Haskell Hierarchical Libraries (base package)ContentsIndex
Portability portable
Stability provisional
Maintainer libraries@haskell.org
Unsafe IO operations
"Unsafe" IO operations.
unsafePerformIO :: IO a -> a
unsafeInterleaveIO :: IO a -> IO a
Unsafe IO operations
unsafePerformIO :: IO a -> a

This is the "back door" into the IO monad, allowing IO computation to be performed at any time. For this to be safe, the IO computation should be free of side effects and independent of its environment.

If the I/O computation wrapped in unsafePerformIO performs side effects, then the relative order in which those side effects take place (relative to the main I/O trunk, or other calls to unsafePerformIO) is indeterminate. You have to be careful when writing and compiling modules that use unsafePerformIO:

  • Use {-# NOINLINE foo #-} as a pragma on any function foo that calls unsafePerformIO. If the call is inlined, the I/O may be performed more than once.
  • Use the compiler flag -fno-cse to prevent common sub-expression elimination being performed on the module, which might combine two side effects that were meant to be separate. A good example is using multiple global variables (like test in the example below).
  • Make sure that the either you switch off let-floating, or that the call to unsafePerformIO cannot float outside a lambda. For example, if you say: f x = unsafePerformIO (newIORef []) you may get only one reference cell shared between all calls to f. Better would be f x = unsafePerformIO (newIORef [x]) because now it can't float outside the lambda.

It is less well known that unsafePerformIO is not type safe. For example:

     test :: IORef [a]
     test = unsafePerformIO $ newIORef []
     main = do
     	      writeIORef test [42]
     	      bang \<- readIORef test
     	      print (bang :: [Char])

This program will core dump. This problem with polymorphic references is well known in the ML community, and does not arise with normal monadic use of references. There is no easy way to make it impossible once you use unsafePerformIO. Indeed, it is possible to write coerce :: a -> b with the help of unsafePerformIO. So be careful!

unsafeInterleaveIO :: IO a -> IO a
unsafeInterleaveIO allows IO computation to be deferred lazily. When passed a value of type IO a, the IO will only be performed when the value of the a is demanded. This is used to implement lazy file reading, see hGetContents.
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