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A standard Result type

Available from Swift 5.0

Paul Hudson      @twostraws

SE-0235 introduced a Result type into the standard library, giving us a simpler, clearer way of handling errors in complex code such as asynchronous APIs.

Swift’s Result type is implemented as an enum that has two cases: success and failure. Both are implemented using generics so they can have an associated value of your choosing, but failure must be something that conforms to Swift’s Error type.

To demonstrate Result, we could write a function that connects to a server to figure out how many unread messages are waiting for the user. In this example code we’re going to have just one possible error, which is that the requested URL string isn’t a valid URL:

enum NetworkError: Error {
    case badURL
}

The fetching function will accept a URL string as its first parameter, and a completion handler as its second parameter. That completion handler will itself accept a Result, where the success case will store an integer, and the failure case will be some sort of NetworkError. We’re not actually going to connect to a server here, but using a completion handler at least lets us simulate asynchronous code.

Here’s the code:

import Foundation

func fetchUnreadCount1(from urlString: String, completionHandler: @escaping (Result<Int, NetworkError>) -> Void)  {
    guard let url = URL(string: urlString) else {
        completionHandler(.failure(.badURL))
        return
    }

    // complicated networking code here
    print("Fetching \(url.absoluteString)...")
    completionHandler(.success(5))
}

To use that code we need to check the value inside our Result to see whether our call succeeded or failed, like this:

fetchUnreadCount1(from: "https://www.hackingwithswift.com") { result in
    switch result {
    case .success(let count):
        print("\(count) unread messages.")
    case .failure(let error):
        print(error.localizedDescription)
    }
}

There are three more things you ought to know before you start using Result in your own code.

First, Result has a get() method that either returns the successful value if it exists, or throws its error otherwise. This allows you to convert Result into a regular throwing call, like this:

fetchUnreadCount1(from: "https://www.hackingwithswift.com") { result in
    if let count = try? result.get() {
        print("\(count) unread messages.")
    }
}

Second, Result has an initializer that accepts a throwing closure: if the closure returns a value successfully that gets used for the success case, otherwise the thrown error is placed into the failure case.

For example:

let result = Result { try String(contentsOfFile: someFile) }

Third, rather than using a specific error enum that you’ve created, you can also use the general Error protocol. In fact, the Swift Evolution proposal says “it's expected that most uses of Result will use Swift.Error as the Error type argument.”

So, rather than using Result<Int, NetworkError> you could use Result<Int, Error>. Although this means you lose the safety of typed throws, you gain the ability to throw a variety of different error enums – which you prefer really depends on your coding style.

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