03 July 2024

Function returning UDT

Last time we discussed why you better not use a Variant in a user-defined type. This time we look at functions that return a user-defined type. Let's look at a function - called MakeRect - that creates and returns a RECT (a built-in type). Here is non-optimized, but often used, version:

Dim rc As RECT
rc = MakeRect(0, 0, 100, 200)
Function MakeRect(ByVal x%, ByVal y%, ByVal w%, ByVal h%) As RECT
  Local rc As RECT
  rc.Left = x%
  rc.Top = y%
  rc.Right = x% + w%
  rc.Bottom = y% + h%
  Return rc

The function declares a temporary local variable rc and fills it's members with the passed values. Before the function ends the Return statement returns the local rc RECT variable to the caller. What actually happens is: the Return statement copies the contents of rc to a special local variable before it exits the function. Functions use a temporary local variable with the same name and type as the function declaration. In this case, the local variable is called MakeRect. Normally, the contents of the function-local variable is returned through the stack, meaning it is copied from the function-local variable to the stack.

In short, a Return value statement first copies the value to the function-local variable, it is then copied to the stack, and then the function returns. A two step process. Therefor, it is advised not to use the Return statement, but instead assign the return value to the function-local variable directly. When we change MakeRect function, it looks like this:

Function MakeRect(ByVal x%, ByVal y%, ByVal w%, ByVal h%) As RECT
  MakeRect.Left = x%
  MakeRect.Top = y%
  MakeRect.Right = x% + w%
  MakeRect.Bottom = y% + h%

As you can see, there is no local variable rc anymore, and no Return statement. The function is optimized for speed (and size, because there is less copying to do).

Last, but not least, GFA-BASIC 32 has another performance optimization. In case of UDT return values, GB32 passes the UDT variable as a byref parameter to the function. So, MakeRect actually receives 5 parameters. When GB32 creates the function-local variable MakeRect, it sets a reference to the hidden byref UDT parameter. So, when assigning values to the MakeRect function-local variable, we are writing directly to the global variable rc that is secretly passed to the function.

No comments:

Post a Comment