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Properties

Intro

Properties are a handy way to get rid of getters and setters while retaining their advantages.

The justification for getters and setters, beyond relieving feelings of guilt for not being able to correctly apply object-oriented principles such as encapsulation, is to allow for computation to happen when a value is retrieved and/or set (besides the actual memory read/write).

However, this results in long-winded and hard-on-the-eyes code such as this:

setX(getX() + 1)
setY(getY() + 2)
setZ(getZ() + 3)

When one come simply write, with regular variables

(x, y, z) += (1, 2, 3)

Which is much easier on the eyes. (Read on 'tuples' for more information about multi-declaration / multi-assignment)

A dumb property

Turning a regular variable declaration into a property is as simple as adding a pair of brackets {} after it.

Tree: class {
    age: Int {}
}

At this point, 'age' behaves exactly as a variable, except that instead of direct memory read/write, it's now modified via automatically-generated getters and setters.

The above code is also equivalent to:

Tree: class {
    age: Int { get set }
}

Or, if you prefer:

Tree: class {
    age: Int {
        get
        set
    }
}

Hooking on get and set

There's more to it. get and set can have a body, much like methods, except without specifying argument types or return types.

Tree: class {
    age: Int {
        get
        set (newAge) {
            if(newAge > 0) age = newAge
        }
    }
}

In this example, validation is done within the property setter. It could be used to validate state transitions for a finite state machine, for example.

Virtual properties

In the previous sections, we thought of properties as 'variable declarations on steroids'. This is not exactly true. A property can exist without any variable of the same name existing.

For our tree class, we might define an 'old' property that is computed from its 'age' property.

old: Bool {
    get {
        age > 100
    }
}

NOTE: using undocumented 'magic numbers' in code is bad practice: don't do it. Use constants with meaningful names instead - or better yet, make it configurable.

Here, there is no real variable named 'old' that can be modified. Only a read-only property that is computed on-demand. Note that virtual properties can have setters too.

Which leads us to the following definition: virtual properties are properties with custom getters and setters that don't reference the name of the property.

In our case, when we define get, we don't access 'old', which makes it a virtual property.

Foreign function interfacing

Properties setters and getters can be extern functions (ie. functions defined outside ooc code). Let's take an example for a well-known GTK widget:

use gtk
import gtk/[Gtk, Widget]

Label: cover from GtkLabel* extends Widget {
    new: extern(gtk_label_new) static func (text: GChar*) -> This

    text: GChar* {
        set: extern(gtk_label_set_text)
        get: extern(gtk_label_get_text)
    }
}

Once again, properties make code more readable and more straight-forward to write.

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