Orb Programming Language

Automatic cleanup

Managing resources, most notably memory, in code can be toilsome and error-prone. Fortunately, Orb comes with scope-based resource management (also known as RAII). This means that types that manage resources can be set up to “clean up after themselves” by defining special functions. These are called drop functions, and can only be defined for data types.

To define a drop function, pass it as an extra argument when defining a data type. This argument must be a function that takes a single argument of that data type, marked with ::noDrop.

This is best illustrated by an example.

data Control {
} (lam (this:Control::noDrop) () {
    if (!= ([] this str) null) {
        std.println "Releasing: " ([] this str);

Drop functions are called as a symbol goes out of scope. Additionally, each of their elements are also dropped. As a rule, the order of dropping is inverse to the order in which the values were defined.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it simply means that the compiler will take care of automatically cleaning up any resources you are using, and you don’t need to worry about them. Your responsibility is just to define the drop function.

fnc makeCtrl (str:String) Control;

fnc main () () {
    sym ctrl:Control;
    # = ctrl ...;

    sym ctrlArr:(Control 4);
    # = ctrlArr ...;

    # returned Control is not stored anywhere, so it is immediately dropped
    makeCtrl "some resource";

    # end of function scope:
    #   elements of ctrlArr are dropped in reverse order
    #   ctrl is dropped

There is another rule that is worth remembering - if a value is guaranteed to be in its zero state, the compiler may omit dropping it. Practically speaking, when a value is zero-initialized, it is considered to not own any resources.