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The framework laid out by optics extends very nicely to values like lists, which contain any potential number of elements. Traversals is the name of that kind of optic.

In a rush?
  • Traversals focus on an indefinite number of values.
  • To access all the values, use getAll.
  • Traversals provide an API similar to those of collections.
  • To modify every value focused by the traversal, use modify.

Every element in a collection

As with other kinds of optics, Traversal<T, A> represents a reference to elements of type A within a larger structure of type T. As hinted above, most traversals arise from focusing on elements in a collection; in Arrow Optics, those basic traversals live in the Every object.

Let's introduce a small data class for our examples:

@optics data class Person(val name: String, val age: Int, val friends: List<Person>) {
companion object

If we want to update the age of every Person in a list, the usual way is to use the map function from the standard library.

fun List<Person>.happyBirthdayMap(): List<Person> =
map { Person.age.modify(it) { age -> age + 1 } }

The same code can be rewritten using only optics by leveraging a traversal for lists.

fun List<Person>.happyBirthdayOptics(): List<Person> =
Every.list<Person>().age.modify(this) { age -> age + 1 }

Traversals become more useful when composed with other optics. Imagine that we want to update the age of all the friends of a Person; the usual implementation with map and copy becomes quite complex.

fun Person.happyBirthdayFriends(): Person =
friends = { friend -> friend.copy(age = friend.age + 1) }

The implementation using optics hides all the complexity related to mapping and copying, and simply focuses on the path to access the values.

fun Person.happyBirthdayFriendsOptics(): Person =
Person.friends.every(Every.list()).age.modify(this) { it + 1 }

You might be wondering why we need to write Every.list() as argument to every, given that we know that Person.friends focuses on a List<Person>. The reason is type erasure: the compiler cannot differentiate between Lens<Person, List<Person>> and Lens<Person, Map<String, Person>>, so there's no way to tell which is the right traversal to apply in each case. However, if we provide the hint ourselves by giving Every.list() as argument, the compiler is able to check that our usage is correct.

More than getAll

The counterpart to get and getOrNull when speaking about traversals is called getAll, and returns a list of focused elements. But you don't always have to go through an intermediate list to obtain information about the elements focused by a Traversal, we provide a large API based on Kotlin's collections in the standard library.

For example, you can call isEmpty to check whether the traversal matches any element. Or, more generally, you can call size to obtain the number of elements it matches. Note that, in any case, these operations are "optics-first", so you need to provide the value they operate on as an argument.