Skip to main content

Const, Static, Final, Oh my!

Posted by Seth Ladd

(This is an "oldie but a goodie" misc@dartlang.org post originally written by Bob Nystrom. It is being posted here as the explanations still ring true.)

Bob writes:


"static", "final", and "const" mean entirely distinct things in Dart:

"static" means a member is available on the class itself instead of on instances of the class. That's all it means, and it isn't used for anything else. static modifies *members*.

"final" means single-assignment: a final variable or field *must* have an initializer. Once assigned a value, a final variable's value cannot be changed. final modifies *variables*.

"const" has a meaning that's a bit more complex and subtle in Dart. const modifies *values*. You can use it when creating collections, like const [1, 2, 3], and when constructing objects (instead of new) like const Point(2, 3). Here, const means that the object's entire deep state can be determined entirely at compile time and that the object will be frozen and completely immutable.

Const objects have a couple of interesting properties and restrictions:
  1. They must be created from data that can be calculated at compile time. A const object does not have access to anything you would need to calculate at runtime. 1 + 2 is a valid const expression, but new DateTime.now() is not. 
  2. They are deeply, transitively immutable. If you have a final field containing a collection, that collection can still be mutable. If you have a const collection, everything in it must also be const, recursively. 
  3. They are *canonicalized*. This is sort of like string interning: for any given const value, a single const object will be created and re-used no matter how many times the const expression(s) are evaluated. In other words: 

getConst() => const [1, 2]; 
main() { 
  var a = getConst(); 
  var b = getConst(); 
  print(a === b); // true 


I think Dart does a pretty good job of keeping the semantics and the keywords nicely clear and distinct. (There was a time where const was used both for const and final. It was confusing.) The only downside is that when you want to indicate a member that is single-assignment and on the class itself, you have to use both keywords: static final.

Comments

  1. Yeah. Except that const can now modify variables too :-) At least according to the spec, I think it isn't implemented yet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So const is basically an in-depth final.

    With constructs like const Dart becomes — language-wise — a superset of Java. That means that one can create Dart code out of Java code but not vice versa without losing information.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ladislav, thanks for the clarification. Because it's not implemented yet, we didn't mention it. Hopefully it's coming soon. :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Dart 1.12 Released, with Null-Aware Operators and more

Dart 1.12.0 is now released! It contains the new null-aware operators language feature, and enhancements to pub, Observatory, dartdoc, and much more.

Null-aware operators

The new null-aware operators help you reduce the amount of code required to work with references that are potentially null. This feature is a collection of syntactic sugar for traversing (potentially null) object calls, conditionally setting a variable, and evaluating two (potentially null) expressions.

Click or tap the red Run button below to see them in action.

??

  if null operator. `expr1 ?? expr2` evaluates to `expr1` if not `null`, otherwise `expr2`.


??=

  null-aware assignment. `v ??= expr` causes `v` to be assigned `expr` only if `v` is `null`.

x?.p

  null-aware access. `x?.p` evaluates to `x.p` if `x` is not `null`, otherwise evaluates to `null`.

x?.m()

  null-aware method invocation. `x?.m()` invokes `m` only if `x` is not `null`.

Learn more about Dart's null-aware operators in our Language Tour.

.packages fi…

The new AdWords UI uses Dart — we asked why

Google just announced a re-designed AdWords experience. In case you’re not familiar with AdWords: businesses use it to advertise on google.com and partner websites. Advertising makes up majority of Google’s revenue, so when Google decides to completely redo the customer-facing front end to it, it’s a big deal. The Dart team is proud to say that this new front end is built with Dart and Angular 2. Whenever you asked us whether Google is ‘even using Dart for anything,’ this is what we had in mind but couldn’t say aloud. Until now. We asked Joshy Joseph, the primary technical lead on the project, some questions. Joshy is focusing on things like infrastructure, application latency and development velocity, so he’s the right person to ask about Dart.Q: What exactly did we launch on Monday?It’s a complete redesign of the AdWords customer experience that is rolling out slowly as a test to a small initial set of advertisers. The most noticeable thing is probably the Material Design look and f…