Global variables are associations between names (atoms) and terms.
They differ in various ways from storing information using assert/1
- The value lives on the Prolog (global) stack. This implies that
lookup time is independent of the size of the term. This is particularly
interesting for large data structures such as parsed XML documents or
the CHR global constraint store.
- They support both global assignment using nb_setval/2
and backtrackable assignment using b_setval/2.
- Only one value (which can be an arbitrary complex Prolog term) can
be associated to a variable at a time.
- Their value cannot be shared among threads. Each thread has its own
namespace and values for global variables.
- Currently global variables are scoped globally. We may consider
module scoping in future versions.
implicitly create a variable if the referenced name does not already
refer to a variable.
Global variables may be initialised from directives to make them
available during the program lifetime, but some considerations are
necessary for saved states and threads. Saved states do not store global
variables, which implies they have to be declared with initialization/1
to recreate them after loading the saved state. Each thread has its own
set of global variables, starting with an empty set. Using
to define a global variable it will be defined, restored after reloading
a saved state and created in all threads that are created after
the registration. Finally, global variables can be initialised using the
See also nb_current/2
- Associate the term Value with the atom Name or
replace the currently associated value with Value. On
backtracking the assignment is reversed. If the variable Name
did not exist before calling b_setval/2,
backtracking causes the variable to be deleted.147Prior
to version 8.3.28 backtracking over the variable creation caused the
variable to get the value
, i.e., the empty
list. If this is desirable use
nb_setval(Var, ) before b_setval/2.
- Get the value associated with the global variable Name and
unify it with Value. Note that this unification may further
instantiate the value of the global variable. If this is undesirable the
normal precautions (double negation or copy_term/2)
must be taken. The
predicate generates errors if Name is not an atom or the
requested variable does not exist.
- Associates a copy of Value created with duplicate_term/2
with the atom Name. Note that this can be used to set an
initial value other than
- The nb_getval/2
predicate is a synonym for b_getval/2,
introduced for compatibility and symmetry. As most scenarios will use a
particular global variable using either non-backtrackable or
backtrackable assignment, using nb_getval/2
can be used to document that the variable is non-backtrackable. Raises
Name) if the variable does not exist. Alternatively, nb_current/2
can used to query a global variable. This version fails if the
variable does not exist rather than raising an exception.
- Associates the term Value with the atom Name
without copying it. This is a fast special-purpose variation of nb_setval/2
intended for expert users only because the semantics on backtracking to
a point before creating the link are poorly defined for compound terms.
The principal term is always left untouched, but backtracking behaviour
on arguments is undone if the original assignment was trailed
and left alone otherwise, which implies that the history that created
the term affects the behaviour on backtracking. Consider the following
T = nice(N),
( N = world,
; nb_getval(myvar, V),
- Enumerate all defined variables with their value. The order of
enumeration is undefined. Note that nb_current/2
can be used as an alternative for nb_getval/2
to request the value of a variable and fail silently if the variable
does not exists. Note that if the variable is not defined, exception/3
is called attempting to define it. As of version 8.3.28, a failure of exception/3
to define the variable causes the variable to be defined with a reserved
valued to avoid subsequent calls to exception/3.
- Delete the named global variable. Succeeds also if the named variable
does not exist. Deleting a global variable ensures the variable is
associated to a reserved value to avoid subsequent calls to exception/3.
Note that this implies that the resources associated with a global
variable are never fully reclaimed.
Global variables have been introduced by various Prolog
implementations recently. The implementation of them in SWI-Prolog is
based on hProlog by Bart Demoen. In discussion with Bart it was decided
that the semantics of hProlog nb_setval/2,
which is equivalent to nb_linkval/2,
is not acceptable for normal Prolog users as the behaviour is influenced
by how built-in predicates that construct terms (read/1,
=../2, etc.) are implemented.
GNU-Prolog provides a rich set of global variables, including arrays.
Arrays can be implemented easily in SWI-Prolog using functor/3
due to the unrestricted arity of compound terms.