WWDC24 SALE: Save 50% on all my Swift books and bundles! >>

Typed throws

Available from Swift 6.0

Paul Hudson      @twostraws

SE-0413 introduced the ability to specify exactly what types of errors a function can throw, known as "typed throws". This resolves an annoyance with errors in Swift: we needed a general catch clause even when we had specifically caught all possible errors.

As an example of typed throws, we could define a CopierError that can track when a photocopier runs out of paper:

enum CopierError: Error {
    case outOfPaper

We could then create a Photocopier struct that creates some number of copies of a page. This might throw errors if there isn't enough paper loaded for the requested operation, but rather than mark it simply as throws we'll use throws(CopierError) to be clear exactly what kind of errors can be thrown:

struct Photocopier {
    var pagesRemaining: Int

    mutating func copy(count: Int) throws(CopierError) {
        guard count >= pagesRemaining else {
            throw CopierError.outOfPaper

        pagesRemaining -= count

Note: With this change you can either use throws to specify any kind of error being thrown, or throws(OneSpecificErrorType) to signal that only that one type can be thrown. You cannot write throws(A, B, C) to throw one of several errors.

Now we can write code to attempt photocopying, catching the single error that can possibly be thrown:

do {
    var copier = Photocopier(pagesRemaining: 100)
    try copier.copy(count: 10)
} catch CopierError.outOfPaper {
    print("Please refill the paper")

That call site is the important change here: in earlier versions of Swift we'd need a so-called "Pokémon catch" at the end, because Swift couldn't be sure exactly error types could be thrown – you've "gotta catch 'em all."

This comes with several other advantages:

  1. Because Swift knows that CopierError is the only error type that can be thrown, we can write throw .outOfPaper.
  2. If the code in a do block only throws one kind of error, the error value in a general catch block will automatically have the same error type rather than being any kind of error.
  3. If we attempt to throw any other kind of error not listed in the throws clause, Swift will issue a compile error.

Where this gets really clever is that throws(any Error) is equivalent to using just throws by itself, and throws(Never) is equivalent to a non-throwing function. That might sound obscure, but it means in many places rethrows can be expressed more clearly: the function throws whatever the function parameter throws.

As an example, Swift 6's new count(where:) method accepts a closure used to evaluate how many items match whatever kind of filter you're running. That closure might throw errors, and if it does count(where:) will throw that same error type:

public func count<E>(
    where predicate: (Element) throws(E) -> Bool
) throws(E) -> Int {
    print("Code goes here")
    return 0

If that closure doesn't throw an error, throws(E) is effectively throws(Never), meaning that count(where:) will also not throw errors.

Even though typed throws seem very appealing, they are aren't a great choice when the errors that can be thrown might change in the future. They are a particularly poor choice in library code, because they lock you into a contract you might not want to stick to in the future.

In fact, here I'll just defer to the authors of the evolution proposal, who sum it up like this: even with the addition of typed throws to Swift, untyped throws is better for most scenarios.

Where typed throws are particularly useful is in the increasingly important realm of embedded Swift, where performance and predictability is critical.

Save 50% in my WWDC sale.

SAVE 50% To celebrate WWDC24, all our books and bundles are half price, so you can take your Swift knowledge further without spending big! Get the Swift Power Pack to build your iOS career faster, get the Swift Platform Pack to builds apps for macOS, watchOS, and beyond, or get the Swift Plus Pack to learn advanced design patterns, testing skills, and more.

Save 50% on all our books and bundles!

Other changes in Swift 6.0…

Download all Swift 6.0 changes as a playground Link to Swift 6.0 changes

Browse changes in all Swift versions

Unknown user

You are not logged in

Log in or create account

Link copied to your pasteboard.