Creating an already-completed asynchronous activity in C++/WinRT, part 2

Raymond Chen

Last time, we tried to create an already-completed asynchronous activity in C++/WinRT. We were able to create a coroutine that represented a successful already-completed operation:

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    co_return 42;
}

But the analogous function for creating a failed already-completed operation didn’t work because its lack of any co_await or co_return statement means that it wasn’t a coroutine at all!

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
}

To make the function a coroutine, we need to put a co_await or co_return in the body somewhere. We have a few options.

One is to put the co_await after the throw, so it is physically present in the function body (thereby making it a coroutine), but is unreachable. A safe thing to await is std::suspend_never(), which is a built-in awaitable that never awaits.

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
    co_await std::suspend_never();
}

Perhaps a more reasonable thing is to actually try to co_return something.

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
    co_return 0;
}

Both of these work, and it appears that the major compilers (gcc, clang, msvc) all optimize out the code that follows a throw. And as of this writing, they also do not raise a dead code diagnostic, though that’s the thing that worries me: It’s possible that a future version of the compiler will decide to produce dead code diagnostics, and then this code will cause problems when used in code bases that treat warnings as errors.

We can put a co_await in front of the throw, but again, if we put it in a dead code block, we risk a diagnostic:

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    if (false) co_return 0;
    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
}

So maybe the thing to do is actually co_await something, but await something that does nothing. That’s where we can use the built-in suspend_never.

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    co_await std::suspend_never{};
    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
}

The major compilers recognize this pattern, and it’s not dead code, so we don’t risk an unreachable code diagnostic.

But wait, it’s still a problem, thanks to our pal await_transform. The C++/WinRT implementation of await_transform for Windows Runtime IAsyncXxx interfaces wraps all awaitables inside an awaiter that check whether the IAsyncXxx has been cancelled and throws an hresult_canceled exception if so.

Now, we know that the coroutine is never cancelled before it completes, but the compilers’ escape analysis can’t see that, so in practice, they will include that extra check. The co_await std::suspend_never{} cannot be optimized out entirely.

At this point, you have to go looking for a rabbit to pull out of your hat. And in this case, the rabbit is winrt::cancellation_token.

The winrt::cancellation_token is a sentinel object that is not generally awaitable, but C++/WinRT’s implementation of IAsyncXxx recognizes it as as a special awaitable in its await_transform and (here’s where the rabbit comes from) the custom awaiter returns an object (which is just a wrapper around a pointer to the promise) without any other fanfare.

The trick, therefore, is to await the cancellation token and discard the resulting object.

winrt::Windows::Foundation::IAsyncOperation<int>
    ComputeAsync()
{
    (void)co_await winrt::get_cancellation_token();

    throw winrt::hresult_access_denied();
}

We explicitly discard the result of the co_await, just in case some future version of C++/WinRT adds the [[nodiscard]] attribute.

Now that we know how to code up this specific case, we’ll work on generalizing it next time.

2 comments

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  • Neil Rashbrook 4 days ago 0

    Would if constexpr (false) co_return 0; mean that the function is no longer a coroutine again?

  • LB 6 days ago · Edited 0

    I suppose another option is to use an IILE:

    co_await []() -> std::suspend_never { throw winrt::hresult_access_denied(); }();

    I’m not sure of any compiler that would warn about this, and the throw happens before co_await gets to do anything. I suppose this works with co_return too since you never actually have to provide a value, and that means you can use it even when co_await isn’t allowed, and when co_return takes void.

    co_return []() -> return_type { throw winrt::hresult_access_denied(); }();

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