffi-alignof:
ffi.typeof(), ffi.sizeof(), ffi.alignof()
**ffi.typeof("C type" or cdata object)**: return an object of type
``<ctype>`` corresponding to the parsed string, or to the C type of the
cdata instance. Usually you don't need to call this function or to
explicitly manipulate ``<ctype>`` objects in your code: any place that
accepts a C type can receive either a string or a pre-parsed ``ctype``
object (and because of caching of the string, there is no real
performance difference). It can still be useful in writing typechecks,
.. code-block:: python
def myfunction(ptr):
assert ffi.typeof(ptr) is ffi.typeof("foo_t*")
Note also that the mapping from strings like ``"foo_t*"`` to the
``<ctype>`` objects is stored in some internal dictionary. This
guarantees that there is only one ``<ctype 'foo_t *'>`` object, so you
can use the ``is`` operator to compare it. The downside is that the
dictionary entries are immortal for now. In the future, we may add
transparent reclamation of old, unused entries. In the meantime, note
that using strings like ``"int[%d]" % length`` to name a type will
create many immortal cached entries if called with many different
**ffi.sizeof("C type" or cdata object)**: return the size of the
argument in bytes. The argument can be either a C type, or a cdata object,
like in the equivalent ``sizeof`` operator in C.
For ``array ="T[]", n)``, then ``ffi.sizeof(array)`` returns
``n * ffi.sizeof("T")``. *New in version 1.9:* Similar rules apply for
structures with a variable-sized array at the end. More precisely, if
``p`` was returned by ``"struct foo *", ...)``, then
``ffi.sizeof(p[0])`` now returns the total allocated size. In previous
versions, it used to just return ``ffi.sizeof(ffi.typeof(p[0]))``, which
is the size of the structure ignoring the variable-sized part. (Note
that due to alignment, it is possible for ``ffi.sizeof(p[0])`` to return
a value smaller than ``ffi.sizeof(ffi.typeof(p[0]))``.)
**ffi.alignof("C type")**: return the natural alignment size in bytes of
the argument. Corresponds to the ``__alignof__`` operator in GCC.
.. _ffi-offsetof:
.. _ffi-addressof:
ffi.offsetof(), ffi.addressof()
**ffi.offsetof("C struct or array type", \*fields_or_indexes)**: return the
offset within the struct of the given field. Corresponds to ``offsetof()``
in C.
You can give several field names in case of nested structures. You
can also give numeric values which correspond to array items, in case
of a pointer or array type. For example, ``ffi.offsetof("int[5]", 2)``
is equal to the size of two integers, as is ``ffi.offsetof("int *", 2)``.
**ffi.addressof(cdata, \*fields_or_indexes)**: limited equivalent to
the '&' operator in C:
1. ``ffi.addressof(<cdata 'struct-or-union'>)`` returns a cdata that
is a pointer to this struct or union. The returned pointer is only
valid as long as the original ``cdata`` object is; be sure to keep it
alive if it was obtained directly from ````.
2. ``ffi.addressof(<cdata>, field-or-index...)`` returns the address
of a field or array item inside the given structure or array. In case
of nested structures or arrays, you can give more than one field or
index to look recursively. Note that ``ffi.addressof(array, index)``
can also be expressed as ``array + index``: this is true both in CFFI
and in C, where ``&array[index]`` is just ``array + index``.
3. ``ffi.addressof(<library>, "name")`` returns the address of the
named function or global variable from the given library object.
For functions, it returns a regular cdata
object containing a pointer to the function.
Note that the case 1. cannot be used to take the address of a
primitive or pointer, but only a struct or union. It would be
difficult to implement because only structs and unions are internally
stored as an indirect pointer to the data. If you need a C int whose
address can be taken, use ``"int[1]")`` in the first place;
similarly, for a pointer, use ``"foo_t *[1]")``.
.. _ffi-cdata:
.. _ffi-ctype:
ffi.CData, ffi.CType
**ffi.CData, ffi.CType**: the Python type of the objects referred to
as ``<cdata>`` and ``<ctype>`` in the rest of this document. Note
that some cdata objects may be actually of a subclass of
``ffi.CData``, and similarly with ctype, so you should check with
``if isinstance(x, ffi.CData)``. Also, ``<ctype>`` objects have
a number of attributes for introspection: ``kind`` and ``cname`` are
always present, and depending on the kind they may also have
``item``, ``length``, ``fields``, ``args``, ``result``, ``ellipsis``,
``abi``, ``elements`` and ``relements``.
*New in version 1.10:* ``ffi.buffer`` is now `a type`__ as well.
.. __: #ffi-buffer
.. _ffi-gc:
**ffi.gc(cdata, destructor, size=0)**:
return a new cdata object that points to the
same data. Later, when this new cdata object is garbage-collected,
``destructor(old_cdata_object)`` will be called. Example of usage:
``ptr = ffi.gc(lib.custom_malloc(42), lib.custom_free)``.
Note that like objects
returned by ````, the returned pointer objects have *ownership*,
which means the destructor is called as soon as *this* exact returned
object is garbage-collected.
*New in version 1.12:* see also ``ffi.release()``.
**ffi.gc(ptr, None, size=0)**:
removes the ownership on a object returned by a
regular call to ``ffi.gc``, and no destructor will be called when it
is garbage-collected. The object is modified in-place, and the
function returns ``None``. *New in version 1.7: ffi.gc(ptr, None)*
Note that ``ffi.gc()`` should be avoided for limited resources, or (with
cffi below 1.11) for large memory allocations. This is particularly
true on PyPy: its GC does not know how much memory or how many resources
the returned ``ptr`` holds. It will only run its GC when enough memory
it knows about has been allocated (and thus run the destructor possibly
later than you would expect). Moreover, the destructor is called in
whatever thread PyPy is at that moment, which might be a problem for
some C libraries. In these cases, consider writing a wrapper class with
custom ``__enter__()`` and ``__exit__()`` methods, allocating and
freeing the C data at known points in time, and using it in a ``with``
statement. In cffi 1.12, see also ``ffi.release()``.
*New in version 1.11:* the ``size`` argument. If given, this should be
an estimate of the size (in bytes) that ``ptr`` keeps alive. This
information is passed on to the garbage collector, fixing part of the
problem described above. The ``size`` argument is most important on
PyPy; on CPython, it is ignored so far, but in the future it could be
used to trigger more eagerly the cyclic reference GC, too (see CPython
`issue 31105`__).
The form ``ffi.gc(ptr, None, size=0)`` can be called with a negative
``size``, to cancel the estimate. It is not mandatory, though:
nothing gets out of sync if the size estimates do not match. It only
makes the next GC start more or less early.
Note that if you have several ``ffi.gc()`` objects, the corresponding
destructors will be called in a random order. If you need a particular
order, see the discussion in `issue 340`__.
.. __:
.. __:
.. _ffi-new-handle:
.. _ffi-from-handle:
ffi.new_handle(), ffi.from_handle()
**ffi.new_handle(python_object)**: return a non-NULL cdata of type
``void *`` that contains an opaque reference to ``python_object``. You
can pass it around to C functions or store it into C structures. Later,
you can use **ffi.from_handle(p)** to retrieve the original
``python_object`` from a value with the same ``void *`` pointer.
*Calling ffi.from_handle(p) is invalid and will likely crash if
the cdata object returned by new_handle() is not kept alive!*
See a `typical usage example`_ below.
(In case you are wondering, this ``void *`` is not the ``PyObject *``
pointer. This wouldn't make sense on PyPy anyway.)
The ``ffi.new_handle()/from_handle()`` functions *conceptually* work
like this:
* ``new_handle()`` returns cdata objects that contains references to
the Python objects; we call them collectively the "handle" cdata
objects. The ``void *`` value in these handle cdata objects are
random but unique.
* ``from_handle(p)`` searches all live "handle" cdata objects for the
one that has the same value ``p`` as its ``void *`` value. It then
returns the Python object referenced by that handle cdata object.
If none is found, you get "undefined behavior" (i.e. crashes).
The "handle" cdata object keeps the Python object alive, similar to
how ```` returns a cdata object that keeps a piece of memory
alive. If the handle cdata object *itself* is not alive any more,
then the association ``void * -> python_object`` is dead and
``from_handle()`` will crash.
*New in version 1.4:* two calls to ``new_handle(x)`` are guaranteed to
return cdata objects with different ``void *`` values, even with the
same ``x``. This is a useful feature that avoids issues with unexpected
duplicates in the following trick: if you need to keep alive the
"handle" until explicitly asked to free it, but don't have a natural
Python-side place to attach it to, then the easiest is to ``add()`` it
to a global set. It can later be removed from the set by
``global_set.discard(p)``, with ``p`` any cdata object whose ``void *``
value compares equal.
.. _`typical usage example`:
Usage example: suppose you have a C library where you must call a
``lib.process_document()`` function which invokes some callback. The
``process_document()`` function receives a pointer to a callback and a
``void *`` argument. The callback is then invoked with the ``void
*data`` argument that is equal to the provided value. In this typical
case, you can implement it like this (out-of-line API mode)::
class MyDocument:
def process(self):
h = ffi.new_handle(self)
lib.process_document(lib.my_callback, # the callback
h, # 'void *data'
# 'h' stays alive until here, which means that the
# ffi.from_handle() done in my_callback() during
# the call to process_document() is safe
def callback(self, arg1, arg2):
# the actual callback is this one-liner global function:
def my_callback(arg1, arg2, data):
return ffi.from_handle(data).callback(arg1, arg2)
.. _ffi-dlopen:
.. _ffi-dlclose:
ffi.dlopen(), ffi.dlclose()
**ffi.dlopen(libpath, [flags])**: opens and returns a "handle" to a
dynamic library, as a ``<lib>`` object. See `Preparing and
Distributing modules`_.
**ffi.dlclose(lib)**: explicitly closes a ``<lib>`` object returned
by ``ffi.dlopen()``.
**ffi.RLTD_...**: constants: flags for ``ffi.dlopen()``.
**ffi.new_allocator(alloc=None, free=None, should_clear_after_alloc=True)**:
returns a new allocator. An "allocator" is a callable that behaves like
```` but uses the provided low-level ``alloc`` and ``free``
functions. *New in version 1.2.*
``alloc()`` is invoked with the size as sole argument. If it returns
NULL, a MemoryError is raised. Later, if ``free`` is not None, it will
be called with the result of ``alloc()`` as argument. Both can be either
Python function or directly C functions. If only ``free`` is None, then no
free function is called. If both ``alloc`` and ``free`` are None, the
default alloc/free combination is used. (In other words, the call
``*args)`` is equivalent to ``ffi.new_allocator()(*args)``.)
If ``should_clear_after_alloc`` is set to False, then the memory
returned by ``alloc()`` is assumed to be already cleared (or you are
fine with garbage); otherwise CFFI will clear it. Example: for
performance, if you are using ```` to allocate large chunks of
memory where the initial content can be left uninitialized, you can do::
# at module level
new_nonzero = ffi.new_allocator(should_clear_after_alloc=False)
# then replace `p ="char[]", bigsize)` with:
p = new_nonzero("char[]", bigsize)
**NOTE:** the following is a general warning that applies particularly
(but not only) to PyPy versions 5.6 or older (PyPy > 5.6 attempts to
account for the memory returned by ```` or a custom allocator;
and CPython uses reference counting). If you do large allocations, then
there is no hard guarantee about when the memory will be freed. You
should avoid both ``new()`` and ``new_allocator()()`` if you want to be
sure that the memory is promptly released, e.g. before you allocate more
of it.
An alternative is to declare and call the C ``malloc()`` and ``free()``
functions, or some variant like ``mmap()`` and ``munmap()``. Then you
control exactly when the memory is allocated and freed. For example,
add these two lines to your existing ``ffibuilder.cdef()``::
void *malloc(size_t size);
void free(void *ptr);
and then call these two functions manually::
p = lib.malloc(n * ffi.sizeof("int"))
my_array = ffi.cast("int *", p)
In cffi version 1.12 you can indeed use ``ffi.new_allocator()`` but use the
``with`` statement (see ``ffi.release()``) to force the free function to be
called at a known point. The above is equivalent to this code::
my_new = ffi.new_allocator(lib.malloc, # at global level
with my_new("int[]", n) as my_array:
.. _ffi-release:
ffi.release() and the context manager
**ffi.release(cdata)**: release the resources held by a cdata object from
````, ``ffi.gc()``, ``ffi.from_buffer()`` or
``ffi.new_allocator()()``. The cdata object must not be used afterwards.
The normal Python destructor of the cdata object releases the same resources,
but this allows the releasing to occur at a known time, as opposed as at an
unspecified point in the future.
*New in version 1.12.*
``ffi.release(cdata)`` is equivalent to ``cdata.__exit__()``, which means that
you can use the ``with`` statement to ensure that the cdata is released at the
end of a block (in version 1.12 and above)::
with ffi.from_buffer(...) as p:
do something with p
The effect is more precisely as follows:
* on an object returned from ``ffi.gc(destructor)``, ``ffi.release()`` will
cause the ``destructor`` to be called immediately.
* on an object returned from a custom allocator, the custom free function
is called immediately.
* on CPython, ``ffi.from_buffer(buf)`` locks the buffer, so ``ffi.release()``
can be used to unlock it at a known time. On PyPy, there is no locking
(so far); the effect of ``ffi.release()`` is limited to removing the link,
allowing the original buffer object to be garbage-collected even if the
cdata object stays alive.
* on CPython this method has no effect (so far) on objects returned by
````, because the memory is allocated inline with the cdata object
and cannot be freed independently. It might be fixed in future releases of
* on PyPy, ``ffi.release()`` frees the ```` memory immediately. It is
useful because otherwise the memory is kept alive until the next GC occurs.
If you allocate large amounts of memory with ```` and don't free
them with ``ffi.release()``, PyPy (>= 5.7) runs its GC more often to
compensate, so the total memory allocated should be kept within bounds
anyway; but calling ``ffi.release()`` explicitly should improve performance
by reducing the frequency of GC runs.
After ``ffi.release(x)``, do not use anything pointed to by ``x`` any longer.
As an exception to this rule, you can call ``ffi.release(x)`` several times
for the exact same cdata object ``x``; the calls after the first one are
**ffi.init_once(function, tag)**: run ``function()`` once. The
``tag`` should be a primitive object, like a string, that identifies
the function: ``function()`` is only called the first time we see the
``tag``. The return value of ``function()`` is remembered and
returned by the current and all future ``init_once()`` with the same
tag. If ``init_once()`` is called from multiple threads in parallel,
all calls block until the execution of ``function()`` is done. If
``function()`` raises an exception, it is propagated and nothing is
cached (i.e. ``function()`` will be called again, in case we catch the
exception and try ``init_once()`` again). *New in version 1.4.*
from _xyz_cffi import ffi, lib
def initlib():
def make_new_foo():
ffi.init_once(initlib, "init")
return lib.make_foo()
``init_once()`` is optimized to run very quickly if ``function()`` has
already been called. (On PyPy, the cost is zero---the JIT usually
removes everything in the machine code it produces.)
*Note:* one motivation__ for ``init_once()`` is the CPython notion of
"subinterpreters" in the embedded case. If you are using the
out-of-line API mode, ``function()`` is called only once even in the
presence of multiple subinterpreters, and its return value is shared
among all subinterpreters. The goal is to mimic the way traditional
CPython C extension modules have their init code executed only once in
total even if there are subinterpreters. In the example above, the C
function ``init_my_library()`` is called once in total, not once per
subinterpreter. For this reason, avoid Python-level side-effects in
``function()`` (as they will only be applied in the first
subinterpreter to run); instead, return a value, as in the following
def init_get_max():
return lib.initialize_once_and_get_some_maximum_number()
def process(i):
if i > ffi.init_once(init_get_max, "max"):
raise IndexError("index too large!")
.. __:
.. _ffi-getctype:
.. _ffi-list-types:
ffi.getctype(), ffi.list_types()
**ffi.getctype("C type" or <ctype>, extra="")**: return the string
representation of the given C type. If non-empty, the "extra" string is
appended (or inserted at the right place in more complicated cases); it
can be the name of a variable to declare, or an extra part of the type
like ``"*"`` or ``"[5]"``. For example
``ffi.getctype(ffi.typeof(x), "*")`` returns the string representation
of the C type "pointer to the same type than x"; and
``ffi.getctype("char[80]", "a") == "char a[80]"``.
**ffi.list_types()**: Returns the user type names known to this FFI
instance. This returns a tuple containing three lists of names:
``(typedef_names, names_of_structs, names_of_unions)``. *New in
version 1.6.*
.. _`Preparing and Distributing modules`: cdef.html#loading-libraries
This section documents all the conversions that are allowed when
*writing into* a C data structure (or passing arguments to a function
call), and *reading from* a C data structure (or getting the result of a
function call). The last column gives the type-specific operations
| C type | writing into | reading from |other operations|
| integers | an integer or anything | a Python int or | int(), bool() |
| and enums | on which int() works | long, depending | `[6]`, |
| `[5]` | (but not a float!). | on the type | ``<`` |
| | Must be within range. | (ver. 1.10: or a | |
| | | bool) | |
| ``char`` | a string of length 1 | a string of | int(), bool(), |
| | or another <cdata char>| length 1 | ``<`` |
| ``wchar_t``, | a unicode of length 1 | a unicode of | |
| ``char16_t``, | (or maybe 2 if | length 1 | int(), |
| ``char32_t`` | surrogates) or | (or maybe 2 if | bool(), ``<`` |
| `[8]` | another similar <cdata>| surrogates) | |
| ``float``, | a float or anything on | a Python float | float(), int(),|
| ``double`` | which float() works | | bool(), ``<`` |
|``long double``| another <cdata> with | a <cdata>, to | float(), int(),|
| | a ``long double``, or | avoid loosing | bool() |
| | anything on which | precision `[3]` | |
| | float() works | | |
| ``float`` | a complex number | a Python complex | complex(), |
| ``_Complex``, | or anything on which | number | bool() |
| ``double`` | complex() works | | `[7]` |
| ``_Complex`` | | | |
| pointers | another <cdata> with | a <cdata> |``[]`` `[4]`, |
| | a compatible type (i.e.| |``+``, ``-``, |
| | same type | |bool() |
| | or ``void*``, or as an | | |
| | array instead) `[1]` | | |
+---------------+------------------------+ | |
| ``void *`` | another <cdata> with | | |
| | any pointer or array | | |
| | type | | |
+---------------+------------------------+ +----------------+
| pointers to | same as pointers | | ``[]``, ``+``, |
| structure or | | | ``-``, bool(), |
| union | | | and read/write |
| | | | struct fields |
+---------------+------------------------+ +----------------+
| function | same as pointers | | bool(), |
| pointers | | | call `[2]` |
| arrays | a list or tuple of | a <cdata> |len(), iter(), |
| | items | |``[]`` `[4]`, |
| | | |``+``, ``-`` |
+---------------+------------------------+ +----------------+
| ``char[]``, | same as arrays, or a | | len(), iter(), |
| ``un/signed`` | Python byte string | | ``[]``, ``+``, |
| ``char[]``, | | | ``-`` |
| ``_Bool[]`` | | | |
+---------------+------------------------+ +----------------+
|``wchar_t[]``, | same as arrays, or a | | len(), iter(), |
|``char16_t[]``,| Python unicode string | | ``[]``, |
|``char32_t[]`` | | | ``+``, ``-`` |
| | | | |
| structure | a list or tuple or | a <cdata> | read/write |
| | dict of the field | | fields |
| | values, or a same-type | | |
| | <cdata> | | |
+---------------+------------------------+ +----------------+
| union | same as struct, but | | read/write |
| | with at most one field | | fields |
`[1]` ``item *`` is ``item[]`` in function arguments:
In a function declaration, as per the C standard, a ``item *``
argument is identical to a ``item[]`` argument (and ``ffi.cdef()``
doesn't record the difference). So when you call such a function,
you can pass an argument that is accepted by either C type, like
for example passing a Python string to a ``char *`` argument
(because it works for ``char[]`` arguments) or a list of integers
to a ``int *`` argument (it works for ``int[]`` arguments). Note
that even if you want to pass a single ``item``, you need to
specify it in a list of length 1; for example, a ``struct point_s
*`` argument might be passed as ``[[x, y]]`` or ``[{'x': 5, 'y':
As an optimization, CFFI assumes that a
function with a ``char *`` argument to which you pass a Python
string will not actually modify the array of characters passed in,
and so passes directly a pointer inside the Python string object.
(On PyPy, this optimization is only available since PyPy 5.4
with CFFI 1.8.)
`[2]` C function calls are done with the GIL released.
Note that we assume that the called functions are *not* using the
Python API from Python.h. For example, we don't check afterwards
if they set a Python exception. You may work around it, but mixing
CFFI with ``Python.h`` is not recommended. (If you do that, on
PyPy and on some platforms like Windows, you may need to explicitly
link to ``libpypy-c.dll`` to access the CPython C API compatibility
layer; indeed, CFFI-generated modules on PyPy don't link to
``libpypy-c.dll`` on their own. But really, don't do that in the
first place.)
`[3]` ``long double`` support:
We keep ``long double`` values inside a cdata object to avoid
loosing precision. Normal Python floating-point numbers only
contain enough precision for a ``double``. If you really want to
convert such an object to a regular Python float (i.e. a C
``double``), call ``float()``. If you need to do arithmetic on
such numbers without any precision loss, you need instead to define
and use a family of C functions like ``long double add(long double
a, long double b);``.
`[4]` Slicing with ``x[start:stop]``:
Slicing is allowed, as long as you specify explicitly both ``start``
and ``stop`` (and don't give any ``step``). It gives a cdata
object that is a "view" of all items from ``start`` to ``stop``.
It is a cdata of type "array" (so e.g. passing it as an argument to a
C function would just convert it to a pointer to the ``start`` item).
As with indexing, negative bounds mean really negative indices, like in
C. As for slice assignment, it accepts any iterable, including a list
of items or another array-like cdata object, but the length must match.
(Note that this behavior differs from initialization: e.g. you can
say ``chararray[10:15] = "hello"``, but the assigned string must be of
exactly the correct length; no implicit null character is added.)
`[5]` Enums are handled like ints:
Like C, enum types are mostly int types (unsigned or signed, int or
long; note that GCC's first choice is unsigned). Reading an enum
field of a structure, for example, returns you an integer. To
compare their value symbolically, use code like ``if x.field ==
lib.FOO``. If you really want to get their value as a string, use
``ffi.string(ffi.cast("the_enum_type", x.field))``.
`[6]` bool() on a primitive cdata:
*New in version 1.7.* In previous versions, it only worked on
pointers; for primitives it always returned True.
*New in version 1.10:* The C type ``_Bool`` or ``bool`` converts to
Python booleans now. You get an exception if a C ``_Bool`` happens
to contain a value different from 0 and 1 (this case triggers
undefined behavior in C; if you really have to interface with a
library relying on this, don't use ``_Bool`` in the CFFI side).
Also, when converting from a byte string to a ``_Bool[]``, only the
bytes ``\x00`` and ``\x01`` are accepted.
`[7]` libffi does not support complex numbers:
*New in version 1.11:* CFFI now supports complex numbers directly.
Note however that libffi does not. This means that C functions that
take directly as argument types or return type a complex type cannot
be called by CFFI, unless they are directly using the API mode.
`[8]` ``wchar_t``, ``char16_t`` and ``char32_t``
See `Unicode character types`_ below.
.. _file:
Support for FILE
You can declare C functions taking a ``FILE *`` argument and
call them with a Python file object. If needed, you can also do ``c_f
= ffi.cast("FILE *", fileobj)`` and then pass around ``c_f``.
Note, however, that CFFI does this by a best-effort approach. If you
need finer control over buffering, flushing, and timely closing of the
``FILE *``, then you should not use this special support for ``FILE *``.
Instead, you can handle regular ``FILE *`` cdata objects that you
explicitly make using fdopen(), like this:
.. code-block:: python
FILE *fdopen(int, const char *); // from the C <stdio.h>
int fclose(FILE *);
myfile.flush() # make sure the file is flushed
newfd = os.dup(myfile.fileno()) # make a copy of the file descriptor
fp = lib.fdopen(newfd, "w") # make a cdata 'FILE *' around newfd
lib.write_stuff_to_file(fp) # invoke the external function
lib.fclose(fp) # when you're done, close fp (and newfd)
The special support for ``FILE *`` is anyway implemented in a similar manner
on CPython 3.x and on PyPy, because these Python implementations' files are
not natively based on ``FILE *``. Doing it explicity offers more control.
.. _unichar:
Unicode character types
The ``wchar_t`` type has the same signedness as the underlying
platform's. For example, on Linux, it is a signed 32-bit integer.
However, the types ``char16_t`` and ``char32_t`` (*new in version 1.11*)
are always unsigned.
Note that CFFI assumes that these types are meant to contain UTF-16 or
UTF-32 characters in the native endianness. More precisely:
* ``char32_t`` is assumed to contain UTF-32, or UCS4, which is just the
unicode codepoint;
* ``char16_t`` is assumed to contain UTF-16, i.e. UCS2 plus surrogates;
* ``wchar_t`` is assumed to contain either UTF-32 or UTF-16 based on its
actual platform-defined size of 4 or 2 bytes.
Whether this assumption is true or not is unspecified by the C language.
In theory, the C library you are interfacing with could use one of these
types with a different meaning. You would then need to handle it
yourself---for example, by using ``uint32_t`` instead of ``char32_t`` in
the ``cdef()``, and building the expected arrays of ``uint32_t``
Python itself can be compiled with ``sys.maxunicode == 65535`` or
``sys.maxunicode == 1114111`` (Python >= 3.3 is always 1114111). This
changes the handling of surrogates (which are pairs of 16-bit
"characters" which actually stand for a single codepoint whose value is
greater than 65535). If your Python is ``sys.maxunicode == 1114111``,
then it can store arbitrary unicode codepoints; surrogates are
automatically inserted when converting from Python unicodes to UTF-16,
and automatically removed when converting back. On the other hand, if
your Python is ``sys.maxunicode == 65535``, then it is the other way
around: surrogates are removed when converting from Python unicodes
to UTF-32, and added when converting back. In other words, surrogate
conversion is done only when there is a size mismatch.
Note that Python's internal representations is not specified. For
example, on CPython >= 3.3, it will use 1- or 2- or 4-bytes arrays
depending on what the string actually contains. With CFFI, when you
pass a Python byte string to a C function expecting a ``char*``, then
we pass directly a pointer to the existing data without needing a
temporary buffer; however, the same cannot cleanly be done with
*unicode* string arguments and the ``wchar_t*`` / ``char16_t*`` /
``char32_t*`` types, because of the changing internal
representation. As a result, and for consistency, CFFI always allocates
a temporary buffer for unicode strings.
**Warning:** for now, if you use ``char16_t`` and ``char32_t`` with
``set_source()``, you have to make sure yourself that the types are
declared by the C source you provide to ``set_source()``. They would be
declared if you ``#include`` a library that explicitly uses them, for
example, or when using C++11. Otherwise, you need ``#include
<uchar.h>`` on Linux, or more generally something like ``typedef
uint16_t char16_t;``. This is not done automatically by CFFI because
``uchar.h`` is not standard across platforms, and writing a ``typedef``
like above would crash if the type happens to be already defined.