Abstract serialization services
The serialization services are based on the
serialize and the
Serializable interface and the implementations of
A class annotated with
serialize identifies it as a subclass of Serializable and
triggers the generation of customized serialization and deserialization services.
import serialization # Simple serializable class identifying a human class Person serialize # First and last name var name: String # Year of birth (`null` if unknown) var birth: nullable Int redef fun ==(o) do return o isa SELF and name == o.name and birth == o.birth redef fun hash do return name.hash end
Person class also defines
hash, this is optional but we will use it to make an important point.
By definition of a serializable class, an instance can be serialized to a stream, then deserialized.
The deserialized instance will not be the same instance, but they should be equal.
So, in this case, we can compare both instances with
== to test their equality.
Some conditions applies to the classes that can be annotated as
All attributes of the class must be serializable, runtime errors will be
raised when trying to serialize non-serializable attributes.
In the class
Person, all attributes are typed with classes the standards library.
These common types are defined defined as serializable by this project.
The attributes could also be typed with user-defined
classes or any other subclass of
# This `serialize` class is composed of two `serialize` attributes class Partnership serialize var partner_a: Person var partner_b: Person redef fun ==(o) do return o isa SELF and partner_a == o.partner_a and partner_b == o.partner_b redef fun hash do return partner_a.hash + 1024*partner_b.hash end
Scope of the
serialize can annotate class definitions, modules and attributes:
The annotation on a class applies only to the class definition, only attributes declared locally will be serialized. However, each definition of a class (a refinement or specialization) can be annotated with
A module declaration annotated with
serializestates that all its class definitions and locally declared attributes are serializable.
module shared_between_clients is serialize
Attribute annotated with
serializestates that it is to be serialized, when the rest of the class does not. The class will become subclass to
Serializablebut its attributes are not to be serialized by default. Only the attributes with the
serializeannotation will be serialized.
# Only serialize the `name` class UserCredentials var name: String is serialize var avatar_path: String = "/somepath/"+name is lazy end
noserialize annotation mark an exception in a
serialize module or class definition.
By default a module is
noserialize. There is no need to declare it as such.
A class definition annotated with
serializemodule will not be made serializable.
noserializeattribute within a class or module annotated with
serializewill not serialize this attribute. The class will still be made subclass of
Serializableand it won't affect the other attributes. The
noserializeattribute will not be set at deserialization. Usually, it will also be annotated with
lazyto get its value by another mean after the object has been deserialized.
# Once again, only serialize the `name` class UserCredentials serialize var name: String var avatar_path: String = "/somepath/"+name is noserialize, lazy end
By default, an attribute is identified in the serialization format by its Nit name.
serialize_as attribute changes this behavior and sets the name of an attribute in the serialization format.
This annotation can be useful to change the name of an attribute to what is expected by a remote service.
Or to use identifiers in the serialization format that are reserved keywords in Nit (like
class UserCredentials serialize # Rename to "username" in JSON for compatibility with remote service var name: String is serialize_as "username" # Rename to a shorter "ap" for a smaller JSON file var avatar_path: String = "/somepath/"+name is lazy, serialize_as "ap" end
Custom serializable classes
serialize should be enough for most cases,
but in some cases you need more control over the serialization process.
For more control, create a subclass to
Serializable and redefine
This method should use
Serializer::serialize_attribute to serialize its components.
serialize_attribute works as a dictionary and organize attributes with a key.
You will also need to redefine
Deserializer::deserialize_class to support this specific class.
The method should only act on known class names, and call super otherwise.
Example: the User class
The following example cannot use the
because some of the arguments to the
User class need special treatment:
nameattribute is perfectly normal, it can be serialized and deserialized directly.
passwordattribute must be encrypted before being serialized, and unencrypted on deserialization.
avatarattributes is kept as ASCII art in memory. It could be serialized as such but it is cleaner to only serialize the path to its source on the file system. The data is reloaded on deserialization.
For this customization, the following code snippet implements
two serialization services:
module user_credentials # User credentials for a website class User super Serializable # User name var name: String # Clear text password var password: String # User's avatar image as data blob var avatar: Image redef fun core_serialize_to(serializer: Serializer) do # This is the normal serialization process serializer.serialize_attribute("name", name) # Serialized an encrypted version of the password # # Obviously, `rot(13)` is not a good encrption serializer.serialize_attribute("pass", password.rot(13)) # Do not serialize the image, only its path serializer.serialize_attribute("avatar_path", avatar.path) end end redef class Deserializer redef fun deserialize_class(name) do if name == "User" then # Deserialize normally var user = deserialize_attribute("name") # Decrypt password var pass = deserialize_attribute("pass").rot(-13) # Deserialize the path and load the avatar from the file system var avatar_path = deserialize_attribute("avatar_path") var avatar = new Image(avatar_path) return new User(user, pass, avatar) end return super end end # An image loaded in memory as ASCII art # # Not really useful for this example, provided for consistency only. class Image # Path on the filesystem for `self` var path: String # ASCII art composing this image var ascii_art: String = path.read_all is lazy end
See the documentation of the module
serialization::serialization for more
information on the services to redefine.
serialize annotation and the
Serializable class are used on
classes specific to the business domain.
To write (and read) instances of these classes to a persistent format
you must use implementations of
The main implementations of these services are
import json import user_credentials # Data to be serialized and deserialized var couple = new Partnership( new Person("Alice", 1985, new Image("alice.png")), new Person("Bob", null, new Image("bob.png"))) var path = "serialized_data.json" var writer = new FileWriter(path) var serializer = new JsonSerializer(writer) serializer.serialize couple writer.close var reader = new FileReader(path) var deserializer = new JsonDeserializer(reader.to_s) var deserialized_couple = deserializer.deserialize reader.close assert couple == deserialize_couple
Limitations and TODO
The serialization has some limitations:
A limitation of the JSON parser prevents deserializing from files with more than one object. This could be improved in the future, but for now you should serialize a single object to each files and use different instances of serializer and deserializer each time.
The serialization uses only the short name of a class, not its qualified name. This will cause problem when different classes using the same name. This could be solved partially in the compiler and the library. A special attention must be given to the consistency of the name across the different programs sharing the serialized data.
The serialization support in the compiler need some help to deal with generic types. A solution is to use
nitserial, the next section explores this subject.
Dealing with generic types
One limitation of the serialization support in the compiler is with generic types.
For example, the
Array class is generic and serializable.
However, the runtime types of Array instances are parameterized and are unknown to the compiler.
So the compiler won't support serializing instances of
nitserial solves this problem at the level of user modules.
It does so by parsing a Nit module, group or project to find all known
parameterized types of generic classes.
It will then generating a Nit module to handle deserialization of these types.
Usage steps to serialize parameterized types:
Write your program, let's call it
my_prog.nit, it must use some parameterized serializable types. Let's say that you use
Run nitserial using
nitserial my_prog.nitto generate the file
Compile your program by mixing in the generated module with:
nitc my_prog.nit -m my_prog_serial.nit
This was a simple example, in practical cases you may need to use more than one generated file. For example, on a client/server system, an instance can be created server-side, serialized and the used client-side. In this case, two files will be generated by nitserial, one for the server and one for the client. Both the files should be compiled with both the client and the server.
- serialization: Abstract serialization services (lib/serialization)
- caching: Services for caching serialization engines (lib/serialization/caching.nit)
- engine_tools: Advanced services for serialization engines (lib/serialization/engine_tools.nit)
- serialization: Abstract services to serialize Nit objects to different formats (lib/serialization/serialization.nit)