[swift-evolution] [Discussion] Enum Leading Dot Prefixes

Erica Sadun erica at ericasadun.com
Thu Feb 11 21:00:11 CST 2016

https://gist.github.com/erica/e0b8a3a22ab716a19db4 <https://gist.github.com/erica/e0b8a3a22ab716a19db4>

Requiring Leading Dot Prefixes for Enum Instance Member Implementations

Proposal: TBD
Author(s): Erica Sadun <http://github.com/erica>, Chris Lattner <https://github.com/lattner>
Status: TBD
Review manager: TBD

Enumeration cases are essentially static not instance type members. Unlike static members in structures and classes, enumeration cases can be mentioned in initializers and instance methods without referencing a fully qualified type. This makes little sense. In no other case can an instance implementation directly access a static member. This proposal introduces a rule that requires leading dots or fully qualified references (EnumType.caseMember) to provide a more consistent developer experience to clearly disambiguate static cases from instance members. 


Swift infers the enclosing type for a case on a developer's behalf when the use is unambiguously of a single enumeration type. Inference enables you to craft switch statements like this:

switch Coin() {
case .Heads: print("Heads")
case .Tails: print("Tails")
A leading dot has become a conventional shorthand for "enumeration case" across the language. When used internally in enum implementations, a leading dot is not required, nor is a type name to access the static case member. The following code is legal in Swift.

enum Coin {
    case Heads, Tails
    func printMe() {
        switch self {
        case Heads: print("Heads")  // no leading dot
        case .Tails: print("Tails") // leading dot

        if self == Heads {          // no leading dot
            print("This is a head")

        if self == .Tails {         // leading dot
            print("This is a tail")

    init() {
        let cointoss = arc4random_uniform(2) == 0
        self = cointoss ? .Heads : Tails // mix and match leading dots
This quirk produces a language inconsistency that can confuse developers and contravenes the guiding Principle of Least Astonishment. We propose to mandate a leading dot. This will bring case mentions into lock-step with the conventions used to reference them outside of enumeration type implementations.

 <https://gist.github.com/erica/e0b8a3a22ab716a19db4#detail-design>Detail Design

Under this rule, the compiler will require a leading dot for all case members. The change will not affect other static members, which require fully qualified references from instance methods and infer self from static methods.

enum Coin {
    case Heads, Tails
    static func doSomething() { print("Something") }
    static func staticFunc() { doSomething() } // does not require leading dot
    static func staticFunc2() { let foo = .Tails } // requires leading dot
    func instanceFunc() { self.dynamicType.doSomething() } // requires full qualification
    func otherFunc() { if self == .Heads ... } // requires leading dot, also initializers

    /// ...
 <https://gist.github.com/erica/e0b8a3a22ab716a19db4#alternatives-considered>Alternatives Considered

Other than leaving the status quo, the language could force instance members to refer to cases using a fully qualified type, as with other static members.
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