[Rd] Query super- and subclasses of a class: is there a better way than to use 'completeClassDefinition()'

Martin Morgan mtmorgan at fhcrc.org
Tue May 31 18:15:52 CEST 2011

On 05/30/2011 08:54 AM, Janko Thyson wrote:
> Dear List,
> when I first started to use S4 classes, I used the function
> 'completeClassDef()' in order to see the super- and subclasses of a
> certain class:

Hi Janko -- I think 'complete' is meant as an adverb here; what you 
might want is names(getClassDef("A")@subclasses) (see 
slotNames(class(getClassDef("A"))) for other useful info).


> setClass(Class="A", representation=list(a="numeric"))
> setClass(Class="B", contains="A", representation=list(b="character"))
> # Super
> x<- completeClassDefinition("B")
> attributes(x)
> names(x at contains)
> # Sub
> x<- completeClassDefinition("A")
> attributes(x)
> names(x at subclasses)
> This also does the trick for Reference Classes for me. However, I
> re-read the respective section on the help page and wondered if I should
> be more careful about using this function for this purpose as the page says:
> "|completeClassDefinition: |Completes the definition of |Class|,
> relative to the class definitions visible from environment |where|. If
> |doExtends| is |TRUE|, complete the super- and sub-class information.
> This function is called when a class is defined or re-defined."
> So here are my questions:
> 1) Is it safe to call 'completeClassDef()' explicitly or can anything be
> "overwritten" by this?
> 2) Is there a better way to query the super-/subclasses of a certain
> S4/Reference Class?
> Best regards and I'd like to take this opportunity to express my
> gratitude to everyone on this list who takes the time to provide such
> great help!
> Janko
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