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Use of ruby self keyword?

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Questions:

from what I understand of the self keyword, it simply refers to the current instance of the class. Isn’t this the default behaviour at all times anyways? For example, isn’t

self.var_one = method(args) equivalent to just var_one = method(args) ?

If so then what is the use of self?

Answers:

In most cases self.foo is indeed redundant because you can just write foo for the same effect, but in this case it is not and the self is required.

var_one = method(args) will create a local variable called var_one, it will not call any method or do anything else to self.

self.var_one = method(args) will call the method var_one= on self with the argument method(args).

Another case where the use of self is non-optional would be if you want to pass it as an argument to a method, i.e. some_method(self) – you can’t do that without the self keyword.

Questions:
Answers:

There are several important uses, most of which are basically to disambiguate between instance methods, class methods, and variables.

First, this is the best way to define class methods. IE:

class Foo
  def self.bar
    "class method bar"
  end

  def bar
    "instance method bar"
  end
end

Foo.bar  #returns "class method bar"

foo = Foo.new
foo.bar #returns "instance method bar"

Also, within instance methods self refers to the instance, within class methods it refers to the class, and it can always be used to distinguish from local variables.

class Bar
  def self.foo
    "foo!"
  end

  def baz
    "baz!"
  end

  def self.success
    foo #looks for variable foo, doesn't find one, looks for class method foo, finds it, returns "foo!"
  end

  def self.fail
    baz #looks for variable baz, doesn't find one, looks for class method baz, doesn't find one, raises exception
  end

  def instance_success
    baz #looks for variable baz, doesn't find one, looks for instance method baz, finds it, returns "baz!"
  end

  def instance_fail
    foo #looks for variable foo, doesn't find one, looks for instance method foo, doesn't find one, raises exception
  end

  def local_variable
    baz = "is my favorite method"
    baz #looks for variable baz, finds it, returns "is my favorite method"
  end

  def disambiguate
    baz = " is my favorite method"
    self.baz + baz #looks for instance method baz, finds it, looks for local variable baz, finds it, returns "baz! is my favorite method"
  end
end

So, in the end, you can avoid using self in many cases, but it’s often helpful to go ahead and use it to make sure that you don’t inadvertently create naming conflicts later on. Sometimes those can create bugs that are very hard to find. In the end it’s often a matter of personal style.


Update: As noted in the comments, one more really important thing:

In a class, if you have a method like this:

def bar=(string)
  ...
end

And in another method you call:

def other_method
  bar = "abcd"
end

It isn’t going to call your bar= method, it’s going to create a local variable bar. So, in this case you use self to tell ruby not to create a local variable, like so:

def other_method
  self.bar = "abcd"
end

The same thing applies if you want to take an argument with the name of a method, like so:

def example
  ...
end

def other_thing(example)
  self.example(example)
end

If you left off self it would assume you meant the local variable with the same name.

So, in general, self in method names is used to distinguish between class and instance variables, and everywhere else you use it when Ruby needs help distinguishing between method calls and local variables or local variable assignment.

I hope that makes sense!

Questions:
Answers:

here’s an example use:

def run miles
  self.miles = miles
end

In this case self will help. in most cases self is redundant.

Questions:
Answers:

One other use of self is to declare class methods (similar to static methods in Java).

class foo
 def self.bar
  #do class related stuff here
 end
end

That being said, you could also have used def foo.bar instead for the method signature.