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FFI::Platypus::Type::WideString - Platypus custom type for Unicode "wide" strings


version 2.08


 use FFI::Platypus 2.00;
 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring', access => 'read' );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring_w', access => 'write' );
 # call function that takes a constant wide string
 $ffi->attach( wcscmp => ['wstring', 'wstring'] => 'int' );
 my $diff = wcscmp("I ❤ perl + Platypus", "I ❤ perl + Platypus"); # returns 0
 # call a function that takes a wide string for writing
 $ffi->attach( wcscpy => ['wstring_w', 'wstring'] );
 my $buf;
 wcscpy(\$buf, "I ❤ perl + Platypus");
 print $buf, "\n";  # prints "I ❤ perl + Platypus"
 # call a function that takes a wide string for modification
 $ffi->attach( wcscat => ['wstring_w', 'wstring'] );
 my $buf;
 wcscat( [ \$buf, "I ❤ perl" ], " + Platypus");
 print $buf, "\n";  # prints "I ❤ perl + Platypus"

On Windows use with LPCWSTR:

 use FFI::Platypus 2.00;
 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 # define some custom Win32 Types
 # to get these automatically see FFI::Platypus::Lang::Win32
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'LPCWSTR', access => 'read' );
 $ffi->type('opaque' => 'HWND');
 $ffi->type('uint'   => 'UINT');
 use constant MB_OK                   => 0x00000000;
 use constant MB_DEFAULT_DESKTOP_ONLY => 0x00020000;
 $ffi->attach( [MessageBoxW => 'MessageBox'] => [ 'HWND', 'LPCWSTR', 'LPCWSTR', 'UINT'] => 'int' );
 MessageBox(undef, "I ❤️ Platypus", "Confession", MB_OK|MB_DEFAULT_DESKTOP_ONLY);


This custom type plugin for FFI::Platypus provides support for the native "wide" string type on your platform, if it is available.

Wide strings are made of up wide characters (wchar_t, also known as WCHAR on Windows) and have enough bits to represent character sets that require larger than the traditional one byte char.

These strings are most commonly used on Windows where they are referred to as LPWSTR and LPCWSTR (The former for read/write buffers and the latter for const read-only strings), where they are encoded as UTF-16LE.

They are also supported by libc on many modern Unix systems where they are usually UTF-32 of the native byte-order of the system. APIs on Unix systems more commonly use UTF-8 which provides some compatibility with ASCII, but you may occasionally find APIs that talk in wide strings. (libarchive, for example, can work in both).

This plugin will detect the native wide string format for you and transparently convert Perl strings, which are typically encoded internally as UTF-8. If for some reason it cannot detect the correct encoding, or if your platform is currently supported, an exception will be thrown (please open a ticket if this is the case). It can be used either for read/write buffers, for const read-only strings, and for return values. It supports these options:



Either read or write depending on if you are using a read/write buffer or a const read-only string.


For read/write buffer, the size of the buffer to create, if not provided by the caller.


Read-only strings are the easiest of all, are converted to the native wide string format in a buffer and are freed after that function call completes.

 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring' );
 $ffi->function( wprintf => [ 'wstring' ] => [ 'wstring' ] => 'int' )
      ->call("I %s perl + Platypus", "❤");

This is the mode that you want to use when you are calling a function that takes a const wchar_t* or a LPCWSTR.

return value

For return values the access and size options are ignored. The string is simply copied into a Perl native string.

 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring' );
 # see note below in CAVEATS about wcsdup
 my $str = $ffi->function( wcsdup => [ 'wstring' ] => 'wstring' )
               ->call("I ❤ perl + Platypus");

This is the mode that you want to use when you are calling a function that returns a const wchar_t*, wchar_t, LPWSTR or LPCWSTR.


Read/write strings can be passed in one of two ways. Which you choose depends on if you want to initialize the read/write buffer or not.

default buffer size

The simplest way is to fallback on the default buffer size, which can be specified using the size option when creating the custom type.

 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring',   access => 'read' );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring_w', access => 'write', size => 512 );
 $ffi->attach( wcscpy => ['wstring_w', 'wstring'] );
 my $buf;
 wcscpy(\$buf, "I ❤ perl + Platypus");
 print $buf, "\n";  # prints "I ❤ perl + Platypus"

Discussion: This is the most sensical approach when the exact size of the buffer is known for all usages of the string type. It can also be sensical if the buffer size is larger than any possible output, though care should be taken since this may be hard to determine reliably.

The default size if none is specified when creating the custom type is 2048, which is probably large enough for many uses, but also probably wastes memory for many of them.

allocate your buffer of a specific size

The safest and most memory efficient method is of course to allocate exactly the amount of memory that you need.

 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring',   access => 'read'  );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring_w', access => 'write' );
 $ffi->attach( wcscpy => ['wstring_w', 'wstring'] );
 my $width = $ffi->sizeof('wchar_t');
 my $buf = "\0" x ( (length ("I ❤ perl + Platypus") + 1)*$width);
 wcscpy(\$buf, "I ❤ perl + Platypus");
 print $buf, "\n";  # prints "I ❤ perl + Platypus"

Discussion: By assigning $buf to a string of null characters the length of the source string, plus one (for the null at the end) and then multiplying that by the size of wchar_t, you get the exact number of bytes needed for the destination buffer.

Note that although we pass in a reference to a buffer, what comes back is converted to a Perl string, which will be internally UTF-8, not stored at the original buffer location. This is slightly awkward, but what you need most of the time.

initialize the read/write buffer

Some functions don't expect empty null padded buffers though, in this case you will want to initialize the buffer.

 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring',   access => 'read'  );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring_w', access => 'write' );
 $ffi->attach( wcscat => ['wstring_w', 'wstring'] );
 my $buf;
 wcscat( [ \$buf, "I ❤ perl" ], " + Platypus");
 print $buf, "\n";  # prints "I ❤ perl + Platypus"

Discussion: To initialize we pass in an array reference instead of a scalar reference. The first element is a scalar reference to the buffer (which can be pre-allocated or not; if it is not allocated then it will be allocated to the default size for the type). The second argument is what the buffer should be initialized to before the underlying C function is called. The Perl string is encoded into wide string format before being used to initialize the buffer.

As before a reference to the translated string is returned, and the buffer that was used to pass in is freed.

allocate memory using malloc or wcsdup etc.

You can also allocate memory using malloc or wcsdup to return an opaque type and manipulate it using the libc wcs* functions. It will still probably be useful to use this plugin to cast the opaque back to a Perl string. The CAVEATS section below includes several examples.

This is the mode that you want to use when you are calling a function that takes a <wchar_t*> or a LPWSTR.


As with the Platypus built in string type, return values are copied into a Perl scalar. This is usually what you want anyway, but some APIs expect the caller to take responsibility for freeing the pointer to the wide string that it returns. For example, wcsdup works in this way. The workaround is to return an opaque pointer, cast it from a wide string and free the pointer.

 use FFI::Platypus::Memory qw( free );
 $ffi->load_custom_type('::WideString' => 'wstring' );
 my $ptr = $ffi->function( wcsdup => [ 'wstring' ] => 'opaque' )
               ->call("I ❤ perl + Platypus");
 my $str = $ffi->cast('opaque', 'wstring', $ptr);
 free $ptr;

Because of the order in which objects are freed you cannot return a wide string if it is also a wide string argument to a function. For example wcscpy may crash if you specify the return value as a wide string:

 # wchar_t *wcscpy(wchar_t *dest, const wchar_t *src);
 $ffi->attach( wcscpy => [ 'wstring_w', 'wstring' ] => 'wstring' ); # no
 my $str;
 wcscpy( \$str, "I ❤ perl + Platypus");  # may crash on memory error

This is because the order in which things are done here are 1. $str is allocated 2. $str is re-encoded as utf and the old buffer is freed 3. the return value is computed based on the $str buffer that was freed.

If you look at wcscpy though you don't actually need the return value. To make this code work, you can just ignore the return value:

 $ffi->attach( wcscpy => [ 'wstring_w', 'wstring' ] => 'void' ); # yes
 my $str;
 wcscpy( \$str, "I ❤ perl + Platypus"); # good!

On the other hand you do care about the return value from wcschr, which returns a pointer to the first occurrence of a character in an argument string:

 # wchar_t *wcschr(const wchar_t *wcs, wchar_t wc);
 $ffi->attach( wcschr => [ 'wstring', 'wchar_t' ] => 'wstring' ); # no
 # this may crash on memory error or return the wrong value
 my $str = wcschr("I ❤ perl + Platypus", ord("❤"));

Instead you need to work with pointers and casts to use this function:

 use FFI::Platypus 2.00;
 use FFI::Platypus::Memory qw( free );
 my $ffi = FFI::Platypus->new( api => 2, lib => [undef] );
 $ffi->attach( wcsdup => ['wstring'] => 'opaque' );
 $ffi->attach( strchr => [ opaque', 'wchar_t' ] => 'wstring' );
 # create a wcs string in memory using wcsdup
 my $haystack = wcsdup("I ❤ perl + Platypus");
 # find the heart and return as a wide string
 my $needle = strchr($haystack, ord("❤"));
 # safe to free the pointer to the larger string now
 free $haystack;



Core Platypus documentation.


Includes documentation on handling "normal" 8 bit C strings among others.


Documentation for using Platypus with LPWSTR and LPCWSTR types on Microsoft Windows. These types are just aliases for the standard C wide strings.


Author: Graham Ollis <>


Bakkiaraj Murugesan (bakkiaraj)

Dylan Cali (calid)


Zaki Mughal (zmughal)

Fitz Elliott (felliott)

Vickenty Fesunov (vyf)

Gregor Herrmann (gregoa)

Shlomi Fish (shlomif)

Damyan Ivanov

Ilya Pavlov (Ilya33)

Petr Písař (ppisar)

Mohammad S Anwar (MANWAR)

Håkon Hægland (hakonhagland, HAKONH)

Meredith (merrilymeredith, MHOWARD)

Diab Jerius (DJERIUS)

Eric Brine (IKEGAMI)


José Joaquín Atria (JJATRIA)

Pete Houston (openstrike, HOUSTON)


This software is copyright (c) 2015-2022 by Graham Ollis.

This is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as the Perl 5 programming language system itself.