Script Blocks and Closures (or lack there of)

Script blocks are a concise way of representing an expression or statement group in Powershell.  It’s the C#/F#/VB lambda equivalent for PowerShell. 

One difference between C#/F#/VB lambda expressions and a scriptblock is the lack of lexical closures (otherwise known as variable capturing).  This feature allows for a variable defined in an outer scope to be captured by the lambda in such a way that the value is maintained with the lambda expression.  The details on how the variable is captured can vary from language to language but the basics are the same.

static void ClosureExample() {
    var name = "first";
    Func<string> captureName = () => name;
    name = "second";
    Console.WriteLine(captureName());   // prints: second

Due to the flexible nature of powershell it is possible for a scriptblock to appear to have captured a variable when in fact it’s just a quirk of variable name resolution.  An important item to remember when considering how a scriptblock will execute is knowing that a script block is evaluated at the point of execution, not the point of definition.  

PS) function example1() { $b = 42; { $b } }
PS) $b = 42
PS) $sb = example1
PS) & $sb

The above sample works because when $sb is evaluated there is a variable $b in scope and hence the expression binds to that value.  Not the original one in “example1”. 

This is a somewhat contrived example.  But the problem can easily occur when scripts 1) contain the same variable name in multiple scopes/contexts, 2) uses one of those variables within a script block.  I’ve run into this problem myself several times. 

Here is a more complex sample that demonstrates the timing of the name resolution.

PS) function example2() { param ($p1) $v1 = "avalue"; & $p1 }
PS) example2 {$doesnotexist}
PS) example2 {$v1}

This behavior though can also be used as a feature.  Part of the implicit contract of a scriptblock can be the existance of certain named variables in the scope where the script block is executed.  Probably not the best code maintainability practice, but I think we can generate a few good samples in a future post.

Comments (0)

Skip to main content