[swift-evolution] [Review] SE-0155: Normalize Enum Case Representation

Xiaodi Wu xiaodi.wu at gmail.com
Sat Apr 1 11:50:38 CDT 2017

On Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 12:33 PM, John McCall via swift-evolution <
swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:

> Hello Swift community,
> The review of "SE-0155: Normalize Enum Case Representation" begins now and
> runs through the Monday after next, April 10th. The proposal is available
> here:
> https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/blob/master/
> proposals/0155-normalize-enum-case-representation.md
> This is the second review of this proposal.  A previous version of this
> proposal was returned for revision based on some significant concerns from
> the community.  Because this is a continuation of an existing proposal, the
> core team is still willing to consider it, despite the fact that the review
> period will end after the formal end of Phase 2.
> Reviews are an important part of the Swift evolution process. All reviews
> should be sent to the swift-evolution mailing list at
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
> or, if you would like to keep your feedback private, directly to the
> review manager. When replying, please try to keep the proposal link at the
> top of the message:
> Proposal link: https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/blob/
> master/proposals/0155-normalize-enum-case-representation.md
> Reply text
> Other replies
> *What goes into a review?*
> The goal of the review process is to improve the proposal under review
> through constructive criticism and, eventually, determine the direction of
> Swift. When writing your review, here are some questions you might want to
> answer in your review:
> • What is your evaluation of the proposal?

The general direction is, of course, correct. However, I continue to be
concerned about the details of pattern matching. I will detail those below.

• Is the problem being addressed significant enough to warrant a change to
> Swift?


• Does this proposal fit well with the feel and direction of Swift?

The "Pattern consistency" section does not align well with the feel and
direction of Swift. Specifically, it does not explore some of the
difficulties that arise from the proposed rules, adopts some of the same
shortcomings that required revision for SE-0111, and deviates from some of
the anticipated fixes for those shortcomings outlined in the core team's
"update and commentary" to SE-0111.

It is not the case that the design proposed is "a consequence of no longer
relying on tuple patterns," in that it is not the inevitable result that
falls out of that decision. I will detail the alternative design that
requires the fewest deviations or special rules, and breaks the least code
extant today, later on. First, the shortcomings:

The proposed rules for pattern matching are a source-breaking change, and
are *not* the most minimal such change given the abandoning of tuples (see
alternative below). However, the proposal does not engage with the core
team's Swift 4 criteria for source-breaking changes with respect to the
proposed "stricter rules" for pattern matching. There is no text at all
about why specifically having the compiler encourage local _variable_ names
to match argument labels resolves an active harm that outweighs the goal of
preserving the greatest possible source compatibility.

OTOH, the proposal does outline a major use case for a local variable name
that does not match the argument label: `param` vs `parameter`.
Widely-respected style guides in various languages encourage unabbreviated
and descriptive API names but much more concise local variable names. This
is a legitimate and good practice being actively discouraged by the sugared

This would be merely annoying and not harmful if we could guarantee that it
only means the API user will have to use longer local names, but the
natural impulse on the part of thoughtful API authors would be to limit the
expressiveness of their labels to help out their users.

This puts API authors in an impossible bind: they need to choose labels
that are not too short lest it collide frequently with existing local
variable names (`x` and `y` would be suboptimal, for example, but there are
good reasons why an associated value might have arguments labeled `x` and
`y`), but they also need to choose labels that are not too verbose. The
safest bet in this case would be not to label at all, but then they lose
the communicative aspect of argument labels (see point 2 below).

In the "update and commentary" revising SE-0111, it was acknowledged that
"cosmetic" labels have a significant use case. Thus, the rules were changed
to allow `(_ foo: Int, _ bar: Int) -> ()` to communicate to the reader of
code that the first argument serves some purpose "foo" without forcing that
name to be part of the API, pending further revisions.

Because enum cases are currently tuples, labels can be dropped freely, and
therefore these labels are effectively "optional" parts of the API that can
be seen by the user but, at their discretion, not used. That fulfills the
use case of "cosmetic" labels. In this revised proposal, by requiring the
argument label to be actually _written_ somewhere by the API user, it puts
a dent into the legitimate use case of "cosmetic" labels.

That is to say, an API author who wishes to communicate something about a
parameter by using a label must now also consider if that label is also
appropriate as a variable name and must forgo its use if the label is not
so appropriate. This is a very different decision-making process and it is
being applied retroactively to previously designed APIs whose labels would
have been (hopefully thoughtfully) chosen under very different

The first part of the proposal aligns enum case syntax with functions.
Functions often taken prepositions as argument labels, and indeed previous
SE proposals have extended the rules to allow most words. However, `case
foo(index: Int, in: T)` would have a disastrous label, as `in` would be a
very annoying variable name whose use would be actively encouraged by the
proposed sugared pattern matching rules.

The proposed rules for the sugared pattern would also require (well,
greatly encourage) unique labels for each argument. This again is
inconsistent with the naming conventions encouraged by the first part of
the proposal aligning enum case syntax with functions, which have no such
restrictions. If a user names something `case foo(point: T, point: T)`,
then the matching rules would actively encourage an invalid redefinition of
a variable named `point`.

(On the other hand, the API author does not have the luxury of naming the
same case `foo(from point: T, to point: T)`, and even if they did,
prepositions can make lousy local variable names--see first paragraph.)

The proposal does not explore what happens when the proposed prohibition on
"mixing and matching" the proposed sugared and unsugared pattern matching
runs up against associated values that have a mix of labeled and unlabeled
parameters, and pattern matching user cases where the user does not wish to
bind all of the arguments.

Given `case foo(a: Int, String, b: Int, String)`, the only sensible
interpretation of the rules for sugared syntax would allow the user to
choose any name for some but not all of the labels. If the user wishes to
bind only `b`, however, he or she will need to navigate a puzzling set of
rules that are not spelled out in the proposal:

case foo(a: _, _, b: let b, _)
// this is definitely allowed

case foo(a: _, _, b: let myVar, _)
// this is also definitely allowed

// but...
case foo(_, _, b: let myVar, _)
// is this allowed, or must the user explicitly state and not bind `a`?

// ...and with respect to the sugared version...
case foo(_, _, let b, _)
// is this allowed, or must the user explicitly state and not bind `a`?

In the "update and commentary" revising SE-0111, the core team outlined a
preferred path to restoring the full use of argument labels for functions
without giving them type system significance. They gave a non-sugared form
and a sugared form, both of which have met with approval from the community.

Briefly, the non-sugared form allows compound names to be used in variable
names: `func foo(opToUse op(lhs:rhs:) : (Int, Int) -> Int)`. The first part
of this proposal is consistent in that it removes the type system
significance of argument labels from the associated values of enum cases,
and considers them as part of the enum case name. It also stands to reason
that, if a user were to match a case _without_ trying to bind any
variables, the same syntax would have be used if the base name is
ambiguous: `case elet(locals:body:): break`.

However, the proposal makes no provision for using that same compound name
in pattern matching. There appears to be no particular reason for its
isolated omission here, as `case elet(locals:body:)(let a, let b): return a
* b` is readable and presents no syntactic difficulties. (Moreover, it is
consistent with the syntax permitted in this proposal for initializing a
variable: `let foo = Expr.elet(locals:body:)([], anExpr)`.)


In light of these shortcomings, I would argue that the following
alternative scheme is the most intuitive and consistent for pattern
matching given the general agreement that enum case representation should
be "normalized":


enum S {
  case foo(bar: Int, baz: Int)
  case foo(boo: String)
  case bar(boo: String)

a. As in functions after SE-0111, enum cases can be identified
unambiguously, regardless of whether one is initializing a variable or
matching a case, by their compound name, e.g. `bar(boo:)`. Where a case can
be unambiguously identified with only the base name, that is an alternative
spelling, e.g. `bar`. Where a case cannot be identified uniquely with the
base name, then it is an error to try to use the base name alone: `case
foo: break // error: unambiguous`.

b. As in functions after SE-0111, arguments can be passed in either a
sugared form or an unsugared form, and they can be bound in a pattern
matching statement in the same way. That is, `case foo(bar: let a, baz: let
b): break` and `case foo(bar:baz:)(let a, let b): break` are equivalent.

c. As in functions, one cannot supply different or incorrect argument
labels. That is, `case foo(baz: let a, bar: let b)` and `case
foo(baz:bar:)(let a, let b)` are both forbidden. _This recovers the vast
majority of the additional syntactic safety that is outlined in the revised
proposal, but without the use of any special rules for pattern matching._

d. By composing rules (a) and (b), `case bar(let a)` is allowed as it is
today, preserving source compatibility. However `case foo(let b, let c)` is
not allowed, and _not_ because different local variable names are chosen,
but because the enum has two cases named foo.

I believe that this alternative preserves achieves the goals of normalizing
enum case representation, simplifying the rules around pattern matching and
adding safety to pattern matching by preventing reordering/mismatching of
labels that were sometimes permitted with tuples, and preserving almost all
source compatibility, without the use of ad-hoc rules.

• If you have used other languages or libraries with a similar feature, how
> do you feel that this proposal compares to those?


• How much effort did you put into your review? A glance, a quick reading,
> or an in-depth study?

In-depth study
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/attachments/20170401/29e03864/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list