Built In Types: Enum Class Label


This feature is on its way to be deployed. Most recent HHVM versions no longer need the EnableUnstableFeatures file attribute to support this. More information available at https://github.com/hhvm/user-documentation/pull/1122

Values v. Bindings

With enum types and enum classes, most of the focus is given to their values. Expressions like E::A denote the value of A in E, but the fact that A was used to access it is lost.

enum E : int {
  A = 42;
  B = 42;

function f(E $value) : void {
  switch($value) {
    case E::A: echo "A "; break;
    case E::B: echo "B "; break;
  echo $value . "\n";

In this example, both f(E::A) and f(E::B) will echo A 42 because E::A and E::B are effectively the value 42 and nothing more.

Enum Class Labels

Sometimes, the binding that was used to access a value from an enumeration is as important as the value itself. We might want to know that A was used to access E::A. Enum types provides a partial solution to this with the getNames static method, but it is only safe to call if all the values of the enumeration are distinct.

Enum classes provides a way to do this by using the newly introduced Enum Class Label expressions. For each value defined in an enum class, a corresponding label is defined. A label is a handle to access the related value. Think of it as an indirect access. Consider the following example:

// We are using int here for readability but it works for any type
enum class E : int {
  int A = 42;
  int B = 42;

This example defines two constants E::A: \HH\MemberOf<E, int> and E::B: \HH\MemberOf<E, int>. Enum class labels add more definitions to the mix:

  • E#A: \HH\EnumClass\Label<E, int> is the label to access E::A
  • E#B: \HH\EnumClass\Label<E, int> is the label to access E::B
  • E::nameOf is a static method expecting a label and returning its string representation: E::nameOf(E#A) = "A"
  • E::valueOf is a static method expecting a label and returning its value: E::valueOf(E#A) = E::A

So we can rewrite the earlier example in a more resilient way:

<<file:__EnableUnstableFeatures('enum_class_label')>> // temp

function full_print(\HH\EnumClass\Label<E, int> $label) : void {
  echo E::nameOf($label) . " ";
  echo E::valueOf($label) . "\n";

function partial_print(\HH\MemberOf<E, int> $value) : void {
  echo $value . "\n";

Now, full_print(E#A) will echo A 42 and full_print(E#B) will echo B 42.

Full v. Short Labels

We refer to labels like E#A as fully qualified labels: the programmer wrote the full enum class name. However there are some situations where Hack can infer the class name; for example, the previous calls could be written as full_print(#A) and full_print(#B), leaving E implicit. This is only allowed when there is enough type information to infer the right enum class name. For example, $x = #A is not allowed and will result in a type error.

Known corner cases

The # character is no longer a single-line comment

This feature relies on the fact that Hack and HHVM no longer consider the character # as a single-line comment. Please use // for such purpose.

Labels and values cannot be exchanged

If a method is expecting a label, one cannot pass in a value, and vice versa: full_print(E::A) will result in a type error and so will partial_print(E#A).

MemberOf is covariant, Label is invariant

A label should be considered as a way to attach a type to a binding. Therefore it is invariant: E#A is not of type \HH\EnumClass\Label<E, arraykey>. This can be misleading at first, because \HH\MemberOf is covariant (it is data after all): E::A is of type \HH\MemberOf<E, arraykey>.