Swift – Structs

If you haven’t heard Swift is a new language from Apple. Swift aims to be a modern language that streamlines your work.

Swift is strongly typed. This means that every value in Swift must be assigned a type.

Here I would like to talk about one feature in Swift called Structs. Struct is short for Structure or Construct. A Struct is similar to an Object in JavaScript.

In Swift a Struct is value. You can think of it as a complex value. If you were to think of a typical value, in a variable you might think:

var x = 230

Here you have a single name, x, representing a single value the number (Int) 230. A Struct is the same, with the difference that a Struct is a structure containing more than a single value. You can think of the difference conceptually as the difference between: nail, and house. Nail is a single discrete element, while a house is single structure, it contains many sub elements.

var nail = 1
struct House {
    var nails = 23000
    var boards = 1200

You can see the variable nail holds a single value, while the house has two values: nails, and boards, and could contain any number of other values, like doors, switches outlets etc. Think of a Struct as a way to define an element that contains a group of related values. Imagine everything in your house as a struct:

struct House {
    var nails = 1000
    var boards = 200
    var lightSwitches = 4
    var doors = 3
    var sink = 1
    var toilet = 1

var myHouse = House()

Structs can also contain functions. In many ways a Struct is similar to a class. From our perspective they act in very much the same ways. Internally the software works them. Structs are assigned as values and Objects created from a Class are assigned as reference.

Copy vs Reference

When assigning a value (this would be how Structs are passed around) the computer creates a copy of the Struct. When you assign an Object you are assigning a reference to the original Object. In short:

Structs are always copied when they are assigned.

Class Objects are not copied when they assigned.

For example:

struct House {
    var address = "123 Maple St."

var a = House()
var b = a 
b.address = "321 Elm St."

println(a.address) // prints 123 Maple St.
println(b.address) // prints 321 Elm St.

Here you have two separate Houses. The first (a) would have the address 123, the second would have the address 321.

Here’s what would happen with a Class

class House {
    var address = "123 Maple St"

var a = House()
var b = a 
b.address = "321 Elm St."

println(a.address) // prints 321 Elm St.
println(b.address) // prints 321 Elm St.

You have two references to the same house, which moved from it’s original address to the 321 address.

Here is what Apple has to say about structs: https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/Swift/Conceptual/Swift_Programming_Language/ClassesAndStructures.html

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