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Cleaning up stdlib Pointer and Buffer Routines


This proposal deals with three routines and one class related to pointers and buffers. The goal of this proposal is to update the API to match new API guidelines and remove redundant identifiers.

Swift-evolution thread: Cleaning up stdlib Pointer and Buffer Routines


The Swift standard library has been thoroughly updated to follow the new API guidelines and these are the few places that need to be updated in pointer and buffer APIs:

  • withUnsafe[Mutable]Pointer's arg argument should have a to: label (SR-1937)
  • withUnsafe[Mutable]Pointers (multiple pointers) functions should be removed.
  • unsafeAddressOf should be removed since there is a limited number of use cases and there are better alternatives to it (SR-1957).
  • ManagedProtoBuffer should be removed. It is a superclass of ManagedBuffer and its sole purpose is to conceal the header property during invocation of the closure creating the initial header in ManagedBuffer.create since the header isn't initialized at that point. This adds unnecessary complexity to the API in order to prevent something that should be considered programmer's error.

Proposed solution

withUnsafe[Mutable]Pointer methods will now include to: argument label:

withUnsafePointer(to: &x) { (ptr) -> Void in
	// ...

The multiple-pointer variations of the methods (withUnsafe[Mutable]Pointers) should be removed since the use cases in which they can be used are very limited and their use can be easily worked around by using nested calls to the single-pointer variants:

var x = NSObject() 
var y = NSObject() 

withUnsafePointer(to: &x) { (ptrX) -> Void in
	withUnsafePointer(to: &y) { (ptrY) -> Void in
		/// ...

unsafeAddressOf is removed. Suggested replacement is to use Unmanged.passUnretained.

let obj = NSObject()
let ptr = Unmanaged.passUnretained(obj) // instead of unsafeAddress(of: obj)

The class ManagedProtoBuffer is removed as mentioned in motivation. All its members will be moved onto ManagedBuffer instead.

Impact on existing code

withUnsafe[Mutable]Pointer usage will need to be updated to include the to: label and the multi-pointer versions will need to be removed by the user and nested calls to single-pointer variants need to be used instead.

Use of unsafeAddressOf(x) will need to be changed to Unmanaged.passUnretained(x) instead.

Since ManagedProtoBuffer doesn't have any accessible initializers, it can only be referenced in the code as an explicit type. Such occurrences can be renamed to ManagedBuffer instead.

Alternatives considered

  • withUnsafePointer's argument is currently marked as inout which allows the function to provide the same address even for non-object values that are passed in as reference. This, however, may lead to unnecessary creation of var variables, instead of keeping them as immutable (let). Discussion on the mailing list brought up two suggestions:
    • eliminate withUnsafePointer altogether and only keep the mutable withUnsafeMutablePointer variant since it can be used instead of the immutable variant in all use cases. This change would, however, conceal the caller's intention of what is going to be done with the pointer.
    • The second suggestion was to introduce two variants of withUnsafePointer - one that maintains current behavior and one that that doesn't require inout argument. This has been viewed on as an additive change not in scope for Swift 3.
  • Instead of removing ManagedProtoBuffer, rename it to ManagedBufferBase.