4bb1e6e Feb 16, 2018
@dnpetrov @abreslav @dzharkov @udalov
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Type aliases

  • Type: Design proposal
  • Author: Dmitry Petrov
  • Contributors: Andrey Breslav, Stanislav Erokhin, Vladimir Reshetnikov
  • Status: Accepted
  • Prototype: Implemented in Kotlin 1.1

Discussion of this proposal is held in this issue.

Use cases

Type aliases provide alternative names for existing types, for example:

  • Function types
typealias MyHandler = (Int, String, Any) -> Unit

typealias HtmlBuilderAction = HtmlBuilder.() -> Unit

typealias Predicate<T> = (T) -> Boolean
  • Collections (and other generics)
typealias NodeSet = Set<Network.Node>

typealias FilesTable<K> = MutableMap<K, MutableList<File>>
  • Nested classes
class Outer {
  class Nested {
    inner class Inner

typealias Something = Outer.Nested.Inner

and so on.

Type aliases do not introduce new types. Instead, they are fully expanded, and are equivalent to the corresponding underlying types.

To introduce new types (which are not assignment-compatible with the corresponding underlying types, but do not introduce overhead related to additional heap allocations), use value classes. Value classes will be supported closer to Project Valhalla release.

NB Java has no concept of "type aliases" and can't see them in class member signatures.

Type aliases and tooling

IDE and compiler should be fully aware of type aliases:

  • Diagnostic messages
  • Descriptor rendering in IDE (completion, structure view, etc)
  • ...

Type alias declarations

Type aliases are declared using typealias keyword:

    : modifiers 'typealias' SimpleName (typeParameters)? '=' type

Variance and constraints for type parameters of the generic type aliases are not allowed.

Type alias can't introduce additional constraints for generic type parameters. Repeating constraints of the underlying types would be a boilerplate. If there is a constraint violation error during type alias expansion, it will be reported with additional details about type alias expansion context.

Type aliases can be top-level declarations, member declarations, or local declarations.

In Kotlin 1.1, only top-level type alias declarations are supported. See Nested type aliases for more details.

    : ...
    : typeAlias

    : ...
    : typeAlias

    : ...
    : typeAlias


  • Simple type aliases
typealias Int8 = Byte
typealias FilesTable = Map<String, MutableList<File>>
  • Generic type aliases
typealias Predicate<T> = (T) -> Boolean
typealias NodeBuilder<T> = T.() -> DocumentationNode
typealias Array2D<T> = Array<Array<T>>
  • Nested type aliases
class MyMap<K, out V> : Map<K, V> {
  typealias EntryCollection = Collection<Map.Entry<K, V>>
  private typealias KVPairs = Array<Pair<K, V>>
  // ...

Type alias expansion

Type is abbreviated if it contains type aliases. Type is unabbreviated if it doesn't contain type aliases.

Type alias can expand to a class, interface, or object:

typealias Int8 = Byte               // class
typealias Dict<V> = Map<String, V>  // interface
typealias Pred<T> = (T) -> Boolean  // interface (functional interface for (T) -> Boolean)
typealias IntC = Int.Companion      // object
typealias Id<T> = T                 // Error: type alias expands to a type parameter
typealias Second<T1, T2> = T2       // Error: type alias expands to a type parameter
typealias Dyn = dynamic             // Error: type alias expands to 'dynamic'

Type aliases expanding to a type parameter require special treatment in resolution and are prohibited.

Type aliases can't be recursive (including indirect recursion).

typealias R = R                 // Error: recursive type alias

typealias L = List<L>           // Error: recursive type alias
typealias A<T> = List<A<T>>     // Error: recursive type alias

typealias R1 = (Int) -> R2      // Error: recursive type alias
typealias R2 = (R1) -> Int      // Error: recursive type alias

For each abbreviated type there is a single unabbreviated type with all type aliases repeatedly eliminated.

Expansion for a type alias should be a well-formed type.

typealias IntIntList = List<Int, Int>       // Error: wrong number of type arguments

interface I<T : Any>
typealias NI = I<String?>                   // Error: upper bound violated
typealias IT<T> = I<T>                      // Ok, but see below
typealias NIT = IT<String?>                 // Error: upper bound violated
                                            // (with detailed information on type alias expansion context)

typealias Array2D<T> = Array<Array<T>>
typealias Illegal = Array2D<Nothing>        // Error: type 'Array<Nothing>' is illegal
                                            // (with detailed information on type alias expansion context)

If an underlying type of generic type alias does not use an type parameter, it is a warning.

typealias Encoded<E> = ByteArray         // Warning: generic type parameter E is not used in underlying type

Type aliases are equivalent to underlying types. So, in the example above, instances of Encoded<E> with different type arguments will be equivalent types:

interface Encoding
typealias Encoded<E : Encoding> = ByteArray   // Warning
object Utf8 : Encoding
object Iso : Encoding

fun processUtf8Encoded(data: Encoded<Utf8>) {}    // fun (data: ByteArray)

fun processIsoEncoded(data: Encoded<Iso>) {       // fun (data: ByteArray)
  processUtf8Encoded(data)                        // Ok

However, if we prohibit such type aliases, it creates unnecessary long-term commitment for generic type aliases. NB this is not an error for generic classes.

Type arguments of a generic type alias should be well-formed types (type projections).

interface NN<T : Any>
typealias Predicate<T> = (T) -> Boolean

typealias E1 = Predicate<NN<Int, Int>>          // Error: wrong number of type arguments
typealias E2 = Predicate<NN<Int?>>              // Error: upper bound violated

Type arguments of generic type aliases are substituted syntactically.

typealias Dictionary<V> = Map<String, V>
typealias Predicate<T> = (T) -> Boolean     // = Function1<T, Boolean>
typealias TMap<T> = Map<T, T>
typealias Array2D<T> = Array<Array<T>>

typealias T1 = Dictionary<*>                // Map<String, *>

typealias T2 = Predicate<*>                 // Ok (but not very useful):
                                            // Function1<*, Boolean> = Function1<Nothing, Boolean>

typealias T3 = TMap<*>                      // Map<*, *>

typealias T4 = Array2D<out Number>          // Array<Array<out Number>>

Type aliases are not types, but rather "macros" on types. Type alias behavior for projection arguments can be counter-intuitive. E.g.:

typealias Array2D<T> = Array<Array<T>>

fun foo(a: Array2D<out Number>) {}    // fun (a: Array<Array<out Number>>)

fun bar(a: Array2D<Int>) {            // fun (a: Array<Array<Int>>)
  foo(a)                              // Error: type mismatch

NB Array2D<T> above is an example of bad usage of type aliases: it exposes representation of some high-level concept ("two-dimensional array"). which causes leaking abstractions. Make Array2D<T> a class (or, better, an interface) to capture abstractions properly.

typealias TMap<T> = Map<T, T>

fun <T> foo(m: TMap<T>) {}         // fun <T> (m: Map<T, T>)

fun bar(m: TMap<*>) {              // fun     (m: Map<*, *>)
    foo(m)                         // Error: cannot infer type parameter T

In this example, information that both parameters of Map<T, T> are the same type is lost. It could be preserved by introducing existential types (TMap<*> = exists T : Any?. Map<T, T>), but this would require full existential types support in the type system.

Type aliases and visibility

Type aliases can have the same visibility modifiers as other members of the corresponding scope:

  • type aliases declared in packages can be public, internal, or private (public by default);
  • type aliases declared in classes can be public, internal, protected, or private (public by default);
  • type aliases declared in interfaces can be public or private (public by default);
  • type aliases declared in objects can be public, internal, or private (public by default);
  • block-level type aliases are local to the block.

Type aliases can't be declared in annotation classes, since annotation classes can't have bodies.

Type aliases can't expose package or class members (excluding other type aliases) with more restricted visibility.

class C {
  protected class Nested { ... }
  typealias N = Nested      // Error: typealias N exposes class A which is protected in C
internal class Hidden { ... }
typealias P = Hidden        // Error: typealias P exposes class Hidden which is internal in module M
class C
private typealias A = C     // C is public, A is private in file
typealias AA = A            // Expanded type for AA is C, thus, no error.


Type aliases are treated as classifiers by resolution.

  • When used as type, type alias represents corresponding unabbreviated type.
  • When used as value or as function, type alias represents corresponding classifier.
  • When used as a qualifier in a qualified expression, type alias represents corresponding classifier with the following restriction: nested classifiers can't be referenced via type alias qualifier.

We need type aliases to work as underlying classes to prevent leaking abstractions.

Resolution should treat type aliases and classifiers similarly.

See Nested type aliases section for related issues & discussion.

Type alias declaration conflicts with another type alias declaration or a class (interface, object) declaration with the same name (regardless of generic parameters).

class A             // Error: class A is conflicting with type alias A
typealias A = Any   // Error: type alias A is conflicting with class A

Type aliases as types

Type aliases in type positions (function and property signatures, inheritance lists, etc) are expanded to the corresponding unabbreviated types.

typealias Str = String

val hello: Str = "Hello, world!"    // 'hello' has type 'kotlin.String' denoted as 'Str'

All relevant restrictions are checked for unabbreviated types. Thus, the following are errors:

typealias Str = String
typealias NStr = Str?
typealias StrSet = Set<Str>

class Error1 : Str                  // Error: final supertype
class Error2 : NStr                 // Error: nullable supertype
class Error3 : Set<Int>, StringSet  // Error: supertype appears twice

fun foo(s: StringSet) {}            // Error: conflicting overloads
fun foo(s: Set<String>) {}          // Error: conflicting overloads

If a function return type is Nothing, it should be specified explicitly in function declaration. Type alias expanding to Nothing in a position of function return type or property type is an error.

typealias Empty = Nothing

fun throws(): Empty = ...       // Error: return type Nothing should be specified explicitly
val alsoThrows: Empty =

Type alias companion object

Type alias as value represents the companion object of an underlying class or interface, or an underlying object.

object MySingleton
typealias MS = MySingleton
val ms = MS                 // OK, == MySingleton
class A
typealias TA = A
val ta = TA                 // Error: type alias TA has no companion object

If a generic type alias expands to a class with companion object, type arguments should be omitted.

class GenericWithCompanion<T> {
  companion object {
    val magic = 42

typealias G<T> = GenericWithCompanion<T>
val magic = G.magic        // OK, = 42

Type alias declaration conflicts with a property declaration with the same name.

typealias EmptyList = List<Nothing>     // Error: type alias EmptyList is conflicting with val EmptyList
val EmptyList = emptyList()             // Error: val EmptyList is conflicting with type alias EmptyList

We consider classes and interfaces as possible hosts for companion objects, so the following is redeclaration:

class A        // Error
val A          // Error

Same should be true for type aliases.

Type alias constructors

If a type alias TA expands to a top-level or nested (but not inner) class C, for each (primary or secondary) constructor of C with substituted signature <T1, ..., Tn> (P1, ..., Pm) a corresponding type alias constructor function <T1, ..., Tn> TA(P1, ..., Pm) is accessible in the corresponding scope, if the constructor C is accessible in this scope.

class C(val x: Int) {
  private constructor(): this(0)
typealias CA = C

val example1 = CA(1)    // Ok
val example2 = CA()     // Error

Type alias constructor can conflict with other functions with name TA declared in that scope.

class A                 // constructor A()
typealias B = A         // Error: type alias constructor B() is conflicting with fun B()
fun B() {}              // Error: fun B() is conflicting with type alias constructor B()

class V<T>(val x: T)                // constructor V<T>()
typealias ListV<T> = V<List<T>>     // Error: type alias constructor <T> ListV(List<T>) is conflicting with fun <T> ListV(List<T>)
fun <T> ListV(x: List<T>) {}        // Error: fun <T> ListV(List<T>) is conflicting with type alias constructor <T> ListV(List<T>)

Type arguments for type alias constructors are inferred from argument types. Resulting type should be valid, e.g.:

class Num<T : Number>(val x: T)
typealias N<T> = Num<T>

val example1 = N(1)     // Ok
val example2 = N("")    // Error: upper bound violated

If the corresponding expanded type contains type projections as top-level arguments, it can not be constructed, and can not be a supertype (same restriction applies to classes and interfaces).

class CInv<T>
interface IInv<T>

typealias COut<T> = CInv<out T>
interface IOut<T> = IInv<out T>

val example1 = COut<Number>()   // Error: expanded type CInv<out Number> can not be constructed

class Example2 : IOut<Number>   // Error: expanded type IInv<out Number> can not be a supertype

Type alias constructors for inner classes

Question: how should we better deal with the type arguments? Example:

class Outer<T1> {
  inner class Inner<T2>
typealias OI<T1, T2> = Outer<T1>.Inner<T2>
val outer = Outer<Int>()
val inner = outer.OI< ... >()     // <Int, Int>? Something else?

NB: different combinations of type parameter substitutions are possible. Most likely we'll have to constrain type alias constructors for inner classes somehow.

If a type alias TA expands to an inner class C1.(...).Cn.Inner, for each (primary or secondary) constructor of Inner with substituted signature <T1, ..., Tn> (P1, ..., Pm) a corresponding type alias constructor extension function <T1, ..., Tn> C1'.(...).Cn'.TA(P1, ..., Pm) (where Ci' is a Ci with substituted generic parameters) is introduced in the corresponding surrounding scope.

Instances of inner classes can be created only for an instance of the corresponding outer class:

class Outer { inner class Inner }
val oi = Outer().Inner()

Thus, type alias constructors for type aliases expanding to inner classes are useful only as extension functions for an outer class.

class Outer { inner class Inner }
typealias OI = Outer.Inner
fun foo(): OI = Outer().OI()        // OK, == Outer().Inner()
class G<T> { inner class Inner }
typealias SGI = G<String>.Inner     // Error: type alias constructor G<String>.SGI() is conflicting with fun G<String>.SGI()
fun G<String>.SGI() {}              // Error: fun G<String>.SGI() is conflicting with type alias constructor G<String>.SGI()

Type aliases and Java static members

Scope for type alias expanding to the Java class in a qualifier position is a static member scope of the corresponding class.

typealias CompletableFuture<T> = java.util.concurrent.CompletableFuture<T>

fun test() {
    CompletableFuture.runAsync { /* ... */ }

Type aliases and super qualifiers

Type alias in super qualifier is resolved to the corresponding class or interface. Type arguments are ignored. This class should be a parent class or interface of the current class or interface.

interface IFoo1<in T> {
    fun foo(x: T) {

interface IFoo2<in T> {
    fun foo(x: T) {

typealias T1<T> = IFoo1<T>
typealias T2<T> = IFoo2<T>

class C<T>: T1<T>, T2<T> {
    override fun foo(x: T) {
        super<T1>.foo(x)        // super<IFoo1>.foo(x)
        super<T2>.foo(x)        // super<IFoo2>.foo(x)
        super<T1String>.foo(x)  // Not an error; super<IFoo1>.foo(x)

NB type arguments can't be specified in super qualifier for classes and interfaces.

Nested type aliases

Only top-level type aliases are supported in Kotlin 1.1. Main problem is that currently we have no scope that would capture type parameters of a class, but not a receiver value. Such scopes roughly correspond to static scope in C#.

Example 1:

class Outer<T> {
    typealias Set = HashSet<T> 

// This syntax is currently not supported in qualified expression resolution:
val example1 = Outer<String>.Set()

Example 2:

class Outer1<T1> {
    inner class Inner1

class Outer2<T2> {
    // What is the signature of type alias constructor for A 
    // corresponding to 'Outer1<T1>.Inner1()'?   
    typealias A = Outer1<T2>.Inner1 

Type aliases declared in classes, objects, or interfaces are called nested. Same resolution rules are applied for nested type aliases as for other nested classifiers.

This causes problems with nested type aliases in interfaces, see:

Main issue is about to companion objects hierarchy and related static scopes:

interface Base<T> {
    typealias List = List<T> 

abstract class X {
    companion object : Base<String>

absctract class Y : X(), Base<Int>

class Z : Y() {
    val z: List
    // Can be resolved as 'Base<Int>.List' (from Y : Base<Int>)
    // or as 'Base<String>.List' (from X.Companion : Base<String>)

Note that unlike Scala, Kotlin doesn't have linearization rules for inherited members so far.

Type aliases in binary metadata

Abbreviated types should be present in the serialized descriptors.

Note that additional check is required: if a type alias expansion gives a different type, we can't use corresponding abbreviated form (due to incompatible changes). We would still be able to compile against such binaries, just without abbreviated types in diagnostics. Probably this should be a warning.


// file: a.kt
typealias A = Int
// file: b.kt
val x: A = 0

Now suppose a.kt is changed, and type alias A is now defined like:

typealias A = Number

and, for some reason, b.kt is not recompiled. Then x in b.kt has type kotlin.Int, but its abbreviated form A expands to kotlin.Number. We still can use x as kotlin.Int, but a warning should be reported to indicate that there's something wrong with the dependencies.

Type aliases and reflection

TODO do we need "type alias literals"?

typealias MyAlias = MyClass

... println(MyAlias::typealias.simpleName) ...

Reflection API for type aliases

Most likely something like:

in kotlin.reflect.KType:

   * Type abbreviation used to denote this type in the source code definition.
   * May contain type aliases.
   * `null` if this type is represented as is.
  val abbreviatedType: KType?
public interface KTypeAlias<T : Any> : KAnnotatedElement, KClassifier {
    * Simple name of the type alias as declared in the source code.
   public val simpleName: String

    * Fully-qualified dot-separated name of the type alias,
    * or 'null' if type alias is local or a member of a local class.
   public val qualifiedName: String?

    * Right-hand side of the type alias definition.
    * May contain type aliases and type parameters.
   public val underlyingType: KType

    * Fully expanded type corresponding to this type alias.
    * May contain type parameters of the corresponding type alias.
    * May not contain type aliases.
   public val expandedType: KType

    * Class corresponding to this type alias.
   public val correspondingClass: KClass<T>

Type aliases and annotations

Special annotation target for annotations applicable to type aliases is required: In kotlin.annotation.AnnotationTarget:

    /** Type alias */

In JVM, annotations for type aliases are written on a special synthetic method (similar to annotations on properties).

Standard language annotations for declarations (kotlin.Deprecated, kotlin.SinceKotlin, kotlin.Suppress, etc.) are applicable to type aliases:

@Deprecated("For some good reason")
typealias Str = String

typealias Repr<T> = IntArray