RFC 7: Use VSILFILE for VSI*L Functions

Author: Even Rouault (Eric Doenges is original author)

Contact: even dot rouault at spatialys.com, Eric.Doenges@gmx.net

Status: Adopted


To change the API for the VSI*L family of functions to use a new data-type VSILFILE instead of the current FILE.

Background, Rationale

Currently, GDAL offers two APIs to abstract file access functions (referred to as VSI* and VSIL in this document). Both APIs claim to operate on FILE pointers; however, the VSIL functions can only operate on FILE pointers created by the VSIFOpenL function. This is because VSIFOpenL returns a pointer to an internal C++ class typecast to a FILE pointer, not an actual FILE pointer. This makes it impossible for the compiler to warn when the VSI* and VSI*L functions are inappropriately mixed.

Proposed Fix

A new opaque data-type VSILFILE shall be declared. All VSIL functions shall be changed to use this new type instead of FILE. Additionally, any GDAL code that uses the VSIL functions must be changed to use this data-type as well.

RawRasterBand changes

  • The 2 constructors are changed to accept a void* fpRaw instead of a FILE*

  • A new member VSILFILE* fpRawL is added. The existing member FILE* fpRaw is kept. The constructors will set the adequate member according to the value of the bIsVSIL parameter.

  • A new method VSILFILE* GetFPL() is added.

  • The old FILE* GetFP() is adapted to have same behavior as before (can return a standard FILE handle or a VSI*L handle depending on the handle that was passed to the constructor)

Those changes are meant to minimize the need for casting when using RawRasterBand. Backward API compatibility is preserved.

Compatibility Issues, Transition timeline

In order to allow the compiler to detect inappropriate parameters passed to any of the VSI*L functions, VSILFILE will be declared with the help of an empty forward declaration, i.e.

typedef struct _VSILFILE VSILFILE

with the struct _VSILFILE itself left undefined.

However, this would break source compatibility for any existing code using the VSI*L API. Therefore, for now, VSILFILE is defined to be an alias of FILE, unless the VSIL_STRICT_ENFORCE macro is defined.

typedef struct _VSILFILE VSILFILE;

In a future release (GDAL 2.0 ?), the behavior will be changed to enforce the new strong typing.

Any future development done since the adoption of this RFC should use VSILFILE when dealing with the VSIF*L API.


  • Should we define VSIL_STRICT_ENFORCE by default when DEBUG is defined ?

This would make life easier for GDAL developers to use the appropriate typing, but not affect API/ABI when using release mode.


The whole source tree ( port, gcore, frmts, ogr, swig/include ) will be altered adequatly so that the compilation works in VSIL_STRICT_ENFORCE mode. Ticket #3799 contains a patch with the implementation. The compilation doesn't add any new warning. The autotest suite still works after this change.

The GeoRaster and JPIPKAK drivers have been modified during the conversion process, but I'm not in position to compile them. Testing appreciated. All other drivers that have been altered in the conversion process have been compiled.

In the conversion process, a misuse of POSIX FILE API with a large file handler was discovered in the ceos2 driver, but the function happened to be unusued.

Voting History

* Frank Warmerdam +1
* Tamas Szekeres +1
* Daniel Morissette +1
* Howard Butler +1
* Even Rouault +1