Tag Archives: object initialization

Object (post) initialization

Skila-1 had auto constructor as its object initialization version, but few days ago I was writing some ordinary Config type in C# and when I added builder pattern I realized how little C# is missing to get proper object initialization.

Thus I scratched the idea of reimplementing Skila-1 approach and I added object (post) initialization — it is much simpler to implement and it feels completely like C# (whenever I can I prefer to stick to already popular language). Using C# syntax it is just:

public class Point
    public init double X { get; }
    public init double Y { get; }

var p = new Point() { X = 5, Y = 7 };
p.X = 3; // error

Yes, all it takes is little modifier added to field/property indicating that despite it is readonly it is allowed to be assigned (initialized) during post initialization. The type itself is immutable, there is no additional mechanism added, everybody is happy.

The older approach has its advantages (single initialization for starter) but since it can be added in any time I will stick with this lightweight approach for now.

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The object initialization

Writing constructors by hand is so tedious that I am happy C# has object initializers. Well, sort of happy, because they are not really object initializers (they are just member assignments) and because of that they often collide with the configuration of the members (private or readonly). One thing I cannot deny — they offer really compact form of setting up the object:

new Point() { X = 5.3, Y = 7.2 };

Scala and Kotlin address the same problem providing also compact form, true initialization, however in not very pleasing manner:

class Point(var x: Double, 
            var y: Double) 

Without such constructor the structure of type definition is pretty clear, with constructor added all of the sudden part of the type is moved as parameters, so it looks like a method which is, and which is not at the same time. Different taste I assume.

Let’s write bare type Point in Skila:

class Point
  var x = Double(13.2);
  var y Double;

Some things worth noting — both fields are private by default, you cannot omit the typename unless you initialize the field (or property) with constructor, which is the case here. Type inference is useful feature to have but it is best served in moderate ratios.

Our Point type has default constructor, but we cannot initialize Point object with custom values. Let’s change it:

class Point
  in var x = Double(13.2);
  in var y Double;

And that’s it — the keyword in says ”add named parameter to constructor and initialize the given field with it”. In other words such constructor is added behind the scenes:

  def init(x : Double = 13.2, y : Double)
    this.x = x;
    this.y = y;

Because of the named parameters (note the colon) the compiler can add default values wherever it wants. Named parameters also mean user has to provide the names:

Point(x : 3, y : 15.5);
Point(y : 7, x : 1); // the order does not matter
Point(y : 1.5);
Point(2, 3.5); // error, no names
Point(x : 2); // error, missing `y` parameter

What can I say — I honestly like this design. It is as clear as C# code, but you don’t lose any benefit of real constructor. What’s more, you can use in keyword as a parameter and an argument as well:

base class Animal
  in let weight Double;

class Human : Animal
  in let iq Double;
  let label String;

  def init(label String = "Joe", in)
    super(in); // calling base constructor
    this.label = label;

// `label` is anonymous parameter

The only requirement is in parameter has to come last, it is small price to pay if you ask me.

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