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Inline value classes

Sometimes it is useful to wrap a value in a class to create a more domain-specific type. However, it introduces runtime overhead due to additional heap allocations. Moreover, if the wrapped type is primitive, the performance hit is significant, because primitive types are usually heavily optimized by the runtime, while their wrappers don't get any special treatment.

To solve such issues, Kotlin introduces a special kind of class called an inline class. Inline classes are a subset of value-based classes. They don't have an identity and can only hold values.

To declare an inline class, use the value modifier before the name of the class:

value class Password(private val s: String)

To declare an inline class for the JVM backend, use the value modifier along with the @JvmInline annotation before the class declaration:

// For JVM backends @JvmInline value class Password(private val s: String)

An inline class must have a single property initialized in the primary constructor. At runtime, instances of the inline class will be represented using this single property (see details about runtime representation below):

// No actual instantiation of class 'Password' happens // At runtime 'securePassword' contains just 'String' val securePassword = Password("Don't try this in production")

This is the main feature of inline classes, which inspired the name inline: data of the class is inlined into its usages (similar to how content of inline functions is inlined to call sites).


Inline classes support some functionality of regular classes. In particular, they are allowed to declare properties and functions, have an init block and secondary constructors:

@JvmInline value class Person(private val fullName: String) { init { require(fullName.isNotEmpty()) { "Full name shouldn't be empty" } } constructor(firstName: String, lastName: String) : this("$firstName $lastName") { require(lastName.isNotBlank()) { "Last name shouldn't be empty" } } val length: Int get() = fullName.length fun greet() { println("Hello, $fullName") } } fun main() { val name1 = Person("Kotlin", "Mascot") val name2 = Person("Kodee") name1.greet() // the `greet()` function is called as a static method println(name2.length) // property getter is called as a static method }

Inline class properties cannot have backing fields. They can only have simple computable properties (no lateinit/delegated properties).


Inline classes are allowed to inherit from interfaces:

interface Printable { fun prettyPrint(): String } @JvmInline value class Name(val s: String) : Printable { override fun prettyPrint(): String = "Let's $s!" } fun main() { val name = Name("Kotlin") println(name.prettyPrint()) // Still called as a static method }

It is forbidden for inline classes to participate in a class hierarchy. This means that inline classes cannot extend other classes and are always final.


In generated code, the Kotlin compiler keeps a wrapper for each inline class. Inline class instances can be represented at runtime either as wrappers or as the underlying type. This is similar to how Int can be represented either as a primitive int or as the wrapper Integer.

The Kotlin compiler will prefer using underlying types instead of wrappers to produce the most performant and optimized code. However, sometimes it is necessary to keep wrappers around. As a rule of thumb, inline classes are boxed whenever they are used as another type.

interface I @JvmInline value class Foo(val i: Int) : I fun asInline(f: Foo) {} fun <T> asGeneric(x: T) {} fun asInterface(i: I) {} fun asNullable(i: Foo?) {} fun <T> id(x: T): T = x fun main() { val f = Foo(42) asInline(f) // unboxed: used as Foo itself asGeneric(f) // boxed: used as generic type T asInterface(f) // boxed: used as type I asNullable(f) // boxed: used as Foo?, which is different from Foo // below, 'f' first is boxed (while being passed to 'id') and then unboxed (when returned from 'id') // In the end, 'c' contains unboxed representation (just '42'), as 'f' val c = id(f) }

Because inline classes may be represented both as the underlying value and as a wrapper, referential equality is pointless for them and is therefore prohibited.

Inline classes can also have a generic type parameter as the underlying type. In this case, the compiler maps it to Any? or, generally, to the upper bound of the type parameter.

@JvmInline value class UserId<T>(val value: T) fun compute(s: UserId<String>) {} // compiler generates fun compute-<hashcode>(s: Any?)


Since inline classes are compiled to their underlying type, it may lead to various obscure errors, for example unexpected platform signature clashes:

@JvmInline value class UInt(val x: Int) // Represented as 'public final void compute(int x)' on the JVM fun compute(x: Int) { } // Also represented as 'public final void compute(int x)' on the JVM! fun compute(x: UInt) { }

To mitigate such issues, functions using inline classes are mangled by adding some stable hashcode to the function name. Therefore, fun compute(x: UInt) will be represented as public final void compute-<hashcode>(int x), which solves the clash problem.

Calling from Java code

You can call functions that accept inline classes from Java code. To do so, you should manually disable mangling: add the @JvmName annotation before the function declaration:

@JvmInline value class UInt(val x: Int) fun compute(x: Int) { } @JvmName("computeUInt") fun compute(x: UInt) { }

Inline classes vs type aliases

At first sight, inline classes seem very similar to type aliases. Indeed, both seem to introduce a new type and both will be represented as the underlying type at runtime.

However, the crucial difference is that type aliases are assignment-compatible with their underlying type (and with other type aliases with the same underlying type), while inline classes are not.

In other words, inline classes introduce a truly new type, contrary to type aliases which only introduce an alternative name (alias) for an existing type:

typealias NameTypeAlias = String @JvmInline value class NameInlineClass(val s: String) fun acceptString(s: String) {} fun acceptNameTypeAlias(n: NameTypeAlias) {} fun acceptNameInlineClass(p: NameInlineClass) {} fun main() { val nameAlias: NameTypeAlias = "" val nameInlineClass: NameInlineClass = NameInlineClass("") val string: String = "" acceptString(nameAlias) // OK: pass alias instead of underlying type acceptString(nameInlineClass) // Not OK: can't pass inline class instead of underlying type // And vice versa: acceptNameTypeAlias(string) // OK: pass underlying type instead of alias acceptNameInlineClass(string) // Not OK: can't pass underlying type instead of inline class }

Inline classes and delegation

Implementation by delegation to inlined value of inlined class is allowed with interfaces:

interface MyInterface { fun bar() fun foo() = "foo" } @JvmInline value class MyInterfaceWrapper(val myInterface: MyInterface) : MyInterface by myInterface fun main() { val my = MyInterfaceWrapper(object : MyInterface { override fun bar() { // body } }) println(my.foo()) // prints "foo" }
Last modified: 27 November 2023