Usage with reflection

Although we strongly recommend generating optics using the DSL and @optics attribute, sometimes this is not possible. For those scenarios we provide a small utility package arrow-optics-reflect which bridges Arrow Optics with Kotlin’s reflection capabilities.

Kotlin provides a simple way to obtain a reference to a member of a class, by using ClassName::memberName. For example, given the following class definition:

data class Person(val name: String, val friends: List<String>)

we can use Person::name and Person::friends to refer to each of the fields in the class. Those references are very similar to optics.

In fact, what arrow-optics-reflect does is provide extension methods which turn those references into optics. You can obtain a lens for the name field in Person by writing:


which you can later use as any other lens:

val p = Person("me", listOf("pat", "mat"))
val m = Person::name.lens.modify(p) { it.capitalize() }

⚠️ WARNING: this only works on data classes with a public copy method (which is the default.) Remember that, as opposed to a mutable variable, optics will always create a new copy when asking for modification.

Nullables and collections

Sometimes it’s preferable to expose a field using a different optic:

  • When the type of the field is nullable, you can use optional to obtain an optional instead of a lens.
  • When the type of the field is a collection, you can use iter to obtain read-only access to it (technically, you obtain a fold.) If the type is a subclass of List, you can use every to get read/write access.
val p = Person("me", listOf("pat", "mat"))
val m = Person::friends.every.modify(p) { it.capitalize() }


A common pattern in Kotlin programming is to define a sealed abstract class (or interface) with subclasses representing choices in a union.

sealed interface Cutlery
object Fork: Cutlery
object Spoon: Cutlery

We provide an instance method which creates a prism which focus only on a certain subclass of a parent class. Both ends are important and must be provided when creating the optic:

instance<Cutlery, Fork>()

You can compose this optic freely with others. Here’s an example in which we obtain the number of forks in a list of cutlery using optics:

val things = listOf(Fork, Spoon, Fork)
val forks = Every.list<Cutlery>() compose instance<Cutlery, Fork>()
val noOfForks = forks.size(things)

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