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Destructuring Declarations

Sometimes it is convenient to destructure an object into a number of variables, for example:

val (name, age) = person 

This syntax is called a destructuring declaration. A destructuring declaration creates multiple variables at once. We have declared two new variables: name and age, and can use them independently:

println(name)
println(age)

A destructuring declaration is compiled down to the following code:

val name = person.component1()
val age = person.component2()

The component1() and component2() functions are another example of the principle of conventions widely used in Kotlin (see operators like + and *, for-loops etc.). Anything can be on the right-hand side of a destructuring declaration, as long as the required number of component functions can be called on it. And, of course, there can be component3() and component4() and so on.

Note that the componentN() functions need to be marked with the operator keyword to allow using them in a destructuring declaration.

Destructuring declarations also work in for-loops: when you say

for ((a, b) in collection) { ... }

Variables a and b get the values returned by component1() and component2() called on elements of the collection.

Example: Returning Two Values from a Function

Let's say we need to return two things from a function. For example, a result object and a status of some sort. A compact way of doing this in Kotlin is to declare a data class and return its instance:

data class Result(val result: Int, val status: Status)
fun function(...): Result {
    // computations
    
    return Result(result, status)
}

// Now, to use this function:
val (result, status) = function(...)

Since data classes automatically declare componentN() functions, destructuring declarations work here.

NOTE: we could also use the standard class Pair and have function() return Pair<Int, Status>, but it's often better to have your data named properly.

Example: Destructuring Declarations and Maps

Probably the nicest way to traverse a map is this:

for ((key, value) in map) {
   // do something with the key and the value
}

To make this work, we should

  • present the map as a sequence of values by providing an iterator() function,
  • present each of the elements as a pair by providing functions component1() and component2().

And indeed, the standard library provides such extensions:

operator fun <K, V> Map<K, V>.iterator(): Iterator<Map.Entry<K, V>> = entrySet().iterator()
operator fun <K, V> Map.Entry<K, V>.component1() = getKey()
operator fun <K, V> Map.Entry<K, V>.component2() = getValue()

So you can freely use destructuring declarations in for-loops with maps (as well as collections of data class instances etc).