libev - a high performance full-featured event loop written in C



  #include <ev.h>



Libev is an event loop: you register interest in certain events (such as a file descriptor being readable or a timeout occuring), and it will manage these event sources and provide your program with events.

To do this, it must take more or less complete control over your process (or thread) by executing the event loop handler, and will then communicate events via a callback mechanism.

You register interest in certain events by registering so-called event watchers, which are relatively small C structures you initialise with the details of the event, and then hand it over to libev by starting the watcher.



Libev supports select, poll, the linux-specific epoll and the bsd-specific kqueue mechanisms for file descriptor events, relative timers, absolute timers with customised rescheduling, signal events, process status change events (related to SIGCHLD), and event watchers dealing with the event loop mechanism itself (idle, prepare and check watchers). It also is quite fast (see this benchmark comparing it to libevent for example).



Libev is very configurable. In this manual the default configuration will be described, which supports multiple event loops. For more info about various configuration options please have a look at the file README.embed in the libev distribution. If libev was configured without support for multiple event loops, then all functions taking an initial argument of name loop (which is always of type struct ev_loop *) will not have this argument.



Libev represents time as a single floating point number, representing the (fractional) number of seconds since the (POSIX) epoch (somewhere near the beginning of 1970, details are complicated, don't ask). This type is called ev_tstamp, which is what you should use too. It usually aliases to the double type in C, and when you need to do any calculations on it, you should treat it as such.



These functions can be called anytime, even before initialising the library in any way.

ev_tstamp ev_time ()

Returns the current time as libev would use it. Please note that the ev_now function is usually faster and also often returns the timestamp you actually want to know.

int ev_version_major ()
int ev_version_minor ()

You can find out the major and minor version numbers of the library you linked against by calling the functions ev_version_major and ev_version_minor. If you want, you can compare against the global symbols EV_VERSION_MAJOR and EV_VERSION_MINOR, which specify the version of the library your program was compiled against.

Usually, it's a good idea to terminate if the major versions mismatch, as this indicates an incompatible change. Minor versions are usually compatible to older versions, so a larger minor version alone is usually not a problem.

Example: make sure we haven't accidentally been linked against the wrong version:

  assert (("libev version mismatch",
           ev_version_major () == EV_VERSION_MAJOR
           && ev_version_minor () >= EV_VERSION_MINOR));

unsigned int ev_supported_backends ()

Return the set of all backends (i.e. their corresponding EV_BACKEND_* value) compiled into this binary of libev (independent of their availability on the system you are running on). See ev_default_loop for a description of the set values.

Example: make sure we have the epoll method, because yeah this is cool and a must have and can we have a torrent of it please!!!11

  assert (("sorry, no epoll, no sex",
           ev_supported_backends () & EVBACKEND_EPOLL));

unsigned int ev_recommended_backends ()

Return the set of all backends compiled into this binary of libev and also recommended for this platform. This set is often smaller than the one returned by ev_supported_backends, as for example kqueue is broken on most BSDs and will not be autodetected unless you explicitly request it (assuming you know what you are doing). This is the set of backends that libev will probe for if you specify no backends explicitly.

unsigned int ev_embeddable_backends ()

Returns the set of backends that are embeddable in other event loops. This is the theoretical, all-platform, value. To find which backends might be supported on the current system, you would need to look at ev_embeddable_backends () & ev_supported_backends (), likewise for recommended ones.

See the description of ev_embed watchers for more info.

ev_set_allocator (void *(*cb)(void *ptr, long size))

Sets the allocation function to use (the prototype is similar to the realloc C function, the semantics are identical). It is used to allocate and free memory (no surprises here). If it returns zero when memory needs to be allocated, the library might abort or take some potentially destructive action. The default is your system realloc function.

You could override this function in high-availability programs to, say, free some memory if it cannot allocate memory, to use a special allocator, or even to sleep a while and retry until some memory is available.

Example: replace the libev allocator with one that waits a bit and then retries: better than mine).

   static void *
   persistent_realloc (void *ptr, long size)
     for (;;)
         void *newptr = realloc (ptr, size);

         if (newptr)
           return newptr;

         sleep (60);

   ev_set_allocator (persistent_realloc);

ev_set_syserr_cb (void (*cb)(const char *msg));

Set the callback function to call on a retryable syscall error (such as failed select, poll, epoll_wait). The message is a printable string indicating the system call or subsystem causing the problem. If this callback is set, then libev will expect it to remedy the sitution, no matter what, when it returns. That is, libev will generally retry the requested operation, or, if the condition doesn't go away, do bad stuff (such as abort).

Example: do the same thing as libev does internally:

   static void
   fatal_error (const char *msg)
     perror (msg);
     abort ();

   ev_set_syserr_cb (fatal_error);



An event loop is described by a struct ev_loop *. The library knows two types of such loops, the default loop, which supports signals and child events, and dynamically created loops which do not.

If you use threads, a common model is to run the default event loop in your main thread (or in a separate thread) and for each thread you create, you also create another event loop. Libev itself does no locking whatsoever, so if you mix calls to the same event loop in different threads, make sure you lock (this is usually a bad idea, though, even if done correctly, because it's hideous and inefficient).

struct ev_loop *ev_default_loop (unsigned int flags)

This will initialise the default event loop if it hasn't been initialised yet and return it. If the default loop could not be initialised, returns false. If it already was initialised it simply returns it (and ignores the flags. If that is troubling you, check ev_backend () afterwards).

If you don't know what event loop to use, use the one returned from this function.

The flags argument can be used to specify special behaviour or specific backends to use, and is usually specified as 0 (or EVFLAG_AUTO).

The following flags are supported:


The default flags value. Use this if you have no clue (it's the right thing, believe me).


If this flag bit is ored into the flag value (or the program runs setuid or setgid) then libev will not look at the environment variable LIBEV_FLAGS. Otherwise (the default), this environment variable will override the flags completely if it is found in the environment. This is useful to try out specific backends to test their performance, or to work around bugs.

EVBACKEND_SELECT (value 1, portable select backend)

This is your standard select(2) backend. Not completely standard, as libev tries to roll its own fd_set with no limits on the number of fds, but if that fails, expect a fairly low limit on the number of fds when using this backend. It doesn't scale too well (O(highest_fd)), but its usually the fastest backend for a low number of fds.

EVBACKEND_POLL (value 2, poll backend, available everywhere except on windows)

And this is your standard poll(2) backend. It's more complicated than select, but handles sparse fds better and has no artificial limit on the number of fds you can use (except it will slow down considerably with a lot of inactive fds). It scales similarly to select, i.e. O(total_fds).

EVBACKEND_EPOLL (value 4, Linux)

For few fds, this backend is a bit little slower than poll and select, but it scales phenomenally better. While poll and select usually scale like O(total_fds) where n is the total number of fds (or the highest fd), epoll scales either O(1) or O(active_fds).

While stopping and starting an I/O watcher in the same iteration will result in some caching, there is still a syscall per such incident (because the fd could point to a different file description now), so its best to avoid that. Also, dup()ed file descriptors might not work very well if you register events for both fds.

Please note that epoll sometimes generates spurious notifications, so you need to use non-blocking I/O or other means to avoid blocking when no data (or space) is available.

EVBACKEND_KQUEUE (value 8, most BSD clones)

Kqueue deserves special mention, as at the time of this writing, it was broken on all BSDs except NetBSD (usually it doesn't work with anything but sockets and pipes, except on Darwin, where of course its completely useless). For this reason its not being "autodetected" unless you explicitly specify it explicitly in the flags (i.e. using EVBACKEND_KQUEUE).

It scales in the same way as the epoll backend, but the interface to the kernel is more efficient (which says nothing about its actual speed, of course). While starting and stopping an I/O watcher does not cause an extra syscall as with epoll, it still adds up to four event changes per incident, so its best to avoid that.

EVBACKEND_DEVPOLL (value 16, Solaris 8)

This is not implemented yet (and might never be).

EVBACKEND_PORT (value 32, Solaris 10)

This uses the Solaris 10 port mechanism. As with everything on Solaris, it's really slow, but it still scales very well (O(active_fds)).

Please note that solaris ports can result in a lot of spurious notifications, so you need to use non-blocking I/O or other means to avoid blocking when no data (or space) is available.


Try all backends (even potentially broken ones that wouldn't be tried with EVFLAG_AUTO). Since this is a mask, you can do stuff such as EVBACKEND_ALL & ~EVBACKEND_KQUEUE.

If one or more of these are ored into the flags value, then only these backends will be tried (in the reverse order as given here). If none are specified, most compiled-in backend will be tried, usually in reverse order of their flag values :)

The most typical usage is like this:

  if (!ev_default_loop (0))
    fatal ("could not initialise libev, bad $LIBEV_FLAGS in environment?");

Restrict libev to the select and poll backends, and do not allow environment settings to be taken into account:


Use whatever libev has to offer, but make sure that kqueue is used if available (warning, breaks stuff, best use only with your own private event loop and only if you know the OS supports your types of fds):

  ev_default_loop (ev_recommended_backends () | EVBACKEND_KQUEUE);

struct ev_loop *ev_loop_new (unsigned int flags)

Similar to ev_default_loop, but always creates a new event loop that is always distinct from the default loop. Unlike the default loop, it cannot handle signal and child watchers, and attempts to do so will be greeted by undefined behaviour (or a failed assertion if assertions are enabled).

Example: try to create a event loop that uses epoll and nothing else.

  struct ev_loop *epoller = ev_loop_new (EVBACKEND_EPOLL | EVFLAG_NOENV);
  if (!epoller)
    fatal ("no epoll found here, maybe it hides under your chair");

ev_default_destroy ()

Destroys the default loop again (frees all memory and kernel state etc.). This stops all registered event watchers (by not touching them in any way whatsoever, although you cannot rely on this :).

ev_loop_destroy (loop)

Like ev_default_destroy, but destroys an event loop created by an earlier call to ev_loop_new.

ev_default_fork ()

This function reinitialises the kernel state for backends that have one. Despite the name, you can call it anytime, but it makes most sense after forking, in either the parent or child process (or both, but that again makes little sense).

You must call this function in the child process after forking if and only if you want to use the event library in both processes. If you just fork+exec, you don't have to call it.

The function itself is quite fast and it's usually not a problem to call it just in case after a fork. To make this easy, the function will fit in quite nicely into a call to pthread_atfork:

    pthread_atfork (0, 0, ev_default_fork);

At the moment, EVBACKEND_SELECT and EVBACKEND_POLL are safe to use without calling this function, so if you force one of those backends you do not need to care.

ev_loop_fork (loop)

Like ev_default_fork, but acts on an event loop created by ev_loop_new. Yes, you have to call this on every allocated event loop after fork, and how you do this is entirely your own problem.

unsigned int ev_backend (loop)

Returns one of the EVBACKEND_* flags indicating the event backend in use.

ev_tstamp ev_now (loop)

Returns the current "event loop time", which is the time the event loop received events and started processing them. This timestamp does not change as long as callbacks are being processed, and this is also the base time used for relative timers. You can treat it as the timestamp of the event occuring (or more correctly, libev finding out about it).

ev_loop (loop, int flags)

Finally, this is it, the event handler. This function usually is called after you initialised all your watchers and you want to start handling events.

If the flags argument is specified as 0, it will not return until either no event watchers are active anymore or ev_unloop was called.

Please note that an explicit ev_unloop is usually better than relying on all watchers to be stopped when deciding when a program has finished (especially in interactive programs), but having a program that automatically loops as long as it has to and no longer by virtue of relying on its watchers stopping correctly is a thing of beauty.

A flags value of EVLOOP_NONBLOCK will look for new events, will handle those events and any outstanding ones, but will not block your process in case there are no events and will return after one iteration of the loop.

A flags value of EVLOOP_ONESHOT will look for new events (waiting if neccessary) and will handle those and any outstanding ones. It will block your process until at least one new event arrives, and will return after one iteration of the loop. This is useful if you are waiting for some external event in conjunction with something not expressible using other libev watchers. However, a pair of ev_prepare/ev_check watchers is usually a better approach for this kind of thing.

Here are the gory details of what ev_loop does:

   * If there are no active watchers (reference count is zero), return.
   - Queue prepare watchers and then call all outstanding watchers.
   - If we have been forked, recreate the kernel state.
   - Update the kernel state with all outstanding changes.
   - Update the "event loop time".
   - Calculate for how long to block.
   - Block the process, waiting for any events.
   - Queue all outstanding I/O (fd) events.
   - Update the "event loop time" and do time jump handling.
   - Queue all outstanding timers.
   - Queue all outstanding periodics.
   - If no events are pending now, queue all idle watchers.
   - Queue all check watchers.
   - Call all queued watchers in reverse order (i.e. check watchers first).
     Signals and child watchers are implemented as I/O watchers, and will
     be handled here by queueing them when their watcher gets executed.
   - If ev_unloop has been called or EVLOOP_ONESHOT or EVLOOP_NONBLOCK
     were used, return, otherwise continue with step *.

Example: queue some jobs and then loop until no events are outsanding anymore.

   ... queue jobs here, make sure they register event watchers as long
   ... as they still have work to do (even an idle watcher will do..)
   ev_loop (my_loop, 0);
   ... jobs done. yeah!

ev_unloop (loop, how)

Can be used to make a call to ev_loop return early (but only after it has processed all outstanding events). The how argument must be either EVUNLOOP_ONE, which will make the innermost ev_loop call return, or EVUNLOOP_ALL, which will make all nested ev_loop calls return.

ev_ref (loop)
ev_unref (loop)

Ref/unref can be used to add or remove a reference count on the event loop: Every watcher keeps one reference, and as long as the reference count is nonzero, ev_loop will not return on its own. If you have a watcher you never unregister that should not keep ev_loop from returning, ev_unref() after starting, and ev_ref() before stopping it. For example, libev itself uses this for its internal signal pipe: It is not visible to the libev user and should not keep ev_loop from exiting if no event watchers registered by it are active. It is also an excellent way to do this for generic recurring timers or from within third-party libraries. Just remember to unref after start and ref before stop.

Example: create a signal watcher, but keep it from keeping ev_loop running when nothing else is active.

  struct dv_signal exitsig;
  ev_signal_init (&exitsig, sig_cb, SIGINT);
  ev_signal_start (myloop, &exitsig);
  evf_unref (myloop);

Example: for some weird reason, unregister the above signal handler again.

  ev_ref (myloop);
  ev_signal_stop (myloop, &exitsig);



A watcher is a structure that you create and register to record your interest in some event. For instance, if you want to wait for STDIN to become readable, you would create an ev_io watcher for that:

  static void my_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_io *w, int revents)
    ev_io_stop (w);
    ev_unloop (loop, EVUNLOOP_ALL);

  struct ev_loop *loop = ev_default_loop (0);
  struct ev_io stdin_watcher;
  ev_init (&stdin_watcher, my_cb);
  ev_io_set (&stdin_watcher, STDIN_FILENO, EV_READ);
  ev_io_start (loop, &stdin_watcher);
  ev_loop (loop, 0);

As you can see, you are responsible for allocating the memory for your watcher structures (and it is usually a bad idea to do this on the stack, although this can sometimes be quite valid).

Each watcher structure must be initialised by a call to ev_init (watcher *, callback), which expects a callback to be provided. This callback gets invoked each time the event occurs (or, in the case of io watchers, each time the event loop detects that the file descriptor given is readable and/or writable).

Each watcher type has its own ev_<type>_set (watcher *, ...) macro with arguments specific to this watcher type. There is also a macro to combine initialisation and setting in one call: ev_<type>_init (watcher *, callback, ...).

To make the watcher actually watch out for events, you have to start it with a watcher-specific start function (ev_<type>_start (loop, watcher *)), and you can stop watching for events at any time by calling the corresponding stop function (ev_<type>_stop (loop, watcher *).

As long as your watcher is active (has been started but not stopped) you must not touch the values stored in it. Most specifically you must never reinitialise it or call its set macro.

You can check whether an event is active by calling the ev_is_active (watcher *) macro. To see whether an event is outstanding (but the callback for it has not been called yet) you can use the ev_is_pending (watcher *) macro.

Each and every callback receives the event loop pointer as first, the registered watcher structure as second, and a bitset of received events as third argument.

The received events usually include a single bit per event type received (you can receive multiple events at the same time). The possible bit masks are:


The file descriptor in the ev_io watcher has become readable and/or writable.


The ev_timer watcher has timed out.


The ev_periodic watcher has timed out.


The signal specified in the ev_signal watcher has been received by a thread.


The pid specified in the ev_child watcher has received a status change.


The ev_idle watcher has determined that you have nothing better to do.


All ev_prepare watchers are invoked just before ev_loop starts to gather new events, and all ev_check watchers are invoked just after ev_loop has gathered them, but before it invokes any callbacks for any received events. Callbacks of both watcher types can start and stop as many watchers as they want, and all of them will be taken into account (for example, a ev_prepare watcher might start an idle watcher to keep ev_loop from blocking).


An unspecified error has occured, the watcher has been stopped. This might happen because the watcher could not be properly started because libev ran out of memory, a file descriptor was found to be closed or any other problem. You best act on it by reporting the problem and somehow coping with the watcher being stopped.

Libev will usually signal a few "dummy" events together with an error, for example it might indicate that a fd is readable or writable, and if your callbacks is well-written it can just attempt the operation and cope with the error from read() or write(). This will not work in multithreaded programs, though, so beware.


Each watcher has, by default, a member void *data that you can change and read at any time, libev will completely ignore it. This can be used to associate arbitrary data with your watcher. If you need more data and don't want to allocate memory and store a pointer to it in that data member, you can also "subclass" the watcher type and provide your own data:

  struct my_io
    struct ev_io io;
    int otherfd;
    void *somedata;
    struct whatever *mostinteresting;

And since your callback will be called with a pointer to the watcher, you can cast it back to your own type:

  static void my_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_io *w_, int revents)
    struct my_io *w = (struct my_io *)w_;

More interesting and less C-conformant ways of catsing your callback type have been omitted....



This section describes each watcher in detail, but will not repeat information given in the last section.

ev_io - is this file descriptor readable or writable

I/O watchers check whether a file descriptor is readable or writable in each iteration of the event loop (This behaviour is called level-triggering because you keep receiving events as long as the condition persists. Remember you can stop the watcher if you don't want to act on the event and neither want to receive future events).

In general you can register as many read and/or write event watchers per fd as you want (as long as you don't confuse yourself). Setting all file descriptors to non-blocking mode is also usually a good idea (but not required if you know what you are doing).

You have to be careful with dup'ed file descriptors, though. Some backends (the linux epoll backend is a notable example) cannot handle dup'ed file descriptors correctly if you register interest in two or more fds pointing to the same underlying file/socket etc. description (that is, they share the same underlying "file open").

If you must do this, then force the use of a known-to-be-good backend (at the time of this writing, this includes only EVBACKEND_SELECT and EVBACKEND_POLL).

ev_io_init (ev_io *, callback, int fd, int events)
ev_io_set (ev_io *, int fd, int events)

Configures an ev_io watcher. The fd is the file descriptor to rceeive events for and events is either EV_READ, EV_WRITE or EV_READ | EV_WRITE to receive the given events.

Please note that most of the more scalable backend mechanisms (for example epoll and solaris ports) can result in spurious readyness notifications for file descriptors, so you practically need to use non-blocking I/O (and treat callback invocation as hint only), or retest separately with a safe interface before doing I/O (XLib can do this), or force the use of either EVBACKEND_SELECT or EVBACKEND_POLL, which don't suffer from this problem. Also note that it is quite easy to have your callback invoked when the readyness condition is no longer valid even when employing typical ways of handling events, so its a good idea to use non-blocking I/O unconditionally.

Example: call stdin_readable_cb when STDIN_FILENO has become, well readable, but only once. Since it is likely line-buffered, you could attempt to read a whole line in the callback:

  static void
  stdin_readable_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_io *w, int revents)
     ev_io_stop (loop, w);
    .. read from stdin here (or from w->fd) and haqndle any I/O errors

  struct ev_loop *loop = ev_default_init (0);
  struct ev_io stdin_readable;
  ev_io_init (&stdin_readable, stdin_readable_cb, STDIN_FILENO, EV_READ);
  ev_io_start (loop, &stdin_readable);
  ev_loop (loop, 0);

ev_timer - relative and optionally recurring timeouts

Timer watchers are simple relative timers that generate an event after a given time, and optionally repeating in regular intervals after that.

The timers are based on real time, that is, if you register an event that times out after an hour and you reset your system clock to last years time, it will still time out after (roughly) and hour. "Roughly" because detecting time jumps is hard, and some inaccuracies are unavoidable (the monotonic clock option helps a lot here).

The relative timeouts are calculated relative to the ev_now () time. This is usually the right thing as this timestamp refers to the time of the event triggering whatever timeout you are modifying/starting. If you suspect event processing to be delayed and you need to base the timeout on the current time, use something like this to adjust for this:

   ev_timer_set (&timer, after + ev_now () - ev_time (), 0.);

The callback is guarenteed to be invoked only when its timeout has passed, but if multiple timers become ready during the same loop iteration then order of execution is undefined.

ev_timer_init (ev_timer *, callback, ev_tstamp after, ev_tstamp repeat)
ev_timer_set (ev_timer *, ev_tstamp after, ev_tstamp repeat)

Configure the timer to trigger after after seconds. If repeat is 0., then it will automatically be stopped. If it is positive, then the timer will automatically be configured to trigger again repeat seconds later, again, and again, until stopped manually.

The timer itself will do a best-effort at avoiding drift, that is, if you configure a timer to trigger every 10 seconds, then it will trigger at exactly 10 second intervals. If, however, your program cannot keep up with the timer (because it takes longer than those 10 seconds to do stuff) the timer will not fire more than once per event loop iteration.

ev_timer_again (loop)

This will act as if the timer timed out and restart it again if it is repeating. The exact semantics are:

If the timer is started but nonrepeating, stop it.

If the timer is repeating, either start it if necessary (with the repeat value), or reset the running timer to the repeat value.

This sounds a bit complicated, but here is a useful and typical example: Imagine you have a tcp connection and you want a so-called idle timeout, that is, you want to be called when there have been, say, 60 seconds of inactivity on the socket. The easiest way to do this is to configure an ev_timer with after=repeat=60 and calling ev_timer_again each time you successfully read or write some data. If you go into an idle state where you do not expect data to travel on the socket, you can stop the timer, and again will automatically restart it if need be.

Example: create a timer that fires after 60 seconds.

  static void
  one_minute_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_timer *w, int revents)
    .. one minute over, w is actually stopped right here

  struct ev_timer mytimer;
  ev_timer_init (&mytimer, one_minute_cb, 60., 0.);
  ev_timer_start (loop, &mytimer);

Example: create a timeout timer that times out after 10 seconds of inactivity.

  static void
  timeout_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_timer *w, int revents)
    .. ten seconds without any activity

  struct ev_timer mytimer;
  ev_timer_init (&mytimer, timeout_cb, 0., 10.); /* note, only repeat used */
  ev_timer_again (&mytimer); /* start timer */
  ev_loop (loop, 0);

  // and in some piece of code that gets executed on any "activity":
  // reset the timeout to start ticking again at 10 seconds
  ev_timer_again (&mytimer);

ev_periodic - to cron or not to cron

Periodic watchers are also timers of a kind, but they are very versatile (and unfortunately a bit complex).

Unlike ev_timer's, they are not based on real time (or relative time) but on wallclock time (absolute time). You can tell a periodic watcher to trigger "at" some specific point in time. For example, if you tell a periodic watcher to trigger in 10 seconds (by specifiying e.g. c<ev_now () + 10.>) and then reset your system clock to the last year, then it will take a year to trigger the event (unlike an ev_timer, which would trigger roughly 10 seconds later and of course not if you reset your system time again).

They can also be used to implement vastly more complex timers, such as triggering an event on eahc midnight, local time.

As with timers, the callback is guarenteed to be invoked only when the time (at) has been passed, but if multiple periodic timers become ready during the same loop iteration then order of execution is undefined.

ev_periodic_init (ev_periodic *, callback, ev_tstamp at, ev_tstamp interval, reschedule_cb)
ev_periodic_set (ev_periodic *, ev_tstamp after, ev_tstamp repeat, reschedule_cb)

Lots of arguments, lets sort it out... There are basically three modes of operation, and we will explain them from simplest to complex:

* absolute timer (interval = reschedule_cb = 0)

In this configuration the watcher triggers an event at the wallclock time at and doesn't repeat. It will not adjust when a time jump occurs, that is, if it is to be run at January 1st 2011 then it will run when the system time reaches or surpasses this time.

* non-repeating interval timer (interval > 0, reschedule_cb = 0)

In this mode the watcher will always be scheduled to time out at the next at + N * interval time (for some integer N) and then repeat, regardless of any time jumps.

This can be used to create timers that do not drift with respect to system time:

   ev_periodic_set (&periodic, 0., 3600., 0);

This doesn't mean there will always be 3600 seconds in between triggers, but only that the the callback will be called when the system time shows a full hour (UTC), or more correctly, when the system time is evenly divisible by 3600.

Another way to think about it (for the mathematically inclined) is that ev_periodic will try to run the callback in this mode at the next possible time where time = at (mod interval), regardless of any time jumps.

* manual reschedule mode (reschedule_cb = callback)

In this mode the values for interval and at are both being ignored. Instead, each time the periodic watcher gets scheduled, the reschedule callback will be called with the watcher as first, and the current time as second argument.

NOTE: This callback MUST NOT stop or destroy any periodic watcher, ever, or make any event loop modifications. If you need to stop it, return now + 1e30 (or so, fudge fudge) and stop it afterwards (e.g. by starting a prepare watcher).

Its prototype is ev_tstamp (*reschedule_cb)(struct ev_periodic *w, ev_tstamp now), e.g.:

   static ev_tstamp my_rescheduler (struct ev_periodic *w, ev_tstamp now)
     return now + 60.;

It must return the next time to trigger, based on the passed time value (that is, the lowest time value larger than to the second argument). It will usually be called just before the callback will be triggered, but might be called at other times, too.

NOTE: This callback must always return a time that is later than the passed now value. Not even now itself will do, it must be larger.

This can be used to create very complex timers, such as a timer that triggers on each midnight, local time. To do this, you would calculate the next midnight after now and return the timestamp value for this. How you do this is, again, up to you (but it is not trivial, which is the main reason I omitted it as an example).

ev_periodic_again (loop, ev_periodic *)

Simply stops and restarts the periodic watcher again. This is only useful when you changed some parameters or the reschedule callback would return a different time than the last time it was called (e.g. in a crond like program when the crontabs have changed).

Example: call a callback every hour, or, more precisely, whenever the system clock is divisible by 3600. The callback invocation times have potentially a lot of jittering, but good long-term stability.

  static void
  clock_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_io *w, int revents)
    ... its now a full hour (UTC, or TAI or whatever your clock follows)

  struct ev_periodic hourly_tick;
  ev_periodic_init (&hourly_tick, clock_cb, 0., 3600., 0);
  ev_periodic_start (loop, &hourly_tick);

Example: the same as above, but use a reschedule callback to do it:

  #include <math.h>

  static ev_tstamp
  my_scheduler_cb (struct ev_periodic *w, ev_tstamp now)
    return fmod (now, 3600.) + 3600.;

  ev_periodic_init (&hourly_tick, clock_cb, 0., 0., my_scheduler_cb);

Example: call a callback every hour, starting now:

  struct ev_periodic hourly_tick;
  ev_periodic_init (&hourly_tick, clock_cb,
                    fmod (ev_now (loop), 3600.), 3600., 0);
  ev_periodic_start (loop, &hourly_tick);

ev_signal - signal me when a signal gets signalled

Signal watchers will trigger an event when the process receives a specific signal one or more times. Even though signals are very asynchronous, libev will try it's best to deliver signals synchronously, i.e. as part of the normal event processing, like any other event.

You can configure as many watchers as you like per signal. Only when the first watcher gets started will libev actually register a signal watcher with the kernel (thus it coexists with your own signal handlers as long as you don't register any with libev). Similarly, when the last signal watcher for a signal is stopped libev will reset the signal handler to SIG_DFL (regardless of what it was set to before).

ev_signal_init (ev_signal *, callback, int signum)
ev_signal_set (ev_signal *, int signum)

Configures the watcher to trigger on the given signal number (usually one of the SIGxxx constants).

ev_child - wait for pid status changes

Child watchers trigger when your process receives a SIGCHLD in response to some child status changes (most typically when a child of yours dies).

ev_child_init (ev_child *, callback, int pid)
ev_child_set (ev_child *, int pid)

Configures the watcher to wait for status changes of process pid (or any process if pid is specified as 0). The callback can look at the rstatus member of the ev_child watcher structure to see the status word (use the macros from sys/wait.h and see your systems waitpid documentation). The rpid member contains the pid of the process causing the status change.

Example: try to exit cleanly on SIGINT and SIGTERM.

  static void
  sigint_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_signal *w, int revents)
    ev_unloop (loop, EVUNLOOP_ALL);

  struct ev_signal signal_watcher;
  ev_signal_init (&signal_watcher, sigint_cb, SIGINT);
  ev_signal_start (loop, &sigint_cb);

ev_idle - when you've got nothing better to do

Idle watchers trigger events when there are no other events are pending (prepare, check and other idle watchers do not count). That is, as long as your process is busy handling sockets or timeouts (or even signals, imagine) it will not be triggered. But when your process is idle all idle watchers are being called again and again, once per event loop iteration - until stopped, that is, or your process receives more events and becomes busy.

The most noteworthy effect is that as long as any idle watchers are active, the process will not block when waiting for new events.

Apart from keeping your process non-blocking (which is a useful effect on its own sometimes), idle watchers are a good place to do "pseudo-background processing", or delay processing stuff to after the event loop has handled all outstanding events.

ev_idle_init (ev_signal *, callback)

Initialises and configures the idle watcher - it has no parameters of any kind. There is a ev_idle_set macro, but using it is utterly pointless, believe me.

Example: dynamically allocate an ev_idle, start it, and in the callback, free it. Alos, use no error checking, as usual.

  static void
  idle_cb (struct ev_loop *loop, struct ev_idle *w, int revents)
    free (w);
    // now do something you wanted to do when the program has
    // no longer asnything immediate to do.

  struct ev_idle *idle_watcher = malloc (sizeof (struct ev_idle));
  ev_idle_init (idle_watcher, idle_cb);
  ev_idle_start (loop, idle_cb);

ev_prepare and ev_check - customise your event loop

Prepare and check watchers are usually (but not always) used in tandem: prepare watchers get invoked before the process blocks and check watchers afterwards.

Their main purpose is to integrate other event mechanisms into libev and their use is somewhat advanced. This could be used, for example, to track variable changes, implement your own watchers, integrate net-snmp or a coroutine library and lots more.

This is done by examining in each prepare call which file descriptors need to be watched by the other library, registering ev_io watchers for them and starting an ev_timer watcher for any timeouts (many libraries provide just this functionality). Then, in the check watcher you check for any events that occured (by checking the pending status of all watchers and stopping them) and call back into the library. The I/O and timer callbacks will never actually be called (but must be valid nevertheless, because you never know, you know?).

As another example, the Perl Coro module uses these hooks to integrate coroutines into libev programs, by yielding to other active coroutines during each prepare and only letting the process block if no coroutines are ready to run (it's actually more complicated: it only runs coroutines with priority higher than or equal to the event loop and one coroutine of lower priority, but only once, using idle watchers to keep the event loop from blocking if lower-priority coroutines are active, thus mapping low-priority coroutines to idle/background tasks).

ev_prepare_init (ev_prepare *, callback)
ev_check_init (ev_check *, callback)

Initialises and configures the prepare or check watcher - they have no parameters of any kind. There are ev_prepare_set and ev_check_set macros, but using them is utterly, utterly and completely pointless.

Example: *TODO*.

ev_embed - when one backend isn't enough

This is a rather advanced watcher type that lets you embed one event loop into another.

There are primarily two reasons you would want that: work around bugs and prioritise I/O.

As an example for a bug workaround, the kqueue backend might only support sockets on some platform, so it is unusable as generic backend, but you still want to make use of it because you have many sockets and it scales so nicely. In this case, you would create a kqueue-based loop and embed it into your default loop (which might use e.g. poll). Overall operation will be a bit slower because first libev has to poll and then call kevent, but at least you can use both at what they are best.

As for prioritising I/O: rarely you have the case where some fds have to be watched and handled very quickly (with low latency), and even priorities and idle watchers might have too much overhead. In this case you would put all the high priority stuff in one loop and all the rest in a second one, and embed the second one in the first.

As long as the watcher is started it will automatically handle events. The callback will be invoked whenever some events have been handled. You can set the callback to 0 to avoid having to specify one if you are not interested in that.

Also, there have not currently been made special provisions for forking: when you fork, you not only have to call ev_loop_fork on both loops, but you will also have to stop and restart any ev_embed watchers yourself.

Unfortunately, not all backends are embeddable, only the ones returned by ev_embeddable_backends are, which, unfortunately, does not include any portable one.

So when you want to use this feature you will always have to be prepared that you cannot get an embeddable loop. The recommended way to get around this is to have a separate variables for your embeddable loop, try to create it, and if that fails, use the normal loop for everything:

  struct ev_loop *loop_hi = ev_default_init (0);
  struct ev_loop *loop_lo = 0;
  struct ev_embed embed;

  // see if there is a chance of getting one that works
  // (remember that a flags value of 0 means autodetection)
  loop_lo = ev_embeddable_backends () & ev_recommended_backends ()
    ? ev_loop_new (ev_embeddable_backends () & ev_recommended_backends ())
    : 0;

  // if we got one, then embed it, otherwise default to loop_hi
  if (loop_lo)
      ev_embed_init (&embed, 0, loop_lo);
      ev_embed_start (loop_hi, &embed);
    loop_lo = loop_hi;

ev_embed_init (ev_embed *, callback, struct ev_loop *loop)
ev_embed_set (ev_embed *, callback, struct ev_loop *loop)

Configures the watcher to embed the given loop, which must be embeddable.



There are some other functions of possible interest. Described. Here. Now.

ev_once (loop, int fd, int events, ev_tstamp timeout, callback)

This function combines a simple timer and an I/O watcher, calls your callback on whichever event happens first and automatically stop both watchers. This is useful if you want to wait for a single event on an fd or timeout without having to allocate/configure/start/stop/free one or more watchers yourself.

If fd is less than 0, then no I/O watcher will be started and events is being ignored. Otherwise, an ev_io watcher for the given fd and events set will be craeted and started.

If timeout is less than 0, then no timeout watcher will be started. Otherwise an ev_timer watcher with after = timeout (and repeat = 0) will be started. While 0 is a valid timeout, it is of dubious value.

The callback has the type void (*cb)(int revents, void *arg) and gets passed an revents set like normal event callbacks (a combination of EV_ERROR, EV_READ, EV_WRITE or EV_TIMEOUT) and the arg value passed to ev_once:

  static void stdin_ready (int revents, void *arg)
    if (revents & EV_TIMEOUT)
      /* doh, nothing entered */;
    else if (revents & EV_READ)
      /* stdin might have data for us, joy! */;

  ev_once (STDIN_FILENO, EV_READ, 10., stdin_ready, 0);

ev_feed_event (loop, watcher, int events)

Feeds the given event set into the event loop, as if the specified event had happened for the specified watcher (which must be a pointer to an initialised but not necessarily started event watcher).

ev_feed_fd_event (loop, int fd, int revents)

Feed an event on the given fd, as if a file descriptor backend detected the given events it.

ev_feed_signal_event (loop, int signum)

Feed an event as if the given signal occured (loop must be the default loop!).



Libev offers a compatibility emulation layer for libevent. It cannot emulate the internals of libevent, so here are some usage hints:

* Use it by including <event.h>, as usual.
* The following members are fully supported: ev_base, ev_callback, ev_arg, ev_fd, ev_res, ev_events.
* Avoid using ev_flags and the EVLIST_*-macros, while it is maintained by libev, it does not work exactly the same way as in libevent (consider it a private API).
* Priorities are not currently supported. Initialising priorities will fail and all watchers will have the same priority, even though there is an ev_pri field.
* Other members are not supported.
* The libev emulation is not ABI compatible to libevent, you need to use the libev header file and library.






Marc Lehmann <>.