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Fields and wrappers

Arrow Analysis supports the addition of invariants to types, but what happens when you already have a type and want to add information relative to it? And when may that situation arise? There are two different features to keep more information: fields and wrapper types.


The declaration of pre and post-conditions may not only talk about the value of the arguments, but also reference their properties, fields, and even some of their functions. This is used, for example, in the contract of the indexing operation of a list, in which we refer to its size.

import arrow.analysis.pre

class List<T> {
val size: Int
get() = TODO() // complicated computation

fun get(index: Int): T {
pre(index >= 0 && index < this.size) { "index within bounds" }
// complicated code to get the value

We use the word field to collectively refer to those elements of an argument we are allowed to refer to in a pre- or post-condition, or an invariant of a mutable variable or type. There are two sources for fields:

  1. Properties and fields, like size above.
  2. Instance or extension methods with no arguments, this allows you to use isNotEmpty() as a field.

Given the rules above, the following is accepted by Arrow Analysis:

import arrow.analysis.pre

fun <T> List<T>.first(): T {
pre(this.isNotEmpty()) { "list should not be empty" }
return this.get(0)

Definition of fields

Actually, if you think about it, the fact that the previous code snippet is accepted is not obvious at all! There must be an additional reasoning step for Arrow Analysis to understand that is the list is not empty, then calling get with 0 as index is allowed, since the precondition for get only mentions size.

It is very common, though, to have this kind of relationship between properties. Furthermore, many style guidelines suggest to use simpler Boolean predicates like isNotEmpty() instead of the longer size > 0. To establish this broken link, Arrow Analysis follows this rule:

If a field declares no pre-conditions, and a single post-condition of the form { it == SOMETHING }, then SOMETHING is taken as the definition of that field.

The tool then deems each usage of the derived field as being equivalent to its definition. In our case, the List class would declare the post-condition in isNotEmpty.


class List<T> {
fun isNotEmpty(): Boolean {
// complicated code
return{ this.size > 0 }) { "non-emptiness is size > 0" }

We remark that this definition only applies at the level of Arrow Analysis. The implementation of isNotEmpty is free to use a more performant algorithm. It's during the reasoning stage within the analysis that we make use of the equivalence with size > 0.

Inline classes

Sometimes there's a particular invariant we repeat over and over in our code. For example, a list not being empty or a number being positive:

fun average(xs: List<Int>): Int {
pre(xs.isNotEmpty()) { "list not empty" }

fun increment(x: Int): Int {
pre(x > 0) { "non-negative" }
return (x + 1).post({ it > 0 }) { "positive" }

In those cases it might be worth defining a new type where the invariant is encoded once and for all. Here we show those types corresponding to non-empty lists and positive numbers:

value class NonEmptyList<A>(val value: List<A>) {
init { require(value.isNotEmpty()) { "not empty" } }

value class Positive(val value: Int) {
init { require(value > 0) { "positive" } }

That way your pre- and post-conditions are encoded in the types themselves. Alas, in many cases you need to access the underlying value or apply the constructor manually.

fun average(xs: NonEmptyList<Int>): Int = TODO()

fun increment(x: Positive): Positive {
return Positive(x.value + 1)

The good news is that the performance won't suffer. The @JvmInline value at the beginning of the NonEmptyList and Positive classes declare those as inline classes. The Kotlin compiler substituted ("inlines") any usage of inline classes by their underlying value, avoiding any additional heap allocations.


Declaring wrappers to encode invariants become increasingly important when working with collection types (lists, sets, maps). Imagine we want to define a function which increments a list of positive values:

// previous version of increment
fun increment(x: Int): Int {
pre(x > 0) { "non-negative" }
return (x + 1).post({ it > 0 }) { "positive" }

fun List<Int>.example() = map { increment(it) }

This will not work, as the analysis cannot guarantee that the value passed to increment inside map is indeed positive. Alas, there is no way to define a pre-condition which talks about all the elements in the list (technically, that would involve quantifiers, and this is not supported by the logic in Arrow Analysis.) The solution is to use the corresponding wrapper type:

fun List<Positive>.example() = map { increment(it.value) }

Note that in this case we didn't have to change our definition of increment to take Positive values. Instead, by unwrapping with it.value the condition it.value > 0 becomes available to the analysis, making the call to increment correct.

One important pattern in this case is the replacement of filters with operations that introduce the wrapper types. For example, the following is not accepted by Arrow Analysis, because it is unaware of the predicate in filter.

fun moreExample(xs: List<Int>) = xs.filter { it > 0 }.example()

This case can be worked around by replacing filter with mapNotNull. Instead of simply removing the undesired elements, we also wrap the good ones in Positive.

fun moreExample(xs: List<Int>) = xs.mapNotNull {
if (it > 0) Positive(it) else null

In the future we aim to introduce support for attaching invariants to types "on the spot". Other analyzers, like LiquidHaskell, support this features by means of refinement types.