Open Source


Annotating classes

Whenever you declare a class, you can use the @KneeClass annotation to tell the compiler that it should be processed. This has a few implications that are important to understand.

kotlin logokotlin
@KneeClass class Item(@Knee val id: String) @KneeClass class Database @Knee constructor(path: String) { private val directory = Directory(path) @Knee fun loadItems(): List<Item> { ... } }

JVM wrappers

When a class is marked as @KneeClass, the compiler generates source code for the JVM in which the same class exists, but is a wrapper to the underlying native instance. Using the Database example above, the generated JVM class may look something like this:

kotlin logokotlin
class Database internal constructor(private val native: Long) { constructor(path: String) : this(native = NativeDatabase_init(path)) fun loadItems(): List<Item> = NativeDatabase_loadItems(native) protected fun finalize() = NativeDatabase_deinit(native) }

You can see that:

  • JVM's Database is just a wrapper around the native Database instance, holding onto its native address (a Long)
  • When JVM's Database is garbage collected, the native instance is notified to avoid leaks

You can use @KneeClass(name = "OtherName") to modify the JVM wrapper name.

Pass by reference

It may be useful to know that @KneeClass objects are passed through the JNI interface using the above mentioned Long address, by reference. This means that no data is being copied: the source of truth remains on the native side, and JVM users can easily invoke its functions and use its properties thanks to Knee.

JVM construction

While the source of truth of a class is always on the native side, you can still let JVM users create new instances. This must be done explicitly by annotating one or more of the class constructors with the @Knee annotation.

kotlin logokotlin
@KneeClass class Post(@Knee val id: String) @KneeClass class User @Knee constructor(@Knee val id: String)

In the example above, Post can't be instantiated from the JVM side, while User can.


Even if JVM users can create instances, that doesn't mean that data lives on the JVM side. Simply, the JVM class constructor will call the native class constructor under the hood, and store a reference to it.

Annotating members

All callable members (functions, properties, constructors) of a class can be made available to the JVM side, but they must be explicitly marked with the @Knee annotation as described in the callables documentation.

kotlin logokotlin
@KneeClass class Car { @Knee fun driveHome() { ... } fun driveWork() { ... } }

In the example above, only the driveHome function will be available on the JVM side.

Importing classes

If you wish to annotate existing classes that you don't control, for example those coming from a different module, you can technically use @KneeClass on type aliases. Unfortunately as of now, this functionality is very limited in that you can't choose which declarations will be imported.