Exceptions and Escape Continuations

When MzScheme encounters an error, it raises an exception. The default exception handler invokes the error display handler and then the error escape handler. The default error escape handler escapes via a primitive error escape, which is implemented by calling scheme_longjmp(*scheme_current_thread->error_buf).

An embedding program should install a fresh buffer into scheme_current_thread->error_buf and call scheme_setjmp(*scheme_current_thread->error_buf) before any top-level entry into MzScheme evaluation to catch primitive error escapes. When the new buffer goes out of scope, restore the original in scheme_current_thread->error_buf. The macro scheme_error_buf is a shorthand for *scheme_current_thread->error_buf.

  mz_jmp_buf * volatile save, fresh;
  save = scheme_current_thread->error_buf;
  scheme_current_thread->error_buf = &fresh;
  if (scheme_setjmp(scheme_error_buf)) {
    /* There was an error */
  } else {
    v = scheme_eval_string(s, env);
  scheme_current_thread->error_buf = save;

New primitive procedures can raise a generic exception by calling scheme_signal_error. The arguments for scheme_signal_error are roughly the same as for the standard C function printf. A specific primitive exception can be raised by calling scheme_raise_exn.

Full continuations are implemented in MzScheme by copying the C stack and using scheme_setjmp and scheme_longjmp. As long a C/C++ application invokes MzScheme evaluation through the top-level evaluation functions (scheme_eval, scheme_eval, etc., as opposed to _scheme_eval, _scheme_apply, etc.), the code is protected against any unusual behavior from Scheme evaluations (such as returning twice from a function) because continuation invocations are confined to jumps within a single top-level evaluation. However, escape continuation jumps are still allowed; as explained in the following sub-section, special care must be taken in extension that is sensitive to escapes.

7.1  Temporarily Catching Error Escapes

When implementing new primitive procedure, it is sometimes useful to catch and handle errors that occur in evaluating subexpressions. One way to do this is the following: save scheme_current_thread->error_buf to a temporary variable, set scheme_current_thread->error_buf to the address of a stack-allocated mz_jmp_buf, invoke scheme_setjmp(scheme_error_buf), perform the function's work, and then restore scheme_current_thread->error_buf before returning a value.

However, beware that the invocation of an escaping continuation looks like a primitive error escape, but the special indicator flag scheme_jumping_to_continuation is non-zero (instead of its normal zero value); this situation is only visible when implementing a new primitive procedure. Honor the escape request by chaining to the previously saved error buffer; otherwise, call scheme_clear_escape.

  mz_jmp_buf * volatile save, fresh;
  save = scheme_current_thread->error_buf;
  scheme_current_thread->error_buf = &fresh;
  if (scheme_setjmp(scheme_error_buf)) {
    /* There was an error or continuation invocation */
    if (scheme_jumping_to_continuation) {
      /* It was a continuation jump */
      scheme_longjmp(*save, 1);
      /* To block the jump, instead: scheme_clear_escape(); */
    } else {
      /* It was a primitive error escape */
  } else {
    scheme_eval_string("x", scheme_env);
  scheme_current_thread->error_buf = save;

This solution works fine as long as the procedure implementation only calls top-level evaluation functions (scheme_eval, scheme_eval, etc., as opposed to _scheme_eval, _scheme_apply, etc.). Otherwise, use scheme_dynamic_wind to protect your code against full continuation jumps in the same way that dynamic-wind is used in Scheme.

The above solution simply traps the escape; it doesn't report the reason that the escape occurred. To catch exceptions and obtain information about the exception, the simplest route is to mix Scheme code with C-implemented thunks. The code below can be used to catch exceptions in a variety of situations. It implements the function _apply_catch_exceptions, which catches exceptions during the application of a thunk. (This code is in collects/mzscheme/examples/catch.c in the distribution.)

static Scheme_Object *exn_catching_apply, *exn_p, *exn_message;

static void init_exn_catching_apply()
  if (!exn_catching_apply) {
    char *e = 
      "(lambda (thunk) "
        "(with-handlers ([void (lambda (exn) (cons #f exn))]) "
          "(cons #t (thunk))))";
    /* make sure we have a namespace with the standard bindings: */
    Scheme_Env *env = (Scheme_Env *)scheme_make_namespace(0, NULL);

    scheme_register_extension_global(&exn_catching_apply, sizeof(Scheme_Object *));
    scheme_register_extension_global(&exn_p, sizeof(Scheme_Object *));
    scheme_register_extension_global(&exn_message, sizeof(Scheme_Object *));
    exn_catching_apply = scheme_eval_string(e, env);
    exn_p = scheme_lookup_global(scheme_intern_symbol("exn?"), env);
    exn_message = scheme_lookup_global(scheme_intern_symbol("exn-message"), env);

/* This function applies a thunk, returning the Scheme value if there's no exception, 
   otherwise returning NULL and setting *exn to the raised value (usually an exn 
   structure). */
Scheme_Object *_apply_thunk_catch_exceptions(Scheme_Object *f, Scheme_Object **exn)
  Scheme_Object *v;

  v = _scheme_apply(exn_catching_apply, 1, &f);
  /* v is a pair: (cons #t value) or (cons #f exn) */

    return SCHEME_CDR(v);
  else {
    *exn = SCHEME_CDR(v);
    return NULL;

Scheme_Object *extract_exn_message(Scheme_Object *v)

  if (SCHEME_TRUEP(_scheme_apply(exn_p, 1, &v)))
    return _scheme_apply(exn_message, 1, &v);
    return NULL; /* Not an exn structure */

In the following example, the above code is used to catch exceptions that occur during while evaluating source code from a string.

static Scheme_Object *do_eval(void *s, int noargc, Scheme_Object **noargv)
  return scheme_eval_string((char *)s, scheme_get_env(scheme_config));

static Scheme_Object *eval_string_or_get_exn_message(char *s)
  Scheme_Object *v, *exn;

  v = _apply_thunk_catch_exceptions(scheme_make_closed_prim(do_eval, s), &exn);
  /* Got a value? */
  if (v)
    return v;

  v = extract_exn_message(exn);
  /* Got an exn? */
  if (v)
    return v;

  /* `raise' was called on some arbitrary value */
  return exn;

7.2  Enabling and Disabling Breaks

When embedding MzScheme, asynchronous break exceptions are disabled by default. Call scheme_set_can_break (which is the same as calling the Scheme funciton break-enabled) to enable or disable breaks. To enable or disable breaks during the dynamic extent of another evaluation (where you would use with-break-parameterization in Scheme), use scheme_push_break_enable before and scheme_pop_break_enable after, instead.

7.3  Library Functions

¤ void scheme_signal_error(char *msg, ...)

Raises a generic primitive exception. The parameters are roughly as for printf, but restricted to the following format directives:

The arguments following the format string must include no more than 25 strings and MzScheme values, 25 integers, and 25 floating-point numbers. (This restriction simplifies the implementation with precise garbage collection.)

¤ void scheme_raise_exn(int exnid, ...)

Raises a specific primitive exception. The exnid argument specifies the exception to be raised. If an instance of that exception has n fields, then the next n - 2 arguments are values for those fields (skipping the message and debug-info fields). The remaining arguments start with an error string and proceed roughly as for printf; see scheme_signal_error above for more details.

Exception ids are #defined using the same names as in Scheme, but prefixed with ``MZ'', all letters are capitalized, and all ``:'s', ``-''s, and ``/''s are replaced with underscores. For example, MZEXN_FAIL_FILESYSTEM is the exception id for a filesystem exception.

¤ void scheme_warning(char *msg, ...)

Signals a warning. The parameters are roughly as for printf; see scheme_signal_error above for more details.

¤ void scheme_wrong_count(char *name, int minc, int maxc, int argc, Scheme_Object **argv)

This function is automatically invoked when the wrong number of arguments are given to a primitive procedure. It signals that the wrong number of parameters was received and escapes (like scheme_signal_error). The name argument is the name of the procedure that was given the wrong number of arguments; minc is the minimum number of expected arguments; maxc is the maximum number of expected arguments, or -1 if there is no maximum; argc and argv contain all of the received arguments.

¤ void scheme_wrong_type(char *name, char *expected, int which,
   int argc, Scheme_Object **argv)

Signals that an argument of the wrong type was received, and escapes (like scheme_signal_error). The name argument is the name of the procedure that was given the wrong type of argument; expected is the name of the expected type; which is the offending argument in the argv array; argc and argv contain all of the received arguments. If the original argc and argv are not available, provide -1 for which and a pointer to the bad value in argv; argc is ignored in this case.

¤ void scheme_wrong_return_arity(char *name, int expected, int got, Scheme_Object **argv,
   const char *detail, ...)

Signals that the wrong number of values were returned to a multiple-values context. The expected argument indicates how many values were expected, got indicates the number received, and argv are the received values. The detail string can be NULL or it can contain a printf-style string (with additional arguments) to describe the context of the error; see scheme_signal_error above for more details about the printf-style string.

¤ void scheme_unbound_global(char *name)

Signals an unbound-variable error, where name is the name of the variable.

¤ char *scheme_make_provided_string(Scheme_Object *o, int count, int *len)

Converts a Scheme value into a string for the purposes of reporting an error message. The count argument specifies how many Scheme values total will appear in the error message (so the string for this value can be scaled appropriately). If len is not NULL, it is filled with the length of the returned string.

¤ char *scheme_make_args_string(char *s, int which, int argc, Scheme_Object **argv,
   long *len)

Converts an array of Scheme values into a byte string, skipping the array element indicated by which. This function is used to specify the ``other'' arguments to a function when one argument is bad (thus giving the user more information about the state of the program when the error occurred). If len is not NULL, it is filled with the length of the returned string.

¤ void scheme_check_proc_arity(char *where, int a, int which,
   int argc, Scheme_Object **argv)

Checks the whichth argument in argv to make sure it is a procedure that can take a arguments. If there is an error, the where, which, argc, and argv arguments are passed on to scheme_wrong_type. As in scheme_wrong_type, which can be -1, in which case *argv is checked.

¤ Scheme_Object *scheme_dynamic_wind( void (*pre)(void *data),
    Scheme_Object *(*action)(void *data),
    void (*post)(void *data),
    Scheme_Object *(*jmp_handler)(void *data),
    void *data)

Evaluates calls the function action to get a value for the scheme_dynamic_wind call. The functions pre and post are invoked when jumping into and out of action, respectively.

The function jmp_handler is called when an error is signaled (or an escaping continuation is invoked) during the call to action; if jmp_handler returns NULL, then the error is passed on to the next error handler, otherwise the return value is used as the return value for the scheme_dynamic_wind call.

The pointer data can be anything; it is passed along in calls to action, pre, post, and jmp_handler.

¤ void scheme_clear_escape()

Clears the ``jumping to escape continuation'' flag associated with a thread. Call this function when blocking escape continuation hops (see the first example in section 7.1).

¤ void scheme_set_can_break(int on)

Enables or disables breaks in the same way as calling break-enabled.

¤ void scheme_push_break_enable(Scheme_Cont_Frame_Data *cframe, int on, int pre_check)

Use this function with scheme_pop_break_enable to enable or disable breaks in the same way as with-break-parameterization; this function writes to cframe to initialize it, and scheme_pop_break_enable reads from cframe. If pre_check is non-zero and breaks are currently enabled, any pending break exception is raised.

¤ void scheme_pop_break_enable(Scheme_Cont_Frame_Data *cframe, int post_check)

Use this function with scheme_push_break_enable. If post_check is non-zero and breaks are enabled after restoring the previous state, then any pending break exception is raised.