Type system

This week there wasn’t much going on in the codebase and therefore I decided to skip the weekly digest and write a more substantial post, this time about the type system.

The goal of the type system is to provide a more powerful view of memory than just a linear stream of bytes. It can be used to visualize structures and it also supports function definitions that will be used later. Hopefully it’s an interesting read!

Internal representation

The internal representation of the types is inspired by the radare2 type profiles document by oddcoder.


enum Primitive
    PtrString, //char* (null-terminated)
    PtrWString //wchar_t* (null-terminated)

Complex types are built from primitive types (see the full list above). The Void primitive is not a real type (it cannot have a value) and it’s used as a special case. An alternative name would be Unknown but that was already taken.

All primitive types (except Void) have a fixed size, but that size is not defined as part of the primitive (abstractions love to be abstract). Notice that there is no Bit primitive, which means that bit fields or bit arrays are not supportable in the current type system. There are two primitives to represent the common null-terminated string pointer types, mostly for convenience of the user.

The generic Pointer type is equivalent to void* and can get a more specific meaning in the Type representation below.


struct Type
    std::string owner; //Type owner
    std::string name; //Type identifier.
    std::string pointto; //Type identifier of *Type
    Primitive primitive; //Primitive type.
    int size = 0; //Size in bytes.

The actual type representation used to represent a primitive type, in say a struct is shown above. The comments should be pretty self-explanatory, but it is worth mentioning that the size member cannot be defined by user-types directly. You can create your own (named) types and for that you can use one of the pre-defined internal types:

p("int8_t,int8,char,byte,bool,signed char", Int8, sizeof(char));
p("uint8_t,uint8,uchar,unsigned char,ubyte", Uint8, sizeof(unsigned char));
p("int16_t,int16,wchar_t,char16_t,short", Int16, sizeof(short));
p("uint16_t,uint16,ushort,unsigned short", Int16, sizeof(unsigned short));
p("int32_t,int32,int,long", Int32, sizeof(int));
p("uint32_t,uint32,unsigned int,unsigned long", Uint32, sizeof(unsigned int));
p("int64_t,int64,long long", Int64, sizeof(long long));
p("uint64_t,uint64,unsigned long long", Uint64, sizeof(unsigned long long));
p("dsint", Dsint, sizeof(void*));
p("duint,size_t", Duint, sizeof(void*));
p("float", Float, sizeof(float));
p("double", Double, sizeof(double));
p("ptr,void*", Pointer, sizeof(void*));
p("char*,const char*", PtrString, sizeof(char*));
p("wchar_t*,const wchar_t*", PtrWString, sizeof(wchar_t*));

The p function simply binds all (comma-separated) type names to a Primitive and a size. The sizes are defined by your compiler implementation.

The owner member is used to represent what created the type. This will generally be the filename of the file it was loaded from, or cmd if the type was created with the commands.

The pointto member is used when primitive is Pointer and it’s the name of the type that the pointer points to. As an example, the type MyStruct* will have the following values:

t.owner = owner; //owner of MyStruct
t.name = "MyStruct*";
t.pointto = "MyStruct";
t.primitive = Pointer;
t.size = sizeof(void*); //predefined

The validPtr function will (recursively) create pointer type aliases if you use a construct like MyStruct* as part of checking if a type is defined.


struct Member
    std::string name; //Member identifier
    std::string type; //Type.name
    int arrsize = 0; //Number of elements if Member is an array
    int offset = -1; //Member offset (only stored for reference)

If you use a definition inside a complex type (think struct) it will use the Member representation from above. A member like int arrsize; will have the following values:

m.name = "arrsize";
m.type = "int";
m.arrsize = 0; //not an array
m.offset = -1; //unused, only for reference

If the arrsize member is bigger than zero it means that the member was an array of fixed size. For instance bool threadsDone[10];.


struct StructUnion
    std::string owner; //StructUnion owner
    std::string name; //StructUnion identifier
    std::vector<Member> members; //StructUnion members
    bool isunion = false; //Is this a union?
    int size = 0;

The definition of a struct (or union) shouldn’t be very surprising. A struct is simply a list of Member instances. The size member is used in the Sizeof function and is the combined size of all members. This means that there is no implicit alignment. When adding a member with a defined offset it will simply put an array of padding bytes to make up for the missing space. This also means that you cannot define members out of memory order. This is to prevent overlapping members and also to prevent lots of complexity that isn’t needed for most use cases.


struct Function
    std::string owner; //Function owner
    std::string name; //Function identifier
    std::string rettype; //Function return type
    CallingConvention callconv; //Function calling convention
    bool noreturn; //Function does not return (ExitProcess, _exit)
    std::vector<Member> args; //Function arguments

Functions are similar to structs, but they also have a return type and a calling convention. You can define functions (and their arguments), but they are (currently) not used by the GUI. In the future they can be used to provide argument information.

Where is the tree?

You might have noticed that the data structures don’t have a direct tree structure. The main reason for this is that trees are annoying to both represent and manipulate in C++. They are also annoying to serialize and considering that x64dbg uses JSON as a general format I decided to store everything in dictionaries and leave the trees implicit.

There are dictionaries for the Type, StructUnion and Function structures as described above. The type field inside Member for example is a key in either of these dictionaries and that is how the tree’s edges are represented. The tree nodes are the values in the dictionary.


struct Visitor
    virtual ~Visitor() { }
    virtual bool visitType(const Member & member, const Type & type) = 0;
    virtual bool visitStructUnion(const Member & member, const StructUnion & type) = 0;
    virtual bool visitArray(const Member & member) = 0;
    virtual bool visitPtr(const Member & member, const Type & type) = 0;
    virtual bool visitBack(const Member & member) = 0;

The tree structure returns in the Visitor. The visitMember function recursively walks a Member and it’s subtypes with depth first search and it will call one of the visitX functions to signal that a certain kind of node was visited. The visitBack function is called when a complex type subtree was left.

As an example, take the Ray structure:

struct Vec3
    int x;
    int y;
    int z;

struct Ray
    float speed;
    Vec3 direction;
    int lifetime;

The tree and the order the nodes are visited in can be visualized like this:

ray tree

The actual structure view in x64dbg will look like this:

ray struct


This post has mostly highlighted the internal representation of the type system, for more information on how to actually use it in x64dbg you can check out Weekly Digest 14 and if you have any questions, please leave comments and I will try to address them.