Class extensions

This article describes the new class extension model in X++.

Because over-layering is a very intrusive feature, we recommend that you not use it. The alternative to over-layering is extension. Extension lets you extend existing artifacts in a new model. Extensions are easier to maintain, but the amount of extension that can be done during customization is limited. There are rich ways to extend the metadata. For example, you can add new fields to a table. This article describes how X++ code can be extended, so that you can add methods and state to artifacts that are defined in other models without recompiling those models. A similar code extension mechanism already exists for X++ and is modeled after the corresponding feature in C#. Under this mechanism, a class can be designated as an extension class through a naming convention and by hosting public static methods. In the existing feature, the type of the first argument that is passed to the extension method is the type to extend. What this article describes is the next step in that direction, which offers a more capable and natural extension story. In objected-oriented programming, the term extend has a well-defined meaning. If we say, "class B extends class A," we mean that B inherits from A, and the usual object-oriented rules are implied. In fact, this term is even used in the X++ syntax that is used in class declarations to express this relationship. At the same time, we use the term extension to talk about metadata that has contributions from several models. To avoid overloading the term extend, we will instead use the term class augmentation to designate the relationship between a class A in a base model and a class B in a model that depends on it, where B provides additional functionality to class A in the context of that model. Nevertheless, we will also continue to use the term extension class, because it's prevalent.

The effective class concept

It's useful to have a term for a class that consists of the public members of the augmented artifact and all the public members of all the class extensions that augment that artifact. This class is called the effective class in a given model. The following illustration shows an artifact, MyArtifact, that is defined in a base model, MyModel, and two dependent models that have extension classes for MyArtifact. Artifact MyArtifact that is defined in base model MyModel, and two dependent models that have extension classes for MyArtifact In this example, the effective class is the class in the extension models that contains all the original methods and all the public artifacts from the extension classes. The effective class isn't the same in every model, because it includes only the class extensions that are defined in a given model. The following illustration shows the effective class of MyArtifact in the MyExtensionModel model. Effective class of MyArtifact in MyExtensionModel We will describe class extensions by using a class that is named MyClass in a model that is named MyModel.

class MyClass
{
    public int mycState;
    public str mycMethod(int arg)
    {
        // ...
    }
}

We can add new methods and state to MyClass by introducing an extension class in the extension model (MyExtensionModel) that builds on top of (that is, has a dependency on) MyModel.

Extension class declarations

Extension classes are classes that are adorned with the ExtensionOf attribute and that also have a name that has the _Extension suffix. (This restriction on the naming might be removed later.) The name of the extension class is otherwise unimportant. The class augments the artifact that is specified in the ExtensionOf attribute, as shown in the following example.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(MyClass))]
final class MyClass_Extension
{
    private void new()
    {
    }
}

Because the classes are instantiated by the runtime system, it's not meaningful to derive from the extension class. Therefore, the extension class must be marked as final. The classStr compile-time function must be used and has two purposes:

  • It produces a compilation error if the MyClass class doesn't exist.
  • The compile-time function that is used tells the compiler what kind of artifact is augmented. Artifact names by themselves don't uniquely identify a given artifact to augment. For example, forms can have the same names as tables, classes, and enums.

Any number of extension classes can augment a given artifact in a particular model. Extension classes are never referenced directly by the programmer, only by the runtime system.

Extension class inheritance

Any class that inherits from an augmented class also inherits the effective class. In other words, the classes that inherit from a class that has extensions inherit the methods that are defined in the extension classes.

Constructors

X++ supports both instance constructors and static constructors.

Instance constructors

The instance constructor is the method that is named new. The instance constructor that is defined in an extension class can't have parameters. Instances of the extension classes are created, and the runtime system calls their constructors as required by the usage scenario. These constructors are never explicitly called by your code. Constructors are useful for initializing the state of the extension objects. It's guaranteed that the constructor that is provided in an extension class will be called one time before any instance method or the instance state on the extension class is accessed. However, if no such references are made, the constructor isn't called.

Static constructors

Static constructors are the parameter-less static methods that are named typenew. Static constructors can be defined on extension classes. It's guaranteed that the runtime system will call the constructor before the first reference to the extension type. You can't assume any particular order of invocation for static construction among a set of extensions.

Methods

The public methods that are defined in extension classes provide additional functionality to the augmented class in the context of the model where the extension class is defined. Only public methods are exposed in this way. You can define private methods to help implement the public methods, but those private methods aren't part of the effective class. Because extension classes are final, methods can't be marked as protected.

Instance methods

The following example defines an extension method that is named ExtensionMethod and that augments MyClass.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(MyClass))]
final class MyClass_Extension
{
    private void new()
    {
    }
    public int ExtensionMethod(int arg)
    {
    }
}

The public instance method (ExtensionMethod) is defined in the extension class. Therefore, it's available just as if it were defined in MyClass in the context of the model where the extension class is defined. The following example shows how to call the method in the model.

MyClass c = new MyClass();
print c.ExtensionMethod(32);

Note that the instance method that is defined in the extension class is used as an instance method on the augmented artifact. An extension method can access public members only from the artifact that it augments (Access to protected methods and members is also supported if you are on platform update 9 or newer). This behavior is by design. No artifact should be able to interact directly with state and methods that are explicitly hidden through the private, or internal keywords. Otherwise, direct interaction with explicitly hidden state and methods could cause malfunction by invalidating key implementation assumptions in those artifacts. Methods and statements in the method body can use the this keyword. In this context, the type of this is the effective class of the augmented artifact.

Static methods

Methods that are defined as public and static in the extension class are available as static methods on the artifact that is augmented.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(MyClass))]
final class MyClass_Extension
{
    private void new()
    {
    }
    public int method1(int arg)
    {
    }
    public static real CelsiusToFahrenheit(real celsius)
    {
        return (celsius * 9.0 / 5.0) + 32.0;
    }
}

The following example shows how to call the method in the model.

var temp = MyClass::CelsiusToFahrenheit(20.0);

A static method can access the public static methods and state in the effective class of the augmented artifact. As an interesting side effect, static extension methods on the Global class become available in the language as functions, which are available without any prefix.

State

In addition to providing static and instance methods to an artifact, you can add instance state and static state.

Instance state

Instance state, which is state that pertains to a particular instance of an artifact, can be specified on extension classes. The following example defines a state that is named state.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(MyClass))]
final class MyClass_Extension
{
    public int state;
    private void new()
    {
    }
}

The following example shows how to use state in your code.

MyClass c = new MyClass();
c.state = 12;

Static state

Static state applies to the type instead of an instance of the type. The following example shows a static extension state.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(MyClass))]
final class MyClass_Extension
{
    public int state;
    public static int staticState;
    static void TypeNew()
    {
        staticState = 77;
    }
}