Reflection API in Swift 2

August 19, 2015

If you have a background in languages with extensive reflection support you will notice that there is a lot missing from Swift. Reflection API in the new Swift 2 is rather basic allowing you to access a tiny amount of information.

Note: I used XCode Version 7.0 beta 5, you will need at least XCode 7 to run the below code.

Here is an example class and struct that later I will introspect using Reflection API.

class Person {
    let name: String
    let surname: String
    let address: Address
    init(name: String, surname: String, address: Address) { = name
        self.surname = surname
        self.address = address

struct Address {
    let city: String
    let street: String
    let houseNumber: Int

I created one class representing person and one struct for address information. These might not be the best ways to store that information but it gives me an oportunity to show you how they interact with reflection API.

Let’s have a look at the reflection code.

func inspect(obj: Any) {
    let type: Mirror = Mirror(reflecting:obj)
    print("Type of the object: \(type.subjectType)")
    print("Display style: \(type.displayStyle)")
    print("Description: \(type.description)")
    print("Number of Properties: \(type.children.count)")
    for child in type.children {
        print("Property: \(child.label!) Value: \(child.value) Type: \(child.value.dynamicType)")

The above code extracts pretty much all the information you can access through the reflection API. Let me explain what is happening.

  • Mirror

Mirror is a structure that desribes the internals of a particular instance e.g. properties. You create a Mirror by passing in the object you want to know more about.

  • subjectType

It provides information about a static type of the reflected instance.

  • displayStyle

Used mainly by Playgrounds and debugger. It describes how the instance should be displayed.

  • description

Textual description of the mirror

  • children

Collection of Child objects. Each one describing one property of the instance. Child is defined as follows:

public typealias Child = (label: String?, value: Any)

label provides information about the property name and value gives you it’s value. You can use dynamicType property on the value to access its Type.

Now that we know what the above code does, here is how to invoke it with a example Person object:

let person = Person(name: "Foo", surname: "Bar", address: Address(city: "London", street: "Awesome street", houseNumber: 10))

Below is the output that was produced when inspect was called with person and person.address respectively:

1. person

Type of the object: Person
Display style: Optional(Swift.Mirror.DisplayStyle.Class)
Description: Mirror for Person
Number of Properties: 3
Property: name Value: Foo Type: String
Property: surname Value: Bar Type: String
Property: address Value: Address(city: "London", street: "Awesome street", houseNumber: 10) Type: Address

2. person.address

Type of the object: Address
Display style: Optional(Swift.Mirror.DisplayStyle.Struct)
Description: Mirror for Address
Number of Properties: 3
Property: city Value: London Type: String
Property: street Value: Awesome street Type: String
Property: houseNumber Value: 10 Type: Int

As you can see, the reflection API is rather basic in comparison to other languages. In all fairness, Swift is a young language which is still under heavy development. In the future we will definately see more developments in this area.