When you use duchess, you invoke methods via nice syntax like

//               ^^^^^^^^^
// This is the method we are discussing here

How does this actually work (and why)?

Complication #1: Methods are invokable on more than just the object

Part of our setup is that define relatively ordinary looking inherent methods on the type that defines the method, e.g.:

impl Object {
    fn to_string(&self) -> impl JavaMethod<String> { /* tbd */ }

This method will be invoked when people have a variable o: &Object or o: Global<Object> and they write o.to_string(). But it won't support our example of java_list.get(0).to_string(), because java_list.get(0) returns a JvmOp, not an Object. So, to define a method on Object, we need a way to put methods onto any JvmOp that outputs an Object.

Complication #2: Overridden or implemented methods create ambiguity

There are some complications in getting . syntax to work. We want users to be able to write but, in Java, the same method foo is often defined in multiple places, particularly when it is overridden:

  • on the class type itself
  • maybe on supertypes, if it is overridden
  • maybe on interfaces, if it is an interface method

We don't want users to get ambiguity errors when calling foo. We want them to get the most specific version of the method. This is important not because we'll call the wrong thing -- the JVM handles the virtual dispatch. But it can impact the return type.

Complication #3: We don't know the reflected signatures of all methods on every type

When generating code for one class X, it may have a supertype Y that is outside our java_package macro invocation. Or, it may have methods that return a value of type Z that is outside our java_package macro invocation. While we can leverage Java reflection to know the Java methods of Y and Z, that doesn't tell us what the Rust methods are. This is because users can subset the methods of Y and Z as well as making other changes, such as renaming them to avoid overload conflicts. So we have to support method dispatch with an incomplete view of the methods of Y and Z.

As one example of how this can be tricky, suppose that we attempted to resolve complication #2 by only generating methods on the "root location" that defined them.

Complication #4: Extension traits are not ergonomic

Ideally, we would define all methods as some kind of inherent method so that users do not need to import extension traits or deal with special-case preludes.

Outline and TL;DR

This section gives a brief overview of all the pieces of our solution and how they fit together In the following sections, we are going to walk through each part of the solution step by step.

  • Inherent associated functions on the object types
    • To support fully qualified dispatch, we add inherent associated functions (not methods, so no self parameter) to each Java class/interface. These are used if you write something like Object::to_string(o). The parameter o must be an impl IntoJava<Object>.
  • Concept: newtyped references and FromRef
    • The design below leans heavily on a pattern of newtyped references.
    • The idea is that given some reference &X, we define types like struct Wrapper<X> { x: X } with #[repr(transparent)]. The transparent representation ensures that X and Wrapper<X> have the same layout in memory and are treated equivalently in ABIs and the like.
    • Now we can safely transmute from &X to &Wrapper<X>.
  • Concept: method resolution order
    • Method resolution order is defined using Python's C3 algorithm. It is an ordering of the transitive supertypes (classes, interfaces) of C such that, if X extends Y, then X appears before Y in the MRO.
  • Modeling method resolution order (MRO) for a class/interface C with ViewAs structs
    • For each class/interface C, define an "view-as struct" that looks like ViewAsC<J, N>
      • A reference of type &ViewAsC<J, N> indicates a reference of type &J that is being "viewed as" a reference of type &C

      • The ViewAs structs is a "newtyped reference" from J, and so ViewAsC<J, N>: FromRef<J>.

      • The N parameter indicates the "view" struct for the next type in the method resolution order when upcasting from J

        • FIXME: We could probably refactor N away so that we just have AsC<J> and we use an auxiliary trait like J: MRO<C, Next = N>.
      • ViewAsC<J, N> derefs to N.

    • The ViewAsC structs are not nameable directly; instead the JavaObject trait includes an associated type <C as JavaObject>::ViewOn<J> that maps to ViewAsC<J, M> where M is the default MRO.
    • Define deref from C to C::ViewOn<C> (i.e., ViewAsC<C, M>).
    • Example:
      • Given Foo extends Bar, Baz, the type Foo would deref to
        • ViewAsFoo<Foo, ViewAsBar<Foo, ViewAsBaz<Foo, ()>>>, which in turn derefs to
        • ViewAsBar<Foo, >, which in turn derefs to
        • ViewAsBaz<Foo, ()>, which in turn derefs to
        • ()
  • Inherent methods on ViewAs structs
    • Next we add inherent methods like fn to_string(&self) -> impl JavaMethod<java::lang::String> + '_ to the view as structs in which those methods are defined.
      • In the case of to_string, this would appear on ViewAsObject<J, N>, but also other classes that override toString
      • The definition of this function just calls the inherent associated function Object::to_string
    • Rust's method dispatch will walk through the MRO, selecting the best method to use and invoking it
  • Invocations on other JvmOp values with OfOpAs structs
    • To support chained dispatch, we also need to support invocations on other JvmOp values.
    • We create a "view op as" struct that works exactly like ViewAs, e.g., OfOpAsC<O, N>
      • The difference is that O here is not a JavaObject type but rather a impl IntoJava<J> for some J
    • The N parameter models the MRO in an analogous way to ViewAs structs
    • Inherent methods are defined on the OfOpAs structs
    • Example:
      • Given Foo extends Bar, Baz, and some op O that produces a Foo, O would deref to
        • OfOpAsFoo<O, OfOpAsBar<O, OfOpAsBaz<O, ()>>>
        • OfOpAsBar<O, OfOpAsBaz<O, ()>>
        • OfOpAsBaz<O, ()>
        • ()
      • ...and thus users can invoke produce_foo().some_foo_method()

Inherent associated functions on the object types

The first step is to create a "fully qualified" notation for each Java method:

impl Object {
    fn to_string(
        this: impl IntoJava<Object>
    ) -> impl JavaMethod<java::lang::String> {

This function does not take a self parameter and so it can only be invoked using fully qualified form, e.g., Object::to_string(foo).

Concept: newtyped references and FromRef

The next step is that we define a trait FromRef that we will use to define a pattern called 'newtyped references'. The idea is that we want to be able to take a reference &J and convert it into a view on that reference &View<J>, where View<J> has the same data as J but defines inherent methods.

We'll create a trait FromRef to use for this pattern, where View<J>: FromRef<J> indicates that a view &View<J> can be constructed from a &J reference:

pub trait FromRef<J> {
    fn from_ref(t: &J) -> &Self;

A view struct is just a newtype on the underlying J type but with #[repr(transparent)]:

pub struct View<J> {
    this: J,

The #[repr(transparent)] attribute ensures that J and View<J> have the same layout in memory and are treated equivalently in ABIs and the like. Thanks to this, we can implement FromRef like so:

impl FromRef<J> for View<J> {
    fn from_ref(t: &J) -> &Self {
        // Safe because of the `#[repr(transparent)]` attribute
        unsafe { std::mem::transmute(t) }

Concept: Method resolution order (MRO)

The method resolution order for a type T is an ordered list of its transitive supertypes such that, given two types X and Y in the list, if X extends Y then X appears before Y. This ensures that if we search linearly down the list, we will find the "most refined" version of a method first. We define the MRO for a type T using Python's C3 algorithm.

Modeling method resolution order (MRO) for a class/interface C with ViewAs structs

For each class X, we define a ViewAsObj struct ViewAsXObj<J, N>:

struct ViewAsXObj<J, N> {
    this: J,
    phantom: PhantomData<N>,

The class has two type parameters:

  • The parameter J identifies the original type from which we created the view; this will always be some sutype of X.
  • The N parameter represents the remainder of J's method resolution order.

Deref chain

Each ViewAsObj struct includes a Deref that derefs to N:

impl<J, N> Deref for ViewAsXObj<J, N> {
    type Target = N;

    fn deref(&self) -> 

Chaining ViewAsObj structs

So given interface Foo extends Bar, Baz, the type Foo would deref to

ViewAsFooObj<Foo, ViewAsBarObj<Foo, ViewAsBazObj<Foo, ()>>>
//           ---  -----------  ----------------------------------
//           X    J            N

Each ViewAs struct derefs to its N parameter, so ViewAsFooObj<Foo, ViewAsBarObj<Foo, ...>> would deref to ViewAsBarObj<Foo, ...> and so forth.

The FromRef trait

Each op struct implements a trait FromRef<J>:

trait FromRef<J> {
    fn from_ref(r: &J) -> &Self;

The from_ref method allows constructing an op struct from an &J reference. Implementing this method requires a small bit of unsafe code, leveraging the repr(transparent) attribute on each op struct:

impl<J> FromRef<J> for ObjectOp<J>
    J: IntoJava<Foo>,
    fn from_ref(r: &J) -> &Self {
        // Safe because ObjectOp<J> shares representation with J:
        unsafe { std::mem::transmute(r) }

Methods on ViewAsObj structs

The ViewAsObj struct for a given Java type also has inherent methods for each Java method. These are implemented by invoking the fully qualified inherent functions. For example, the ViewAsObj struct for Object includes a to_string method like so:

impl<J, N> ViewAsObjectObj<J, N>
    J: Upcast<Object>,
    pub fn to_string(&self) -> impl JavaMethod<java::lang::String> + '_ {

Naming op structs: the JavaObject::OfOp associated type

We don't want ViewAsObj structs to be publicly visible. So we create them inside of a const _: () = { .. } block. But we do need some way to name them. We expose them via associated types of the JavaView trait:

trait JavaView {
    type OfObj<J>: FromRef<J>;
    type OfObjWith<J, N>: FromRef<J>
        N: FromRef<J>;

The OfObj associated type in particular provides the "default value" for N that defines the MRO. The OfObjWith is used to supply an explicit N value. For example:

const _: () = {
    struct ViewAsFooObj<J, C> { ... }
    impl JavaView for Foo {
        type OfObj<J> = ViewAsFooObj<Foo, Bar::OfObjWith<Foo, Baz::OfObjWith<Foo, ()>>>;
        //              ------------ ---  --------------------------------------------
        //                |          |    Method resolution order      
        //                |          Original type we are viewing onto (i.e., Self)
        //              The ViewAsFoo object

ViewAsOp structs

The ViewAsObj structs allow you to invoke methods on a java object reference like s: &java::lang::String. But they do not allow you to invoke methods on some random JvmOp that happens to return a string. For that, we create a very similar set of ViewAsOp structs:

struct ViewAsXOp<J, N> {
    this: J,
    phantom: PhantomData<N>,

These ViewAsOp structs look exactly the same, but the J here is not a java object but rather a JvmOp. Like the ViewAsObj structs, they have inherent methods that call to the fully qualified inherent methods. But the signature is slightly different; it is a &self method, but the impl JavaMethod that is returned does not capture the self reference. Instead, it copies the self.this out. This relies on the fact that all JvmOp values are Copy.

impl<J, N> ViewAsObjectObj<J, N>
    J: IntoJava<Object>,
    pub fn to_string(&self) -> impl JavaMethod<java::lang::String> {

ViewAsOp structs are exposed through associated types on JavaView just like ViewAsObj structs.

Q: Why not a self method?

You might wonder why we take a &self method and then copy out rather than just taking self. The reason is that the ViewAsObjectObj traits are the output from Deref impls

Deref impls on ops

We also have to add a Deref impl to each of the op structs.

struct SomeOp { }

impl JvmOp for SomeOp {
    type Output<'jvm> = Local<'jvm, Foo>;

impl Deref for SomeOp {
    type Target = <Foo as JavaView>::OfOp<SomeOp>;

    fn deref(&self) -> &Self::Target {