Improved thread management for background and nonuniform tasks in Julia. Docs at
118 Stars
Updated Last
1 Year Ago
Started In
January 2020


Improved thread management for background and nonuniform tasks


Documentation at

ThreadPools.jl is a simple package that exposes a few macros and functions that mimic Base.Threads.@threads,, and Base.foreach. These macros (and the underlying API) handle cases that the built-in functions are not always well-suited for:

  • A group of tasks that the user wants to keep off of the primary thread
  • A group of tasks that are very nonuniform in duration

For the first case, ThreadPools exposes a @bthreads ("background threads") macro that behaves identically to Threads.@threads, but keeps the primary thread job-free. There are also related bmap and bforeach functions that mimic their Base counterparts, but with the same non-primary thread usage.

For the second case, the package exposes a @qthreads ("queued threads") macro. This macro uses a different scheduling strategy to help with nonuniform jobs. @threads and @bthreads first divide the incoming job list into equal job "chunks", then launch each chunk on a separate thread for processing. If the jobs are not uniform, this can lead to some long jobs all getting assigned to one thread, delaying completion. @qthreads does not pre-assign threads - it only starts a new job as an old one finishes, so if a long job comes along, the other threads will keep operating on the shorter ones. @qthreads itself does use the primary thread, but its cousin @qbthreads uses the same strategy but in the background. There are also qmap, qforeach, qbmap, and qbforeach.

The package also exposes a lower-level @tspawnat macro that mimics the Base.Threads.@spawn macro, but allows direct thread assignment for users who want to develop their own scheduling.

Simple Macro/Function Selection

Foreground (primary allowed) Background (primary forbidden)
Uniform tasks
  • Base.Threads.@threads
  • ThreadPools.tmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.tforeach(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.@bthreads
  • ThreadPools.bmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.bforeach(fn, itrs)
Nonuniform tasks
  • ThreadPools.@qthreads
  • ThreadPools.qmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.qforeach(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.@qbthreads
  • ThreadPools.qbmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.qbforeach(fn, itrs)

Job Logging for Performance Tuning

Each of the above macros comes with a logging version that allows the user to analyze the performance of the chosen strategy and thread count:

Foreground Background
Uniform tasks
  • ThreadPools.@logthreads
  • ThreadPools.logtmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.logtforeach(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.@logbthreads
  • ThreadPools.logbmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.logbforeach(fn, itrs)
Nonuniform tasks
  • ThreadPools.@logqthreads
  • ThreadPools.logqmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.logqforeach(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.@logqbthreads
  • ThreadPools.logqbmap(fn, itrs)
  • ThreadPools.logqbforeach(fn, itrs)

Please see below for usage examples.

Advanced API

The above macros invoke two base structures, StaticPool and QueuePool, each of which can be assigned to a subset of the available threads. This allows for composition with the pwith and @pthreads command, and usage in more complex scenarios, such as stack processing. See for more detail.


Each of the simple API functions can be used like the Base versions of the same function:

julia> @qbthreads for x in 1:3
         println("$x $(Threads.threadid())")
2 3
3 4
1 2

julia> bmap([1,2,3]) do x
         println("$x $(Threads.threadid())")
2 3
3 4
1 2
3-element Array{Int64,1}:

julia> t = @tspawnat 4 Threads.threadid()
Task (runnable) @0x0000000010743c70

julia> fetch(t)

Note that the first two examples above use the background versions and no threadid==1 is seen. Also note that while the execution order is not guaranteed across threads, but the result of bmap will of course match the input.

Logger Usage

The logging versions of the above functions all produce an AbstractThreadPool object that has an in-memory log of the start and stop times of each job that ran through the pool. A PlotRecipe from RecipesBase is exposed in the package, so all that is needed to generate a visualization of the job times is the plot command from Plots. In these plots, each job is shown by index, start time, and stop time and is given a color corresponding to its thread:

julia> using Plots

julia> pool = logtforeach(x -> sleep(0.1*x), 1:8);

julia> plot(pool)

tforeach plot

julia> pool = logqforeach(x -> sleep(0.1*x), 1:8);

julia> plot(pool)

qforeach plot

Note the two different scheduling strategies are seen in the above plots. The tforeach log shows that the jobs were assigned in order: 1 & 2 to thread 1, 3 & 4 to thread 2, and so on. The qforeach shows that each job (any thread) is started when the previous job on that thread completes. Because these jobs are very nonuniform (and stacked against the first strategy), this results in the pre-assign method taking 25% longer.