Tag Archives: classes

struct/class — changing the course

After some considerations I decided to steer away from muddy waters of improving everything related to types and objects management in one take. It does not take the genius to notice it is a vast area to cover and I will have plenty of work merging C# value and reference types with C++ mutable/const attributes with non-/nullable pointers.

This is already the challenge because with such variety of features it is easy to produce some obscure syntax. So I changed my perspective — keep it simple, make one step at a time, scratch only if it itches.

struct” is value type in Skila exactly like it is in C#. There is richer annotation though:

var x Struct = new Struct();
const y Struct = new Struct();

The first line declares a variable, thus you can change the data of “x”. The second line declares a constant — this works like in C++, so it is logical immutability, not the bitwise one.

The same modifier can be applied when passing “struct” to a function:

def foo(var a Struct) ...
def bar(const b Struct) ...

By default the parameter data is assumed to be constant so you can drop “const” in the second line.

The first line is more interesting — it tells you can change the data and those changes will be visible on caller side. So from caller perspective it is a side effect — it should not go unnoticed and it doesn’t:


Those are valid calls — just like with mutating methods there is exclamation mark added as acknowledgment of alteration of “x” variable.

I didn’t add ability to pass a copy of the variable which could be changed just inside the function (pass by value). Time will tell if it is needed, now I move to C# “class” — it is a bit more problematic, because the data can be constant, the reference can be constant, and a reference can be “null” — the syntax is just boiling over.

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Modern constructor — how does it look?

For sure the way the constructors are written in C++ has to go — starting from naming constructor not by a name of the class, but simply “__construct” (like in PHP) or “init” (I would also like to add ability to return a value, but it is a minor thing as well). The real problem is how to initialize object fields in a constructor — briefly, yet in informative way?

Scala integrated constructor went too far — the code is very concise, true, but at the expense of the readability. Entire body of a class becomes a constructor and this means constructor parameters are leaking directly into all class methods.

C# is much better in this regard, I love its syntax:

new Person()
    FirstName = "Joe",
    LastName = "Doe"

The problem? It is not a constructor really (just the first line is). It is not only the matter of the name though, there are technical implications as well — “FirstName” and “LastName” cannot be readonly properties for example. But the clarity is hard to beat.

So the question for Skila is really this — how to bring C# syntax and make it real constructor? So far I came up only with an idea of macro constructor…

Mark the fields of the class which can be initialized by simple assignment and call constructor as usual — all parameters for marked fields are passed via magical “ini” tuple and initialized in one assignment.

class Foo
  var FirstName <- String("John");
  var LastName <- String;
  var BirthYear Int;

  def init(birthYear Int, $ini)
    this.BirthYear = birthYear;
    this.$ini = $ini;

new Foo(1918, FirstName : "Joe",
              LastName : "Doe");

Some of the features of macro constructor:

  • field pseudo-initialization serves as indication of optional argument, i.e. you could omit “FirstName” here when creating “Foo” object; it is not field initilization like in C#
  • when passing arguments via “ini” you have to name all arguments — in other words “ini” expands to a list of forced named parameters, and thanks to that it can always be safely placed as the last (pseudo) parameter,
  • because assignment in constructor is explicit you can decide when to call it.

Is this the best what can be done in 2013? Do you have better ideas?

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