Memory management


This is not actually implemented yet, but I’m writing this in the spirit of Documentation Driven Development. Memory management is currently broken in Wrappyr and will crash your program or leak memory if you’re lucky. Yes, I’m working on it :).

Memory management is quite an important part of programming in C/C++. When working in Python however, we expect this to work automatically. For this to happen, we need to provide some hints to Wrappyr how it can safely clean up after the Python programmer.

By default Wrappyr is extremely careful not to free memory it does not manage and will leak a lot of memory as a result. This is because there are different models of memory management. Let’s say for example that you have a Window class with a method createWindow that returns a pointer to to newly created Window. Does Wrappyr need to destroy the Window after we’re done with it, or will the parent Window destroy it? And when you pass a Window pointer to a its parent’s removeWindow method, can we continue to work with that Window? Wrappyr relies on you for answers to the questions, because only you as a human fully know what is going on.

When Wrappyr runs, it ask the following questions to manage memory:

  • I have a pointer; does it still point to a valid object so I can safely apply operations to it?
  • I have a pointer; do I have ownership and do I need to deallocate the object when I’m done with it?
  • I’m passing an object as an argument to a function; will the call invalidate my object?
  • I’m passing an object as an argument to a function; will the call steal my ownership over the object?
  • A function returned an object; do I now have the ownership over the object?

By default Wrappyr assumes the following to answer these questions:

  • When a funtion returns an object that Wrappyr copied to the heap, Wrappyr has ownership over that copy. This applies to functions like:

    Vector2 Cross(Vector2 a, Vector2 b);
  • When a function returns a pointer or reference to an object, Wrappyr does not have ownership over the object, so you must deallocate it manually if necessary.

  • Passing an object to a function not change whether the object is valid or wheter Wrappyr has ownership over it.

Providing memory management hints

Wrappyr uses memory management hints when generating the Python API, so to provide memory management hints to Wrappyr, you modify the Python API representation (which you typically do in a wrappyr.Package, specifically the wrappyr.Package.process_ctypes_structure() method).

Now I’ll provide a list of hints you can give. Before you read this, make sure you have read and understood the concepts of valid, ownership and stealing is explained in the previous section.

  • To indicate that passing an object as argument to a call will invalidate the object, set the Argument.invalidates attribute to True. If you then pass an object to this call, the object will be marked as invalid and its internal pointer to None. If you then try to pass the object to another call, an exception will be raised.
  • To indicate that the ownership of an object will be stolen when passing it as an argument to a function, set the Argument.steals attribute to True. After this, the object won’t be deallocated when it’s not used in Python anymore. When you then try to pass the object to another call that will try to steal the ownership, an exception will be raised. To mark that it’s safe to pass the object that is not owned to the stealing call, set the Argument.steals attribute to the string safe.
  • To indicate a call gives you ownership over the object it returns, set the ReturnValue.ownership attribute to true.


Provide hints about memory management for some calls in the API:

import wrappyr

class hint(object):
    def __init__(name, argument = None, steals = None, invalidates = None, ownership = None): = name
        self.argument = argument
        self.steals = steals
        self.invalidates = invalidates
        self.ownership = ownership

    def apply(self, call):
        for prop in ("steals", "invalidates"):
            value = getattr(self, prop)
            if value is not None:
                for arg in call.args:
                    if == self.argument:
                        setattr(arg, prop, value)
        if self.ownership is not None and call.returns:
            call.returns.ownership = self.ownership

class MyGuiPackage(wrappyr.Package):
    HINTS = [
        hint("MyGui.Window.add_child", "child", ownership = True),
        hint("MyGui.Window.destroy_child", "child", invalidates = True),
        hint("MyGui.Window.detach_child", ownership = True),

    def process_ctypes_structure(self, structure):
        for hint in self.hints:
            f = structure.get_by_path(
            for call in f.ops:

Assume that all methods that begin with destroy_ invalidate the arguments passed to them:

import wrappyr
from wrappyr.ctypes_api_builder.structure import CTypesStructureVisitor

class FixDestroyMethods(CTypesStructureVisitor):
    def visit_Method(self, method):
        if method.raw:
            return # Method only conains Python code, so skip it.
        if not"destroy_"):
            return # Method does not start with destroy_

        for call in method.ops:
            for arg in call.args:
                arg.invalidates = True

class MyPackage(wrappyr.Package):
    def process_ctypes_structure(self, structure):