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|process.pl -- Create processes and redirect I/O|
The module library(process) implements interaction with child processes
and unifies older interfaces such as shell/[1,2],
...) etc. This library is modelled after SICStus 4.
In addition to the predicates, this module defines a file search path
(see file_search_path/2 and absolute_file_name/3) named
locates files on the system's search path for executables. E.g. the
following finds the executable for
?- absolute_file_name(path(ls), Path, [access(execute)]).
Incompatibilities and current limitations
detached(true)option is supposed to do. Disable signals in the child? Use
setsid()to detach from the session? The current implementation uses
setsid()on Unix systems.
env([Name=Value, ...])is added to process_create/3. As of version 4.1 SICStus added
environment(List)which modifies the environment. A compatible option was added to SWI-Prolog 7.7.23.
pathfile alias to specify an executable file on the current PATH. Args is a list of arguments that are handed to the new process. On Unix systems, each element in the list becomes a separate argument in the new process. In Windows, the arguments are simply concatenated to form the commandline. Each argument itself is either a primitive or a list of primitives. A primitive is either atomic or a term
file(Spec), the system inserts a filename using the OS filename conventions which is properly quoted if needed.
pipe(Pipe)is used, the Prolog stream is a stream in text-mode using the encoding of the default locale. The encoding can be changed using set_stream/2, or by using the two-argument form of
pipe, which accepts an
encoding(Encoding)option. The options
stderrmay use the same stream, in which case both output streams are connected to the same Prolog stream.
user_input, etc. are bound to a file handle but not to 0,1,2 the process I/O is bound to the file handles of these streams.
encoding(+Encoding)are supported, which have the same meaning as the stream properties of the same name (see stream_property/2). StreamOptions is provided mainly for SICStus compatibility - the SWI-Prolog predicate set_stream/2 can be used for the same purpose.
file_no). This option is not provided by the SICStus implementation.
environment(List), but only the specified variables are passed, i.e., no variables are inherited.
Name=Valueterms, where Value is expanded the same way as the Args argument. If neither
environmentis passed the environment is inherited from the Prolog process.
true, detach the process from the terminal Currently mapped to
setsid(); Also creates a new process group for the child In Windows: If
true, detach the process from the current job via the CREATE_BREAKAWAY_FROM_JOB flag. In Vista and beyond, processes launched from the shell directly have the 'compatibility assistant' attached to them automatically unless they have a UAC manifest embedded in them. This means that you will get a permission denied error if you try and assign the newly-created PID to a job you create yourself.
true, create a window for the process (Windows only)
If the user specifies the
process(-PID) option, he must call
process_wait/2 to reclaim the process. Without this option, the
system will wait for completion of the process after the last
pipe stream is closed.
If the process is not waited for, it must succeed with status 0. If not, an process_error is raised.
On Windows this call is an interface to the CreateProcess() API.
The commandline consists of the basename of Exe and the
arguments formed from Args. Arguments are separated by a single
space. If all characters satisfy
iswalnum() it is unquoted. If
the argument contains a double-quote it is quoted using single
quotes. If both single and double quotes appear a domain_error
is raised, otherwise double-quote are used.
The CreateProcess() API has many options. Currently only the
CREATE_NO_WINDOW options is supported through the
window(+Bool) option. If omitted, the default is to use this
option if the application has no console. Future versions are
likely to support more window specific options and replace
First, a very simple example that behaves the same as
shell('ls -l'), except for error handling:
?- process_create(path(ls), ['-l'], ).
The following example uses grep to find all matching lines in a file.
grep(File, Pattern, Lines) :- setup_call_cleanup( process_create(path(grep), [ Pattern, file(File) ], [ stdout(pipe(Out)) ]), read_lines(Out, Lines), close(Out)). read_lines(Out, Lines) :- read_line_to_codes(Out, Line1), read_lines(Line1, Out, Lines). read_lines(end_of_file, _, ) :- !. read_lines(Codes, Out, [Line|Lines]) :- atom_codes(Line, Codes), read_line_to_codes(Out, Line2), read_lines(Line2, Out, Lines).
infinite. If this option is a number, the waits for a maximum of Timeout seconds and unifies Status with
timeoutif the process does not terminate within Timeout. In this case PID is not invalidated. On Unix systems only timeout 0 and
infiniteare supported. A 0-value can be used to poll the status of the process.
term. Signal is an integer, Unix signal name (e.g.
SIGSTOP) or the more Prolog friendly variation one gets after removing
SIGand downcase the result:
stop. On Windows systems, Signal is ignored and the process is terminated using the TerminateProcess() API. On Windows systems PID must be obtained from process_create/3, while any PID is allowed on Unix systems.
term. See process_wait/1 for a description of signal handling. In Windows, the same restriction on PID applies: it must have been created from process_create/3, and the the group is terminated via the TerminateJobObject API.
vfork. If the method is
spawnbut this cannot be used because it is either not supported by the OS or the
cwd(Dir)option is given
The problem is to be understood as follows. The official portable
and safe method to create a process is using the
fork() system call.
This call however copies the process page tables and get seriously
slow as the (Prolog) process is multiple giga bytes large.
Alternatively, we may use
vfork() which avoids copying the process
space. But, the safe usage as guaranteed by the POSIX standard of
vfork() is insufficient for our purposes. On practical systems your
mileage may vary. Modern posix systems also provide
which provides a safe and portable alternative for the
exec() sequence that may be implemented using
fork() or may use a
fast but safe alternative. Unfortunately
support the option to specify the working directory for the child
and we cannot use working_directory/2 as the working directory is
shared between threads.
Summarizing, the default is safe and tries to be as fast as
possible. On some scenarios and on some OSes it is possible to do
better. It is generally a good idea to avoid using the
option of process_create/3 as without we can use
The following predicates are exported, but not or incorrectly documented.