[LLVMdev] Feedback required on proper dllexport/import implementation

Nico Rieck nico.rieck at gmail.com
Mon Mar 25 21:43:53 PDT 2013


while improving and extending support for dllexport/import I have
noticed that the current way these are implemented is problematic and I
would like some input on how to proceed.

Currently dllexport/dllimport is treated as linkage type. This conflicts
with inlined functions because there is no linkage for the combination
of both. On first though, combining both doesn't make sense, but take
this class as an example:

  struct __declspec(dllexport/dllimport) X {
    X() {}

Such constructs with empty or simple inline functions can be found for
example in Microsoft headers or even libc++ headers.

Ignoring the dllexport/import attribute for such functions would seem
most sensible (and can be implemented easily), but MSVC does the
opposite: For imported inline functions the function body is dropped and
__imp_ calls are emitted, and exported inline functions are placed into
COMDAT sections. The latter cannot be expressed because it requires
linkonce_odr and dllexport linkage.

The question now is how to implement this. After a brief discussion, I
can think of four ways:

1. Add additional linkage type(s) for the combinations to

   This appears to be the least invasive way, but adds new linkage types
   to an already large list.

2. Handle dllexport/import similar to ELF visibility by adding new
   "visibility" types to GlobalValue::VisibilityTypes and IR visibility

   This feels like kind of a band-aid. While dllexport could be
   construed as similar to default visibility (some code uses both in
   the same place depending on platform), dllimport feels wrong here.
   This would also prevent mixing ELF visibility with dllexport/import.

   The size of GlobalValue can be kept the same by simply adjusting the
   bit-fields for linkage and visibility.

3. Add a new enum for dllimport/export to GlobalValue and IR global
   variables and functions, similar to ELF visibility.

   This is similar to (2.), without the awkward piggybacking on
   visibility. But it requires extensions to IR just for a single

   The size of GlobalValue can be kept the same by simply adjusting the

4. Handle dllexport/import as platform-specific IR function attributes.

   Because dllexport/import can also apply to globals which have no
   attributes, this requires keeping the dllexport/import linkage types
   just for them.

   Inline does not apply to globals, but MSVC can actually produce
   initialized dllexported globals, placed in COMDAT sections, with
   __declspec(selectany). I have no idea if anyone actually does this.
   LLVM also does not support __declspec(selectany) yet.

There may be even more or better ways to implement this. It may be good
to keep a future implementation of __declspec(selectany) in mind when
thinking about this issue.


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