A variable is a construct for saving and referencing the result of an expression. A variable points to an object and permits that object to be saved and used repeatedly later.

There are two types of variables: local variables and thread variables. The type of the variable defines its scope and the rules about using it. Each variable is given a name, and that name is used to access the variable’s value. An object that a variable points to can be changed, or reassigned, as described in the Operators chapter.

Variable Names

Lasso variable names should begin with a letter or an underscore followed by a letter, then zero or more letters, numbers, underscores, or period characters. Variable names are case-insensitive, so a variable named “rhino” can also be accessed with “RhINo” as well.

Local Variables

Each capture runs with its own set of variables. These are called local variables or locals, and they are the most commonly used type of variable. Locals begin and end within the capture in which they are defined, though the objects they point to may exist beyond that point. Nested captures also have access to any locals defined in their parent capture before their own definition.

A local must be defined before it can be used. When a variable is defined, it is generally done so along with an initial value to be assigned to that variable. If an initial value is omitted, the variable will have the default value of “null”. Multiple locals can be defined at one time, either with or without default values, using the following syntax examples:

// Defines local "name" set to the value of the expression
local(name = expression)
local(name) = expression

// Defines locals "name" without a value and "b" set to 1
local(name, b = 1)

A local can be accessed using two different methods. In the first method, the local variable may or may not have previously been defined. If the local has not been defined, it is defined and assigned a value of “null”. Regardless, the value of the variable is produced as the result. This is only the case when one variable name is used and when it is not accompanied by an initial value.

// => // The value of "name", potentially creating "name"

Local variables can also be accessed using the “#” character before the name. This is the preferred method for accessing local variables.

// => // The value of "name"

When using this method, the local variable must have already been defined or it is considered an error. This error-checking is done at the time the code is parsed, meaning that the local definition must physically precede the “#” access point within the source code.

The set of local variables for each capture is determined as the code is compiled and cannot be modified at runtime, unlike thread variables which can be given names dynamically.

Parameter Pseudo-locals

Lasso permits the parameter values given to a method to be accessed by position, using the local variable symbol “#” followed by an integer value. The integer value corresponds to the position of the desired parameter value, beginning with “1”. For example, in a method given two parameters, the first would be available using #1 and the second would be available using #2.

See the Methods chapter for information on methods and method parameters.

Thread Variables

Thread variables, or vars, are variables that are shared and accessible outside of any particular capture, yet are restricted to the currently executing thread. Each thread maintains its own set of vars. Vars are useful for maintaining program states that go beyond the operation of any one method.

Vars are created in a manner similar to locals, but instead use the var declaration.

// Defines var "name" set to the value of the expression
var(name = expression)
var(name) = expression

// Defines vars "name" without a value and "b" set to 1
var(name, b = 1)

A var created without an initial value will be given the default value of “null”.

Vars can be created using an expression value for a name, unlike locals which require a fixed literal name. This expression must result in a string or a tag object. That value is used as the variable’s name.

// Defines var with name of nameExpr
var(nameExpr = expression)

Because a literal variable name can resemble a method call with no parameters, if the variable name is intended to be the result of a method call, that call must be given empty parentheses () to disambiguate.

// Defines var with the name of what nameCall() returns
var(nameCall() = expression)

A var can be accessed using two methods, similar to that of local variables. First, the var may simply be referenced using the var syntax along with the var’s name. The var may or may not have previously been defined. If the var has not been defined, it is defined and assigned a value of “null”. The value of the variable is produced as the result. This is only the case when one variable name is used and when it is not accompanied by an initial value.

// => // The value of "name", potentially creating "name"

Vars can also be accessed using the “$” character before the name. When using this method, an error is returned if the var has not been previously defined.

// => // The value of "name"

Type Constraints

A type constraint can be applied to a local or thread variable in order to ensure that the value of the variable is always an object of a particular type or trait. For example, a local variable could be constrained to always hold a string object. If an attempt was made to assign to that variable a non-string object, such as an integer, the assignment would fail.

Lasso is a dynamically typed language, and, by default, variables can hold any type of object. Type constraints permit a developer to restrict variables to hold only particular object types or containing a particular trait in order to ensure that the code operating on those variables is given valid inputs.

Type constraints are applied when a local or thread variable is first defined. This is done by supplying a tag literal, which consists of two colons (::) and then the name of the type or trait to which the variable will be constrained, immediately following the variable name. The following example applies constraints to a local and a var:

local(lname::integer) = 0
var(vname::trait_forEach) = array

In the above example, “lname” is constrained to hold only integers, and “vname” is constrained to hold only types supporting trait_forEach. The next example shows valid and invalid usage of the two variables:

#lname = 400
// => // Valid: 400 is an integer

#lname = 'hello'
// => // FAILURE: #lname can only hold integers

$vname = (: 1, 2, 'hello')
// => // Valid: staticarrays support trait_forEach

$vname = 940
// => // FAILURE: $vname can only hold types that support trait_forEach

local(lname) = 'hello'
// => // FAILURE: #lname can still only hold integers

When applying a type constraint in a variable declaration, a provided default value is required.

local(lname::integer, x, y, z)
// => // FAILURE: #lname requires default value

Decompositional Assignment

Lasso will “decompose” the right-hand side value (RHS) of an assignment when the left-hand side value (LHS) is a local declaration containing just a list of variable names. This supports wildcards (the _ character) as well as nested name lists. Any type that supports trait_forEach can be used like this on the RHS.

The following examples should help clarify:

local(one, two, three, four) = (: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

// => 1
// => 2
// => 3
// => 4

local(_, two, _, four) = (: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

// => 2
// => 4

local(_, two, _, four) = 1 to 100 by 3

// => 4
// => 10

local(one, _, three, (_, four)) = array('a', 'b', 'c', array('d', 'e'))

#one #three #four
// => ace

local(wanted, _, w2) = 'ABCDEFGH'

// => A
// => C

Note that the local must include more than one element, and none of the elements can be assigned values.

local(x) = #foo
// => // Unchanged, works as expected

local(x, _) = #foo
// => // Fine, grabs first #foo

local(x = 1, _) = #foo
// => // FAILURE: x cannot have value

Also note that assign-produce (:=) cannot be used with decompositional assignment, and that quoted variable names are not permitted.