ffi_helpers 0.3.0

A crate to help make working with FFI easier.
# FFI Helpers


A crate to make working with FFI code easier.

This is the open-source version of a utility crate we use at work. The original
purpose was to make it easier for Rust modules (DLLs) to integrate with our
main GUI application. We found it to be particularly elegant and robust to use,
so thought it'd be a nice thing to share with the world.

## Features

This tries to give you a set of abstractions upon which **safe** APIs can be
built. It tries to deal with several issues commonly encountered when writing
FFI code.

### Error Handling

Error handling is done via a private thread-local `LAST_ERROR` variable which
lets you indicate a error using a similar mechanism to `errno`.

The idea is if a Rust function returns a `Result::Err(_)`, it'll pass that
error to `LAST_ERROR` and then return an *obviously wrong* value (e.g. `null`
or `0`). The caller then checks for this return and can inspect `LAST_ERROR`
for more information.

A macro is provided to let you inspect `LAST_ERROR` from C.

### Null Pointers

The `null_pointer_check!()` macro will check whether some *nullable* thing is
null, if so it'll bail with an erroneous return value (`null` for functions
returning pointers or `0` for integers) and set the `LAST_ERROR` to indicate
a null pointer was encountered.

We use a `Nullable` trait to represent anything which has some sort of
"*obviously invalid*" value (e.g. `null` pointers, `0`).

pub trait Nullable {
    const NULL: Self;

    fn is_null(&self) -> bool;

The `null_pointer_check!()` then lets you check whether a particular thing is
invalid, setting the `LAST_ERROR`, and returning early from the current function
with `Nullable::NULL`.

In practice, this turns out to make handling the possibility of invalid input
quite ergonomic.

struct Foo {
  data: Vec<u8>,

unsafe extern "C" fn foo_get_data(foo: *const Foo) -> *const u8 {

    let foo = &*foo;

### Exception Safety

Exception safety becomes a concern when a bit of Rust code panics and tries to
unwind across the FFI barrier. At the moment this will abort the program and,
while no longer straight up *Undefined Behaviour*, this is still a massive pain
to work around.

There is a `catch_panic()` function that lets you execute some code and will
catch any unwinding, updating the `LAST_ERROR` appropriately. The
`catch_panic!()` macro makes this a little easier and works with the `Nullable`
trait so you can bail out of a function, returning an error (`Nullable::NULL`).

### Splitting a Closure Into Data and Code

It's quite common for FFI functions that work with callbacks to accept an
additional `void *user_data` argument pointing to any extra state the user
may want to use. It doesn't allow the programmer to use

The `split_closure()` function can be used to "split" a pointer to a closure
into a pointer to its data and an `unsafe extern "C" fn()` which can be used
as a callback.

Rust closures are implemented by generating a custom type to contain any
captured state, and an impl for `FnMut()` (or `Fn()`, or `FnOnce()`). This
function works by casting the closure pointer to `void *` (this is our data)
and defining a trampoline function which will cast the data back and invoke
the closure.

It's essentially a generalisation of this:

fn split<C>(closure: &mut C) -> (*mut c_void, unsafe extern "C" fn(*mut c_void))
where C: FnMut()
    unsafe extern "C" fn trampoline<T>(user_data: *mut c_void) {
        let closure: &mut T = &mut *(user_data as *mut T);


    (closure as *mut C as *mut c_void, trampoline::<T>)

### Asynchronous Tasks

The *Task API* helps handle the tricky concurrency issues you encounter when
running a job on a background thread and then trying to expose this to C, while
maintaining memory- and thread-safety.

The `Task` trait itself is quite simple:

pub trait Task: Send + Sync + Clone {
    type Output: Send + Sync;
    fn run(&self, cancel_tok: &CancellationToken) -> Result<Self::Output, Error>;

You then generate the bindings via the `export_task!()` macro. This will declare
various `extern "C"` functions for spawning the `Task` on a background thread,
periodically checking whether it's done, allowing you to cancel the task, then
retrieve the result and clean everything up properly afterwards.

This is probably the crate's **killer feature** as it lets you to painlessly
run Rust tasks in the background, allowing you to integrate it into a larger

It is highly recommended to visit the `task` module's docs for a more detailed