[swift-evolution] [Pitch] Introducing `Unwrappable` protocol

Brent Royal-Gordon brent at architechies.com
Tue Mar 7 22:59:05 CST 2017

> On Mar 7, 2017, at 12:14 PM, Erica Sadun via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> Because of that, I'm going to start over here, hopefully pulling in all the details
> and allowing the community to provide feedback and direction. The following 
> gist is an amalgam of work I was discussing with Xiaodi Wu, Chris Lattner, and
> David Goodine.
> https://gist.github.com/erica/aea6a1c55e9e92f843f92e2b16879b0f

Treating the things separately:

1. Introduce an `unwrap` keyword

I'm really not convinced this pulls its own weight. Without the `let`, it doesn't make the fact that it's shadowing the original (and thus that you cannot modify it) clear; with the `let`, it introduces a new keyword people need to learn for the sake of eliding a repeated variable name.

In the document, you state that `unwrap` "simplifies the status quo and eleminates unintended shadows", but that's not true, because the existing syntax will continue to exist and be supported. Unless we warn about *any* shadowing in an `if let` or `if case`, it will still be possible to accidentally shadow variables using these declarations.

2. Introduce an `Unwrappable` protocol

I like the idea, but I would use a slightly different design which offers more features and lifts this from "bag of syntax" territory into representing a discrete semantic. This particular design includes several elements which depend on other proposed features:

	/// Conforming types wrap another type, creating a supertype which may or may not 
	/// contain the `Wrapped` type.
	/// `Wrapper` types may use the `!` operator to unconditionally access the wrapped 
	/// value or the `if let` and `guard let` statements to conditionally access it. Additionally, 
	/// `Wrapped` values will be automatically converted to the `Wrapper`-conforming type 
	/// as needed, and the `is`, `as`, `as?`, and `as!` operators will treat the `Wrapped` type 
	/// as a subtype of the `Wrapper`-conforming type.
	protocol Wrapper {
		/// The type that this value wraps.
		associatedtype Wrapped
		/// The type of error, if any, thrown when a non-wrapped value is unwrapped.
		associatedtype UnwrappingError: Error = Never
		/// Creates an instance of `Self` which wraps the `Wrapped` value.
		/// You can call this initializer explicitly, but Swift will also insert implicit calls when 
		/// upcasting from `Wrapped` to `Self`.
		init(_ wrapped: Wrapped)
		/// Returns `true` if `Self` contains an instance of `Wrapped` which can be accessed 
		/// by calling `unwrapped`.
		var isWrapped: Bool { get }
		/// Accesses the `Wrapped` value within this instance.
		/// If `isWrapped` is `true`, this property will always return an instance. If it is `false`, this property 
		/// will throw an instance of `UnwrappingError`, or trap if `UnwrappingError` is `Never`.
		var unwrapped: Wrapped { get throws<UnwrappingError> }
		/// Accesses the `Wrapped` value within this instance, possibly skipping safety checks.
		/// - Precondition: `isWrapped` is `true`.
		var unsafelyUnwrapped: Wrapped { get }
	extension Wrapper {
		// Default implementation of `unsafelyUnwrapped` just calls `unwrapped`.
		var unsafelyUnwrapped: Wrapped {
			return try! unwrapped

The defaulting of `WrappingError` to `Never` means the error-emitting aspects of this design are additive and can be introduced later, once the necessary supporting features are introduced. The use of separate `isWrapped` and `unwrapped` properties means that `unwrapped` can implement an appropriate behavior on unwrapping failure, instead of being forced to return `nil`.

(An alternative design would have `wrapped: Wrapped? { get }` and `unwrapped: Wrapped { get throws<UnwrappingError> }` properties, instead of `isWrapped` and `unwrapped`.)

In this model, your example of:

	let value = try unwrap myResult // throws on `failure`

Would instead be:

	let value = try myResult! // throws on `failure`

(Actually, I'm not sure why you said this would be `unwrap`—it's not shadowing `myResult`, is it?)

Theoretically, this exact design—or something close to it—could be used to implement subtyping:

	extension Int16: Wrapper {
		typealias Wrapped = Int8
		init(_ wrapped: Int8) {
			self.init(exactly: wrapped)!
		var isWrapped: Bool {
			return Self(exactly: Int8.min)...Self(exactly: Int8.max).contains(self)
		var unwrapped: Int8 {
			return Self(exactly: self)!

But this would imply that you could not only say `myInt8` where an `Int16` was needed, but also that you could write `myInt16!` where an `Int8` was needed. I'm not sure we want to overload force unwrapping like that. One possibility is that unwrapping is a refinement of subtyping:

	// `Downcastable` contains the actual conversion and subtyping logic. Conforming to 
	// `Downcastable` gets you `is`, `as`, `as?`, and `as!` support; it also lets you use an 
	// instance of `Subtype` in contexts which want a `Supertype`.
	protocol Downcastable {
		associatedtype Subtype
		associatedtype DowncastingError: Error = Never
		init(upcasting subvalue: Subtype)
		var canDowncast: Bool { get }
		var downcasted: Subtype { get throws<DowncastingError> }
		var unsafelyDowncasted: Subtype { get }
	// Unwrappable refines Downcastable, providing access to `!`, `if let`, etc.
	protocol Unwrappable: Downcastable {}
	extension Unwrappable {
		var unsafelyUnwrapped: Subtype { return unsafelyDowncasted }

That would allow you to have conversions between `Int8` and `Int16`, but not to use `!` on an `Int16`.

3. Apply `unwrap` to non-`Optional` values, and
4. Extend `for` and `switch`

These are pretty straightforward ramifications of having both `unwrap` and `Unwrappable`. I don't like `unwrap`, but if we *do* add it, it should certainly do this.

5. Fix Pattern Match Binding

The `case let .someCase(x, y)` syntax is really convenient when there are a lot of variables to bind. I would suggest a fairly narrow warning: If you use a leading `let`, and some—but not all—of the variables bound by the pattern are shadowing, emit a warning. That would solve the `case let .two(newValue, oldValue)`-where-`oldValue`-should-be-a-match problem.

6. Simplify Complex Binding

I'm not convinced by this. The `case` keyword provides a strong link between `if case` and `switch`/`case`; the `~=` operator doesn't do this. Unless we wanted to redesign `switch`/`case` with matching ergonomics—which, uh, we don't:

	switch value {
	~ .foo(let x): 
		...use x...

—I don't think we should go in this direction. `for case` also has similar concerns.

I think we'd be better off replacing the `~=` operator with something more memorable. For instance:

	extension Range {
		public func matches(_ value: Bound) -> Bool {
			return contains(value)


	public func isMatch<Bound: Comparable>(_ value: Bound, toCase pattern: Range<Bound>) -> Bool {
		return pattern.contains(value)

Brent Royal-Gordon

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