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8.14  Extensible variant types

(Introduced in OCaml 4.02)

type-representation::= ...  
  = ..  
specification::= ...  
  type [type-params]  typeconstr  type-extension-spec  
definition::= ...  
  type [type-params]  typeconstr  type-extension-def  
type-extension-spec::= += [private] [|constr-decl  { | constr-decl }  
type-extension-def::= += [private] [|constr-def  { | constr-def }  
constr-def::= constr-decl  
  constr-name =  constr  

Extensible variant types are variant types which can be extended with new variant constructors. Extensible variant types are defined using ... New variant constructors are added using +=.

module Expr = struct type attr = .. type attr += Str of string type attr += | Int of int | Float of float end

Pattern matching on an extensible variant type requires a default case to handle unknown variant constructors:

let to_string = function | Expr.Str s -> s | Expr.Int i -> Int.to_string i | Expr.Float f -> string_of_float f | _ -> "?"

A preexisting example of an extensible variant type is the built-in exn type used for exceptions. Indeed, exception constructors can be declared using the type extension syntax:

type exn += Exc of int

Extensible variant constructors can be rebound to a different name. This allows exporting variants from another module.

let not_in_scope = Str "Foo";;
Error: Unbound constructor Str
type Expr.attr += Str = Expr.Str
let now_works = Str "foo";;
val now_works : Expr.attr = Expr.Str "foo"

Extensible variant constructors can be declared private. As with regular variants, this prevents them from being constructed directly by constructor application while still allowing them to be de-structured in pattern-matching.

module B : sig type Expr.attr += private Bool of int val bool : bool -> Expr.attr end = struct type Expr.attr += Bool of int let bool p = if p then Bool 1 else Bool 0 end
let inspection_works = function | B.Bool p -> (p = 1) | _ -> true;;
val inspection_works : Expr.attr -> bool = <fun>
let construction_is_forbidden = B.Bool 1;;
Error: Cannot use private constructor Bool to create values of type Expr.attr

8.14.1  Private extensible variant types

(Introduced in OCaml 4.06)

type-representation::= ...  
  = private ..  

Extensible variant types can be declared private. This prevents new constructors from being declared directly, but allows extension constructors to be referred to in interfaces.

module Msg : sig type t = private .. module MkConstr (X : sig type t end) : sig type t += C of X.t end end = struct type t = .. module MkConstr (X : sig type t end) = struct type t += C of X.t end end

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