Class-based OO library for Lua
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README.md

Classy -- Lua Module for Class-Based OO Programming

Introduction

Lua doesn't have classes and objects builtin, but provides mechanisms to define your own helper functions for object oriented programming. Many Lua programmers have done so, this module is one such attempt.

Features:

  • Simple object layout

    The objects are just tables with a common metatable per class for looking up methods. All instance variables are stored in the object table, and there are no __index-chains for inheritance. Therefore, there is very little overhead (both runtime, and memory).

  • Multiple inheritance

    A class can inherit from multiple base classes. The inherited methods are looked up in width-first search order at class creation time (or when a base class is updated).

  • Multimethods

    In case you need polymorphism for more than a single argument, this module allows you to define multimethods. The dispatch works for classes created via this module, and for builtin types.

  • Easy definition of (meta-)methods

    Storing a new field in the class table will make it available in objects of this class and all derived classes. If the new field name is one of the valid metatable keys, the function is stored in the object's metatable instead. Only adding previously undefined metamethods is allowed this way, however (no overwriting of existing ones). So you can add new operator overloads to objects without direct access to their metatable.

  • Common utility functions

    The module provides common utility functions, for e.g. detecting the class of an object, or figuring out if a class inherits from a certain other class.

Getting Started

This module doesn't set any global variables, so you have to store the return value of require somewhere, e.g. in a local variable class.

local class = require( "classy" )

Result of the call to require is a functable, a table that can also be called like a function. The function call syntax is used for defining classes, while the table holds the helper functions defined by this OO module.

local SomeClass = class( "SomeClass" )
print( class.name( SomeClass ) )                 -->  SomeClass

local AnotherClass = class( "AnotherClass", SomeClass )
print( class.is_a( AnotherClass, SomeClass ) )   -->  1

When defining a class, the first argument is the class name, which can be retrieved for a class/object table later using the class.name() function. Additional arguments are base classes, which must be class tables returned by previous calls to this module.

The resulting class tables have __call metamethods defined, so that you can create an object of a class using function call syntax. You can define methods simply by storing a function in the class table. Of course, the usual colon-syntax is supported. If the class has an __init method defined, this method is called during construction of an object with the object as first argument, and any additional arguments passed from the call of the class table. The __init method is never inherited by sub-classes, but you can of course call it via the class table (e.g. in the constructor of a sub-class).

function SomeClass:__init( a, b )
  self.a, self.b = a, b
end

function AnotherClass:__init( a, b, c )
  SomeClass.__init( self, a, b )
  self.c = c
end

function AnotherClass:print()
  print( self.a, self.b, self.c )
end

local anObject = AnotherClass( 1, 2, 3 )
anObject:print()                     -->  1       2       3

Creating classes and defining methods (especially on classes with many sub-classes) involve some bookkeeping, so that object construction and method lookup on objects can be fast.

Adding methods to base classes will also make them available for objects of derived classes. Metamethods are not inherited, however.

function SomeClass:say_hello()
  print( "hello from " .. class.name( self ) )
end

local someObject = SomeClass( 1, 2 )
someObject:say_hello()               -->  hello from SomeClass
anObject:say_hello()                 -->  hello from AnotherClass

function SomeClass:__add( rhs )
  return SomeClass( self.a + rhs.a, self.b + rhs.b )
end

local _ = someObject + someObject    -->  ok!
local _ = anObject + anObject        -->  error!

You can pretty much define any metamethod except __index (which is already used for method lookup), and maybe __gc (works on tables starting from Lua 5.2, and only for objects created after the __gc metamethod has been set).

If you override a method in a sub-class, and you want to call the method of the base class, you can use the class table of the base class for that.

function AnotherClass:say_hello()
  SomeClass.say_hello( self )
  print( "good bye" )
end

anObject:say_hello()                 -->  hello from AnotherClass
                                     -->  good bye

If the type of self is not sufficient to select a suitable method, you can define a multimethod:

local multi = class.multimethod( 1, 2 ) -- dispatch via args 1 and 2

class.overload( multi, SomeClass, SomeClass, function( a, b )
  print( "SomeClass, SomeClass" )
end )

class.overload( multi, SomeClass, AnotherClass, function( a, b )
  print( "SomeClass, AnotherClass" )
end )

class.overload( multi, AnotherClass, AnotherClass, function( a, b )
  print( "AnotherClass, AnotherClass" )
end )

multi( anObject, anObject )          -->  AnotherClass, AnotherClass
multi( someObject, anObject )        -->  SomeClass, AnotherClass
multi( someObject, someObject )      -->  SomeClass, SomeClass
multi( anObject, someObject )        -->  SomeClass, SomeClass

This also works for builtin types, and for type checking functions following the same protocol as io.type or lpeg.type:

local dispatch = class.multimethod( 1, 2 )

class.overload( dispatch, "string", "number", function( a, b )
  print( "string, number" )
end )
class.overload( dispatch, "number", "string", function( a, b )
  print( "number, string" )
end )
class.overload( dispatch, "number", io.type, "file", function( a, b )
  print( "number, file" )
end )

dispatch( "xy", 2 )                  -->  string, number
dispatch( 2, "xy" )                  -->  number, string
dispatch( 3, io.stdout )             -->  number, file
dispatch( 1, 2 )                     -->  error!

For builtin types the argument type must match exactly (there are no superclasses to take into account). Of course, you can also mix classes and builtin types.

And that's basically it!

Reference

class()

class( class_name [, ...] ) ==> table
    class_name: string   -- name of the class
    ...       : table*   -- class tables for base classes

Calling the result of the require call (named class in the above code snippet) creates a new class table. Zero or more base classes may be given as extra arguments after the class name. There is no general superclass like Object from which all classes inherit by default!

The resulting class has a __call metamethod defined for constructing objects of this class, and basically acts like a normal table, except that fields with metamethod-names don't end up in the class table. Iteration via pairs() provides all available fields of the class (including fields of base classes), but it only works for Lua 5.2 and up.

class.of()

class.of( object ) ==> table/nil

The of function returns the class table of an object, or nil if the argument isn't an object created via this module.

class.name()

class.name( obj_or_cls ) ==> string/nil
    obj_or_cls: table    -- an object table or a class table

The name function returns the class name specified during class definition for a given object or class. If the argument is not a class table created using this module or an object of such a class, this function returns nil.

class.is_a()

class.is_a( obj_or_cls, base ) ==> integer/nil
    obj_or_cls: table    -- an object table or a class table
    base      : table    -- a class table

The is_a function checks if a given object or class is a sub-class of certain class.

class.cast()

class.cast( object, class ) ==> object
    class: table         -- a class table

The cast function changes the class of a given object (or normal table) to the given class (it replaces the metatable) and returns the object. No constructors are called in the process, so the object might be in an invalid state for the new class. If you want to prevent objects of a certain class to be casted, define a __metatable field in the metatable.

class.delegate()

class.delegate( class, fname [, ...] ) ==> table
    class: table         -- a class table
    fname: string        -- name of a field in the objects
    ...  : table/string* -- vararg list or array of method names

The delegate function creates new methods for a class that forward to methods on an object stored inside of objects of this class. The stored object can be found via the given fieldname. The method names to delegate can be specified as varargs or in an array. The class table is returned.

class.multimethod()

class.multimethod( ... ) ==> function   -- returns the multimethod
    ...  : integer,integer*   -- indices of polymorphic parameters

The multimethod function creates a function, that tries to dispatch calls to suitable registered functions depending on the arguments passed. Only arguments specified during the creation of the multimethod are used to search for a matching implementation.

class.overload()

class.overload( mm, ... )
    mm   : function           -- the multimethod
    ...  : (string/table/(function,string))*, function

Calling this function adds an overload to a given multimethod, i.e. a new set of parameter types for which a new implementation method is called. The additional arguments to overload are either strings (names of builtin types), class tables (for classes), or pairs of a function and a string for external type checking functions like io.type (the function is the type checker, the string is the type name to match). The number of types for this call must match the number of arguments to the original class.multimethod call. The last argument of overload is the function (or anything callable) to register for this specific overload.

Contact

Philipp Janda, siffiejoe(a)gmx.net

Comments and feedback are always welcome.

License

classy is copyrighted free software distributed under the MIT license (the same license as Lua 5.1). The full license text follows:

classy (c) 2013-2014 Philipp Janda

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining
a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the
"Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including
without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish,
distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to
permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to
the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be
included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND,
EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF
MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT.
IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR OR COPYRIGHT HOLDER BE LIABLE FOR ANY
CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT,
TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE
SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.