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Easy, terse, readable and fast function arguments type checking


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Argument type checking API

This library declares a checks() function and a checkers table, which allow to check the parameters passed to a Lua function in a fast and unobtrusive way.

Starting with 2.11.0, Tarantool embeds the checks module. You can learn more about the module's API from the documentation page.


It is NOT designed to validate user input. It is designed to provide better type checking of function arguments.

It is NOT designed to hide your problems. It is designed to reveal mistakes in code.

You should think of checks as of assert on steroids.


Function checks(type_1, ..., type_n), when called directly inside function fn, checks that fn's 1st argument conforms to type_1, 2nd argument conforms to type_2, etc.

Type specifiers are strings or tables, and if the arguments passed to fn don't conform to their specification, a proper error message is produced, pinpointing the call to fn as the faulty expression.

String type qualifiers

Lua type

The type is simply type(arg), such as 'table', 'number' etc.

function fn_string(x)
fn_string('foo') -- ok
fn_string(99) -- error:  bad argument #1 to fn_string (string expected, got number)'

Metatable type

An arbitrary name, which is stored in the __type field of the argument metatable

function fn_color(x)
local blue = setmetatable({0, 0, 255}, {__type = 'color'})
fn_color(blue) -- ok
fn_color({}) -- error: bad argument #1 to fn_color (color expected, got table)'

A type-checking function name

The function would be stored in the checkers global table. This function is called with original value passed to fn and must return true if the value is valid.

function fn_positive(x)
function checkers.positive(p)
  return (type(p) == 'number') and (p > 0)
fn_positive(42) -- ok
fn_positive(-1) -- error: bad argument #1 to fn_positive (positive expected, got number)'

One can use built-in checkers:

  • checks('uint64'):

    • Either integer lua number in range from 0 to 2^53-1 (inclusive)
    • or lua cdata ctype<uint64_t>
    • or lua cdata ctype<int64_t> in range from 0 to LLONG_MAX

    After the check it is safe to call ffi.cast('uint64_t', ...)

  • checks('int64'):

    • Either integer lua number in range from -2^53+1 to 2^53-1 (inclusive)
    • or lua cdata ctype<uint64_t> in range from 0 to LLONG_MAX
    • or lua cdata ctype<int64_t>

    After the check it is safe to call ffi.cast('int64_t', ...)

  • checks('uuid'):

    • lua cdata ctype<struct tt_uuid> containing uuid_object from tarantool built-in module uuid
  • checks('uuid_str'):

    • uuid as a 36-byte hexadecimal string

    After the check it is safe to call uuid.fromstr()

  • checks('uuid_bin'):

    • uuid as a 16-byte binary string

    After the check it is safe to call uuid.frombin()

  • checks('tuple'):

    • Check that specified value is tuple
  • checks('decimal'):

    • Check that specified value is decimal

    (Available since Tarantool 2.4)

Optional type and types combination

Moreover, several types can be accepted if their names are concatenated with a bar | between them. For instance, 'table|number' accepts tables as well as numbers.

Finally, string type qualifier can be prefixed with a question mark ?, which makes them optional. For instance, '?table' accepts tables as well as nil values, '?table|number' accepts tables, numbers and nil values.

Question mark is not an equivalent to combination with the 'nil' type: box.NULL is a valid value for '?number', but not for 'nil|number' combination.

A '?' type alone accepts anything. It is mainly useful as a placeholder to skip an argument which doesn't need to be checked.

To sum up, the string type qualifier has the following syntax: either '[?]type1[|type2[...]]' or single '?'.

Table type qualifiers

The type qualifier may be a table. In this case the argument is checked to conform to '?table' type, and its content is validated. Table values are validated against type qualifiers as described above. Table keys, which are not mentioned in checks, are validated against 'nil' type. Table type qualifiers may be recursive and use tables too.

function fn_opts(options)
        my_string = '?string',
        my_number = '?number',

fn_opts({my_string = 's'}) -- ok
fn_opts({my_number = 101}) -- ok
fn_opts({my_number = 'x'}) -- error: bad argument options.my_number to fn_opts (?number expected, got string)'
fn_opts({bad_field = true}) -- error: unexpected argument options.bad_field to fn_opts

Since v3.0 checks does not modify any arguments. Be careful when indexing options table:

function fn_bad(options)
    checks({timeout = '?number'})

fn_bad() -- error: attempt to index local 'options' (a nil value)

function fn_good(options)
    checks({timeout = '?number'})
    local timeout = options and options.timeout or default_value

fn_good() -- ok, prints default_value

To keep backward compatibility you can use the flag _G._checks_v2_compatible = true. This will substitute nil arguments with an empty table (as it used to be in v2.1).

_G._checks_v2_compatible = true
local checks = require('checks')
local json = require('json')

function fn_v2_compatible(options)
    checks({timeout = '?number'})

fn_v2_compatible() -- ok, prints "nil"

When an argument inside table type qualifier is specified without question mark (i.e. not optional), whole table becomes mandatory:

function fn(options)
        req_string = 'string',

fn() -- error: bad argument options.req_string to fn (string expected, got nil)'

Variable number of arguments

Functions with variable number of arguments are supported:

function fn_varargs(arg1, ...)

fn_varargs('s') -- ok
fn_varargs('s', 1) -- ok
fn_varargs('s', {}) -- ok
fn_varargs(42) -- error: bad argument #1 to fn_varargs (string expected, got number)'


This library was originally a part of luasched. Now it is a dependency for luacheck.