Mark a process and its (future) child tree

ps_mark_tree() generates a random environment variable name and sets it in the current R process. This environment variable will be (by default) inherited by all child (and grandchild, etc.) processes, and will help finding these processes, even if and when they are (no longer) related to the current R process. (I.e. they are not connected in the process tree.)




ps_kill_tree(marker, sig = signals()$SIGKILL)


R expression to evaluate in the new context.


String scalar, the name of the environment variable to use to find the marked processes.


The signal to send to the marked processes on Unix. On Windows this argument is ignored currently.


ps_find_tree() finds the processes that set the supplied environment variable and returns them in a list.

ps_kill_tree() finds the processes that set the supplied environment variable, and kills them (or sends them the specified signal on Unix).

with_process_cleanup() evaluates an R expression, and cleans up all external processes that were started by the R process while evaluating the expression. This includes child processes of child processes, etc., recursively. It returns a list with entries: result is the result of the expression, visible is TRUE if the expression should be printed to the screen, and process_cleanup is a named integer vector of the cleaned pids, names are the process names.

If expr throws an error, then so does with_process_cleanup(), the same error. Nevertheless processes are still cleaned up.


ps_mark_tree() returns the name of the environment variable, which can be used as the marker in ps_kill_tree().

ps_find_tree() returns a list of ps_handle objects.

ps_kill_tree() returns the pids of the killed processes, in a named integer vector. The names are the file names of the executables, when available.

with_process_cleanup() returns the value of the evaluated expression.


Note that with_process_cleanup() is problematic if the R process is multi-threaded and the other threads start subprocesses. with_process_cleanup() cleans up those processes as well, which is probably not what you want. This is an issue for example in RStudio. Do not use with_process_cleanup(), unless you are sure that the R process is single-threaded, or the other threads do not start subprocesses. E.g. using it in package test cases is usually fine, because RStudio runs these in a separate single-threaded process.

The same holds for manually running ps_mark_tree() and then ps_find_tree() or ps_kill_tree().

A safe way to use process cleanup is to use the processx package to start subprocesses, and set the cleanup_tree = TRUE in processx::run() or the processx::process constructor.

  • ps_mark_tree
  • with_process_cleanup
  • ps_find_tree
  • ps_kill_tree
Documentation reproduced from package ps, version 1.3.2, License: BSD_3_clause + file LICENSE

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