Kotlin Basics

Created: Introduction to the Kotlin language and basic concepts

Updated: 20 October 2023

From this Udacity course

About Kotlin

Kotlin is a statically typed languge developed by JetBrains that makes use of:

  • Type inferrence
  • Lambdas
  • Corutines
  • Properties

Kotlin is also officially supported for building Androind Apps

The language also differentiates between Nullable and NonNullable data as well as removing a lot of boilerplate code

Kotlin also can interoperate with Java bidirectionally


  • A JAVA/Kotlin IDE such as IntelliJ IDEA or Android Studio if you’re working on an Android App
  • JDK

For some basic stuff you can use the Kotlin Playground

Setting Up a Project

  1. New Project
  2. Kotlin > JVM | IDEA

From a toolbar you can go to tools > kotlin > REPL

Hello World

A Hello World Program may look like the following:

fun printHello () {
   println ("Hello World")


We can see that a function is defined with fun and the only other notable feature in the above code is the lack of semicolons at the end of the line

Operators and Variables


OperationNameFunction Representation
n + mAdditionn.plus(m)
n - mSubtractionn.minus(m)
n * mMultiplicationn.times(m)
n / mDivisionn.div(m)
n == mEqualsn.equals(m)
n != mNotEquals

Basic types have default operators and functions that can be overloaded as well as allows you to convert basic types automatically however numbers will not implicitly convert as this can cause problems and they must be explicitly cast


Kotlin has immutable and mutable variables

You can create an immutable variable with val and a mutable variable with var

var changeable = 0
changeable = 1

val unchangeable = 1

Note that val only makes the reference immutable and not the properties of the object, so we can still call methods on that object

Although types are inferred we can state them explicitly as well:

val b: Byte = 1

Regardless, types are static at compile time

By default variables cannot be null, this is to avoid null pointer exceptions, we can use the ? in the type to state that a variable is nullable

val imNotNullable: int = null // will throw an errro
val imNullable: int? = null // will work fine

You can use the Not Null Assertion !! operator to throw the null exception if the result is null if you want to do your own null checking

myVal!!.functionThatDoesNotExist() // will throw

You can rather use the Elvis ? operator to do null checking and defaulting

myVariable?.doThing() ?: 0

If myVariable is null then it will return 0 otherwise it will return the function result


We can create constants using const val at a top level and classes declared using object because these are evaluated at compile time

Constants can be created at the top level of a file with:

const CONSTANT1= 1

Or as object singleton properties

object Constants {
    const val CONSTANT2 = 2

Or wrapped in a companion object within a class

class MyClass {
    companion object {
        const val CONSTANT3 = 3


We can define strings using the "..." as normal, additionally we can use the $ sign in a string to display a value inline

val fish = 12

"I have $fish fishies"
val cows = 12

"I have $(fish + cows) animals in total"



We can use If-Else as follows:

if (fish > 1)

If we have multiple statements after the condition we can use braces:

if (fish > 1) {
    println("Statement 1")
    println("Statement 2")
else {
    println("Statement 3")
    println("Statement 4")

Additionally we can also make use of ranges in our If conditions using the .. notation:

if (fish in 1..20)

Switch / When

Kotlin also has switch statements, which make use of the when keyword:

when (fish) {
    0 -> println("No Fish")
    1 -> println("Eh")
    in 2..20 -> println("Great")
    else -> println("WOAH")

If we use a when without a value, it functions like an If-Else statement:

when {
    fish == 0 -> println("No Fish")
    fish == 1 -> println("Eh")
    fish in 2..20 -> println("Great")
    else -> println("WOAH")

Data Collections


We can create an Array with

val myArr = arrayOf("val1", "val2")

We can also mix the data types in the array with:

val myArr = arrayOf("val1", 2)

You can also loop over arrays while getting the index like the following:

for ((index, element) in myArr.withIndex()) {
    println("Index: $index, Element: $element")


We can create lists using:

val myList = listOf("val1", "val2")

If we want the list to be mutable, we can do this using:

val myMutableList = mutableListOf("val1", "val2")

Similar constructor functions exist for other collection types with the concept of mutable and immutable collection types


You can also create ranges, we can use the following methods of creating a range:

val digits = 1..10
val reverse = 10 downTo 1
val stepped = 1..10, step 2
val mixed = 103 downTo 15 step 5

We can then make use of these in a for loop, for example:

for (i in 103 downTo 15 step 5) println(i)

Additionally we can also sort of create a sort of array of range values using the following:

val myData = Array(10){ 1000.0.pow(it) }

Which will result in a 10 item array with each element being 1000^index


Kotlin also has a datatype known as a Sequence which is like a lazy list, the values in this are only evaluated when read and not calculated immediately when operated on


Maps are essentially key-value pairs that make use of pairs (see later)

We can create a Map of some data with mapOf

val colours = mapOf(
    "sky" to "blue",
    "fire" to "red",
    "grass" to "green"

We can then access the elements of the map with:


If we want to retrieve a value and provide a default value if the key does not exist we can use getOrElse with a default value as a lambda

colours.getOrElse("sad") { "no colour found" }

Maps are immutable by default, we can make a mutable map with mutableMapOf


Pairs allow us to define a pair of data that are mapped to each other in some way, these can also be chained

We can create aa pair with the to keyword

val pair = "val1" to "val2"

This results in the pair (val1, val2), we can access the first and second elements with pair.first and pair.second

We can chain them as well, which is the equivalent of wrapping them in parenthesis

val chained = "val1" to "val2" to "val3"

This is equal to:

val chained = ("val1" to "val2") to "val3"

Which yields a pair within a pair ((val1, val2), val3). We can also destructure these the same as we would with a data object

These are useful for returning multiple pieces of data from a function and destructuring it on the receiving end

You also have triples that can be created with Triple(el1, el2, el3)



The main function has all the main parts of a Kotlin function

fun main(args: Array<String>) {
    println("Hello, world!")

A function uses the fun keyword to define the function and the function arguments with their types are in the parenthesis

Every function has a return type, in the above the function does not return any value and hence returns unit

If a function returns a unit we do not need to state it explicitly

We can create a new Kotlin file in the src directory called main.kt with the above main function contents

The main function is the default entrypoint for a Kotlin application. Click the green run icon next to the line numbers on the left to run the function

Defining and Using Functions

A function to return the day of the week as text can look something like:

fun getDayOfWeek (): String {
    val date = LocalDate.now()
    val day = date.dayOfWeek

    return when (day) {
        DayOfWeek.MONDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.TUESDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.WEDNESDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.THURSDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.FRIDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.SATURDAY ->
        DayOfWeek.SUNDAY ->
        else ->
            "Something else somehow"

We can see the Sting return type written after the function signature, we can use this in our main function with:

fun main(args: Array<String>) {
    val day = getDayOfWeek()
    println("Today is $day")

We can run the main function with arguments as well using the Debug Configuration in IntelliJ

From the above we can see that everything in Kotlin is a value, even the result of a when or if statement

Default Values

Function params can also have a default value, for example:

fun addNumbers(x: Int = 0, y: Int = 2) : Int {
    return x + y

Aside from default params as values we can also make use of this by calling a function

fun addNumbers(x: Int = getInitValue(), y: Int = 2) {
    return x + y

When defining a function like the above we should avoid using expensive function calls as these are evaluated at call time

Single Line Functions

Single expression functions like the above can also be defined like this:

fun addNumbers(x: Int = getInitValue(), y: Int = 2) : Int = x + y

In the case of a single expression return the type can be left out as it can be inferred

fun addNumbers(x: Int = getInitValue(), y: Int = 2) = x + y

We can then just use that like we would any other function


A Lambda, also known as an anonymous function, and is an expression that makes a function. These can take arguments or not. The syntax is seen below:

val printHello= { println("Hello, World!") }
val addFive = { x: Int -> x + 5 }
val minusFive = { x: Int -> x - 5 }
val addAny = { x: Int, y: Int ->  x + y }

If we want to define a variable that holds a function we can state the type using the (T) -> U Syntax

val printHello: () -> Unit = { println("Hello, World!") }
val addFive: (Int) -> Int = { x: Int -> x + 5 }
val minusFive: (Int) -> Int = { x: Int -> x - 5 }
val addAny: (Int,Int) -> Int = { x: Int, y: Int ->  x + y }

Higher Order Functions

Higher Order Functions are functions that can take other functions, an example of this is the built-in with function. We can create a function that takes another function as an operator, we usually use block to reference the function we are receiving:

fun operate(x: Int, block: (Int) -> Int) = blobk(x)

val addResult = operate(12, addFive)
val minusResult = operate(12, minusFive)

Functions can also return other functions, for example we can create a function that builds a generic adder:

fun buildAdder(additive: Int) : (Int) -> Int {
    val adder =  { x: Int -> x + additive }
    return adder

val addTwelve = buildAdder(12)
ans = addTwelve(10)

There are a lot of other cool things about functions and small syntactical changes that can be used when mixing them together but this should be relatively straightforward

We can make use for the above idea to create the HOCs as extension functions

fun operate (
    additive: Int, block: Int.() -> Int
) {

Some other built-in HOC’s are run which runs a lambda and returns the result and apply which calls a function on an object and returns the updated object, and let which is used for chaingin functions and getting their results

val newHouse = House(isFancy = true)
        .apply {
            garages = 2
            extend(4, 1)

print("${ newHouse.price } ${ newHouse.size } ${ newHouse.garages }")

val priceWithTax = newHouse
        .let { it.price }
        .let { it * 1.2 }

You can see that apply is really useful for initializing an object and let is useful for essentially summarizing an object or doing some operations with it


Every time we call a lambda Kotlin creates a new lambda object instance, there can be a lot of overhead to create the function instance. We can instead use inline to tell the compiler to inline a function call where it is used (similar to C++)

We can define an inline function by simply adding the inline keyword before fun:

inline fun addStuff(x: Int, y: Int): Int {
    return x + y

Single Abstract Method (SAM)

SAMs are essentially interfaces with a single methods on them

In Kotlin we can pass lambdas to Java functions that require SAMs


Create a Class

We typically organize classes into packages. Right Click on src > New Package then you can fill in the package name. Thereafter create a new Kotlin file in the package directory

You can define a new class with the class keyword. A class name typically defines the class name. A function does not need to have a body to be valid:

package Functionality

class House

We can add properties to the House class with:

package Functionality

class House {
    val size = 1200
    val rooms = 3
    val garages = 2

Using this means that the properties in our class are constants

We can then create an instance of a house and read its properties with:

val house = House()
val size = house.size

Kotlin automatically creates getters and setters for properties

To make properties changeable we can change val to var

We can also create a custom getter like so:

val price : Int
    get() = size + rooms + garages

By default everything is public

We can also create a default constructor which will set the initial values in the parenthesis of the class declaration

class House (
    val size: Int = 1200,
    val rooms: Int = 3,
    val garages: Int = 2
) {
    val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages

Additional constructors can be created as well using the constructor keyword in the class, such as this one:

class House (
    var size: Int = 1200,
    var rooms: Int = 3,
    var garages: Int = 2
) {
    val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages

    constructor(kind: Int): this() {
        size = kind * 3
        rooms = kind * 2
        garages = kind

The new constructor must make a call a constructor with this(), we can also set the parameters like so:

class House (
    val size: Int = 1200,
    val rooms: Int = 3,
    val garages: Int = 2
) {
    val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages

    constructor(kind: Int): this(
        kind * 3,
        kind * 2,

We can also place logic for a default constructor in the init block, for example:

class House (
    val rooms: Int = 3,
    val garages: Int = 2,
    isFancy: Boolean
) {
    val size: Int
    init {
        size = if (isFancy) rooms * 1000
               else rooms * 500

    val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages

    constructor(kind: Int): this(
        kind * 3,
        kind * 2,

We can have multiple init blocks they are executed in the order they are defined in the class

class MyClass {
    init {
        println("I run before any properties are initiailzed")

    val size = 12

    init {
        println("I run after size is initialized")

    val height = 14

    init {
        println("I'll run last")

In Kotlin we typically try to avoid using multiple constructors, if we need to do something like that we will create a helper function outside our class that we can use to set up a constructor


The default class inherits from Any, however to inherit from a class we use the word open to say that a class or property can be inherited or overriden

open class House (...) {

    open val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages


We can create a new class called FancyHouse like:

class FancyHouse(
    val pools: Int = 1,
    rooms: Int,
    garages: Int
): House(rooms, garages, isFancy = true) {
    override val price: Int
        get() = (size + rooms + garages + pools) * 2


Kotlin allows us two forms of inheritence: Interfaces and Abstracts. Interfaces cannot have a constructor or any logic

Interfaces use the interface keyword and can essentially only define the signatures for the different properties

interface ICanRenovate {
    var rooms: Int
    var garages: Int
    fun extend(roomsToAdd: Int, garagesToAdd: Int)

Next we can inherit from the ICanRenovate class in our House class. this requires us to set implementations for the rooms, garages, and extend properties and add ICanRenovate after the constructor params

open class House (
    override var rooms: Int = 3,
    override var garages: Int = 2,
    isFancy: Boolean
): ICanRenovate {
    val size: Int
    init {
        size = if (isFancy) rooms * 1000
               else rooms * 500

    override fun extend(roomsToAdd: Int, garagesToAdd: Int) {
        rooms += roomsToAdd
        garages += garagesToAdd

    open val price : Int
        get() = size + rooms + garages

    constructor(kind: Int): this(
        kind * 3,
        kind * 2,


We can add an abstract class for some predefined functionality, let’s create one called Livable with a population

abstract class Livable() {
    abstract val population: Int

The abstract keyword for the population property allows it to be overriden when inherited

We can then update our House class to include this with:

open class House (
    override var rooms: Int = 3,
    override var garages: Int = 2,
    isFancy: Boolean
): Livable(), ICanRenovate {
    override val population: Int = 4

The house class now has the population property as well as a result of the inheritance

Using Inherited Classes

We can specify the inherited classes as parameters to functions where we would like to use some specific functionality, for example in a function where we want to use the extend function we can just ask for ICanRenovate

fun extendItem(item: ICanRenovate) = item.extend(1, 1)

Kotlin also allows you to define preset classes that can be delegated for inheritence which allows us to implement certain functionality in an instance that can be reused


We can create a class that can only have a single instance with the object keyword -> AKA singleton

We can create an Interface called IHasColour with a colour property

interface IHasColour {
    val colour: String

An object called HouseColour can then implement that interface and set the implementation for it

object HouseColour: IHasColour {
    override val colour: String = "Beige"

We can then update a class to implement this functionality using the Interface by Singleton structure in the definition

open class House (
): Livable(), ICanRenovate, IHasColour by HouseColour {

Interface delegation allows us to use composition to plug in select functionality and should be considered for the kinds of usecases that we would use abstract classes for in other languages

Data Classes

Often we have classes that are defined just for storing data, we can use a data class in Kotlin for doing that

data class Address(val number: Int, val street: String)

The data class has an automatic toString and equals method for proper equality checking as well as the copy method which can copy objects

We can also decompose the values from the class using the following syntax:

val postal = Address(24, "Fun Street")
val ( postalNumber, postalStreet ) = postal

The number of values in the decomposition must match the number of properties and are defined based on the order they are in the class


In Kotlin Enums are defined using the enum keyword and they can haver properties and methods

enum class Suburb {

Sealed Class

A sealed class is a class that can only be used within the same file. These classes are static at compile time as well as all its references this means that the compiler can do additional safety checking that wouldn’t otherwise be possible

Extenstion Methods

Extension methods are functions that extend functionality of a class without modifying the class itself. Inside of the function this refers to the current object instance

We can declare the function using the dot notation for a function name. For example we can create an extension of String with:

fun String.hasSpaces(): Boolean {
    return this.find { it == ' ' } != null

"Hello World".hasSpaces() // true

We can also leave out the this if there is no ambiguity in the scope, as well as make this a single line

fun String.hasSpaces() = find { it == ' ' } != null

These functions don’t have access to private members and are based on only on private members

Extension functions can also be used on getters and setters for properties, for example:

val String.isApple: Boolean
    get() = this == "Apple"

Generic Classes

Kotlin also allows us to create generics using a similar notation to other languages, such as MyClass<T> which is a generic Class of T, we can also do the same for function arguments

class MyClass<T>(val propKey: String, val propVal: T)

We can create an instance of the class with:

val myData = MyClass<Int>("hello", 12)

Additionally we can also create Generic Function with:

fun <T> printAndReturn(data: T): T {
    return data

And the function can be called with either an inferred or explicit type:


By default T is nullable, if we want to be non-nullable we can specify it with the Any type:

class MyClass<T: Any>(val propKey: String, val propVal: T: Any)

We can alternatively specify a base class to use as well, for example say we have a class MyClass that other elemens have extended, we can do something more like:

class MyNewClass<T: MyClass>(
    val propKey: String, val propVal: T: MyClass

We can also define in which can only be passed into something and out types which can only be returned as a result of a function or passed into a constructor.

class MyNewClass<in T: MyClass>( ... )

We can also define an out type using the same kind of notation

The IDE should point out when these are needed though

Sometimes you may need to tell the compiler that a type is a real type, this does something with the runtime that I don’t completely understand but essentially you need to use inline before the function and reified before the types if you want to access the types themselves:

inline fun <reified T: MyClass> isTypeValid(data: MyClass)
    = data is T

We can use generics for extension methods as well


Annotations are used by the compiler and many are supplied with the language itself and are generally used when interoperating with Java

Annotations come before the thing that is annotated

Below we can see a class definition for the most basic annotation. It doesn’t do much other than be annotated

annotation class ImAnnotated

class MyClass

If an annotation is targeting a property we can specify if it is only allowed to be used on getters or setters

annotation class ImAnnotated

annotation class OnGet

annotation class OnSet

class MyClass {
    @get: OnGet
    val data1: Int = 0

    @set: OnSet
    var data2: Int = 0

Labelled Breaks

These allow us to break out of a loop in a more controlled manner by breaking out to the block outside of the label, they are defined with @labelName

mainLoop@for (i in 1..100) {
    for (j in 1..10) {
        if (i > 10) break@mainLoop
        else println("i: $i, j: $j")

The code above will run until i > 10 and then completely exit both for loops, normally we would do something like this with two breaks for example to break out of each loop individually