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Memory Management

Pydust, like Zig, doesn't perform any implicit memory management. Pydust is designed to be a relatively thin layer around the CPython API, and therefore the same semantics apply.

All Pydust Python types (such as py.PyObject and py.Py<Name>) have incref() and decref() member functions. These correspond to Py_INCREF and Py_DECREF respectively.

To create a contrived example, here we take a string left as an argument passed in from Python and we append a Zig slice right to it. Since we create a new py.PyString containing right, it is our responsibility to ensure decref() is called on it.

The reason we call incref() on left is more subtle. When being called from Python, we are essentially borrowing references to each of the arguments. The PyString.append function actually steals a reference to itself (for performance improvements and ergonomics when chaining multiple append calls). Since we had only borrowed a reference to left, we must call .incref() in order to allow left.append() to steal the new reference back again.

pub fn append(args: struct { left: py.PyString }) !py.PyString {
    // Since we create right, we must also decref it.
    const right = try py.PyString.create("right");
    defer right.decref();

    // Left is given to us as a borrowed reference from the caller.
    // Since append steals the left-hand-side, we must incref first.
    return args.left.append(right);

Of course, this could be implemeneted much more simply using PyString.concatSlice (which returns a new reference without stealing one) and also internally creates and decref's right.

pub fn concat(args: struct { left: py.PyString }) !py.PyString {
    return args.left.concatSlice("right");

In general, Pydust functions to not steal references. They should be loudly documented in the rare cases that they do, and typically will have the naming convention fromOwned meaning they take ownership (steal a reference) to the argument being passed in.

The PyString.append function can however be useful. For example, when chaining several appends together.

var s = py.PyString.fromSlice("Hello ");
s = s.appendSlice("1, ");
s = s.appendSlice("2, ");
s = s.appendSlice("3");
return s;

Upcoming Feature!

Work is underway to provide a test harness that uses Zig's GeneralPurposeAllocator to catch memory leaks within your Pydust extension code and surface them to pytest.