Day 11: Classes, attributes, methods and more

by

We excitedly tear the shiny wrapping paper off today’s gift, and inside we find something that nobody could object to! It’s the Perl 6 object model, in all its class-declaring, role-composing, meta-modelling glory. But before we get too carried away with the high-powered stuff, let’s see just how easy it is to write a class in Perl 6.

class Dog {
    has $.name;
    method bark($times) {
        say "w00f! " x $times;
    }
}

We start off by using the class keyword. If you’re coming from a Perl 5 background, you can think of class as being a bit like a variant of package that gives you a bunch of classy semantics out of the box.

Next, we use the has keyword to declare an attribute along with an accessor method. The . that you see in the name is a twigil. Twigils tell you something special about the scoping of a variable. The . twigil means “attribute + accessor”. Other options are:

has $!name;       # Private; only visible in the class
has $.name is rw; # Generates an l-value accessor

Next comes a method, introduced using the method keyword. method is like sub, but adds an entry to the methods table of the class. It also automatically takes the invocant for you, so you don’t have to write it in the parameter list. It is available through self.

All classes inherit a default constructor, named new, which maps named parameters to attributes. We can call this on Dog – the type object of the Dog class – to get a new instance.

my $fido = Dog.new(name => 'Fido');
say $fido.name;  # Fido
$fido.bark(3);   # w00f! w00f! w00f!

Notice that the method call operator in Perl 6 is . rather than Perl 5’s ->. It’s 50% shorter, and will be familiar to developers coming from a range of other languages.

Of course, there’s inheritance, so we can introduce a yappy puppy.

class Puppy is Dog {
    method bark($times) {
        say "yap! " x $times;
    }
}

There’s also support for delegation.

class DogWalker {
    has $.name;
    has Dog $.dog handles (dog_name => 'name');
}
my $bob = DogWalker.new(name => 'Bob', dog => $fido);
say $bob.name;      # Bob
say $bob.dog_name;  # Fido

Here, we declare that we’d like calls to the method dog_name on the class DogWalker to forward to the name method of the contained Dog. Renaming is just one option that is available; the delegation syntax offers many other alternatives.

The beauty is more than skin deep, however. Beneath all of the neat syntax is a meta-model. Classes, attributes and methods are all first class in Perl 6, and are represented by meta-objects. We can use these to introspect objects at runtime.

for Dog.^methods(:local) -> $meth {
    say "Dog has a method " ~ $meth.name;
}

The .^ operator is a variant on the . operator, but instead makes a call on the metaclass – the object that represents the class. Here, we ask it to give us a list of the methods defined within that class (we use :local to exclude those inherited from parent classes). This doesn’t just give us a list of names, but instead a list of Method objects. We could actually invoke the method using this object, but in this case we’ve just ask for its name.

Those of you into meta-programming and looking forward to extending the Perl 6 object model will be happy to know that there’s also a declarational aspect to all of this, so uses of the method keyword actually compile down to calls to add_method on the meta-class. Perl 6 not only offers you a powerful object model out of the box, but also provides opportunities for it to grow to meet other future needs that we didn’t think of yet.

These are just a handful of the great things that the Perl 6 object model has to offer; maybe we’ll discover more of them in some of the other gifts under the tree. :-)

About these ads

2 Responses to “Day 11: Classes, attributes, methods and more”

  1. scott Says:

    very cool.

  2. leo Says:

    perl6 rules!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers

%d bloggers like this: