Kotlin Help


Kotlin provides the ability to extend a class or an interface with new functionality without having to inherit from the class or use design patterns such as Decorator. This is done via special declarations called extensions.

For example, you can write new functions for a class or an interface from a third-party library that you can't modify. Such functions can be called in the usual way, as if they were methods of the original class. This mechanism is called an extension function. There are also extension properties that let you define new properties for existing classes.

Extension functions

To declare an extension function, prefix its name with a receiver type, which refers to the type being extended. The following adds a swap function to MutableList<Int>:

fun MutableList<Int>.swap(index1: Int, index2: Int) { val tmp = this[index1] // 'this' corresponds to the list this[index1] = this[index2] this[index2] = tmp }

The this keyword inside an extension function corresponds to the receiver object (the one that is passed before the dot). Now, you can call such a function on any MutableList<Int>:

val list = mutableListOf(1, 2, 3) list.swap(0, 2) // 'this' inside 'swap()' will hold the value of 'list'

This function makes sense for any MutableList<T>, and you can make it generic:

fun <T> MutableList<T>.swap(index1: Int, index2: Int) { val tmp = this[index1] // 'this' corresponds to the list this[index1] = this[index2] this[index2] = tmp }

You need to declare the generic type parameter before the function name to make it available in the receiver type expression. For more information about generics, see generic functions.

Extensions are resolved statically

Extensions do not actually modify the classes they extend. By defining an extension, you are not inserting new members into a class, only making new functions callable with the dot-notation on variables of this type.

Extension functions are dispatched statically. So which extension function is called is already known at compile time based on the receiver type. For example:

fun main() { //sampleStart open class Shape class Rectangle: Shape() fun Shape.getName() = "Shape" fun Rectangle.getName() = "Rectangle" fun printClassName(s: Shape) { println(s.getName()) } printClassName(Rectangle()) //sampleEnd }

This example prints Shape, because the extension function called depends only on the declared type of the parameter s, which is the Shape class.

If a class has a member function, and an extension function is defined which has the same receiver type, the same name, and is applicable to given arguments, the member always wins. For example:

fun main() { //sampleStart class Example { fun printFunctionType() { println("Class method") } } fun Example.printFunctionType() { println("Extension function") } Example().printFunctionType() //sampleEnd }

This code prints Class method.

However, it's perfectly OK for extension functions to overload member functions that have the same name but a different signature:

fun main() { //sampleStart class Example { fun printFunctionType() { println("Class method") } } fun Example.printFunctionType(i: Int) { println("Extension function #$i") } Example().printFunctionType(1) //sampleEnd }

Nullable receiver

Note that extensions can be defined with a nullable receiver type. These extensions can be called on an object variable even if its value is null. If the receiver is null, then this is also null. So when defining an extension with a nullable receiver type, we recommend performing a this == null check inside the function body to avoid compiler errors.

You can call toString() in Kotlin without checking for null, as the check already happens inside the extension function:

fun Any?.toString(): String { if (this == null) return "null" // After the null check, 'this' is autocast to a non-nullable type, so the toString() below // resolves to the member function of the Any class return toString() }

Extension properties

Kotlin supports extension properties much like it supports functions:

val <T> List<T>.lastIndex: Int get() = size - 1


val House.number = 1 // error: initializers are not allowed for extension properties

Companion object extensions

If a class has a companion object defined, you can also define extension functions and properties for the companion object. Just like regular members of the companion object, they can be called using only the class name as the qualifier:

class MyClass { companion object { } // will be called "Companion" } fun MyClass.Companion.printCompanion() { println("companion") } fun main() { MyClass.printCompanion() }

Scope of extensions

In most cases, you define extensions on the top level, directly under packages:

package org.example.declarations fun List<String>.getLongestString() { /*...*/}

To use an extension outside its declaring package, import it at the call site:

package org.example.usage import org.example.declarations.getLongestString fun main() { val list = listOf("red", "green", "blue") list.getLongestString() }

See Imports for more information.

Declaring extensions as members

You can declare extensions for one class inside another class. Inside such an extension, there are multiple implicit receivers - objects whose members can be accessed without a qualifier. An instance of a class in which the extension is declared is called a dispatch receiver, and an instance of the receiver type of the extension method is called an extension receiver.

class Host(val hostname: String) { fun printHostname() { print(hostname) } } class Connection(val host: Host, val port: Int) { fun printPort() { print(port) } fun Host.printConnectionString() { printHostname() // calls Host.printHostname() print(":") printPort() // calls Connection.printPort() } fun connect() { /*...*/ host.printConnectionString() // calls the extension function } } fun main() { Connection(Host("kotl.in"), 443).connect() //Host("kotl.in").printConnectionString() // error, the extension function is unavailable outside Connection }

In the event of a name conflict between the members of a dispatch receiver and an extension receiver, the extension receiver takes precedence. To refer to the member of the dispatch receiver, you can use the qualified this syntax.

class Connection { fun Host.getConnectionString() { toString() // calls Host.toString() this@Connection.toString() // calls Connection.toString() } }

Extensions declared as members can be declared as open and overridden in subclasses. This means that the dispatch of such functions is virtual with regard to the dispatch receiver type, but static with regard to the extension receiver type.

open class Base { } class Derived : Base() { } open class BaseCaller { open fun Base.printFunctionInfo() { println("Base extension function in BaseCaller") } open fun Derived.printFunctionInfo() { println("Derived extension function in BaseCaller") } fun call(b: Base) { b.printFunctionInfo() // call the extension function } } class DerivedCaller: BaseCaller() { override fun Base.printFunctionInfo() { println("Base extension function in DerivedCaller") } override fun Derived.printFunctionInfo() { println("Derived extension function in DerivedCaller") } } fun main() { BaseCaller().call(Base()) // "Base extension function in BaseCaller" DerivedCaller().call(Base()) // "Base extension function in DerivedCaller" - dispatch receiver is resolved virtually DerivedCaller().call(Derived()) // "Base extension function in DerivedCaller" - extension receiver is resolved statically }

Note on visibility

Extensions utilize the same visibility modifiers as regular functions declared in the same scope would. For example:

  • An extension declared at the top level of a file has access to the other private top-level declarations in the same file.

  • If an extension is declared outside its receiver type, it cannot access the receiver's private or protected members.

Last modified: 11 September 2023