Monday, March 31, 2008

C# type inference

While I work mainly in a Java shop, I continue to be impressed by what Anders Hejlsberg, chief architect of C#, brings to the table to a language which in my mind has always represented Java done right. I do wonder however, how come they did not take the concept of type inference just a little bit further.

Local variable type inference
This feature of C# 3.0 basically allows you to omit the declaration which, especially when generics is involved, causes a lot of repetition and long lines of code:

Dictionary<int, IEnumerable<decimal>> myCollection =
new Dictionary<int, IEnumerable<decimal>>();

Which can be reduced to this:

var myCollection = new Dictionary<int, IEnumerable<decimal>>();

No late binding is taking place, the compiler simply infers the actual type and substitutes var with it.

No method return type inference?
Some languages operates with the concept of tuples, a way of returning multiple values without having to wrap them in an array and use casting or a predefined data transfer object. Wouldn't it be nice, if we could use type inference here instead to be able to return multiple values from one invocation - and still be type-safe about the whole thing:

var getInferredType()
return new {X = 22, Y = -3};

var coordinate = getInferredType();

Perhaps this isn't doable for reasons of method signature lookup or polymorphism rules, I don't know. But it strikes me as something that would be very usefull and further reduce the need of temporary housekeeping objects.

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