About Types

A type is essentially a name for a kind of data. When you declare a variable you must specify its type, which determines the set of values the variable can hold and the operations that can be performed on it. Every expression returns data of a particular type, as does every function. Most functions and procedures require parameters of specific types.

The Delphi language is a 'strongly typed' language, which means that it distinguishes a variety of data types and does not always allow you to substitute one type for another. This is usually beneficial because it lets the compiler treat data intelligently and validate your code more thoroughly, preventing hard-to-diagnose runtime errors. When you need greater flexibility, however, there are mechanisms to circumvent strong typing. These include typecasting, pointers, Variants, Variant parts in records, and absolute addressing of variables.

There are several ways to categorize Delphi data types:

  • Some types are predefined (or built-in); the compiler recognizes these automatically, without the need for a declaration. Almost all of the types documented in this language reference are predefined. Other types are created by declaration; these include user-defined types and the types defined in the product libraries.
  • Types can be classified as either fundamental or generic. The range and format of a fundamental type is the same in all implementations of the Delphi language, regardless of the underlying CPU and operating system. The range and format of a generic type is platform-specific and could vary across different implementations. Most predefined types are fundamental, but a handful of integer, character, string, and pointer types are generic. It's a good idea to use generic types when possible, since they provide optimal performance and portability. However, changes in storage format from one implementation of a generic type to the next could cause compatibility problems - for example, if you are streaming content to a file as raw, binary data, without type and versioning information.
  • Types can be classified as simple, string, structured, pointer, procedural, or variant. In addition, type identifiers themselves can be regarded as belonging to a special 'type' because they can be passed as parameters to certain functions (such as High, Low, and SizeOf).

The outline below shows the taxonomy of Delphi data types.

simple ordinal integer character Boolean enumerated subrange real string structured set array record file class class reference interface pointer procedural Variant type identifier

The standard function sizeOf operates on all variables and type identifiers. It returns an integer representing the amount of memory (in bytes) required to store data of the specified type. For example, sizeOf(Longint) returns 4, since a Longint variable uses four bytes of memory.

Type declarations are illustrated in the topics that follow. For general information about type declarations, see Declaring types.

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