[swift-evolution] Referencing zero-parameter functions

Alex Hoppen alex at ateamer.de
Fri May 6 02:34:13 CDT 2016

Thanks for your feedback so far. Based on the discussion, I have updated the proposal to let `foo` refer to the zero-parameter function instead of `foo(_)`.

The updated proposal is also available on GitHub: https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/blob/reference-zero-param-func/proposals/0000-refernce-zero-param-func.md <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/blob/reference-zero-param-func/proposals/0000-refernce-zero-param-func.md>.

Again comments would be greatly appreciated.

– Alex

Referencing zero-parameter functions

Proposal: SE-NNNN <https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/blob/master/proposals/NNNN-name.md>
Author(s): Alex Hoppen <https://github.com/ahoppen>, Pyry Jahkola <https://github.com/pyrtsa>
Status: Draft
Review manager: TBD


Since the approval of SE-0021 <https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/blob/master/proposals/0021-generalized-naming.md> it is possible to reference a function by its argument names using the foo(arg:) syntax but there is no way to reference a zero-parameter function. foo currently references all methods with base name foo. If there are multiple methods with this base name, one has to disambiguate the referenced function by its type using as.

This proposal changes the behaviour of foo to always reference a zero-parameter function. To reference a function with more parameters, the argument labels have to be explicitly named (e.g. foo(arg:)).

Originally, the proposal sought to introduce the new syntax foo(_) to reference an overloaded function with zero parameters, but was discarded based on the discussion on swift-evolution <http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.lang.swift.evolution/16150>.


Consider the following example

class Bar {
  func foo() {

  func foo(arg: Int) {
You can reference foo(arg: Int) using Bar.foo(arg:) but there is currently no syntax to reference foo() without using disambiguation by type Bar.foo as () -> Void. We believe this is a major hole in the current disambiguation syntax.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#proposed-solution>Proposed solution

We propose that Bar.foo only references methods with no parameters just as Bar.foo(arg:) references the methods with one argument named arg.

This is a breaking change since Bar.foo currently refers to all methods with base name foo.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#detailed-design>Detailed design

The existing syntax Bar.foo is reinterpreted to not reference any method on Bar with base name foo but to only reference functions named foo that take no parameters.

If two overloads with zero-parameters exist with different return types, disambiguation has still to be done via as just like with the foo(arg:) syntax.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#impact-on-existing-code>Impact on existing code

Existing code that uses Bar.foo to reference methods with parameters needs to be changed. We believe this will effect many developers, so a fix-it would be essential.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#possible-issues>Possible issues

Bar.foo may be mistaken for a reference to a property, since all other references to functions will contain parenthesis if this proposal is accepted.

Most functions are not overloaded and using the base name only offers a shorthand way to reference these functions. If this proposal is accepted, this shorthand is no longer available for methods with parameters.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#alternatives-considered>Alternatives considered

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#alternative-1-barfoo-inside-selector>Alternative 1: Bar.foo() inside #selector

Let Bar.foo() refer to the zero-parameter function only inside #selector as it was proposed by Doug Gregor here <https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/pull/280#discussion_r61849122>. This requires the proposal to disallow arbitrary expressions in #selector (GitHub-Link <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/blob/arbitrary-expressions-in-selectors/proposals/0000-arbitrary-expressions-in-selectors.md>) to be approved. Issues we see are:

This gives the illusion that foo is actually called which it isn't
It doesn't solve the issue of referencing a zero-parameter function in arbitrary expressions somewhere else in code.

 <https://github.com/ahoppen/swift-evolution/tree/reference-zero-param-func#alternative-2-barfoo_>Alternative 2: Bar.foo(_)

The original idea of using Bar.foo(_) to refer to the zero-parameter method was discarded after discussion on the mailing list because of the following reasons:

It is only a single typo away from Bar.foo(_:) which references the method with one unnamed argument
In argument lists _ implies the presence of an unnamed parameter, while _ in Bar.foo(_) would mark the absence of a any parameters.

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