Reflection and introspection

Julia provides a variety of runtime reflection capabilities.

Module bindings

The exported names for a Module are available using names(m::Module), which will return an array of Symbol elements representing the exported bindings. names(m::Module, all = true) returns symbols for all bindings in m, regardless of export status.

DataType fields

The names of DataType fields may be interrogated using fieldnames. For example, given the following type, fieldnames(Point) returns a tuple of Symbols representing the field names:

julia> struct Point

julia> fieldnames(Point)
(:x, :y)

The type of each field in a Point object is stored in the types field of the Point variable itself:

julia> Point.types
svec(Int64, Any)

While x is annotated as an Int, y was unannotated in the type definition, therefore y defaults to the Any type.

Types are themselves represented as a structure called DataType:

julia> typeof(Point)

Note that fieldnames(DataType) gives the names for each field of DataType itself, and one of these fields is the types field observed in the example above.


The direct subtypes of any DataType may be listed using subtypes. For example, the abstract DataType AbstractFloat has four (concrete) subtypes:

julia> subtypes(AbstractFloat)
4-element Vector{Any}:

Any abstract subtype will also be included in this list, but further subtypes thereof will not; recursive application of subtypes may be used to inspect the full type tree.

DataType layout

The internal representation of a DataType is critically important when interfacing with C code and several functions are available to inspect these details. isbitstype(T::DataType) returns true if T is stored with C-compatible alignment. fieldoffset(T::DataType, i::Integer) returns the (byte) offset for field i relative to the start of the type.

Function methods

The methods of any generic function may be listed using methods. The method dispatch table may be searched for methods accepting a given type using methodswith.

Expansion and lowering

As discussed in the Metaprogramming section, the macroexpand function gives the unquoted and interpolated expression (Expr) form for a given macro. To use macroexpand, quote the expression block itself (otherwise, the macro will be evaluated and the result will be passed instead!). For example:

julia> macroexpand(@__MODULE__, :(@edit println("")) )
:(InteractiveUtils.edit(println, (Base.typesof)("")))

The functions Base.Meta.show_sexpr and dump are used to display S-expr style views and depth-nested detail views for any expression.

Finally, the Meta.lower function gives the lowered form of any expression and is of particular interest for understanding how language constructs map to primitive operations such as assignments, branches, and calls:

julia> Meta.lower(@__MODULE__, :( [1+2, sin(0.5)] ))
:($(Expr(:thunk, CodeInfo(
    @ none within `top-level scope`
1 ─ %1 = 1 + 2
│   %2 = sin(0.5)
│   %3 = Base.vect(%1, %2)
└──      return %3

Intermediate and compiled representations

Inspecting the lowered form for functions requires selection of the specific method to display, because generic functions may have many methods with different type signatures. For this purpose, method-specific code-lowering is available using code_lowered, and the type-inferred form is available using code_typed. code_warntype adds highlighting to the output of code_typed.

Closer to the machine, the LLVM intermediate representation of a function may be printed using by code_llvm, and finally the compiled machine code is available using code_native (this will trigger JIT compilation/code generation for any function which has not previously been called).

For convenience, there are macro versions of the above functions which take standard function calls and expand argument types automatically:

julia> @code_llvm +(1,1)
;  @ int.jl:87 within `+`
; Function Attrs: sspstrong uwtable
define i64 @"julia_+_476"(i64 signext %0, i64 signext %1) #0 {
  %2 = add i64 %1, %0
  ret i64 %2

For more informations see @code_lowered, @code_typed, @code_warntype, @code_llvm, and @code_native.

Printing of debug information

The aforementioned functions and macros take the keyword argument debuginfo that controls the level debug information printed.

julia> @code_typed debuginfo=:source +(1,1)
    @ int.jl:53 within `+'
1 ─ %1 = Base.add_int(x, y)::Int64
└──      return %1
) => Int64

Possible values for debuginfo are: :none, :source, and :default. Per default debug information is not printed, but that can be changed by setting Base.IRShow.default_debuginfo[] = :source.