[fpc-devel] Circular references or Forward Declarations

Martin lazarus at mfriebe.de
Fri Aug 14 16:36:26 CEST 2009

Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:
> Lance posted this in the Lazarus mailing list, and I think it is more 
> appropriate here...
> Lance Collins wrote:
> >> How can you avoid circular references with two modules that
> >> interact with each other?
>> Basically it should be possible with a minor language change and not too
>> much effort from the compiler team. Something like:
>> unit ParentObject;
>> interface
>> TChild = forward class; // My made-up syntax
>> // or TChild = implementation class; or some other syntax!
>> TParent = Class
>> public
>>    property Child :TChild;
>> end;
>> implementation
>> uses ChildObject;
>> // Nothing special here, only need the love one-way
>> // but you could do it both ways if you want
>> unit ChildObject;
>> interface
>> uses ParentObject;
>> TChild = Class
>> public
>>    property Parent :TParent;
>> end;
>> "TChild = forward class" tells the compiler that TChild is a class, 
>> and the
>> complete type information is known in the implementation section 
>> (which the
>> compiler can validate).
> > This feature is often needed and the "if you need to do that then
> > something is wrong with your design" argument doesn't fly with me.
> I can't agree more. Sometimes there is a valid design for something 
> like that. The compilers already handle forward declarations in the 
> same unit, so why can that not be applied for multiple units as well. 
> And if the forward declaration is not fully resolved by the time the 
> whole project or unit is compiled - raise a compiler error.
> The current usage of forward declaration is exactly the same principle 
> we are trying to use, but this time just across units. Why can't the 
> FPC compiler maybe in ObjFPC mode cater for this?

I posted a similar (probable) explanation/problem resulting from this, 
but it is better explained on the example above.

unit Foo;
uses ParentObject;

procedure Bar(parent: TParent );
  parent.Child := TListBox.Create(nil);

because unit ParentObject does not say in it's interface what exactly 
Child can be (except it must be some instance of some class (in other 
words any object) , the compiler can not decide if the code about is 
correct or not.

You either loose the strong typed structure of pascal, or the compiler 
has to read the implementation of ParentObject in advance, which looses 
the benefit of differing between interface and implementation. Because 
now circular references in the implementation can no longer be resolved 
by knowing the interfaces (as we just discovered, that interfaces became 
useless without implementation). This means that it will ultimately mean 
multiply passes in order to compile......


More information about the fpc-devel mailing list