JEP 354: Switch Expressions (Preview)

AuthorGavin Bierman
OwnerJan Lahoda
TypeFeature
ScopeSE
StatusClosed / Delivered
Release13
Componenttools / javac
Discussionamber dash dev at openjdk dot java dot net
EffortS
DurationM
Relates toJEP 325: Switch Expressions (Preview)
JEP 361: Switch Expressions (Standard)
Reviewed byAlex Buckley, Brian Goetz
Endorsed byBrian Goetz
Created2019/04/09 12:38
Updated2019/09/04 06:35
Issue8222184

Summary

Extend switch so it can be used as either a statement or an expression, and so that both forms can use either traditional case ... : labels (with fall through) or new case ... -> labels (with no fall through), with a further new statement for yielding a value from a switch expression. These changes will simplify everyday coding, and prepare the way for the use of pattern matching (JEP 305) in switch. This is a preview language feature in JDK 13.

History

Switch expressions were proposed in December 2017 by JEP 325. They were targeted to JDK 12 in August 2018 as a preview feature. Feedback was sought initially on the design of the feature, and later on the experience of using switch expressions and the enhanced switch statement. Based on that feedback, this JEP makes one change to the feature:

To yield a value from a switch expression, the break with value statement is dropped in favor of a yield statement.

Motivation

As we prepare to enhance the Java programming language to support pattern matching (JEP 305), several irregularities of the existing switch statement -- which have long been an irritation to users -- become impediments. These include the default control flow behavior between switch labels (fall through), the default scoping in switch blocks (the whole block is treated as one scope), and the fact that switch works only as a statement, even though it is often more natural to express multi-way conditionals as expressions.

The current design of Java's switch statement follows closely languages such as C and C++, and supports fall through semantics by default. Whilst this traditional control flow is often useful for writing low-level code (such as parsers for binary encodings), as switch is used in higher-level contexts, its error-prone nature starts to outweigh its flexibility. For example, in the following code, the many break statements make it unnecessarily verbose, and this visual noise often masks hard to debug errors, where missing break statements would mean accidental fall through.

switch (day) {
    case MONDAY:
    case FRIDAY:
    case SUNDAY:
        System.out.println(6);
        break;
    case TUESDAY:
        System.out.println(7);
        break;
    case THURSDAY:
    case SATURDAY:
        System.out.println(8);
        break;
    case WEDNESDAY:
        System.out.println(9);
        break;
}

We propose to introduce a new form of switch label, "case L ->", to signify that only the code to the right of the label is to be executed if the label is matched. We also propose to allow multiple constants per case, separated by commas. The previous code can now be written:

switch (day) {
    case MONDAY, FRIDAY, SUNDAY -> System.out.println(6);
    case TUESDAY                -> System.out.println(7);
    case THURSDAY, SATURDAY     -> System.out.println(8);
    case WEDNESDAY              -> System.out.println(9);
}

The code to the right of a "case L ->" switch label is restricted to be an expression, a block, or (for convenience) a throw statement. This has the pleasing consequence that should an arm introduce a local variable, it must be contained in a block and is thus not in scope for any of the other arms in the switch block. This eliminates another annoyance with traditional switch blocks where the scope of a local variable is the entire block:

switch (day) {
    case MONDAY:
    case TUESDAY:
        int temp = ...     // The scope of 'temp' continues to the }
        break;
    case WEDNESDAY:
    case THURSDAY:
        int temp2 = ...    // Can't call this variable 'temp'
        break;
    default:
        int temp3 = ...    // Can't call this variable 'temp'
}

Many existing switch statements are essentially simulations of switch expressions, where each arm either assigns to a common target variable or returns a value:

int numLetters;
switch (day) {
    case MONDAY:
    case FRIDAY:
    case SUNDAY:
        numLetters = 6;
        break;
    case TUESDAY:
        numLetters = 7;
        break;
    case THURSDAY:
    case SATURDAY:
        numLetters = 8;
        break;
    case WEDNESDAY:
        numLetters = 9;
        break;
    default:
        throw new IllegalStateException("Wat: " + day);
}

Expressing this as a statement is roundabout, repetitive, and error-prone. The author meant to express that we should compute a value of numLetters for each day. It should be possible to say that directly, using a switch expression, which is both clearer and safer:

int numLetters = switch (day) {
    case MONDAY, FRIDAY, SUNDAY -> 6;
    case TUESDAY                -> 7;
    case THURSDAY, SATURDAY     -> 8;
    case WEDNESDAY              -> 9;
};

In turn, extending switch to support expressions raises some additional needs, such as extending flow analysis (an expression must always compute a value or complete abruptly), and allowing some case arms of a switch expression to throw an exception rather than yield a value.

Description

Arrow labels

In addition to traditional "case L :" labels in a switch block, we propose a new simplified form, with "case L ->" labels. If a label is matched, then only the expression or statement to the right of the arrow is executed; there is no fall through. For example, given the following switch statement that uses the new form of labels:

static void howMany(int k) {
    switch (k) {
        case 1  -> System.out.println("one");
        case 2  -> System.out.println("two");
        default -> System.out.println("many");
    }
}

The following code:

howMany(1);
howMany(2);
howMany(3);

results in the following output:

one
two
many

Switch expressions

We will extend the switch statement so it can be used as an expression. For example, the previous howMany method can be rewritten to use a switch expression, so it uses only a single println.

static void howMany(int k) {
    System.out.println(
        switch (k) {
            case  1 -> "one"
            case  2 -> "two"
            default -> "many"
        }
    );
}

In the common case, a switch expression will look like:

T result = switch (arg) {
    case L1 -> e1;
    case L2 -> e2;
    default -> e3;
};

A switch expression is a poly expression; if the target type is known, this type is pushed down into each arm. The type of a switch expression is its target type, if known; if not, a standalone type is computed by combining the types of each case arm.

Yielding a value

Most switch expressions will have a single expression to the right of the "case L ->" switch label. In the event that a full block is needed, we introduce a new yield statement to yield a value, which becomes the value of the enclosing switch expression.

int j = switch (day) {
    case MONDAY  -> 0;
    case TUESDAY -> 1;
    default      -> {
        int k = day.toString().length();
        int result = f(k);
        yield result;
    }
};

A switch expression can, like a switch statement, also use a traditional switch block with "case L:" switch labels (implying fall through semantics). In this case, values are yielded using the new yield statement:

int result = switch (s) {
    case "Foo": 
        yield 1;
    case "Bar":
        yield 2;
    default:
        System.out.println("Neither Foo nor Bar, hmmm...");
        yield 0;
};

The two statements, break (with or without a label) and yield, facilitate easy disambiguation between switch statements and switch expressions: a switch statement but not a switch expression can be the target of a break statement; and a switch expression but not a switch statement can be the target of a yield statement.

In the previous preview version of switch expressions, JEP 325, we proposed to add a new form of break statement with a value, which would be used to yield a value from a switch expression. In this version of switch expressions, this will be replaced with the new yield statement.

Exhaustiveness

The cases of a switch expression must be exhaustive; for all possible values there must be a matching switch label. (Obviously switch statements are not required to be exhaustive.)

In practice this normally means that a default clause is required; however, in the case of an enum switch expression that covers all known constants, a default clause is inserted by the compiler to indicate that the enum definition has changed between compile-time and runtime. Relying on this implicit default clause insertion makes for more robust code; now when code is recompiled, the compiler checks that all cases are explicitly handled. Had the developer inserted an explicit default clause (as is the case today) a possible error will have been hidden.

Furthermore, a switch expression must either complete normally with a value, or complete abruptly by throwing an exception. This has a number of consequences. First, the compiler checks that for every switch label, if it is matched then a value can be yielded.

int i = switch (day) {
    case MONDAY -> {
        System.out.println("Monday"); 
        // ERROR! Block doesn't contain a yield statement
    }
    default -> 1;
};
i = switch (day) {
    case MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY: 
        yield 0;
    default: 
        System.out.println("Second half of the week");
        // ERROR! Group doesn't contain a yield statement
};

A further consequence is that the control statements, break, yield, return and continue, cannot jump through a switch expression, such as in the following:

z: 
    for (int i = 0; i < MAX_VALUE; ++i) {
        int k = switch (e) { 
            case 0:  
                yield 1;
            case 1:
                yield 2;
            default: 
                continue z; 
                // ERROR! Illegal jump through a switch expression 
        };
    ...
    }

Dependencies

This feature was previewed in JEP 325.

Pattern Matching (JEP 305) depends on this JEP.

Risks and Assumptions

The need for a switch statement with case L -> labels is sometimes unclear. The following rationale presents the assumptions behind its inclusion: