Var with Style – Local Variable Type Inference with Java
Speaker: Stewart Marks
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Local variable type inference
- “var” tells compiler to infer the type
- Still a static type. Should compile same as if typed the class name
- Type inference is not new. Lambdas did it in Java 8
Where can use
- local variables
- resource variables in try-with-resources
- loop variable in for-each loop
- [and lambadas in Java 11]
- can’t use in places where API/written into class file/affects binary compatibility
How compiler determines type
- Looks at initializer’s type
- Can’t use when not info info
- var customer = null (not allowed because ambiguous)
- var fun = (int a, int b) -> a + b (not allowed because lambda needs type for context)
- Can reassign using normal assignment rules. (aka same or compatible type as to what var really is)
Benefits of var
- Add features to language so can write better code
- Using var in right way results in better code
- Reduces verbosity/clutter/redundancy
- Let’s variable name stand out which is more important
- About readability; not amount of typing.
Local Variable Type Inference Style Guide
- P1 – Reading code is more important than writing code
- P2 – Code should be clear from local reasoning – had considered inferring from context all over class. But then hard to figure out and reader has to type inference in his/her head
- P3 – Code readability shouldn’t depend on IDEs
- P4 – Explicit types are a tradeoff
- G1 – Choose variable names that provide useful information
- G2 – Minimize the scope of local variables
- G3 – Consider var when the initializer provides sufficient information to the reader
- G4 – Use var to break up chained or nested expressions with local variables
- G5 – Don’t worry to much about “programming to the interface” with local variables
- G6 – Take care when using var with diamond or generic methods.
- G7 – Take care when using var with literals.
- “you read the internet and it’s such a great source of conference talks”
- var x = getSomething() – already terrible code because a bad method name
- InputStream inputStream = socket.getInputStream() – mentioning input stream twice instead of three times seems ok. Covers G1 and G3. The variable name and context is sufficient
- try with resources – often long code so hard to spot variables. Using var aligns them.
- Long class names penalizes doubly. Using var lets you put in once.
- Helps with generics. Have a very long type name
- var list = new ArrayList,String>. Can’t use diamond operator or would have ArrayList<Object>. Want to avoid using var and diamond together. Note that the type is now ArrayList and not List. Ok because just using as local variable. The method return type would still be List.
- Also be careful with methods returning generics. List.of() returns List<Object> when don’t pass any parameters.
- Fun side effect – less imports because type names not all mentioned explicitly
My take: This was an awesome session. I like that he covered the background and style guide. I also REALLY liked the before/after examples to show when it is good to use var. Also, time flew in this session!