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.

T can be any of your model types (Person, Car), including generic types (Box<Content>) and even lists (List<Item>), or any combination of those (List<Person>, Box<List<Item>>, List<List<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:

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

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

The recommended way is to simply use the existing MapperContainer.globals container. This is a special container that is used by all generated mappers and doesn't require much manual setup.

If you want to learn more about MapperContainers, read this topic.

For the MapperContainer.globals to support a given model type, you need to have called MyModelMapper.ensureInitialized() at least once. A good place to put this is in an initializer function that you call from your main() method, to make sure all models are available for decoding:

void initMappers() {

void main() {
  // Init all required mappers.
  // You can now call this anywhere.
  // This won't work, since `ensureInitialize()` wasn't called on `AnimalMapper`.

Generated Initializer

When using generic decoding you will need to call MyMapper.ensureInitialized() for all types that you could possibly be decoding using a generic type parameter.

Doing this could be very tedious and boilerplaty since you potentially have to call all mappers in your project.

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

@MappableLib(generateInitializerForScope: InitializerScope.package)
library main;

This will create a new <filename>.init.dart file containing a single initializeMappers() function that initializes all discovered mappers.

You can control what mappers are included by changing the initializer scope to one of three values:

  • InitializerScope.library discovers all mappers in the current library,
  • discovers all mappers in the current or any subdirectory,
  • InitializerScope.package discovers 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() {  
  // Initializes all required mappers (see section above)
  var json = '{"__type": "Person", "name": "Bob"}';
  // notice the static type 'dynamic', no 'Person.fromJson' or 'container.fromJson<Person>' needed
  dynamic object = MapperContainer.globals.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() {
  // Initializes all required mappers (see section above)
  // this will encode normal without '__type'

  MapperContainer.globals.toValue(MyClass()); // works because of type inference

  // this will add the '__type' property

  MapperContainer.globals.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() {
  // Initializes all required mappers (see section above)
  dynamic someObject = ...;
  String json = MapperContainer.globals.toJson(someObject);
  // do something in between, or even send the json between server and client
  dynamic newObject = MapperContainer.globals.fromJson(json);
  assert(someObject.runtimeType == newObject.runtimeType);

Next: Mapping Hooks


DecodingOptions Generics Mapper Container
Additional options to be passed to MapperContainer.fromValue.
EncodingOptions Generics Mapper Container
Additional options to be passed to MapperContainer.toValue.
MappableLib Configuration Polymorphism Generics
Used to annotate a library to define default values.
MapperContainer Generics Mapper Container
The mapper container manages a set of mappers and is the main interface for accessing mapping functionalities.


InitializerScope Generics
The scope of mappers that should automatically be registered when using MappableClass.generateInitializerInScope.