Rust Option


The Option<T> type is Rust's equivalent of nullable types, without all the issues that come with it. The majority of C-like languages allow any variable to be null if there is no data present, but the Option type is inspired by functional languages which favour 'optionals' (e.g. Haskell's Maybe monad). Using Option types will allow you to express the idea that data may or may not be there (since Rust doesn't have nullable types).

Creating an Option value and pattern match

// The Option type can either contain Some value or None.
fn find(value: i32, slice: &[i32]) -> Option<usize> {
    for (index, &element) in slice.iter().enumerate() {
        if element == value {
            // Return a value (wrapped in Some).
            return Some(index);
    // Return no value.

fn main() {
    let array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
    // Pattern match against the Option value.
    if let Some(index) = find(2, &array) {
        // Here, there is a value.
        println!("The element 2 is at index {}.", index);

    // Check if the result is None (no value).
    if let None = find(12, &array) {
        // Here, there is no value.
        println!("The element 12 is not in the array.");

    // You can also use `is_some` and `is_none` helpers
    if find(12, &array).is_none() {
        println!("The element 12 is not in the array.");

Destructuring an Option

fn main() {
    let maybe_cake = Some("Chocolate cake");
    let not_cake = None;

    // The unwrap method retrieves the value from the Option
    // and panics if the value is None
    println!("{}", maybe_cake.unwrap());

    // The expect method works much like the unwrap method,
    // but panics with a custom, user provided message.
    println!("{}", not_cake.expect("The cake is a lie."));

    // The unwrap_or method can be used to provide a default value in case
    // the value contained within the option is None. This example would
    // print "Cheesecake".
    println!("{}", not_cake.unwrap_or("Cheesecake"));

    // The unwrap_or_else method works like the unwrap_or method,
    // but allows us to provide a function which will return the
    // fallback value. This example would print "Pumpkin Cake".
    println!("{}", not_cake.unwrap_or_else(|| { "Pumpkin Cake" }));

    // A match statement can be used to safely handle the possibility of none.
    match maybe_cake {
        Some(cake) => println!("{} was consumed.", cake),
        None       => println!("There was no cake.")

    // The if let statement can also be used to destructure an Option.
    if let Some(cake) = maybe_cake {
        println!("{} was consumed.", cake);

Unwrapping a reference to an Option owning its contents

A reference to an option &Option<T> cannot be unwrapped if the type T is not copyable. The solution is to change the option to &Option<&T> using as_ref().

Rust forbids transferring of ownership of objects while the objects are borrowed. When the Option itself is borrowed (&Option<T>), its contents is also — indirectly — borrowed.

struct Foo;
fn main() {
    let wrapped = Some(Foo);
    let wrapped_ref = &wrapped;
    println!("{:?}", wrapped_ref.unwrap()); // Error!

cannot move out of borrowed content [--explain E0507]

However, it is possible to create a reference to the contents of Option<T>. Option's as_ref() method returns an option for &T, which can be unwrapped without transfer of ownership:

println!("{:?}", wrapped_ref.as_ref().unwrap());

Using Option with map and and_then

The map operation is a useful tool when working with arrays and vectors, but it can also be used to deal with Option values in a functional way.

fn main() {

    // We start with an Option value (Option<i32> in this case).
    let some_number = Some(9);

    // Let's do some consecutive calculations with our number.
    // The crucial point here is that we don't have to unwrap
    // the content of our Option type - instead, we're just
    // transforming its content. The result of the whole operation
    // will still be an Option<i32>. If the initial value of
    // 'some_number' was 'None' instead of 9, then the result
    //  would also be 'None'.
    let another_number = some_number
        .map(|n| n - 1) // => Some(8)
        .map(|n| n * n) // => Some(64)
        .and_then(|n| divide(n, 4)); // => Some(16)

    // In the last line above, we're doing a division using a helper
    // function (definition: see bottom).
    // 'and_then' is very similar to 'map', but allows us to pass a
    // function which returns an Option type itself. To ensure that we
    // don't end up with Option<Option<i32>>, 'and_then' flattens the
    // result (in other languages, 'and_then' is also known as 'flatmap').

    println!("{}", to_message(another_number));
    // => "16 is definitely a number!"

    // For the sake of completeness, let's check the result when
    // dividing by zero.
    let final_number = another_number
        .and_then(|n| divide(n, 0)); // => None

    println!("{}", to_message(final_number));
    // => "None!"

// Just a helper function for integer division. In case
// the divisor is zero, we'll get 'None' as result.
fn divide(number: i32, divisor: i32) -> Option<i32> {
    if divisor != 0  { Some(number/divisor) } else { None }

// Creates a message that tells us whether our
// Option<i32> contains a number or not. There are other
// ways to achieve the same result, but let's just use
// map again!
fn to_message(number: Option<i32>) -> String {
        .map(|n| format!("{} is definitely a number!", n)) // => Some("...")
        .unwrap_or("None!".to_string()) // => "..."