Kotlin Koans—Part 7

This portion of the Kotlin Koans showed off a really boss feature of the language: Data Classes. These are special classes whose primary purpose is to hold data.

Here is a Java class that we start with that’s taken directly from the tutorial.

public class Person {
        private final String name;
        private final int age;

        public Person(String name, int age) {
            this.name = name;
            this.age = age;
        }

        public String getName() {
            return name;
        }

        public int getAge() {
            return age;
        }
    }

It’s not a special class. This is a class with a primary constructor, getters/setters and two private variables. It’s also one of my biggest complaints about the Java language. I can do the same thing in Python like this.

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name=None, age=None):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age

Four lines of code in Python. In all fairness to Java, would could just declare name and age to be public variables, but doing so is not only frowned upon, but many Java libraries look for getter/setter method to access a property of a Java bean. Basically speaking, even though we could allow for public access of a Java property, it’s not really practical at this point.

There is a Java library called Lombok that does a lot to solve this problem.

@Data
public class Person {
    private String name;
    private String age;
}

Lombok has been the solution I have used for most of my projects. It’s not perfect however. For example, I can’t use the @Data annotation to make a read only class. That forces me to use a mix of Lombok annotations or define a stereotype annotation. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s still something to think about.

Kotlin data classes take this to a whole other level. Here is the same class in Kotlin.

data class Person(val name: String, val age: Int)

That’s it! One line of code!!! With this single line of code, we get our two properties, it’s getter methods, hashcode, equals, toString() and a constructor. The class is immutable because the variables are declared with the val keyword. We can make the class mutable by using var instead of val. Finally, we aren’t losing our ability to work with existing Java libaries.

I really don’t see how it can get any better than this. I have used data classes countless times when working with ORM libraries such as hibernate. I’d say 95% of these classes are classes that just hold data and map to a table in the database. Although any IDE can generate constructors, getters/setters, equals, and hashcode, and toString, let’s face it, it’s even better to have this built directly into the language itself.

You can click here to see Part 6

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