TIP 422: Don't Use stdarg.h/va_list in Public API

EuroTcl/OpenACS 11 - 12 JULY 2024, VIENNA
Author:         Jan Nijtmans <[email protected]>
State:          Final
Type:           Project
Vote:           Done
Created:        02-Jan-2013
Tcl-Version:    9.0
Keywords:	Tcl, API removal, varargs
Tcl-Branch:     tip-422


This TIP proposes to remove all functions which use the va_list type from the public API, and it describes what extensions using this should do to make their extension portable on the mingw-w64 gcc compiler on the AMD64 platform.


The use of va_list in public API has the problem that different compilers have a different implementation of the va_list structure. The implication of this is that extensions which are compiled with mingw-w64 for the AMD64 platform, and call any of those functions will fail with a MSVC-compiled Tcl core. The reverse fails as well. For a brief description about this problem, see: http://www.bailopan.net/blog/?p=30. See also an earlier discusion in the Tcl Core mailing list: http://code.activestate.com/lists/tcl-core/10807/


This TIP proposes to remove the following 5 functions from the public API

In addition, the inclusion of <stdarg.h> should move from tcl.h to tclInt.h, as no public Tcl header uses it any more.


Extensions using any of those functions will not compile and run in Tcl 9.0 any more. They should be rewritten to use the same functions without the VA parameter. This can be done as follows.


int mypanic(const char *fmt, ...) {
    va_list ap;
    va_start(ap, fmt);
    Tcl_PanicVA(fmt, ap);


int mypanic(const char *fmt, ...) {
    va_list ap;
    char *arg1, *arg2, *arg3, *arg4;
    va_start(ap, fmt);
    arg1 = va_arg(argList, char *);
    arg2 = va_arg(argList, char *);
    arg3 = va_arg(argList, char *);
    arg4 = va_arg(argList, char *);
    Tcl_Panic(fmt, arg1, arg2, arg3, arg4);

The number of args used (4, in this example) should be chosen to be the maximum number of additional parameters that is used in any mypanic() call. Since this function is only ever called from the extensions itself, this can be determined easily.

In addition, the extension must do its own inclusion of <stdarg.h>, as tcl.h doesn't do that any more.

Extensions rewritten this way, will continue to compile and function with Tcl 8.x as well. I am not aware of any extension which actually calls any of those VA functions.

For Tcl 8.7, those 5 functions will be marked "deprecated", so any extensions still using it will get a compilation warning on compilers that support it. For example, if Tcl_PanicVA is used when compiling with GCC:

warning: 'Tcl_PanicVA' is deprecated: see TIP #422 [-Wdeprecated-declarations]

And if Tcl 8.7 is compiled with the -DTCL_NO_DEPREPATED flag, those 5 functions will not be exported as symbols from the DLL, and their entries in the stub table will be NULL.

Reference Implementation

A reference implementation is available in the tip-422 branch.

There is also a tip-422-for-8 branch, which shows the implementation for doing the deprecation in Tcl 8.7.


This document has been placed in the public domain.