File Handles

File handles are values used for traditional operating system I/O.

We can create input (to be read from) and output (to be written to) file handles and can create file handles from existing (operating system) file descriptors.


File handles are one of the variants of fd (file descriptor) handles. These are wrappers around the underlying operating system entity.

fn := "words.txt"
ofh := open-output-file fn

;; hprintf printf's to the given handle
hprintf ofh "this\nthat\nthe other\n"

close-handle ofh

ifh := open-input-file fn

data := #[]

;; read one line (discarding the newline)
data.0 = read-line ifh

;; read all remaining lines (which retains any newlines)
data.1 = read-lines ifh

;; good housekeeping
close-handle ifh

printf "data.0 is %s\n" data.0
printf "data.1 is %s" data.1
$ idio file-handles
data.0 is this
data.1 is that
the other

open-output-file file is the equivalent of open-file file "we" using fopen(3)-style mode flags and open-input-file similarly uses "re" mode flags.

Closing File Handles

As with all relatively scarce operating system resources, we should explicitly close file handles otherwise we’ll gradually consume all of the file descriptors available to the process.

File handles will be implicitly closed when they are garbage collected although that requires that the value be garbage collectable. In the previous example, we assigned the file handle to the top level variable ifh which means that, unless we explicitly called close-handle (which we did), the value would hang about and, therefore, the file descriptor would remain open for the lifetime of the process.

File Descriptors

File handles can be created around already existing file descriptors and file descriptors can be extracted from file handles.

fn := "words.txt"
ofh := open-output-file fn
hprintf ofh "this is contents\n"
close-handle ofh

;; open words.txt using open(2)
fd := libc/open fn libc/O_RDONLY

printf "fd is %d (a %s)\n" fd (type->string fd)

;; wrap fd in a file handle
fh := open-input-file-from-fd fd

printf "%s contains %s" fn (read-lines fh)

;; go back to the start of the file
rewind-handle fh

fd2 := file-handle-fd fh
printf "fd2 is %d (a %s)\n" fd2 (type->string fd2)

printf "contains %s" (libc/read fd2 1024)

;; closes fd/fd2 as well
close-handle fh
$ idio file-descriptors
fd is 4 (a C/int)
words.txt contains this is contents
fd2 is 4 (a C/int)
contains this is contents

Last built at 2023-11-09T07:11:43Z+0000 from 77077af (dev) for Idio 0.3