nest syntax proposal

forax at forax at
Sun Jan 20 21:31:36 UTC 2019

----- Mail original -----
> De: "Brian Goetz" <brian.goetz at>
> À: "Remi Forax" <forax at>
> Cc: "amber-spec-experts" <amber-spec-experts at>
> Envoyé: Dimanche 20 Janvier 2019 18:04:00
> Objet: Re: nest syntax proposal

> This is a nice example of “today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions.”
> In Java 1.1, we did nested classes, and they were pretty cool, but there were
> some mismatches between the language model and the runtime model, which had
> some sharp edges.  So, as a solution to that problem, we taught the JVM about
> the notion of “nest”, to align the two.  The intent, at the time, was that the
> natural syntax for nests was — nesting.
> Now, you’re saying that it kinds of stinks that we have to take all the
> properties of nests (shared access control, hierarchical namespace) or none of
> them, and you’d like to introduce a way to get the first without the second.
> It’s a fair idea.

Yes, i see the fact that in Java the language force classes to be enclosed to have private access as an accidental complexity. The JVM has no such requirement so i propose to reconcile the language and the VM netsmates. 

> However, I think I’d solve the problem — which is that it is irritating to have
> to say FruitBasket.Apple all the time, rather than Apple — more directly?  Like
> some sort of more powerful “import”.  For example:
>    import enum Foo;
> could import the Foo enum class, _plus_ import-static all its constants.  (And
> something similar for sealed classes, of course).

In a sense, you are doubling-down on the notion of hierarchy, or at least of enclosing, by saying that you have an "import tree" that can import a set of types that are declared inside another one. 

The main issue with your solution is that you can not retrofit an existing hierarchy/set of classes to this new scheme because moving a class inside another change its name so it's not a backward compatible change hence the idea to de-couple nestmates access and nested classes.


>> On Jan 20, 2019, at 7:49 AM, Remi Forax <forax at> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> as Brian said recently, we have an issue because we are shortening the class
>> declaration (with records) or wants to declare in a single compilation unit a
>> hierarchy of types (with sealed types) and currently Java requires that a
>> compilation unit can only have one public class.
>> One solution is to get ride of this constraint, because it may be a good idea in
>> 1995 but today we are writing programs that have far more classes (the
>> introduction of modules recently was also driven by that idea). I propose
>> another way of solving that issue, introducing a mechanism to opt-in to have
>> more than one public class in a compilation unit.
>> Currently we have the mechanism of nestmates which has a runtime representation
>> (VM + reflection) but no language representation, i propose to introduce a new
>> declaration in the language in between the package declaration and the first
>> import,
>>  nest NestHostClass;
>> which define the class that will be used as nest host (obviously it can be
>> another keyword instead of "nest").
>> So a closed hierarchy can defines like this in one compilation unit:
>>  nest Expr;
>>  public sealed Expr permits Variable, Value, Add;
>>  public record Variable(String name) implements Expr;
>>  public record Value(int value) implements Expr;
>>  public record Add(Expr left, Expr right) implements Expr;
>> at runtime, Variable.class.getNestHost() == Expr.class
>> Another simpler example
>>  nest FruitBasket;
>>  public record Fruit(String name);
>>  public class FruitBasket {
>>    private final ArrayList<Fruit> fruits = new ArrayList<>();
>>    public void add(Fruit fruit) {
>>      Objects.requireNonNull(fruit);
>>      fruits.add(fruit);
>>    }
>>  }
>> at runtime, Fruit.class.getNestHost() == FruitBasket.class
>> I believe that the nest host class defined by the keyword "nest", doesn't have
>> to be public, but it's not a qualified name (obviously) and the class has to be
>> defined in the compilation unit.
>> Defining a nest can be seen as an extension of the case with only one class, if
>> there is only one class in the compilation unit, the class is it's own nest
>> host.
>> If there is more than one class in the compilation unit, but only one class is
>> public, currently, they are not nestmates, i think we should not do anything to
>> try to retcon that compilation unit because this case is rare (one may argument
>> that if we introduce the nest syntax, it can be more frequent). Also the
>> compiler message should be tweaked if there are more than one public classes to
>> say that a nest can be defined.
> > Rémi

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