Pattern matching for custom types in Swift

Pattern matching in Swift is a technique that allows us to check and de-structure data in a concise way. It's most often seen in switch statements, where it can match against a variety of patterns.

An expression pattern is used in a switch case to represent the value of an expression. The magic behind matching these patterns lies in the ~= operator, which Swift uses under the hood to determine if the pattern matches the value. By default, ~= compares two values of the same type using the == operator, but we can overload it to provide custom behavior.

Let's consider a custom type Circle and demonstrate how to implement custom pattern matching for it.

First, we define a simple Circle struct with a radius.

struct Circle {
    var radius: Double

let myCircle = Circle(radius: 5)

Now, let's overload the ~= operator to match a Circle with a specific radius.

func ~= (pattern: Double, value: Circle) -> Bool {
    return value.radius == pattern

This overload allows us to use a Double in a switch statement case to match against a Circle's radius.

switch myCircle {
case 5:
    print("Circle with a radius of 5")
case 10:
    print("Circle with a radius of 10")
    print("Circle with a different radius")

We can add as many overloads as we need. For example, we can define custom logic to check whether the Circle's radius falls within a specified range.

func ~= (pattern: ClosedRange<Double>, value: Circle) -> Bool {
    return pattern.contains(value.radius)

The switch statement can now match myCircle against Double values and ranges, thanks to our custom implementations of the ~= operator.

switch myCircle {
case 0:
    print("Radius is 0, it's a point!")
case 1...10:
    print("Small circle with a radius between 1 and 10")
    print("Circle with a different radius")

Custom pattern matching in Swift opens up a lot of possibilities for handling complex types more elegantly. By overloading the ~= operator, we can tailor the pattern matching process to suit our custom types. As with any powerful tool, we should use it wisely to enhance our code without compromising on readability.

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