2.11 • Coroutines

Lua supports coroutines, also called collaborative multithreading. A coroutine in Lua represents an independent thread of execution. Unlike threads in multithread systems, however, a coroutine only suspends its execution by explicitly calling a yield function.

You create a coroutine with a call to coroutine.create. Its sole argument is a function that is the main function of the coroutine. The create function only creates a new coroutine and returns a handle to it (an object of type thread); it does not start the coroutine execution.

When you first call coroutine.resume, passing as its first argument a thread returned by coroutine.create, the coroutine starts its execution, at the first line of its main function. Extra arguments passed to coroutine.resume are passed on to the coroutine main function. After the coroutine starts running, it runs until it terminates or yields.

A coroutine can terminate its execution in two ways: normally, when its main function returns (explicitly or implicitly, after the last instruction); and abnormally, if there is an unprotected error. In the first case, coroutine.resume returns true, plus any values returned by the coroutine main function. In case of errors, coroutine.resume returns false plus an error message.

A coroutine yields by calling coroutine.yield. When a coroutine yields, the corresponding coroutine.resume returns immediately, even if the yield happens inside nested function calls (that is, not in the main function, but in a function directly or indirectly called by the main function). In the case of a yield, coroutine.resume also returns true, plus any values passed to coroutine.yield. The next time you resume the same coroutine, it continues its execution from the point where it yielded, with the call to coroutine.yield returning any extra arguments passed to coroutine.resume.

Like coroutine.create, the coroutine.wrap function also creates a coroutine, but instead of returning the coroutine itself, it returns a function that, when called, resumes the coroutine. Any arguments passed to this function go as extra arguments to coroutine.resume. coroutine.wrap returns all the values returned by coroutine.resume, except the first one (the boolean error code). Unlike coroutine.resume, coroutine.wrap does not catch errors; any error is propagated to the caller.

As an example, consider the following code:

     function foo (a)
       print("foo", a)
       return coroutine.yield(2*a)
     co = coroutine.create(function (a,b)
           print("co-body", a, b)
           local r = foo(a+1)
           print("co-body", r)
           local r, s = coroutine.yield(a+b, a-b)
           print("co-body", r, s)
           return b, "end"
     print("main", coroutine.resume(co, 1, 10))
     print("main", coroutine.resume(co, "r"))
     print("main", coroutine.resume(co, "x", "y"))
     print("main", coroutine.resume(co, "x", "y"))

When you run it, it produces the following output:

     co-body 1       10
     foo     2
     main    true    4
     co-body r
     main    true    11      -9
     co-body x       y
     main    true    10      end
     main    false   cannot resume dead coroutine

3 - The Application Program Interface

This section describes the C API for Lua, that is, the set of C functions available to the host program to communicate with Lua. All API functions and related types and constants are declared in the header file lua.h.

Even when we use the term "function", any facility in the API may be provided as a macro instead. All such macros use each of their arguments exactly once (except for the first argument, which is always a Lua state), and so do not generate any hidden side-effects.

As in most C libraries, the Lua API functions do not check their arguments for validity or consistency. However, you can change this behavior by compiling Lua with a proper definition for the macro luai_apicheck, in file luaconf.h.


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