[fpc-devel] RFC: Delphi style class helpers

Sven Barth pascaldragon at googlemail.com
Mon Dec 20 21:37:13 CET 2010

Hello together!

I have taken the time to implement a first version of Delphi's class 
helpers. Thanks to Jonas' code for Objective C categories it was a 
rather easy to get that working.

I have yet to test the compatibility of this implementation with Delphi 
and this is where the FPC community comes in. I'd like you (@all list 
readers) - if possible - to test this extension with tasks you'd use 
them in and also to test what behaves differently from Delphi if you 
have a current Delphi version available (I believe you need Delphi 2007 
or newer for this).

Especially at the core devs, but maybe also for other interested persons 
I have the following questions regarding the implementation of this feature:
- should class helpers have access to protected fields of the extended 
class? I propose not or this would beat the complete idea of "sealed" (I 
also believe that Delphi doesn't allow it as well)
- should class helpers be able to be instantiated or even referenced in 
any way? (including forward declarations)
- should class helpers be allowed to override/reintroduce methods?
- should class helpers be able to extend other class helpers (as class 
helpers are implemented as child classes of the extended class this 
might currently be possible)?
- should class helpers be able to implement interfaces?
- can/should "message" methods be forbidden?
- should abstract methods be forbidden?
- should a class helper for class X hide a method which was introduced 
in a subclass of X?
- can class helpers extend generic classes?
- can class helpers BE generic?

I have attached the patch which implements the class helper syntax in 
the trunk compiler. Please note that this might not be the final 
version, so please do not rely on the syntax and especially the behavior.

Class helpers adhere to the following syntax (I'm still thinking whether 
I should slap Borland/Codegear for that...)

   [ClassName] = class helper for [ExtendedClass]
     class procedure SomeClassMethod;
     procedure SomeMethod;

The methods are implemented like in a normal class, but "Self" refers to 
an instance of the extended class in normal methods and to the class 
itself if used inside a class method (of course other methods 
implemented by the class helper are available as well... basically a 
class helper is a child class of the extended class).

The methods implemented by class helpers are automatically available if 
the class helper is available in the current scope. The methods are 
called as if they belong to the extended class:

   c: [ExtendedClass];
   // class methods
   c := [ExtendedClass].Create;

For the case you are still looking for a usecase: On the Lazarus mailing 
list was posted such one by ugaciaka in this mail: 
A possible answer for his first question would be the following 
(untested and maybe also properties would work...):

   TCheckListBoxHelper = class helper for TCheckListBox
     function GetCheckedCount: Integer;

function TCheckListBoxHelper.GetCheckedCount: Integer;
   i: Integer;
   Result := 0;
// Count and Checked belong to the extended TCheckListBox
   for i := 0 to Count - 1 do
     if Checked[i] then

// somewhere in a piece of code that has access to a TCheckListBox instance
c := SomeCheckListBox.GetCheckedCount;

Please feel free to comment, criticise, test and discuss this feature 
and more especially its implementation.

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