BlitzMax for Win32 supports an additional build mode of
makelib (Build Shared Library
in MaxIDE), allowing for the creation of dynamic link libraries (DLLs) from your source,
rather than an application.
A DLL is different to a normal application because rather than executing it, the DLL is loaded and used by another application. In order to do this, Functions need to be made visible to the application. In BlitzMax, this is done by adding the Export property to every function you want to be visible to applications.
Here's an example of an exported function :
Function TheAnswer:Int() Export Return 42 End Function
On 32-bit Windows, there are two "calling conventions" for functions. A calling
convention describes the different ways the stack is managed - either by the function
itself, or by the caller of the function. Typically, BlitzMax functions are of the
kind, which is, the function manages the stack. However, 32-bit Windows also has what is
known as the
__stdcall calling convention, which is generally used to call Win32 API functions.
BlitzMax for Windows allows you to create functions of either type, including those
you Export in your DLLs. To declare a function with the
__stdcall calling convention,
you add the
"Win32" Os property to the function.
Here's an example of the function above, declared with the
"Win32" property too :
Function TheAnswer:Int() "Win32" Export Return 42 End Function
On 64-bit Windows, the
"Win32" property is essentially a no-op, because all functions
cdecl calling convention.
By default BlitzMax will also generate a module-definition (
.def) file alongside
your DLL. A module-definition file is a text file containing one or more module statements
that describe various attributes of a DLL.
Before the application can start using your DLL, BlitzMax needs to be initialised. Normally, for a BlitzMax application, this all occurs automatically when your program starts. However, because of the way DLLs work, the application becomes responsible for ensuring that BlitzMax is initialised before any other functions are called.
To initialise BlitzMax, the
InitBRL() function must be called first. This will
initialise the Garbage Collector, threading, global variables and memory.
Failure to call
InitBRL() before calling any of your exported functions will result
in undefined behaviour.
Because BlitzMax is a managed language, that is, it uses a Garbage Collector to manage variable life times rather than the user having to do it themselves, you need to be aware that you cannot simply pass BlitzMax Objects into and out the of exported functions of your DLL.
Once an Object leaves your DLL, the Garbage Collector could potentially flag the Object for collection if it can find no more references to it. Generally you should only pass data out that you know for sure will not be collected, or external data that was created by the program itself.
You should also be aware that you also cannot simply create data (for example, with MemAlloc), return it from an exported function, and forget about it. You either need a mechanism to free it later at some point, or provide a way for the application to free it (via a Function, perhaps), or you will simply leak the allocated memory.