[swift-evolution] [Pre-Proposal] Type Aliases as Pseudo-Types

Brent Royal-Gordon brent at architechies.com
Sat Feb 18 04:54:29 CST 2017

> On Feb 18, 2017, at 2:18 AM, Haravikk via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> This is an idea I had while working with collections, and is particularly inspired by those that use common index types.
> Consider for example an array; for indices it simply uses an integer, however, while this is a perfectly valid type to use it opens up the possibility of integers from any number of different sources being passed in by mistake and causing run-time errors. The same is true for wrapping types that use AnyIndex, or really any type that uses Any* to hide underlying types, as on the surface all AnyIndex instances give the illusion of being compatible when they're not, and will only produce errors at run-time when a conflict arises.
> The idea to combat this is simple; a new attribute that can be applied to a typealias, my working name is @unique, but there's probably a much better name for it. When applied to a type-alias it indicates to the type-checker that the type being aliased should be treated as a unique type outside of the scope in which it is declared.

I've encountered the same problem in essentially the same place, so I'd like to see a solution too.

This sounds like a slight variation on what, in previous discussions, has been called `newtype`. IIRC, one of the reasons we've never done `newtype` is that it's not clear which features you want to bring over from the base type, or which types should be used for things like operators. (If you have `func + (lhs: Int, rhs: Int) -> Int`, you don't want `func + (lhs: Index, rhs: Index) -> Index`; you want `func + (lhs: Index, rhs: Int) -> Index`.)

I'd like to suggest a design that I don't think has been considered before. Currently, if the first type in an enum's inheritance clause is a concrete type, a set of magical behaviors occur:

* The enum is conformed to `RawRepresentable` with a `RawValue` of the concrete type.
* Each case is associated with a raw value, specified by a literal attached to the case.
* `init?(rawValue:)` and `var rawValue { get }` are automatically generated.

There is currently no equivalent for structs, but I suggest we add one.

If you say:

	struct Index: Int {}

This is automatically equivalent to saying:

	struct Index: RawRepresentable {
		var rawValue: Int
		init(rawValue: Int) { self.rawValue = rawValue }

And a special rule is applied: You may not declare any other stored properties.

Additionally, for both `enum`s and `struct`s with raw types, I would suggest that, if you conform to a protocol which the raw type conforms to and then fail to fulfill its (non-defaulted) requirements, Swift should generate a member which forwards to the raw value's implementation. It might even be nice to do the same when an initializer, method, property, or subscript is declared without providing a body. This would make it easy to decide which functionality should be exposed and how it should be provided--and it would provide a partial way to fulfill the frequent request for syntactic sugar for `Equatable`, `Hashable`, and `Comparable` conformances. (I could imagine this being generalized later on.)

The main drawback I can see is that the `rawValue` could not be encapsulated, since the conformance to the public `RawRepresentable` protocol could not be made private. That might be acceptable in a convenience feature, or we might decide (perhaps for both `struct`s and `enum`s) that Swift should generate the members without actually conforming the type unless explicitly asked to.

Brent Royal-Gordon

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list