Variant is the most important datatype of Godot, it’s the most important class in the engine. A Variant takes up only 20 bytes and can store almost any engine datatype inside of it. Variants are rarely used to hold information for long periods of time, instead they are used mainly for communication, editing, serialization and generally moving data around.
A Variant can:
- Store almost any datatype
- Perform operations between many variants (GDScript uses Variant as it’s atomic/native datatype).
- Be hashed, so it can be compared quickly to over variants
- Be used to convert safely between datatypes
- Be used to abstract calling methods and their arguments (Godot exports all it’s functions through variants)
- Be used to defer calls or move data between threads.
- Be serialized as binary and stored to disk, or transferred via network.
- Be serialized to text and use it for printing values and editable settings.
- Work as an exported property, so the editor can edit it universally.
- Be used for dictionaries, arrays, parsers, etc.
Basically, thanks to the Variant class, writing Godot itself was a much, much easier task, as it allows for highly dynamic constructs not common of C++ with little effort. Become a friend of Variant today.
Dictionary and Array¶
Both are implemented using variants. A Dictionary can match any datatype used as key to any other datatype. An Array just holds an array of Variants. Of course, a Variant can also hold a Dictionary and an Array inside, making it even more flexible.
Both have a shared mode and a COW mode. Scripts often use them in shared mode (meaning modifications to a container will modify all references to it), or COW mode (modifications will always alter the local copy, making a copy of the internal data if necessary, but will not affect the other copies). In COW mode, Both Dictionary and Array are thread-safe, otherwise a Mutex should be created to lock if multi thread access is desired.