Rust by Example

16.4 Multiple error types

The previous examples have always been very convenient; Results interact with other Results and Options interact with other Options.

Sometimes an Option needs to interact with a Result, or a Result<T, Error1> needs to interact with a Result<T, Error2>. In those cases, we want to manage our different error types in a way that makes them composable and easy to interact with.

In the following code, two instances of unwrap generate different error types. Vec::first returns an Option, while parse::<i32> returns a Result<i32, ParseIntError>:

fn double_first(vec: Vec<&str>) -> i32 {
    let first = vec.first().unwrap(); // Generate error 1
    2 * first.parse::<i32>().unwrap() // Generate error 2

fn main() {
    let empty = vec![];
    let strings = vec!["tofu", "93", "18"];

    println!("The first doubled is {}", double_first(empty));
    // Error 1: the input vector is empty

    println!("The first doubled is {}", double_first(strings));
    // Error 2: the element doesn't parse to a number

Using our knowledge of combinators, we can rewrite the above to explicitly handle errors. Since two different types of errors can occur, we need to convert them to a common type such as a String.

To do so, we convert both the Option and Result into Results, and then map their errors to the same type:

// Use `String` as our error type
type Result<T> = std::result::Result<T, String>;

fn double_first(vec: Vec<&str>) -> Result<i32> {
       // Convert the `Option` to a `Result` if there is a value.
       // Otherwise, provide an `Err` containing this `String`.
       .ok_or("Please use a vector with at least one element.".to_owned())
       .and_then(|s| s.parse::<i32>()
                      // Map any errors that `parse` yields to `String`.
                      .map_err(|e| e.to_string())
                      // `Result<T, String>` is the new return type, 
                      // and we can now double the number inside.
                      .map(|i| 2 * i))

fn print(result: Result<i32>) {
    match result {
        Ok(n)  => println!("The first doubled is {}", n),
        Err(e) => println!("Error: {}", e),

fn main() {
    let empty = vec![];
    let strings = vec!["tofu", "93", "18"];


In the next section, we'll see an alternate method of explicitly handling these errors.

See Also:

Option::ok_or, Result::map_err