Strict Structs

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We all know that global variables can be a pain (see DetectingUndefinedVariables) and should be avoided. The 'strict struct' pattern brings these benefits to tables with named keys

A 'struct' can be declared so:

struct.Alice {
	x = 1;
	y = 2;

And instantiated like so:

a = Alice {x = 10, y = 20}


b = Alice {x = 10}  -- y will be set to 2

Any attempt to access an unknown field of a and b will be an error, like a.z = 1 or print(b.zz), or even Alice{z = 4} .

So this brings two things to the party:

Stronger typing also means that type-specific assertions can be thrown.

A simple overload of __tostring would also give you type-specific string representations like 'Alice #23' for debugging purposes.

It would be possible (using a suitable proxy table) to enforce dynamic type checking on field assignments, but of course this would incur a run-time cost.

-- struct.lua
--- defining a struct constructor ---
local struct_mt = {
	-- instances can be created by calling the struct object
	__call = function(s,t)
		local obj = t or {}  -- pass it a table (or nothing)
		local fields = s._fields
		-- attempt to set a non-existent field in ctor?
		for k,v in pairs(obj) do
			if not fields[k] then
		-- fill in any default values if not supplied
		for k,v in pairs(fields) do
			if not obj[k] then
				obj[k] = v
		return obj

-- creating a new struct triggered by struct.STRUCTNAME
struct = setmetatable({},{
	__index = function(tbl,sname)
		-- so we create a new struct object with a name
		local s = {_name = sname}
		-- and put the struct in the enclosing context
		_G[sname] = s
		-- the not-found error
		s._error_nf = function (tbl,key)
			error("field '"..key.."' is not in "..s._name)
		-- reading or writing an undefined field of this struct is an error
		s._mt = {
			_name = s._name;
			__index = s._error_nf;
			__newindex = s._error_nf;
		-- the struct has a ctor
		-- return a function that sets the struct's fields
		return function(t)
			s._fields = t


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Last edited September 29, 2009 1:46 am GMT (diff)