Generics topic

One of dart_mappables most unique and powerful features is the handling of generic classes.

You can easily define any type of generic classes, including

  • classes with one or more generic type parameters
  • classes with bounded type parameters
  • generic classes using polymorphism

dart_mappables promise is that it just works, no matter what classes you throw at it.

Generic Decoding

Normally when decoding an object, you call the fromJson or fromMap method of its specific mapper, like PersonMapper.fromJson() to get a Person, or CarMapper.fromJson() to get a car.

However dart_mappable also has the ability to decode an object based on a type parameter alone, using the respective fromJson or fromMap methods on a MapperContainer. Those methods are actually generic and take a single type parameter, with the complete signature being: T fromJson<T>(String json). So it returns an object of whatever type you give it.

With this you can also do container.fromJson<Person>(...) and container.fromJson<Car>(...) to get a Person or Car respectively.

Now you are probably asking where this container comes from. A MapperContainer is what makes dart_mappable work internally, and for simple cases you usually don't need to worry about it.

If you are interested in MapperContainers, read this topic.

There are two ways to get a container:

  1. Each mapper has its own container, accessible through <ClassName>Mapper.container.

However this container only knows about classes related to the model it is defined for. So for example the PersonMapper.container would succeed in doing PersonMapper.container.fromJson<Person>(..) but fail when trying to do PersonMapper.container.fromJson<Car>(...).

  1. You can create arbitrary containers using the MapperContainer() constructor.

A container created like this initially knows about no models, but you can link other containers to include their mappers.

void main() {
  // initially knows no mappers, so container.fromJson<Person>() would fail
  var container = MapperContainer();

  // links mappers for [Person] and [Car] (and related models)
  container.linkAll([PersonMapper.container, CarMapper.container]);
  // now this works
  Person person = container.fromJson<Person>(...);
  Car car = container.fromJson<Car>(...);

The power of this feature might be more clear when seeing it in a generic context. Instead of providing type arguments to the function statically (fromJson<MyClass>), you can use this in another generic function like this:

final container = MapperContainer()..linkAll([...]);

T decodeModel<T>(String json) {
  return container.fromJson<T>();

Combined Containers

When using generic decoding you will need a MapperContainer that knows about all types that you could possibly be decoded using a generic type parameter.

Creating such a container could be very tedious since you potentially had to link all mappers in your project.

Therefore dart_mappable can generate this container for you. To do this annotate a library of yours with the @MappableLib() annotation and set the createCombinedContainer property to true:

  createCombinedContainer: true,
library main;

This will create a new <filename>.container.dart file that creates a single mainContainer combining all discovered mappers.

You can control what mappers are included by setting the discoveryMode property to one of three values:

  createCombinedContainer: true,
  discoveryMode: DiscoveryMode.library, // or, DiscoveryMode.package
library main;
  • library is the default and discovers all mappers in the current library,
  • directory discover all mappers in the current or any subdirectory,
  • package discover all models in the current package.

Typeless Serialization

Generic Decoding is already a very powerful and unique feature of dart_mappable. But you can go a step further and serialize json with no static typing at all - which I call typeless serialization.

All that is needed is a special __type key in the json data. You can then do some magic like this:

void main() {
  /// this needs to know about all involved classes, see the section above
  var container = ...;
  var json = '{"__type": "Person", "name": "Bob"}';
  // notice the static type 'dynamic', no 'Person.fromJson' or 'container.fromJson<Person>' needed
  dynamic object = container.fromJson(json);
  // this is actually a [Person] instance
  assert(object.runtimeType == Person);

This also works for generic classes, like {'__type': 'Box<Content>'}.

To go full circle, dart_mappable can also include this type indicator for you when you encode a class. For this notice that the toValue, toMap and toJson methods of a container are actually also generic: dynamic container.toValue<T>(T value).

This is different to the toMap and toJson methods of the generated mixin. You have to use a MapperContainer directly.

Specifying this type parameter is by design redundant and not important for most cases. It only takes effect when the static type T and the runtime type value.runtimeType are different, in which case it will add the __type property.

void main() {
  // this needs to know about all involved classes
  // either use a combined container (see the section above) or a 
  // class-specific one, e.g. [MyClassMapper.container]
  var container = ...;
  // this will encode normal without '__type'
  container.toValue(MyClass()); // works because of type inference

  // this will add the '__type' property
  container.toValue(someDynamicVariable); // where type inference does not work
          myGenericClassInstance); // because the instance has a specific type

Together this allows you to serialize and deserialize an object without even knowing its type:

void main() {
  // this needs to know about all involved classes (see the snippet above)
  var container = ...;
  dynamic someObject = ...;
  String json = container.toJson(someObject);
  // do something in between, or even send the json between server and client
  dynamic newObject = container.fromJson(json);
  assert(someObject.runtimeType == newObject.runtimeType);

Next: Mapping Hooks


MappableLib Configuration Polymorphism Generics
Used to annotate a library to define default values.
MapperContainer Generics Mapper Container


DiscoveryMode Generics
How to discover mappers when MappableLib.createLinkedContainer is true.