1. Introduction

In Kotlin, Data classes are used to hold data. They’re constructs that help us to define immutable data structures, and provide useful methods such as toString(), hashCode(), and equals() out of the box. However, when attempting to iterate over all the fields of a data class without reflection, we may need to explore other approaches. Reflection can introduce performance overhead and might not be the most efficient approach.

In this tutorial, we’ll explore various techniques to iterate over all fields of a data class without relying on reflection.

2. Using Destructuring Declarations

It’s a common misconception that we can use componentN() functions of a data class to iterate over all the properties of that class without reflection. However, these are generated for property destructuring only.

Destructuring declarations allows us to extract the properties of an object and assign them to variables. While not a true form of iteration, we can use this feature to extract all fields of a data class.

First, let’s consider the data class Person with two properties, name and age:

data class Person(val name: String, val age: Int)
fun `iterate fields using destructuring declaration`() {
    val person = Person("Robert", 28)
    val (name, age) = person
    assertEquals("Robert", name)
    assertEquals(28, age)

In this code, we destructure the Person object, extracting its fields directly. This approach requires that we know how many fields our data class contains. That way, we can correctly specify them during destructuring.

Utilizing the functions generated by the compiler based on the data class properties ensures compile-time safety, minimizing runtime error risks due to type mismatches. Furthermore, destructuring declarations offer a concise and readable syntax for accessing data class properties, enhancing code clarity and intent.

However, this method is limited in its dynamism as it requires explicit specification of the properties in the destructuring declaration. Moreover, manually listing a large number of properties in the destructuring declaration can be tedious and error-prone, making this approach impractical for data classes with many properties.

3. Using the KClassUnpacker Annotation Processor

To simplify the iteration through the properties of a data class, we can integrate an annotation processing build plugin into our project. The KClassUnpacker plugin facilitates this process. However, the setup can be complex, requiring specific configurations in the project’s build.gradle file.

Let’s walk through the setup of this annotation processor step-by-step.

3.1. Build Plugins

First, since this is a Kotlin annotation processor we must include the Kapt Gradle plugin:

plugins {
    kotlin("kapt") version "1.8.21"

This also allows us to use kapt() dependency declarations, which we’ll see later.

3.2. Repository Configuration

Next, we need to configure our project to read from the JitPack Maven repository because KClassUnpacker is only hosted there:

repositories {
    maven { url = uri("https://jitpack.io") }

Specifically, this configuration allows our project to load dependencies from mavenCentral() as the primary source, and JitPack for anything not found on Maven Central.

3.3. KClassUnpacker Dependencies

Next, we need to add the KClassUnpacker dependency to enable its functionality as an annotation processor:

dependencies {

This section introduces the KClassUnpacker library (version 1.0.1) from GitHub. It’s labeled compileOnly(), meaning it’s available for compilation but not runtime. This distinction ensures the compiler can access its functionalities during building while keeping this dependency out of the runtime dependencies.

We also need to configure the kapt() block to correctly utilize the KClassUnpacker library:

kapt {
    dependencies {

Since we define the dependency within the kapt() block, we ensure that the Kotlin annotation processor tool has access to the functionality provided by KClassUnpacker.

4. KClassUnpacker Usage

Significantly, now that we’ve configured KClassUnpacker, we can use it to iterate all the fields of a data class without reflection.

We need to annotate the targeted data class with the @AutoUnpack annotation:

data class Person(val name: String, val age: Int)

So now, to iterate through the fields of the Person class, we can use it directly as the subject of a loop:

fun getFields(person: Person): List<String> {
    var list = mutableListOf<String>()
    val cls = person
    for(field in cls) {

    return list

To ensure correctness, let’s test our helper method:

fun `iterate fields using KClassUnpacker plugin`() {
    val person = Person("Robert", 28)
    val list = getFields(person)

    assertEquals("Robert", list[0])
    assertEquals("28", list[1])

Finally, this demonstrates the successful setup of our Gradle project for annotation processing, enabling us to effortlessly iterate through the fields of a data class marked with the @AutoUnpack annotation.

4.1. Pros and Cons

As usual, this approach comes with a few advantages and disadvantages.


  • Annotation processing enables compile-time checks and code generation, which enhances code correctness and reduces the likelihood of runtime errors.
  • This approach avoids reflection, which can cause runtime overhead and lead to more efficient application performance.
  • The plugin can automate the generation of unpacking code, which reduces manual boilerplate code.


  • Configuring annotation processors and integrating them into the project build process may be complex, and can entail a steep learning curve for developers.
  • The approach relies on an external annotation processor which can introduce additional dependencies and potential compatibility issues.
  • Debugging generated code can be challenging, as it may not be immediately clear how the generated code corresponds to the original source code.

5. Conclusion

In this article, we’ve explored techniques for iterating over all fields of data classes in Kotlin without relying on reflection.

First, we investigated the use of destructuring declarations, a straightforward approach that leverages Kotlin’s language features. While this method offers compile-time safety and clarity in code, it lacks dynamism and may become impractical for data classes with a large number of properties.

Furthermore, we delved into annotation processing with the KClassUnpacker plugin. This approach streamlines the iteration process by automating code generation, eliminating the need for reflection. However, it has challenges, including a potentially complex setup process and dependencies on external build tools.

As always, the code samples used in this article can be found over on GitHub.

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