Absent of Data
There are situations where we wish to accept data from users and also provide an opportunity for some of the data to be optionals, meaning they are not required but should be provided if available.
me instance of a person provided all the data but the constant
anotherPerson cannot provide all the data because he probably does not have a middlename. Hence he passed
nil as the value of the
middlename. Sounds cool right but the
nil passed will cause an error, Why?, because we have not told swift to make the middlename
What is an Optional in Swift?
An optional in Swift is a type that can hold either a value or no value. Optionals are written by appending a
?to any type:
var middlename: String?
The above means that middlename can either be a string or does not contain anything which is represented by the
?. An optional is a kind of container. An optional String is a container which might contain a string. An optional Int is a container which might contain an Int. Think of an optional as a kind of parcel. Before you open it (or “unwrap” in the language of optionals) you won’t know if it contains something or nothing. Its only an
Optional value that can be set to
nil, and that was the reason for the error when we passed the
middlename a value of
nil without specifying its a type of
var red: String = "Red" red = nil // error: nil cannot be assigned to type 'String'
How to create an Optional?
The simplest way to create an
optional in swift is to add
? in front of the type like below
var middlename: String?
Another way is using the Optional keyword like below
var middlename: Optional<String>
Using (unwraping) an optional
The simplest way to unwrap an optional is to add a
!after the optional name.
! there is use to unwrap the middlename so we can get the value “abel”. The problem is that when we passed a
nil value to the middlename, we will get a runtime crash which says
nil is Unexpected.
Before unwrapping, we need to be sure that there’s a value. So therefore we are going to continue the rest of the article with how to check before using (unwrapping) optionals.
Use If to Check for nil before force unwrapping:
Since it was
nil that was passed to the variable when we initialized the Person struct, we can use an if statement to check for
nil before unwrapping the
Person struct like below
Whenever we use the
! symbol, it is denoted as force unwrapping the optional value, but it a common practice to avoid force unwrapping it, because we can write our code in such a way that swift will automatically unwrap it for us
Using Optional binding:
With optional binding, though we are still using if, swift provide a way for us to use the
if let statement then automatically unwrap it for us like below
Using Guard for early exit:
Guard provide a way to quickly exit when checking for the
optional string and make our code much more cleaner hence there wont be need for
if else statement.
We have covered how to use optionals in swift, let us look at some cool secondary use cases of optionals which include using
method chaining and
streetName in the Street class is an optional string, the
House class has a street variable which is also a Optional Street. The Person class too has a variable house which is an Optional house. When we have to access the person street. To access the person street (myStreet), we ain’t sure if the person gave us the house information (myHouse). That was the reason why we use the
if let myHouse = Person.house. If the
Person.houseis empty, the if statement will fail to execute, else the variable will be assigned to the
myHouse property. Next, we have to access the
myHouse.street and if its available, the variable will be assigned to the
The pattern used to access the myStreet can be improved with the use of optional chaining like below:
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