A very welcome type-safe builders surprise

When Kotlin 1.0 came out, I tried type-safe builders a bit, with mixed feelings. They are a great way to create simple declarative DSLs for building hierarchies, but using them used to be quite a pain.

The main problem was that as the nesting got deeper, the DSL API would include methods from all the scopes. Only some of those methods were usable in the current scope. This was infuriating to use, since if you used a method in the wrong scope, it would often cause wrong behavior instead of an error. Here is an example using a simple XML DSL:

DSL gone bad example
A tag inside an attribute, WAT…

It makes no sense to have a tag inside an attribute, but this would not fail, but instead cause the below XML document to be created. It is valid XML, but probably not what was intended given the above nesting.

Resulting weird XML

Yesterday I needed to do create some XML, and I remembered type-safe builders to be great for this. I quickly whipped together the simple API above for that, but again was confronted with the scoping problem. Initially I figured out a very hacky way to provide nice errors at runtime, but then I thankfully read up on the Kotlin documentation, and in Kotlin 1.1, the @DslMarker annotation was added to ensure that only methods in the current builder scope is visible.

This moves type-safe builders from good to awesome in my book.

DSL now fails to compile
With @DslMarker annotation, the tag is not visible in the attribute scope, and this nonsense fails to compile.

I am late to the party, but this feels like a change that is easy to miss, and that does not get enough attention. Superb of the Kotlin team to address things like these!

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Hacker and developer that loves to explore topics related to informatics, mathematics, graphics, games, science.

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