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Memory layout of values


This proposal is to introduce, as a bugfix, a replacement for sizeofValue(_:) and related functions.

Swift-evolution thread: MemoryLayout for a value


Members of the core team, having seen a negative impact on the standard library and other code on implementation of SE-0101, have expressed concern that removal of sizeofValue(_:) and related functions without replacement was a mistake. In the standard library, the current workaround makes use of an underscored API: MemoryLayout._ofInstance(x).size.

Proposed solution

The proposed solution is to re-introduce sizeofValue(_:) and related functions as static methods on MemoryLayout. They would be expressed as follows:

MemoryLayout.size(ofValue: x)
MemoryLayout.stride(ofValue: x)
MemoryLayout.alignment(ofValue: x)

Detailed design

The implementation will be as follows:

extension MemoryLayout {
  public static func size(ofValue _: T) -> Int {
    return MemoryLayout.size
  public static func stride(ofValue _: T) -> Int {
    return MemoryLayout.stride
  public static func alignment(ofValue _: T) -> Int {
    return MemoryLayout.alignment

Impact on existing code

No applications will stop compiling due to this change. Standard library implementations that currently use the underscored _ofInstance(_:) will be migrated.

Alternatives considered


Previously, it has been suggested that the parameter should have an @autoclosure attribute so that the argument is not evaluated. However, such a use of the attribute would be unprecedented in the standard library.

Current uses of @autoclosure in the standard library such as assert(_:_:file:line:) do evaluate the autoclosure. Furthermore, in general, a reader expects foo(bar(x)) to invoke both bar(_:) and foo(_:).

In fact, during implementation of SE-0101, concern was raised that potential use of expressions such as strideofValue( (where iter is an instance of an iterator), might rely on the side effect of evaluating the argument. By contrast, no use case has yet surfaced where it is necessary to obtain the memory layout stride for the result of an expression that also must not be evaluated.

Making use of type(of:)

Concerns about confusability of the ofValue functions and their "non-value" counterparts led to the proposal that a spelling such as MemoryLayout.of(type(of: x)).size might be desirable. In that case, the method of(_:) would take an argument of type T.Type rather than T.

However, this alternative would produce the consequence that each use of MemoryLayout<Int>.size would be interchangeable with MemoryLayout.of(Int.self).size, potentially leading to confusion about why the standard library provides an apparently duplicative API.

Furthermore, Dmitri Gribenko points out that the use of type(of:) could increase confusion about these methods when the dynamic type of a value differs from the static type. Consider a protocol existential:

protocol P {}
extension Int : P {}
var x: P = 1

Even though type(of:) has the semantics of returning the dynamic type, MemoryLayout.of(type(of: x)).size computes the size of the existential box and not the size of an instance of type Int. This is because type(of: x) returns a value of Int.self statically typed as P.Type, with the result that P is the type deduced for the generic parameter of MemoryLayout.

Subsuming MemoryLayout into a reflection API

The design of a reflection API would exceed the scope of a Swift 3 bugfix.


Thanks to Dave Abrahams and Dmitri Gribenko.