# Variables & Properties

# Creating a Variable

Declare a new variable with var, followed by a name, type, and value:

var num: Int = 10

Variables can have their values changed:

num = 20 // num now equals 20

Unless they're defined with let:

let num: Int = 10 // num cannot change

Swift infers the type of variable, so you don't always have to declare variable type:

let ten = 10 // num is an Int
let pi = 3.14 // pi is a Double
let floatPi: Float = 3.14 // floatPi is a Float

Variable names aren't restricted to letters and numbers - they can also contain most other unicode characters, although there are some restrictions

Constant and variable names cannot contain whitespace characters, mathematical symbols, arrows, private-use (or invalid) Unicode code points, or line- and box-drawing characters. Nor can they begin with a number Source developer.apple.com (opens new window)

var π: Double = 3.14159
var 🍎🍏: String = "Apples"

# Property Observers

Property observers respond to changes to a property's value.

var myProperty = 5 {
    willSet {
        print("Will set to \(newValue). It was previously \(myProperty)")
    didSet {
        print("Did set to \(myProperty). It was previously \(oldValue)")
myProperty = 6
// prints: Will set to 6, It was previously 5
// prints: Did set to 6. It was previously 5

  • willSet is called before myProperty is set. The new value is available as newValue, and the old value is still available as myProperty.
  • didSet is called after myProperty is set. The old value is available as oldValue, and the new value is now available as myProperty .

Note: didSet and willSet will not be called in the following cases:

    • Assigning an initial value

    • Modifying the variable within its own didSet or willSet

  • The parameter names for oldValue and newValue of didSet and willSet can also be declared to increase readability:

  • var myFontSize = 10 {
        willSet(newFontSize) {
            print("Will set font to \(newFontSize), it was \(myFontSize)")
        didSet(oldFontSize) {
            print("Did set font to \(myFontSize), it was \(oldFontSize)")

    Caution: While it is supported to declare setter parameter names, one should be cautious not to mix names up:

      • willSet(oldValue) and didSet(newValue) are entirely legal, but will considerably confuse readers of your code.

      # Lazy Stored Properties

      Lazy stored properties have values that are not calculated until first accessed. This is useful for memory saving when the variable's calculation is computationally expensive. You declare a lazy property with lazy:

      lazy var veryExpensiveVariable = expensiveMethod()

      Often it is assigned to a return value of a closure:

      lazy var veryExpensiveString = { () -> String in
          var str = expensiveStrFetch()
          str.expensiveManipulation(integer: arc4random_uniform(5))
          return str

      Lazy stored properties must be declared with var.

      # Property Basics

      Properties can be added to a class (opens new window) or struct (opens new window) (technically enums (opens new window) too, see "Computed Properties" example). These add values that associate with instances of classes/structs:

      class Dog {
          var name = ""

      In the above case, instances of Dog have a property named name of type String. The property can be accessed and modified on instances of Dog:

      let myDog = Dog()
      myDog.name = "Doggy" // myDog's name is now "Doggy"

      These types of properties are considered stored properties, as they store something on an object and affect its memory.

      # Computed Properties

      Different from stored properties, computed properties are built with a getter and a setter, performing necessary code when accessed and set. Computed properties must define a type:

      var pi = 3.14
      class Circle {
          var radius = 0.0
          var circumference: Double {
              get {
                  return pi * radius * 2
              set {
                  radius = newValue / pi / 2
      let circle = Circle()
      circle.radius = 1
      print(circle.circumference) // Prints "6.28"
      circle.circumference = 14
      print(circle.radius) // Prints "2.229..."

      A read-only computed property is still declared with a var:

      var circumference: Double {
          get {
              return pi * radius * 2

      Read-only computed properties can be shortened to exclude get:

      var circumference: Double {
          return pi * radius * 2

      # Local and Global Variables

      Local variables are defined within a function, method, or closure:

      func printSomething() {
          let localString = "I'm local!"
      func printSomethingAgain() {
          print(localString) // error

      Global variables are defined outside of a function, method, or closure, and are not defined within a type (think outside of all brackets). They can be used anywhere:

      let globalString = "I'm global!"
      func useGlobalString() {
          print(globalString) // works!
      for i in 0..<2 {
          print(globalString) // works!
      class GlobalStringUser {
          var computeGlobalString {
              return globalString // works!

      Global variables are defined lazily (see "Lazy Properties" example).

      # Type Properties

      Type properties are properties on the type itself, not on the instance. They can be both stored or computed properties. You declare a type property with static:

      struct Dog {
          static var noise = "Bark!"
      print(Dog.noise) // Prints "Bark!"

      In a class, you can use the class keyword instead of static to make it overridable. However, you can only apply this on computed properties:

      class Animal {
          class var noise: String {
              return "Animal noise!"
      class Pig: Animal {
          override class var noise: String {
              return "Oink oink!"

      This is used often with the singleton pattern (opens new window).

      # Remarks

      Properties: Associated with a type

      Variables: Not associated with a type

      See the Swift Programming Language iBook (opens new window) for more information.