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Compiler Diagnostic Directives


This proposal introduces #warning and #error directives that will cause the Swift compiler to emit a custom warning or an error during compilation.


During the development lifecycle, it's common to leave bits of code unfinished while focusing on other parts. Frequently, developers leave TODO or FIXME comments around unfinished or suboptimal portions of their code to signal to themselves and their teammates that the code needs work. Many editors pick up on these comments and present them in code navigators, but these don't materialize in command-line builds or continuous integration. Allowing #warning gives a predictable, universal way to ensure a message will be displayed during compilation.

Additionally, it's possible for two build configurations to be mutually exclusive, and there isn't a canonical way to ensure those configurations don't happen. #error solves this problem:

#if MYLIB_VERSION < 3 && os(macOS)
#error("MyLib versions < 3 are not supported on macOS")

#warning can be used for code templates where the user is meant to fill in the values of global constants or implement missing routines:

enum APICredentials {
  #warning("fill in your API key below")
  static let key = ""
  #warning("fill in your API secret below")
  static let secret = ""

Proposed solution

Add #warning and #error as compiler directives that emit an appropriate diagnostic with the contents, pointing to the start of the message.

func configPath() -> String {
  #warning("this should be made more safe")
  return Bundle.main().path(forResource: "Config", ofType: "plist")!

Detailed design

This will add four new productions to the Swift grammar:

compiler-control-statement → warning-directive
compiler-control-statement → error-directive
warning-directive → #warning '(' static-string-literal ')'
error-directive → #error '(' static-string-literal ')'

Upon parsing a #error directive, the Swift compiler will emit the provided string literal as an error, pointing to the beginning of the string, and ignore the directive.

Upon parsing a #warning directive, the Swift compiler will emit the provided string literal as a warning, pointing to the beginning of the string, and ignore the directive.

If a #warning or #error exists inside a branch of a #if directive that is not taken, then no diagnostic is emitted.

#if false
#warning("this will not trigger a warning")
#error("this will not trigger an error")

#if true
#warning("this will trigger a warning")
#error("this will trigger an error")

Impact on existing code

This change is purely additive; no migration will be required.

Alternatives considered

  • We could do some kind of comment-parsing based approach to surface TODOs and FIXMEs, but #warning serves as a general-purpose facility for reporting at compile time. It is also likely that there are TODO and FIXME comments that are not urgent, but that should be revisited.

  • Alexander Momchilov brought up the idea of using TODO and warning as functions in the standard library with special compiler magic that will warn on their uses.

    func TODO(_ message: StaticString? = nil) {
      if let s = message { print("TODO: \(s)") }
    func TODO<T>(_ message: StaticString? = nil, _ temporaryValue: T) -> T {
      if let s = message { print("TODO: \(s)") }
      return temporaryValue

    While these could be useful, I think #warning and #error have uses beyond just marking unfinished code that would be unwieldy or impossible with just an expression-oriented approach.

  • Erik Little refined that to instead use special directives #warning and #error in expression position, like:

    let somethingSuspect = #warning("This is really the wrong function to call, but I'm being lazy", suspectFunction())

    However, I think there's not much of a benefit to this syntax vs. just adding a #warning above the line:

    #warning "This is really the wrong function to call, but I'm being lazy"
    let somethingSuspect = suspectFunction()
  • A few people have requested #message or #info, as an analogue for Clang's #pragma message. This may be something we want, but I didn't include it in this proposal because as of this writing, Clang treats #pragma message as a warning and flags it as -W#pragma-message.

Future directions

Both #message and an expression-based #warning are additive with respect to this proposal, and both could be addressed in future proposals.


On February 1, 2018 the Core Team decided to accept this proposal with slight revision over the original proposal.

The only revision over the original proposal is to change the syntax to use #warning(<Message>) instead of #warning <Messsage>. This fits well with most of Swift's existing compiler directives, and was strongly supported in the review discussion.

The review discussion also covered a variety of possible extensions or variants to this proposal, including support for using #warning as an expression instead of a line directive and support for runtime issues. The Core Team decided that while these directions are interesting and worth exploring, they are complementary to the core functionality serviced by this proposal. Further, keeping #warning as a line directive allows it to be used in a wide variety of contexts, and serves a different need than using it as a placeholder expression.