Void variables and fieldsΒΆ

View voidVariables.chpl on GitHub

This primer demonstrates the use of the void type on variables and class/record fields. A variable or field that is of type void is removed by the compiler and doesn't exist during program execution.

This variable will be removed by the compiler. It is an error to assign a non-void value to it, or to use it where a non-void value is expected.

var voidVar: void;

The value _void is the value version of the void type. It is expected that the name _void is not a permanent choice and will be changed in the future.

var voidVar2 = _void;

The following (commented out) statements are compile time errors:

// voidVar = 1;
// var x = 2 * voidVar;

A void variable can be passed to a generic function as long as the function doesn't do anything that expects it to be a value. The following call to writeln() will simply print a blank line, as though the argument was never there.


A variable that will just be removed by the compiler doesn't seem very useful on its own. But with the addition of compile time folding of param values, it can be used to remove variables conditionally.

config param useMultiplier = false;

If useMultiplier is false, the multiplier variable will be removed by the compiler. Since all uses of multiplier are guarded by the useMultiplier param, they will also be removed.

const multiplier = if useMultiplier then 3.5 else _void;
var value = 1.0;

if useMultiplier {
  value *= multiplier;


The void type is extra useful for class and record fields, where a large number of instances may be created, so removal of fields could save a substantial amount of memory or cache space. An example is a record containing two different implementations of its functionality, e.g. for two different platforms.

record voidRecord {
  param useImpl2: bool = false;
  var impl1Var1 = if useImpl2 then _void else 1;
  var impl1Var2 = if useImpl2 then _void else 2.0;

  var impl2Var1 = if useImpl2 then 3.0 else _void;
  var impl2Var2 = if useImpl2 then "4.0" else _void;

  proc myProc() {
    if useImpl2 {
      writeln((impl2Var1, impl2Var2));
    } else {
      writeln((impl1Var1, impl1Var2));
  • vr1 doesn't contain the fields impl2Var1 or impl2Var2
  • vr2 doesn't contain the fields impl1Var1 or impl1Var2
var vr1 = new voidRecord(useImpl2=false),
    vr2 = new voidRecord(useImpl2=true);


By leaving out the unnecessary fields, the memory and cache footprint are significantly reduced, resulting in potential performance improvements

config const n = 1000;
var A: [1..n] voidRecord(useImpl2=false);
for vr in A {
  if vr.useImpl2 {
    vr.impl2Var1 = 1.1;
    vr.impl2Var2 = "hello world!";
  } else {
    vr.impl1Var1 = 42;
    vr.impl1Var2 = 3.14;

Although void variables don't seem useful at first glance, they can be used to conditionally remove unnecessary variables reducing memory and cache footprint. This can lead to less memory overhead and better performance.