- Reference manual
- Built-in Predicates
- Notation of Predicate Descriptions
- Character representation
- Loading Prolog source files
- Editor Interface
- List the program, predicates or clauses
- Verify Type of a Term
- Comparison and Unification of Terms
- Control Predicates
- Meta-Call Predicates
- Delimited continuations
- Exception handling
- Handling signals
- DCG Grammar rules
- Declaring predicate properties
- Examining the program
- Input and output
- Status of streams
- Primitive character I/O
- Term reading and writing
- Analysing and Constructing Terms
- Analysing and Constructing Atoms
- Localization (locale) support
- Character properties
- Character Conversion
- Misc arithmetic support predicates
- Built-in list operations
- Finding all Solutions to a Goal
- Formatted Write
- Global variables
- Terminal Control
- Operating System Interaction
- File System Interaction
- User Top-level Manipulation
- Creating a Protocol of the User Interaction
- Debugging and Tracing Programs
- Obtaining Runtime Statistics
- Execution profiling
- Memory Management
- Windows DDE interface
- Built-in Predicates
- Reference manual
SWI-Prolog provides two different packages for input and output. The native I/O system is based on the ISO standard predicates open/3, close/1 and friends.81Actually based on Quintus Prolog, providing this interface before the ISO standard existed. Being more widely portable and equipped with a clearer and more robust specification, new code is encouraged to use these predicates for manipulation of I/O streams.
Section 4.17.3 describes tell/1, see/1 and friends, providing I/O in the spirit of the traditional Edinburgh standard. These predicates are layered on top of the ISO predicates. Both packages are fully integrated; the user may switch freely between them.
Each thread has five stream aliases:
current_output. Newly created threads inherit these stream
aliases from their parent. The
user_error aliases of the
main thread are
initially bound to the standard operating system I/O streams (stdin,
stdout and stderr, normally bound to the POSIX file
handles 0, 1 and 2). These aliases may be re-bound, for
example if standard I/O refers to a window such as in the swipl-win.exe
GUI executable for Windows. They can be re-bound by the user using
by setting the alias of a stream (e.g,
set_stream(S, alias(user_output))). An example of rebinding
can be found in library
library(prolog_server), providing a telnet
service. The aliases
define the source and destination for predicates that do not take a
stream argument (e.g., read/1, write/1, get_code/1,
... ). Initially, these are bound to the same stream as
user_error. They are re-bound by see/1, tell/1, set_input/1
current_output stream is also temporary re-bound by with_output_to/2
format(atom(A), .... Note that code which explicitly writes
to the streams
not be redirected by with_output_to/2.
Note that the ISO standard only defines the
streams. The `current' streams can be accessed using current_input/1
For example, an ISO compatible implementation of
write(Term) :- current_output(Out), write_term(Out, Term).
while SWI-Prolog additionally allows for
write(Term) :- write(current_output, Term).
The predicates described in this section provide ISO compliant I/O, where streams are explicitly created using the predicate open/3. The resulting stream identifier is then passed as a parameter to the reading and writing predicates to specify the source or destination of the data.
This schema is not vulnerable to filename and stream ambiguities as well as changes to the working directory. On the other hand, using the notion of current-I/O simplifies reusability of code without the need to pass arguments around. E.g., see with_output_to/2.
SWI-Prolog streams are, compatible with the ISO standard, either input or output streams. To accommodate portability to other systems, a pair of streams can be packed into a stream-pair. See stream_pair/3 for details.
SWI-Prolog stream handles are unique symbols that have no syntactical
representation. They are written as
which is not valid input for read/1.
They are realised using a blob of type
stream (see blob/2
and section 11.4.7).
- [ISO]open(+SrcDest, +Mode, --Stream, +Options)
- True when SrcDest can be opened in Mode and Stream
is an I/O stream to/from the object. SrcDest is normally the
name of a file, represented as an atom or string. Mode is one
appendopens the file for writing, positioning the file pointer at the end. Mode
updateopens the file for writing, positioning the file pointer at the beginning of the file without truncating the file. Stream is either a variable, in which case it is bound to an integer identifying the stream, or an atom, in which case this atom will be the stream identifier.82New code should use the
alias(Alias)option for compatibility with the ISO standard.
SWI-Prolog also allows SrcDest to be a term
pipe(Command). In this form, Command is started as a child process and if Mode is
write, output written to Stream is sent to the standard input of Command. Viso versa, if Mode is
read, data written by Command to the standard output may be read from Stream. On Unix systems, Command is handed to popen() which hands it to the Unix shell. On Windows, Command is executed directly. See also process_create/3 from
The following Options are recognised by open/4:
- Gives the stream a name. Below is an example. Be careful with this
option as stream names are global. See also set_stream/2.
?- open(data, read, Fd, [alias(input)]). ..., read(input, Term), ...
- Check for a BOM (Byte Order Marker) or write one. If omitted,
the default is
write. See also stream_property/2 and especially section 18.104.22.168 for a discussion of this feature.
- Defines output buffering. The atom
full(default) defines full buffering,
linebuffering by line, and
falseimplies the stream is fully unbuffered. Smaller buffering is useful if another process or the user is waiting for the output as it is being produced. See also flush_output/[0,1]. This option is not an ISO option.
true(default), the stream is closed on an abort (see abort/0). If
false, the stream is not closed. If it is an output stream, however, it will be flushed. Useful for logfiles and if the stream is associated to a process (using the
- Specifies how a new file is created when opening in
updatemode. Currently, List is a list of atoms that describe the permissions of the created file.83Added after feedback from Joachim Shimpf and Per Mildner. Defined values are below. Not recognised values are silently ignored, allowing for adding platform specific extensions to this set.
- Allow read access to the file.
- Allow write access to the file.
- Allow execution access to the file.
- Allow read and write access to the file.
- Allow any access provided by the OS.
Note that if List is empty, the created file has no associated access permissions. The create options map to the POSIX mode option of open(), where
readmap to 0444,
writeto 0222 and
executeto 0111. On POSIX systems, the final permission is defined as (mode &
- Define the encoding used for reading and writing text to this stream.
The default encoding for type
textis derived from the Prolog flag encoding. For
binarystreams the default encoding is
octet. For details on encoding issues, see section 2.19.1.
- Defines what happens if the end of the input stream is reached. Action
eof_codemakes get0/1 and friends return -1, and read/1 and friends return the atom
end_of_file. Repetitive reading keeps yielding the same result. Action
eof_code, but repetitive reading will raise an error. With action
reset, Prolog will examine the file again and return more data if the file has grown.
- Set the locale that is used by notably format/2 for output on this stream. See section 4.23.
- Try to obtain a lock on the open file. Default is
none, which does not lock the file. The value
sharedmeans other processes may read the file, but not write it. The value
exclusivemeans no other process may read or write the file.
Locks are acquired through the POSIX function fcntl() using the command
F_SETLKW, which makes a blocked call wait for the lock to be released. Please note that fcntl() locks are advisory and therefore only other applications using the same advisory locks honour your lock. As there are many issues around locking in Unix, especially related to NFS (network file system), please study the fcntl() manual page before trusting your locks!
lockoption is a SWI-Prolog extension.
- Using type
text(default), Prolog will write a text file in an operating system compatible way. Using type
binarythe bytes will be read or written without any translation. See also the option
- This option can be combined with the
true), the open call returns immediately with an exception if the file is locked. The exception has the format
permission_error(lock, source_sink, SrcDest).
repositionis not supported in SWI-Prolog. All streams connected to a file may be repositioned.
- [ISO]open(+SrcDest, +Mode, --Stream)
- Equivalent to open/4 with an empty option list.
- Open an output stream that produces no output. All counting functions
are enabled on such a stream. It can be used to discard output (like
/dev/null) or exploit the counting properties. The initial encoding of Stream is
utf8, enabling arbitrary Unicode output. The encoding can be changed to determine byte counts of the output in a particular encoding or validate if output is possible in a particular encoding. For example, the code below determines the number of characters emitted when writing Term.
write_length(Term, Len) :- open_null_stream(Out), write(Out, Term), character_count(Out, Len0), close(Out), Len = Len0.
- Close the specified stream. If Stream is not open, an
existence error is raised. See stream_pair/3
for the implications of closing a
If the closed stream is the current input, output or error stream, the stream alias is bound to the initial standard I/O streams of the process. Calling close/1 on the initial standard I/O streams of the process is a no-op for an input stream and flushes an output stream without closing it.84This behaviour was defined with purely interactive usage of Prolog in mind. Applications should not count on this behaviour. Future versions may allow for closing the initial standard I/O streams.
- [ISO]close(+Stream, +Options)
close(Stream, [force(true)])as the only option. Called this way, any resource errors (such as write errors while flushing the output buffer) are ignored.
- [ISO]stream_property(?Stream, ?StreamProperty)
- True when StreamProperty is a property of Stream.
If enumeration of streams or properties is demanded because either
Stream or StreamProperty are unbound, the
implementation enumerates all candidate streams and properties while
locking the stream database. Properties are fetched without locking the
stream and may be outdated before this predicate returns due to
- If Atom is bound, test if the stream has the specified alias. Otherwise unify Atom with the first alias of the stream.bugBacktracking does not give other aliases.
- SWI-Prolog extension to query the buffering mode of this stream.
Buffering is one of
false. See also open/4.
- SWI-Prolog extension to query the size of the I/O buffer associated to a stream in bytes. Fails if the stream is not buffered.
- If present and
true, a BOM (Byte Order Mark) was detected while opening the file for reading, or a BOM was written while opening the stream. See section 22.214.171.124 for details.
- Determine whether or not abort/0 closes the stream. By default streams are closed.
- Determine whether or not the stream is closed when executing a new
process (exec() in Unix, CreateProcess() in Windows). Default is to
close streams. This maps to fcntl()
F_SETFDusing the flag
FD_CLOEXECon Unix and (negated)
- Query the encoding used for text. See section 2.19.1 for an overview of wide character and encoding issues in SWI-Prolog.
- If Stream is an input stream, unify E with one of
past. See also at_end_of_stream/[0,1].
- Unify A with one of
error. See open/4 for details.
- If Stream is associated to a file, unify Atom to the name of this file.
- If the stream is associated with a POSIX file descriptor, unify
Integer with the descriptor number. SWI-Prolog extension used
primarily for integration with foreign code. See also Sfileno() from
- True if Stream has mode
- True when Locale is the current locale associated with the stream. See section 4.23.
- Unify IOMode to the mode given to open/4
for opening the stream. Values are:
appendand the SWI-Prolog extension
- One of
dos, text streams will emit
\rfrom input streams. Default depends on the operating system.
- Number of hard links to the file. This expresses the number of `names'
the file has. Not supported on all operating systems and the value might
be bogus. See the documentation of fstat() for your OS and the value
- True if Stream has mode
- Unify Pos with the current stream position. A stream position is an opaque term whose fields can be extracted using stream_position_data/3. See also set_stream_position/2.
- Unify Bool with true if the position of the stream can be set (see seek/4). It is assumed the position can be set if the stream has a seek-function and is not based on a POSIX file descriptor that is not associated to a regular file.
- Determines behaviour of character output if the stream cannot represent
a character. For example, an ISO Latin-1 stream cannot represent
Cyrillic characters. The behaviour is one of
error(throw an I/O error exception),
\...\escape code) or
&#...;XML character entity). The initial mode is
prologfor the user streams and
errorfor all other streams. See also section 2.19.1 and set_stream/2.
- Time is the timeout currently associated with the stream. See
with the same option. If no timeout is specified,
Time is unified to the atom
- Unify Type with
- This property is reported with Bool equal to
trueif the stream is associated with a terminal. See also set_stream/2.
- Atom is one of
ignore. The latter is intended to deal with service processes for which the standard output handles are not connected to valid streams. In these cases write errors may be ignored on
- current_stream(?Object, ?Mode, ?Stream)
- The predicate current_stream/3
is used to access the status of a stream as well as to generate all open
streams. Object is the name of the file opened if the stream
refers to an open file, an integer file descriptor if the stream
encapsulates an operating system stream, or the atom
if the stream refers to some other object. Mode is one of
- True if Term is a stream name or valid stream handle. This predicate realises a safe test for the existence of a stream alias or handle.
- stream_pair(?StreamPair, ?Read, ?Write)
- This predicate can be used in mode (-,+,+) to create a
stream-pair from an input stream and an output stream. Mode
(+,-,-) can be used to get access to the underlying streams. If a stream
has already been closed, the corresponding argument is left unbound. If
mode (+,-,-) is used on a single stream, either Read or
Write is unified with the stream while the other argument is
left unbound. This behaviour simplifies writing code that must operate
both on streams and stream pairs.
Stream-pairs can be used by all I/O operations on streams, where the operation selects the appropriate member of the pair. The predicate close/1 closes the still open streams of the pair.85As of version 7.1.19, it is allowed to close one of the members of the stream directly and close the pair later. The output stream is closed before the input stream. If closing the output stream results in an error, the input stream is still closed. Success is only returned if both streams were closed successfully.
- [ISO]set_stream_position(+Stream, +Pos)
- Set the current position of Stream to Pos. Pos
is a term as returned by stream_property/2
position(Pos)property. See also seek/4.
- stream_position_data(?Field, +Pos, -Data)
- Extracts information from the opaque stream position term as returned by stream_property/2
position(Pos)property. Field is one of
byte_count. See also line_count/2, line_position/2, character_count/2 and byte_count/2.86Introduced in version 5.6.4 after extending the position term with a byte count. Compatible with SICStus Prolog.
- seek(+Stream, +Offset, +Method, -NewLocation)
- Reposition the current point of the given Stream. Method
is one of
eof, indicating positioning relative to the start, current point or end of the underlying object. NewLocation is unified with the new offset, relative to the start of the stream.
Positions are counted in `units'. A unit is 1 byte, except for text files using 2-byte Unicode encoding (2 bytes) or wchar encoding (sizeof(wchar_t)). The latter guarantees comfortable interaction with wide-character text objects. Otherwise, the use of seek/4 on non-binary files (see open/4) is of limited use, especially when using multi-byte text encodings (e.g. UTF-8) or multi-byte newline files (e.g. DOS/Windows). On text files, SWI-Prolog offers reliable backup to an old position using stream_property/2 and set_stream_position/2. Skipping N character codes is achieved calling get_code/2 N times or using copy_stream_data/3, directing the output to a null stream (see open_null_stream/1). If the seek modifies the current location, the line number and character position in the line are set to 0.
If the stream cannot be repositioned, a
permission_erroris raised. If applying the offset would result in a file position less than zero, a
domain_erroris raised. Behaviour when seeking to positions beyond the size of the underlying object depend on the object and possibly the operating system. The predicate seek/4 is compatible with Quintus Prolog, though the error conditions and signalling is ISO compliant. See also stream_property/2 and set_stream_position/2.
- set_stream(+Stream, +Attribute)
- Modify an attribute of an existing stream. Attribute
specifies the stream property to set. If stream is a pair (see stream_pair/3)
both streams are modified, unless the property is only meaningful on one
of the streams or setting both is not meaningful. In particular,
eof_actiononly applies to the read stream,
representation_errorsonly applies to the write stream and trying to set
line_positionon a pair results in a
permission_errorexception. See also stream_property/2 and open/4.
- Set the alias of an already created stream. If AliasName is
the name of one of the standard streams, this stream is rebound. Thus,
set_stream(S, current_input)is the same as set_input/1, and by setting the alias of a stream to
user_input, etc., all user terminal input is read from this stream. See also interactor/0.
- Set the buffering mode of an already created stream. Buffering is one of
- Set the size of the I/O buffer of the underlying stream to Size bytes.
- Determine whether or not the stream is closed by abort/0. By default, streams are closed.
- Set the
close_on_execproperty. See stream_property/2.
- Defines the mapping between bytes and character codes used for the
stream. See section
2.19.1 for supported encodings. The value
bomcauses the stream to check whether the current character is a Unicode BOM marker. If a BOM marker is found, the encoding is set accordingly and the call succeeds. Otherwise the call fails.
- Set end-of-file handling to one of
- Set the filename associated to this stream. This call can be used to set the file for error locations if Stream corresponds to FileName and is not obtained by opening the file directly but, for example, through a network service.
- Set the line position attribute of the stream. This feature is intended
to correct position management of the stream after sending a terminal
escape sequence (e.g., setting ANSI character attributes). Setting this
attribute raises a permission error if the stream does not record
positions. See line_position/2
- Change the locale of the stream. See section 4.23.
- Set input or output translation for newlines. See corresponding
for details. In addition to the detected modes, an input stream can be
set in mode
detect. It will be set to
\rcharacter was removed.
- This option can be used to make streams generate an exception if it
takes longer than Seconds before any new data arrives at the
stream. The value infinite (default) makes the stream block
indefinitely. Like wait_for_input/3,
this call only applies to streams that support the select() system call.
For further information about timeout handling, see wait_for_input/3.
The exception is of the form
timeout_error(read, Stream), _)
- Set the type of the stream to one of
binary. See also open/4 and the
encodingproperty of streams. Switching to
binarysets the encoding to
octet. Switching to
textsets the encoding to the default text encoding.
- Do/do not record the line count and line position (see line_count/2
set_stream(S, record_position(true))resets the position the start of line 1.
- Change the behaviour when writing characters to the stream that cannot be represented by the encoding. See also stream_property/2 and section 2.19.1.
- Modify whether Prolog thinks there is a terminal (i.e. human interaction) connected to this stream. On Unix systems the initial value comes from isatty(). On Windows, the initial user streams are supposed to be associated to a terminal. See also stream_property/2.
- set_prolog_IO(+In, +Out, +Error)
- Prepare the given streams for interactive behaviour normally associated
to the terminal. In becomes the
current_inputof the calling thread. Out becomes
current_output. If Error equals Out an unbuffered stream is associated to the same destination and linked to
user_error. Otherwise Error is used for
user_error. Output buffering for Out is set to
lineand buffering on Error is disabled. See also prolog/0 and set_stream/2. The clib package provides the library
library(prolog_server), creating a TCP/IP server for creating an interactive session to Prolog.
The package for implicit input and output destinations is (almost) compatible with Edinburgh DEC-10 and C-Prolog. The reading and writing predicates refer to, resp., the current input and output streams. Initially these streams are connected to the terminal. The current output stream is changed using tell/1 or append/1. The current input stream is changed using see/1. The stream's current value can be obtained using telling/1 for output and seeing/1 for input.
Source and destination are either a file,
user, or a
term `pipe(Command)'. The reserved stream name
refers to the terminal.87The ISO
I/O layer uses
In the predicate descriptions below we will call the source/destination
argument `SrcDest'. Below are some examples of
|% Start reading from file `data'.|
|% Start writing to the terminal.|
|% Start writing to the printer.|
Another example of using the
pipe/1 construct is shown
below.88As of version 5.3.15, the
pipe construct is supported in the MS-Windows version, both for swipl.exe
and swipl-win.exe. The implementation uses code from the LUA
programming language (http://www.lua.org).
Note that the
pipe/1 construct is not part of Prolog's
standard I/O repertoire.
getwd(Wd) :- seeing(Old), see(pipe(pwd)), collect_wd(String), seen, see(Old), atom_codes(Wd, String). collect_wd([C|R]) :- get0(C), C \== -1, !, collect_wd(R). collect_wd().
The effect of tell/1 is not undone on backtracking, and since the stream handle is not specified explicitly in further I/O operations when using Edinburgh-style I/O, you may write to unintended streams more easily than when using ISO compliant I/O. For example, the following query writes both "a" and "b" into the file `out' :
?- (tell(out), write(a), false ; write(b)), told.
Unlike Edinburgh Prolog systems, telling/1 and seeing/1 do not return the filename of the current input/output but rather the stream identifier, to ensure the design pattern below works under all circumstances:89Filenames can be ambiguous and SWI-Prolog streams can refer to much more than just files.
..., telling(Old), tell(x), ..., told, tell(Old), ...,
The predicates tell/1
first check for
pipe(command) and a stream handle. Otherwise, if the
argument is an atom it is first compared to open streams associated to a
file with exactly the same name. If such a stream exists,
output (input) is switched to the open stream. Otherwise a file with the
specified name is opened.
The behaviour is compatible with Edinburgh Prolog. This is not without problems. Changing directory, non-file streams, and multiple names referring to the same file easily lead to unexpected behaviour. New code, especially when managing multiple I/O channels, should consider using the ISO I/O predicates defined in section 4.17.2.
- Open SrcDest for reading and make it the current input (see set_input/1). If SrcDest is a stream handle, just make this stream the current input. See the introduction of section 4.17.3 for details.
- Open SrcDest for writing and make it the current output (see set_output/1). If SrcDest is a stream handle, just make this stream the current output. See the introduction of section 4.17.3 for details.
- Similar to tell/1, but positions the file pointer at the end of File rather than truncating an existing file. The pipe construct is not accepted by this predicate.
- Same as current_input/1,
useris returned if the current input is the stream
user_inputto improve compatibility with traditional Edinburgh I/O. See the introduction of section 4.17.3 for details.
- Same as current_output/1,
useris returned if the current output is the stream
user_outputto improve compatibility with traditional Edinburgh I/O. See the introduction of section 4.17.3 for details.
- Close the current input stream. The new input stream becomes
- Close the current output stream. The new output stream becomes
The predicates below can be used for switching between the implicit and the explicit stream-based I/O predicates.
- Set the current input stream to become Stream. Thus,
open(file, read, Stream), set_input(Stream)is equivalent to
- Set the current output stream to become Stream. See also with_output_to/2.
- Get the current input stream. Useful for getting access to the status predicates associated with streams.
- Get the current output stream.
- with_output_to(+Output, :Goal)
- Run Goal as once/1,
while characters written to the current output are sent to Output.
The predicate is SWI-Prolog-specific, inspired by various posts to the
mailinglist. It provides a flexible replacement for predicates such as
sformat/3 , swritef/3,
converting numbers to atoms, etc. The predicate format/3
accepts the same terms as output argument.
Applications should generally avoid creating atoms by breaking and concatenating other atoms, as the creation of large numbers of intermediate atoms generally leads to poor performance, even more so in multithreaded applications. This predicate supports creating difference lists from character data efficiently. The example below defines the DCG rule term//1 to insert a term in the output:
term(Term, In, Tail) :- with_output_to(codes(In, Tail), write(Term)). ?- phrase(term(hello), X). X = [104, 101, 108, 108, 111]
- A Stream handle or alias
- Temporarily switch current output to the given stream. Redirection using with_output_to/2 guarantees the original output is restored, also if Goal fails or raises an exception. See also call_cleanup/2.
- Create an atom from the emitted characters. Please note the remark above.
- Create a string object as defined in section 5.2.
- Create a list of character codes from the emitted characters, similar to atom_codes/2.
- codes(-Codes, -Tail)
- Create a list of character codes as a difference list.
- Create a list of one-character atoms from the emitted characters, similar to atom_chars/2.
- chars(-Chars, -Tail)
- Create a list of one-character atoms as a difference list.
The predicates in this section provide fast binary I/O of arbitrary
Prolog terms, including cyclic terms and terms holding attributed
library(fastrw) is a SICSTus/Ciao
compatible library that extends the core primitives described below.
- Using write_canonical/2 allows or exchange of terms with other Prolog systems. The format is stable and, as it is text based, it can be inspected and corrected.
- Using the binary format improves the performance roughly 3 times.
- The size of both representations is comparable.
- The binary format can deal with cycles, sharing and attributes. Special precautions are needed to transfer such terms using write_canonical/2. See term_factorized/3 and copy_term/3.
- In the current version, reading the binary format has only incomplete consistency checks. This implies a user must be able to trust the source as crafted messages may compromise the reading Prolog system.
- fast_term_serialized(?Term, ?String)
- (De-)serialize Term to/from String.
- fast_write(+Output, +Term)
- Write Term using the fast serialization format to the Output stream. Output must be a binary stream.
- fast_read(+Input, -Term)
- Read Term using the fast serialization format from the Input stream. Input must be a binary stream.bugThe predicate fast_read/2 may crash on arbitrary input.