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=== vs. == in Ruby

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Questions:

In Ruby, what is the difference between == and ===? The RDoc says

Case Equality—For class Object,
effectively the same as calling #==,
but typically overridden by
descendents to provide meaningful
semantics in case statements.

Is #== the same as ==? And could you provide an example of when/how this is used in case statements?

Answers:

The two really have nothing to do with each other. In particular, #== is the equality operator and #=== has absolutely nothing to with equality. Personally, I find it rather unfortunate that #=== looks so similar to #==, uses the equals sign and is often called the case equality operator, triple equals operator or threequals operator when it really has nothing to do with equality.

I call #=== the case subsumption operator (it’s the best I could come up with, I’m open to suggestions, especially from native English speakers).

The best way to describe a === b is “if I have a drawer labeled a, does it make sense to put b in it?”

So, for example, Module#=== tests whether b.is_a?(a). If you have Integer === 2, does it make sense to put 2 in a box labeled Integer? Yes, it does. What about Integer === 'hello'? Obviously not.

Another example is Regexp#===. It tests for a match. Does it make sense to put 'hello' in a box labeled /el+/? Yes, it does.

For collections such as ranges, Range#=== is defined as a membership test: it makes sense to put an element in a box labeled with a collection if that element is in the collection.

So, that’s what #=== does: it tests whether the argument can be subsumed under the receiver.

What does that have to with case expressions? Simple:

case foo
when bar
  baz
end

is the same as

if bar === foo
  baz
end

Questions:
Answers:

Yes, by #== the docs mean “the instance method == of the current object”.

=== is used in case statements as such:

case obj
when x
  foo
when y
  bar
end

Is the same as

if x === obj
  foo
elsif y === obj
  bar
end

Some classes that define their own === are Range (to act like include?), Class (to act like obj.is_a?(klass)) and Regexp (to act like =~ except returning a boolean). Some classes that don’t define their own === are the numeric classes and String.

So

case x
when 0
  puts "Lots"
when Numeric
  puts(100.0 / x)
when /^\d+$/
  puts(100.0 / x.to_f)
default
  raise ArgumentError, "x is not a number or numeric string"
end

is the same as

if 0 == x
  puts "Lots"
elsif x.is_a? Numeric
  puts(100.0 / x)
elsif x =~ /^\d+$/
  puts(100.0 / x.to_f)
else
  raise ArgumentError, "x is not a number or numeric string"
end

Questions:
Answers:

Fun fact, === is also used to match exceptions in rescue

Here is an example

class Example
  def self.===(exception)
    puts "Triple equals has been called."
    true
  end
end

raise rescue Example
# => prints "Triple equals has been called."
# => no exception raised

This is used to match system errors.

SystemCallError.=== has been defined to return true when the two have the same errno. With this system call errors with the same error number, such as Errno::EAGAIN and Errno::EWOULDBLOCK, can both be rescued by listing just one of them.

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