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Defining Custom Types

XOD has plenty of built-in types: numbers, booleans, strings, and so on. They are enough to solve most of the tasks. However, there are times when a new type is much desired to express a concept that is not in the system.

That’s when custom types come into play. Let’s learn them by example. Suppose we want to define a new type to store time values. Time, in this case, is a value you think of when watching at a clock: “10:54:23”, for example.

We are going to make nodes for time creation and string formatting. Start by creating a new project.

Marker output-self #

In XOD custom types, as everything, are made out of patches. In xod/patch-nodes you’ll find an output-self marker node which acts like a regular output terminal, but rather than provide a value of a particular existing type, it defines a new type with the name of that patch. Such patch then is called a constructor of the type.

We’ll define a new type time. To do so, create a new patch time and place an output-self node on it.

Next, we should decide how the new type is represented internally in C++. All constructor patches should be implemented in C++.

In our case, one way to store the value is keeping the number of seconds past since the beginning of the day. That is:

  • 0 corresponds to 00:00:00
  • 100:00:01
  • 5900:00:59
  • 6000:01:00
  • 359900:59:59
  • 360001:00:00
  • and so on

We need to accept the number of seconds as a parameter of the constructor. Thus, we add an input-number node. And to provide the C++ implementation, we add the not-implemented-in-xod. Finally, our patch looks like:

Output self terminal

Now, let’s write down the code. Follow the comments to understand essential parts:

node {
    // When defining a custom type you must declare a C++ type with name `Type`
    // inside the `meta` block.
    // It will be used by the system to store and pass values of the new custom
    // type in C++ land.
    // In our case the Type is a simple alias for a single number. However, you
    // might use a complex struct or class for this role.
    meta {
        using Type = Number;

    void evaluate(Context ctx) {
        auto sec = getValue<input_SEC>(ctx);
        auto secsInDay = 24 * 60 * 60;

        // Use the `Type` type to define a new variable that will be
        // later output as the result. We use `fmod` to perform day-wrap
        // and be sure the value is in valid range
        Type out = fmod(sec, secsInDay);

        // Then we can output the new type value like a regular one
        emitValue<output_OUT>(ctx, out);

At this point, we have a fully functional new type time, which one can construct using the time node. But we can’t do anything with it yet. Let’s improve it.

Inputs in C++ #

Let’s implement a node to split the time value into hours, minutes, and seconds. We’ll call it unpack. It should take a time value as an input and output the three values.

As you might notice, at the moment you place an output-self node on a constructor patch two new terminal nodes are automatically generated next to the constructor patch. In our example, they are input-time and output-time.

We use an input-time and three output-number to build the interface of our unpack patch:

Split patch interface

Now, the C++ part. Follow the comments:

node {
    void evaluate(Context ctx) {
        // We use `auto` C++ keyword because the `Type` we defined earlier is in
        // another namespace. The `auto` type instructs the C++ compiler to infer
        // the actual type from a right-hand side expression and it will always
        // match the custom type, be it an alias, struct, or class.
        auto t = getValue<input_IN>(ctx);

        // Now we can use the fetched value as usual. Perform some truncations
        // and modulo divisions to convert seconds to hours, minutes, and seconds
        emitValue<output_SEC>(ctx, fmod(t, 60));
        emitValue<output_MIN>(ctx, fmod(trunc(t / 60), 60));
        emitValue<output_HOUR>(ctx, trunc(t / 3600));

Good. Now we have a way to construct and “destruct” time values. See it in action by using the standard system-time as a source of seconds and an LCD as a display:

Unpack example patch

You’ll see the first line displaying minutes (0, 1, 2, etc) and the second line showing the seconds including fraction. Note how the seconds wrap at 60.

Inputs in patch nodes #

Now let’s make a patch node without touching C++ which takes a time value and outputs a string in ISO format: “01:33:59.” We’ll use unpack created in the previous section as an adaptor between the custom type and the types for which we have other nodes to process them.

A small utility node format-two-digits will be very handy here. It takes a number and outputs a two-digit string enforcing leading zero for values below 10. Without diving into details much, here’s its code:

node {
    char buff[3];
    CStringView view = CStringView(buff);

    void evaluate(Context ctx) {
        auto n = getValue<input_IN>(ctx);

        // convert to an integer in range 0-99
        uint8_t ndec =
            (n < 0) ? 0 :
            (n > 99) ? 99 :

        // convert to characters, leave the last
        // char intact as it always \x00
        buff[0] = '0' + ndec / 10;
        buff[1] = '0' + ndec % 10;

        emitValue<output_OUT>(ctx, XString(&view));

Given the unpack and format-two-digits, creating the desired format-iso becomes very straightforward:

format-iso patch

To test the new node use system-time and an LCD:

format-iso example

You’ll see the display starting by “00:00:00,” then “00:00:01,”… “00:00:59,” “00:01:00.”

Using the same technique, you can implement other nodes which take time values:

  • 12-hour formatter
  • equality / less / greater comparators

Outputs in patch nodes #

We have the constructor node time. What if we want to provide alternative constructors or other nodes with time output? That’s simple. Use a combination of an original constructor node and output-time on a new patch.

For example, let’s make an alternative constructor pack which works as an opposite to unpack. It should take hours, minutes, and seconds; and return time. The general idea is to transform the input values into a form acceptable for the constructor and send its output directly to the output-time terminal:

pack patch

Outputs in C++ #

As an alternative to the previous implementation, let’s do the same to demonstrate how the custom type can be accessed from C++ when it’s only used as an output and thus the auto C++ keyword cannot be used to define a variable type:

node {
    void evaluate(Context ctx) {
        auto h = getValue<input_HOUR>(ctx);
        auto m = getValue<input_MIN>(ctx);
        auto s = getValue<input_SEC>(ctx);

        // Use typeof_... to access the type of a pin
        // if its symbol is hardly accessible in other ways.
        // In our case `typeof_OUT` refers to the
        // `Type` we defined in the constructor.
        typeof_OUT result = h * 3600 + m * 60 + s;

        emitValue<output_OUT>(ctx, result);

Now you’ve learned how to introduce custom types. Use them wisely to create new powerful abstractions. Think about more complicated applications to get even more power from custom types:

  • Use own struct as Type to hold composite data or use records instead
  • Use a pointer to a C++ object as Type to provide wrappers around C++ classes
  • Build custom types based on other custom types
  • Combine custom types with generics to build unified interfaces to different objects
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