FreeType Design / V

V. Interfaces and Services

We shall now go into detail about interfaces and services in FreeType.

Interfaces in FreeType are analogous to those found in object-oriented programming. They can be thought of as internal public APIs, and are essentially tables of function pointers.

Interfaces only describe the form and functionality, but the actual function body may be implemented elsewhere. The module that is implementing the interface will then pass the required function pointers to the table. This gives modularity and easy extendability.

There are two main kinds of interfaces: module interfaces, and services.

Module interfaces are defined for each module. For example, every font driver provides its own set of procedures for use in the base layer, which are registered in an FT_Driver. This way, very different font drivers can be used in the same way in the base layer.

Services are cross-module interfaces. These provide functionality needed in several font drivers.

Services are created when code from one module needs to be used in another. Rather than include files from another module, a service is created instead. Now, the other module just needs to include the header defining the interface.

Helper modules are an extreme example of this; all their public functionality is made for use in other font drivers and hence are in a single service.

In-depth guide: Creating a service

This section will teach you how to write your own service.

  1. Make the service interface header.

    We will be calling our service demo for demonstration purposes. First, create the header file, which goes in include/freetype/internal/services, and add the boilerplate.

    #define FT_SERVICE_ID_DEMO  "demo"
    /* ...  */

    This line in particular is required to register the new service later on.

    #define service-id service-tag
  2. We will have identified some functions that are needed in another module. Extract the function signatures of these and place them in the header.

    [typedef return-type


    typedef FT_Error
      (*SampleDoSomethingFunc)( int  foo );
    typedef void
      (*SampleDoAnotherFunc)( int    foo,
                              float  bar );
  3. Define the service interface.

    Use the FT_DEFINE_SERVICE macro to do this.

    FT_DEFINE_SERVICE( service-name )
      [type-name  interface-entry;]+


      SampleDoSomethingFunc  doSomething;
      SampleDoAnotherFunc    doAnother;

    Here is the definition of the above macro (in ftserv.h).

    #define FT_DEFINE_SERVICE( name )            \
      typedef struct FT_Service_ ## name ## Rec_ \
        FT_Service_ ## name ## Rec ;             \
      typedef struct FT_Service_ ## name ## Rec_ \
        const * FT_Service_ ## name ;            \
      struct FT_Service_ ## name ## Rec_

    This defines a new struct called FT_Service_DemoRec, along with a handle type for the struct, FT_Service_Demo.

  4. Register (and/or implement) the functions for the newly created interface.

    In the module implementing the interface, add a definition like the following

    static const service-record  table-name =
      [,function-name2 [,...]]

    which corresponds to the interface defined in step 3. Example:

    static const FT_Service_DemoRec  demo_service_rec =

    This initializes the function pointers table. In this example, function1 has the function signature of SampleDoSomethingFunc and implements the doSomething functionality, and so on.

  5. Register the new service.

    Next, add this code to define the service list in this module, or append the new service to an existing list.

    static const FT_ServiceDescRec service-list-name[] =
      { service-id, &table-name },
      [{ service-id2, &table-name2 }, [...]]
      { NULL, NULL }


    static const FT_ServiceDescRec demo_services[] =
      { FT_SERVICE_ID_DEMO, &demo_service_rec },
      { NULL, NULL }

    service-id is what we #define'd in the service header file in step 1. Note that the {NULL, NULL} sentinel value at the end is required.

    Now we need a way for other modules to find this service. First, we need to implement the get_interface function in FT_Module_Class. Here is a minimal example that does not do any validation.

    FT_CALLBACK_DEF( FT_Module_Interface )
    get-interface-name( FT_Module    module,
                        const char*  module_interface )
      return ft_service_list_lookup( service-list-name,
                                     module_interface );

    Then, pass it into the FT_DEFINE_MODULE macro for this module.

    (FT_Module_Requester) get-interface-name

    The last step is optional but recommended, which is to register the new service header in ftserv.h.

    #define FT_SERVICE_DEMO_H  <freetype/internal/services/svdemo.h>
  6. Use the new service.

    Now, in the file that wants to use the service, add the following code to get the service.

    service-record-handle  service;
                                 service-id-tail );

    face should be of type FT_Face, which is usually the current face instance being used in the driver, and FreeType tries to find the service in the driver of this face first, before searching all other modules.

    service-id-tail is the part of service-id following FT_SERVICE_ID_.

    Now to call some function in the service.

    service->interface-entry( params );


    FT_Service_Demo  demo;
    FT_Error         error;
    error = demo->doSomething(0);

Last update: 13-Feb-2018