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Description

There's a very common pattern inside GenServer modules in which several functions are defined internally, and then they're also required for use by external processes. This module is an attempt to lessen the overhead of this through the use of Macros. It might be that you see no point in this module (which is fair enough), but I use it quite commonly and felt it should be made available as it comes in handy.

Monthly Downloads: 0
Programming language: Elixir
License: MIT License
Tags: Miscellaneous     OTP     Utilities    

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README

GenDelegate

Build Status Hex.pm Version Documentation

There's a very common pattern inside GenServer modules in which several functions are defined internally, and then they're also required for use by external processes. This module is an attempt to lessen the overhead of this through the use of Macros. It might be that you see no point in this module (which is fair enough), but I use it quite commonly and felt it should be made available as it comes in handy.

Table of Contents

Installation

GenDelegate can be installed via Hex using the following:

  1. Add gen_delegate to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:
  def deps do
    [{:gen_delegate, "~> 1.0.0"}]
  end

Example Usage

Suppose you have an implementation of a GenServer which operates on a state which is a Map. If we were to pretend that Enum.count/1 did not exist, you may have a function internally named size/1, which accepts the current state of the server. You could invoke this function via:

iex> size(state)
10

Now, imagine you have a main process talking to this server in order to work on the keys and values in the Map. This process also needs to be able to find the size of the Map. Typically you would implement a handle_call/3 which just wraps size/1:

def handle_call({ :size }, _ctx, state) do
  { :reply, size(state), state }
end

This leads to a lot of wasted and unnecessary code in the scenario where you have a lot of internal re-use. In the case of GenDelegate, you can simply provide a delegate definition:

# remember to use it or import it
use GenDelegate

# definition matches the function head
gen_delegate size(state), type: [ :call ]

This provides an easy way to bind any internal functions to be externally accessible. The line above will provide the exact definition as demonstrated above. This reduces the amount of overhead involved in exposing a function. If you wish to name your state something other than "state", you can do so using the alias option.

gen_delegate size(options), type: [ :call ], alias: :options

Benefits

The reason this is totally worth it is that these delegates allow you to expose functions as both synchronous and asynchronous. Consider the below:

def do_something(state) do
  :timer.sleep(5000)
  IO.inspect(state)
end

gen_delegate do_something(state), type: [ :call, :cast ]

Now I can call do_something/1 with either a call or cast operation. In the case that I use a blocking call/2 operation, any values will be returned. However in the case that I use a cast/2 call, no values are returned and there's no blocking. This is extremely useful if you want the user to be able to easily determine if they want your library to block or not. Any of :call, :cast and :info are supported in the list, and a single delegate does not have to be wrapped in a list.

Changing State

Due to the way gen_delegate works, you have to explicitly inform if you want to change the internal state or not. This is done via passing a delegate result containing the new state. A delegate result is simply a tuple in various forms, with the first element equal to :delegate. How it looks will differ upon whether you're calling or casting.

In the case you're calling you may use any of these methods:

"string"                    # any normal result is returned as is and the state is not changed
{ :delegate, new_state }    # this will bind the new_state variable as the state, and return `nil`
{ :delegate, 1, new_state } # this will bind the new_state variable as the state, but will return `1`

In the case you're casting (or using handle_info), the following rules apply:

"string"                    # any normal result is returned as is and the state is not changed
{ :delegate, new_state }    # this will bind the new_state variable as the state
{ :delegate, 1, new_state } # this will bind the new_state variable as the state, and will ignore `1`

It should be noted that this use case will be surprisingly rare, as you typically only internalize functions which have no effect on state (unless you're chaining them).

Sending Messages

Delegates work strictly with tuple messages for uniformity, and the function heads determine what your message should look like. This is in the form of { func_name, args... }. For example if you were to use the do_something/1 example above, you would simply send GenServer.call(pid, { :do_something }). Any arguments related to the state should not be passed as these arguments are wired automatically.

# here's our function
def do_something(var_one, state, var_two) do
  "hello world"
end

# delegate through as a call
gen_delegate do_something(var_one, state, var_two), type: :call

# call the function - note that you don't pass any "state" arguments, regardless
# of where they occur, as long as your delegate function head is correctly ordered
GenServer.call(pid, { :do_something, arg_one, arg_two })

Contributions

If you feel something can be improved, or have any questions about certain behaviours or pieces of implementation, please feel free to file an issue. Proposed changes should be taken to issues before any PRs to avoid wasting time on code which might not be merged upstream.

If you do make changes to the codebase, please make sure you test your changes thoroughly.

$ mix test