Newbie’s information to fashionable generic programming in Swift


Be taught the very fundamentals about protocols, existentials, opaque sorts and the way they’re associated to generic programming in Swift.


Protocols (with related sorts)

In response to the Swift language information a protocol can outline a blueprint of strategies, properties and different necessities. It is fairly straightforward to pre-define properties and strategies utilizing a protocol, the syntax is fairly easy, the issue begins to happen after we begin to work with related sorts. The very first query that we’ve got to reply is that this: what are related sorts precisely?

An related kind is a generic placeholder for a particular kind. We do not know that kind till the protocol is being adopted and the precise kind is specified by the implementation.

protocol MyProtocol {
    associatedtype MyType
    var myVar: MyType { get }
    func take a look at()

extension MyProtocol {
    func take a look at() {
        print("is that this a take a look at?")
struct MyIntStruct: MyProtocol {
    typealias MyType = Int
    var myVar: Int { 42 }

struct MyStringStruct: MyProtocol {
    let myVar = "Whats up, World!"

let foo = MyIntStruct()
foo.take a look at()

let bar = MyStringStruct()
bar.take a look at()

As you possibly can see, related MyType placeholder can have differing types, after we implement the protocol. Within the first case (MyIntStruct) we’ve got explicitly advised the compiler – by utilizing a typealias – to make use of an Int kind, and within the second case (MyStringStruct) the Swift compiler is sensible sufficient to determine the kind of the myVar primarily based on the offered String worth.

After all we are able to explicitly write let myVar: String = "Whats up, World!" or use a computed property or a daily variable, it actually does not matter. The important thing takeaway is that we have outlined the kind of the MyType placeholder after we carried out the protocol utilizing the 2 struct. 🔑

You need to use an related kind to function a generic placeholder object so you do not have to duplicate code if you happen to want assist for a number of differing types.

Existentials (any)

Nice, our generic protocol has a default take a look at methodology implementation that we are able to use on each objects, now this is the factor, I do not actually care concerning the kind that is going to implement my protocol, I simply need to name this take a look at perform and use the protocol as a sort, can I try this? Effectively, in case you are utilizing Swift 5.6+ the reply is sure, in any other case…

let myObject: MyProtocol 

let objects: [MyProtocol]

I wager that you have seen this well-known error message earlier than. What the hell is occurring right here?

The reply is sort of easy, the compiler cannot determine the underlying related kind of the protocol implementations, since they are often differing types (or ought to I say: dynamic at runtime 🤔), anyway, it is not decided at compile time.

The newest model of the Swift programming language solves this difficulty by introducing a brand new any key phrase, which is a type-erasing helper that may field the ultimate kind right into a wrapper object that can be utilized as an existential kind. Sounds sophisticated? Effectively it’s. 😅

let myObject: any MyProtocol 

let objects: [any MyProtocol] = [MyIntStruct(), MyStringStruct()]

for merchandise in objects {
    merchandise.take a look at()

By utilizing the any key phrase the system can create an invisible field kind that factors to the precise implementation, the field has the identical kind and we are able to name the shared interface capabilities on it.

  • any HiddenMyProtocolBox: MyProtocol — pointer —> MyIntStruct
  • any HiddenMyProtocolBox: MyProtocol — pointer —> MyStringStruct

This strategy permits us to place totally different protocol implementations with Self related kind necessities into an array and name the take a look at methodology on each of the objects.

If you happen to actually need to perceive how this stuff work, I extremely suggest to look at the Embrace Swift Generics WWDC22 session video. The whole video is a gem. 💎

There may be yet one more session referred to as Design protocol interfaces in Swift that it is best to undoubtedly watch if you wish to study extra about generics.

From Swift 5.7 the any key phrase is necessary when creating an existential kind, this can be a breaking change, however it’s for the better good. I actually like how Apple tackled this difficulty and each the any and some key phrases are actually useful, nonetheless understanding the variations may be exhausting. 🤓

Opaque sorts (some)

An opaque kind can conceal the kind data of a price. By default, the compiler can infer the underlying kind, however in case of a protocol with an related kind the generic kind data cannot be resolved, and that is the place the some key phrase and the opaque kind will help.

The some key phrase was launched in Swift 5.1 and also you have to be accustomed to it if you happen to’ve used SwiftUI earlier than. First it was a return kind function solely, however with Swift 5.7 now you can use the some key phrase in perform parameters as properly.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {

    var physique: some View {
        Textual content("Whats up, World!")

By utilizing the some key phrase you possibly can inform the compiler that you’re going to work on a particular concrete kind relatively than the protocol, this manner the compiler can carry out further optimizations and see the precise return kind. Because of this you will not be capable to assign a special kind to a variable with a some ‘restriction’. 🧐

var foo: some MyProtocol = MyIntStruct()

foo = MyStringStruct()

Opaque sorts can be utilized to conceal the precise kind data, yow will discover extra nice code examples utilizing the linked article, however since my submit focuses on the generics, I might like to indicate you one particular factor associated to this subject.

func instance<T: MyProtocol>(_ worth: T) {}

func instance<T>(_ worth: T) the place T: MyProtocol {}

func instance(_ worth: some MyProtocol) {}

Consider or not, however the 3 capabilities above are equivalent. The primary one is a generic perform the place the T placeholder kind conforms to the MyProtocol protocol. The second describes the very same factor, however we’re utilizing the the place claues and this enables us to position additional restrictions on the related sorts if wanted. e.g. the place T: MyProtocol, T.MyType == Int. The third one makes use of the some key phrase to cover the kind permitting us to make use of something as a perform parameter that conforms to the protocol. It is a new function in Swift 5.7 and it makes the generic syntax extra easy. 🥳

If you wish to learn extra concerning the variations between the some and any key phrase, you possibly can learn this text by Donny Wals, it is actually useful.

Major related sorts (Protocol<T>)

To constraint opaque outcome sorts you should utilize the the place clause, or alternatively we are able to ‘tag’ the protocol with a number of major related sorts. This can permit us to make additional constraints on the first related kind when utilizing some.

protocol MyProtocol<MyType> {
    associatedtype MyType
    var myVar: MyType { get }
    func take a look at()

func instance(_ worth: some MyProtocol<Int>) {

If you wish to study extra about major related sorts, it is best to learn Donny’s article too. 💡

Generics (<T>)

Up to now we have not actually talked about the usual generic options of Swift, however we have been principally specializing in protocols, related sorts, existentials and opaque sorts. Fortuitously you write generic code in Swift with out the necessity to contain all of those stuff.

struct Bag<T> {
    var objects: [T]

let bagOfInt = Bag<Int>(objects: [4, 2, 0])

let bagOfString = Bag<String>(objects: ["a", "b", "c"])

This bag kind has a placeholder kind referred to as T, which may maintain any sort of the identical kind, after we initialize the bag we explicitly inform which kind are we going to make use of. On this instance we have created a generic kind utilizing a struct, however you can even use an enum, a category and even an actor, plus it’s also potential to put in writing much more easy generic capabilities. 🧐

func myPrint<T>(_ worth: T) {


If you wish to study extra about generics it is best to learn this text by Paul Hudson, it is a good introduction to generic programming in Swift. Since this text is extra about offering an introduction I do not need to get into the extra superior stuff. Generics may be actually obscure, particularly if we contain protocols and the brand new key phrases.

I hope this text will make it easier to to know this stuff only a bit higher.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here