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Module std.variant

This module implements a discriminated union type (a.k.a. tagged union, algebraic type). Such types are useful for type-uniform binary interfaces, interfacing with scripting languages, and comfortable exploratory programming.

A Variant object can hold a value of any type, with very few restrictions (such as shared types and noncopyable types). Setting the value is as immediate as assigning to the Variant object. To read back the value of the appropriate type T, use the get!T call. To query whether a Variant currently holds a value of type T, use peek!T. To fetch the exact type currently held, call type, which returns the TypeInfo of the current value.

In addition to Variant, this module also defines the Algebraic type constructor. Unlike Variant, Algebraic only allows a finite set of types, which are specified in the instantiation (e.g. Algebraic!(int, string) may only hold an int or a string).


Reviewed by Brad Roberts. Daniel Keep provided a detailed code review prompting the following improvements: (1) better support for arrays; (2) support for associative arrays; (3) friendlier behavior towards the garbage collector.


Variant a; // Must assign before use, otherwise exception ensues
// Initialize with an integer; make the type int
Variant b = 42;
writeln(b.type); // typeid (int)
// Peek at the value
assert(b.peek!(int) !is null && *b.peek!(int) == 42);
// Automatically convert per language rules
auto x = b.get!(real);

// Assign any other type, including other variants
a = b;
a = 3.14;
writeln(a.type); // typeid (double)
// Implicit conversions work just as with built-in types
assert(a < b);
// Check for convertibility
assert(!a.convertsTo!(int)); // double not convertible to int
// Strings and all other arrays are supported
a = "now I'm a string";
writeln(a); // "now I'm a string"

// can also assign arrays
a = new int[42];
writeln(a.length); // 42
a[5] = 7;
writeln(a[5]); // 7

// Can also assign class values
class Foo {}
auto foo = new Foo;
a = foo;
assert(*a.peek!(Foo) == foo); // and full type information is preserved


Name Description
variantArray Returns an array of variants constructed from args.


Name Description
VariantException Thrown in three cases:


Name Description
VariantN Back-end type seldom used directly by user code. Two commonly-used types using VariantN are:


Name Description
maxSize Gives the sizeof the largest type given.
tryVisit Behaves as visit but doesn't enforce that all types are handled by the visiting functions.
visit Applies a delegate or function to the given Algebraic depending on the held type, ensuring that all types are handled by the visiting functions.


Name Type Description
Algebraic VariantN!(maxSize!T,T) Algebraic data type restricted to a closed set of possible types. It's an alias for VariantN with an appropriately-constructed maximum size. Algebraic is useful when it is desirable to restrict what a discriminated type could hold to the end of defining simpler and more efficient manipulation.
Variant VariantN!(32L) Alias for VariantN instantiated with the largest size of creal, char[], and void delegate(). This ensures that Variant is large enough to hold all of D's predefined types unboxed, including all numeric types, pointers, delegates, and class references. You may want to use VariantN directly with a different maximum size either for storing larger types unboxed, or for saving memory.


Andrei Alexandrescu


Boost License 1.0.