These functions return or set information about the individual slots in an object.
The definition of the class specifies all slots directly and indirectly defined for that class. Each slot has a name and an associated class. Extracting a slot returns an object from that class. Setting a slot first coerces the value to the specified slot and then stores it.
Unlike general attributes, slots are not partially matched, and asking for (or trying to set) a slot with an invalid name for that class generates an error.
The @ extraction operator and slot function themselves do no checking against the class definition, simply matching the name in the object itself. The replacement forms do check (except for slot in the case check=FALSE). So long as slots are set without cheating, the extracted slots will be valid.
Be aware that there are two ways to cheat, both to be avoided but with no guarantees. The obvious way is to assign a slot with check=FALSE. Also, slots in R are implemented as attributes, for the sake of some back compatibility. The current implementation does not prevent attributes being assigned, via attr<-, and such assignments are not checked for legitimate slot names.
Note that the "@" operators for extraction and replacement are primitive and actually reside in the base package.
The replacement versions of "@" and slot() differ in the computations done to coerce the right side of the assignment to the declared class of the slot. Both verify that the value provided is from a subclass of the declared slot class. The slot() version will go on to call the coerce method if there is one, in effect doing the computation as(value, slotClass, strict = FALSE). The "@" version just verifies the relation, leaving any coerce to be done later (e.g., when a relevant method is dispatched).
In most uses the result is equivalent, and the "@" version saves an extra function call, but if empirical evidence shows that a conversion is needed, either call as() before the replacement or use the replacement version of slot().
The "@" operator and the slot function extract or replace the formally defined slots for the object.
Functions slotNames and getSlots return respectively the names of the slots and the classes associated with the slots in the specified class definition. Except for its extended interpretation of x (above), slotNames(x) is just names(getSlots(x)).
Chambers, John M. (2008) Software for Data Analysis: Programming with R Springer. (For the R version.)
Chambers, John M. (1998) Programming with Data Springer (For the original S4 version.)
@, Classes_Details, Methods_Details, getClass, names.
slot: The Slots in an Object from a Formal Class