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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

gingerBill edited this page Feb 5, 2019 · 46 revisions


What is the history of the project?

The project started one evening in late July 2016 when Ginger Bill was annoyed with programming in C++. During this annoyance, Bill was also a little drunk. The language began as a Pascal clone (with begin and end and more) but changed quite quickly to become something else.

Bill originally tried to create a preprocessor for C to augment and add new capabilities to the language however, found this endeavour a dead-end. That drunk evening was the point at which Bill decided to create an entirely new language from scratch than trying to augment C.

What have been the major influences in the language's design?

The language borrows heavily from (in order of philosophy and impact): Pascal, C, Go, Oberon.

Niklaus Wirth and Rob Pike have been the programming language design idols throughout this project.

How is Odin licensed?

The Odin compiler and the library are under the BSD 2-Clause license.

Does Odin have any third-party library?

Check out a view selected libraries at


Why does Odin not have feature X?

Odin was designed with the ideas of simplicity, clarity, speed of compilation, orthogonality of concepts, and for high performance. Feature X may be missing because it does not meet these basic ideas.

If you honestly believe that Odin is missing feature X, please investigate what features Odin does have and you may be able to find intriguing ways to solve your problem in the lack of feature X.

Why does Odin not have exceptions?

Coupling exceptions to a control structure, as in the try-catch-finally idiom, complicates the understanding of the program.

Odin uses plain error handling through the use of multiple return values. It is clear which procedure the error value is from compared to a try-catch approach which is akin to the COMEFROM statement.


Is Odin an objective oriented language?

No. Data structures as just data.

Subtype polymorphism is possible through the use of using but Odin does not offer methods.

Base :: struct {...};
Derived :: struct {
    using base: Base,
    name: string,
Derived_By_Ptr :: struct {
    name: string,
    // `using` can be applied anywhere and even to a pointer.
    // This allows for a huge amount of control over the memory
    // layout of the data structure.
    using base: ^Base, 

This idiom allows the user to create a virtual procedure table if they do wish, akin to C, but in a nicer way by having more control over the memory layout and field access.

Why does Odin have explicit procedure overloading but not implicit procedure overloading?

The design goals of Odin were explicitness and simplicity. Implicit procedure overloading complicates the scoping system. In C++, you cannot nest procedures within procedures so all procedure look-ups are done at the global scope. In Odin, procedures can be nested within procedures and as a result, determining which procedure should be used, in the case of implicit overloading, is complex.

Explicit overloading has many advantages:

  • Explicitness of what is overloaded
  • Able to refer to the specific procedure if needed
  • Clear which scope the entity name belongs to
foo :: proc{

Why does Odin not have operator overloading?

The design goals of Odin were explicitness and simplicity. Operator overloading is very easily abused and can be used to do many magical things. A procedure is clearer and more explicit.

Array programming is available in Odin; this removes some of the need for operator overloading when creating mathematical libraries.

What does distinct do?

distinct makes a type declaration distinct from its base type

Int_Alias :: int;
#assert(Int_Alias == int);

My_Int :: distinct int;
#assert(My_Int != int);

What is the type of x in x := 123;?

123 is an untyped integer literal, if the type has not been specified in the declaration, the default type for the "untyped" type will be chosen. In this case, x will be of type int.

Untyped type Default Type
boolean bool
integer int
float f64
complex complex128
rune rune
string string
nil *
undef *

* if there is no default type for the untyped type, the type of the value cannot be inferred and this will cause an error.

What is the size of int?

size_of(int) = size_of(uint) = size_of(rawptr). For portability, code that relies on a particular size of value should use an explicitly sized type, like i64. int and uint are guaranteed to be big enough to represent a pointer however, please use uintptr to represent a pointer.

For floating-point types and complex types, they are always sized because the programmer should be aware of precision.

Which of f32 and f64 should I prefer for floating-point mathematics?

The choice is dependent on the purpose of the program. The default floating point type is f64 so if in doubt, prefer f64.

What is rune?

A rune is a basic type that is used to represent individual Unicode code points. It is equivalent to an i32 internally but they are not the same type.

Character literals such as 'g', '芋', and '\u0123' are all untyped runes, with the default type rune. Character literals can be used as numbers and can convert to any number type.


Why does Odin not have implicit numeric type conversions?

Implicit conversions complicate and would be difficult to make consistent across architectures. To increase portability and to simplify the language, Odin uses explicit conversion.

In C, the confusion caused by implicit numeric type conversions is outweighed by the convenience it provides. There are many rules in C which are not at all obvious nor simple to the reader of the code (e.g. is this expression unsigned@ does this expression over/under-flow? etc).

The exceptions to this being all pointer types can automatically coerce to a rawptr and untyped constants can be convert to a type if that conversion is valid. The constant system does reduce a lot of the issues regarding types as "numbers just work"; there is no need for literally suffixes like in C.

Why are slices, dynamic arrays, and maps references whilst arrays are values?

This is mostly because it "felt" right and is very convenient. Having them as values would require many allocations and may even require automatic memory management to handle correctly.


Why is it named proc?

Procedure used to be the common term as opposed to a function or subroutine. A function is a mathematical entity that has no side effects. A subroutine is something that has side effects but does not return anything.

A procedure is a superset of functions and subroutines. A procedure may or may not return something. A procedure may or may not have side effects.

Why does Odin not have any methods?

We believe that data and code should be separate concepts; data should not have "behaviour".

Use a procedure.

How do I define a procedure with a different calling convention?

proc "c" ()
proc "stdcall" ()

Does Odin have closures?

Odin only has non-capturing lambda procedures. For closures to work correctly would require a form of automatic memory management which will never be implemented into Odin.

foo :: proc() {
    y: int;
    x := proc() -> int {
        // `y` is not available in this scope as it is in a different stack frame
        return 123;

Context System

What is the context system for?


Pointers and Allocation

When are procedure parameters passed by value?

Continuing the C family tradition, everything in Odin is passed by value. The procedure always gets a copy of the thing that has been passed, as if there was an assignment statement to the procedure parameter.

Passing a pointer value makes a copy of the pointer, not the data it points to it. Slices, dynamic arrays, and maps behave like pointers in this case (Internally they are structures that contain values, which include pointers and the "structure" is passed by value).

What is the difference between new and make?

new allocates memory.

ptr: ^int = new(int);

make initializes the slice, dynamic array, and map types.

slice: []int = make([]int, 16);

What is the difference between free and delete?

free deallocates memory

ptr := new(int);

delete deinitializes the the slice, dynamic array, map, and string types.

slice := make([]int, 10);

m := make(map[int]string);

str: string = ...;


How do I create a multiple file package?

Put all the .odin source files for a package in a directory. Source files must have the same package declaration. All source files within a package can refer to items from other files. There is no need for a forward declarations or a header file like in C.

Why isn't X in the core library?

The core library is not yet complete. However when it is complete, it will be small as its purpose is to support the runtime, operating system specific calls, formatted I/O, and other key functionality that most Odin programs require.


What does := mean?

This is two different operators : and =; is used for variable declarations. The following are all equivalent:

x : int = 123;
x :     = 123;
x := 123;
x := int(123);

What does :: mean?

This is two different separate operators : and :; is used for constant value declarations.

X :: 123; 
X :   : 123;

Y : int : 123;
Y :: int(123);

Z :: proc() {};
Z : proc() : proc() {}; // Redundant type declaration

Why are two ways to do type conversions?

type(value) or (type)(value)

Why curly brackets?

Curly brackets to denote a block is a common approach in many programming languages, and Odin's consistency is useful for people already familiar with the style. Curly brackets also allow for more flexible syntax styles for the programmer and it is easier to parse by the compiler because it is not white space sensitive.

Why semicolons?

Semicolons are used to denote the termination of a statement. If semicolons where made optional, it would mean enforcing a coding style either through sensitive white space (Python-esque) or curly brace positioning (automatic semicolon insertion). With semicolons, the programmer is free to decide what style is best suited for his needs.


What does the compiler use?

The compiler is written in C++ but in a very C style. For the current backend, LLVM is used to translate code to platform specific code.

Changes from C/C++

Why is the syntax so different from C?

Other than the declaration syntax, the differences are minor. When designing the syntax, it had to feel right and light. A minimal amount of keywords and syntactic sugar. The syntax has been designed to be very easily to parse without a symbol table. This makes it easier to create build and analysis tools for Odin.

Why are declarations backwards?

Declarations are only backwards if you are used to C. In C, declarations follow the "clockwise/spiral rule" to reflect the usage of the declaration. This is can be confusing when reading.

In C, the declaration:

int *a, b;

declares a to be a "pointer to int" but b to be an "int"; in Odin

a, b: ^int;

declares both to be a "pointer to int". This is clearer and more regular. This syntax is borrowed from the Pascal family, along with using ^ to denote a pointer, as it is pointy.

Due to the style of value declarations, the type can be omitted and inferred from the declaration. The follwoing are all equivalent:

a: int = 123;
a :    = 123;
a := 123; 
a := int(123);

Why is there no pointer arithmetic?

Type safety and simplicity. Due to slices being a first-class datatype, a lot of the need for pointer arithmetic is reduced. However, if you still require it, the mem package provides so utility functions: mem.ptr_offset and mem.ptr_sub. Odin will allow the programmer to do unsafe things if he wishes so.

Why are there no ++ or -- operators?

Pre-increment and post-increment, and the decrement equivalents, look simple but are complex. They require knowledge of the evaluation order and lead to subtle bugs. f(i++) or a[++i] = b[i] are both confusing. Removing this is a significant simplification

x += 1 is slightly longer but it is unambiguous.

Does Odin have C++-style constructors?

No. The philosophy for Odin is that the zero value should be useful. By default, all variables are initialized to zero unless told otherwise with the --- value.

x: int; // initialized to zero
y: int = ---; // uninitialized memory

Does Odin have C++-style copy constructors?

No. All copies are byte-for-byte copies.

Does Odin have C++-style move constructors?

No. There are no ownership semantics in Odin.

Does Odin have C++-style destructors?

No. defer can be used to defer a statement till end of a scope. defer is explicit and much more flexible than a C++-style destructor in that it can be used for anything.

f, err :=;
if err != os.ERROR_NONE {
    // handle error
defer os.close(f); // will be executed at the end of the scope

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