[swift-evolution] [swift-dev] Re-pitch: Deriving collections of enum cases

Brent Royal-Gordon brent at architechies.com
Tue Nov 14 05:49:27 CST 2017

> On Nov 13, 2017, at 9:21 PM, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com> wrote:
> ...I should add, if full conformance to `Collection` is still too much to ask, enabling "for `case` in Foo.self" by magic would itself address the entirety of the proposal's use case, adding no API surface area.

No, Xiaodi. No, it would not.

Okay, thus far we've talked vaguely about "accessing the cases of an enum", but let's talk a little more concretely about what that means. I think that, especially on Apple platforms, this is the most important concrete use case:


You have an enum like:

	enum BugStatus {
		case open, inProgress, resolved, closed, reopened
		var localizedName: String { … } 

You wish to present these options in a user interface so a user can select one of them. For instance, if you're on iOS and using UITableView, you might want to present the enum's values through `UITableViewDataSource` and allow selection through `UITableViewDelegate`.


1. It must be possible to easily access the count of values, and to access any particular value using contiguous `Int` indices. This could be achieved either by directly accessing elements in the list of values through an Int subscript, or by constructing an Array from the list of values.

2. It must be possible to control the order of values in the list of values, either by using source order or through some other simple, straightforward mechanism.


You conform `BugStatus` to `ValueEnumerable`:

	enum BugStatus: ValueEnumerable {
		case open, inProgress, resolved, closed, reopened
		var localizedName: String { … } 

And then write the table view data source to present the elements of `BugStatus.allValues`:

	class BugStatusDataSource: NSObject, UITableViewDataSource, UITableViewDelegate {
		@IBOutlet var tableView: UITableView?
		@objc dynamic var selected: BugStatus? {		// Observable via KVO
			didSet { tableView.reloadData() }
		func status(at indexPath: IndexPath) -> Status {
		func tableView(_: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int {
			return BugStatus.allValues.count
		func tableView(_: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell {
			let status = self.status(at: indexPath)
			let identifier = (status == selected) ? "SelectedCell" : "RegularCell"
			let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: identifier, for: indexPath)
			cell.titleLabel.text = status.localizedName
			return cell
		func tableView(_: UITableView, didSelectRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) {
			selected = status(at: indexPath)

This is the most direct solution; a more sophisticated version might inject the list as an Array so that you can show a subset of the full set of values.


Now, let's quickly talk about a couple extensions of this use case:

* The values, and the table view cells, are grouped into sections. This suggests some sort of two-level, nested structure, which may not use `Int` indices.

* You want to write a *generic* data source which can present all the values of *any* ValueEnumerable type (or at least any conforming to a protocol that allows us to fill in their cells). For that purpose, it's helpful to have the type conform to *some* sort of protocol and expose the value list through that protocol.

You say that:

>  Essentially all other uses for enumeration of enum cases can be trivially recreated based on just that.

But with this use case in mind, we can see that it is "trivial" in the sense that the annoying boilerplate you need to bridge the significant impedance mismatch is easy to come up with. Yes, you could construct an array using the magic `for` loop, but that would be a serious pain. (And there would be no ergonomic, mistake-resistant way to hide that pain behind a function/initializer call, because there's no way to say that a parameter must be a metatype for an enum.) What you really want is a way to access or construct an `Array` or array-like type containing the type's values.

*Actually* conforming the metatype to `Sequence` or `Collection` would be a different story. There, you could construct `Array`s or access elements using ordinary APIs and type system features. And you could write generic algorithms which used the set of all types: they would require conformance to `Sequence` or `Collection`, and users would specify `Foo.Type` as the generic parameter. But I suspect that would require deeper compiler changes than we can be certain to get in Swift 5 or really at any specific point on the roadmap, and I don't think we should delay this feature indefinitely to get a design whose only real benefit is elegance.

Brent Royal-Gordon

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