Methods With Syntax Support

Vala recognizes some methods with certain names and signatures and provides syntax support for them. For example, if a type has a contains() method objects of this type can be used with the in operator. The following table lists these special methods. T and Tn are only type placeholders in this table and meant to be replaced with real types.


T2 get(T1 index)

index access: obj[index]

void set(T1 index, T2 item)

index assignment: obj[index] = item

Indexers with multiple indices

T3 get(T1 index1, T2 index2)

index access: obj[index1, index2]

void set(T1 index1, T2 index2, T3 item)

index assignment: obj[index1, index2] = item

(... and so on for more indices)


T slice(long start, long end)

slicing: obj[start:end]

bool contains(T needle)

in operator: bool b = needle in obj

string to_string()

support within string templates: @"$obj"

Iterator iterator()

iterable via foreach

T2 get(T1 index) \ T1 size { get; }

iterable via foreach

The Iterator type can have any name and must implement one of these two protocols:

bool next() / T get() standard iterator protocol: iterating until .next() returns false. The current element is retrieved via .get().
T? next_value() alternative iterator protocol: If the iterator object has a .next_value() function that returns a nullable type then we iterate by calling this function until it returns null.

This example implements some of these methods:

public class EvenNumbers {
    public int get(int index) {
        return index * 2;

    public bool contains(int i) {
        return i % 2 == 0;

    public string to_string() {
        return "[This object enumerates even numbers]";

    public Iterator iterator() {
        return new Iterator(this);

    public class Iterator {
        private int index;
        private EvenNumbers even;

        public Iterator(EvenNumbers even) {
            this.even = even;

        public bool next() {
            return true;

        public int get() {
            return this.even[this.index - 1];

void main() {
    var even = new EvenNumbers();
    stdout.printf("%d\n", even[5]);   // get()
    if (4 in even) {                  // contains()
        stdout.printf(@"$even\n");    // to_string()
    foreach (int i in even) {         // iterator()
        stdout.printf("%d\n", i);
        if (i == 20) break;

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