Other uses of ?

Notice in the previous example that our immediate reaction to calling parse is to map the error from a library error into a boxed error:

.and_then(|s| s.parse::<i32>()
    .map_err(|e| e.into())

Since this is a simple and common operation, it would be convenient if it could be elided. Alas, because and_then is not sufficiently flexible, it cannot. However, we can instead use ?.

? was previously explained as either unwrap or return Err(err). This is only mostly true. It actually means unwrap or return Err(From::from(err)). Since From::from is a conversion utility between different types, this means that if you ? where the error is convertible to the return type, it will convert automatically.

Here, we rewrite the previous example using ?. As a result, the map_err will go away when From::from is implemented for our error type:

use std::error;
use std::fmt;
use std::num::ParseIntError;

// Change the alias to `Box<error::Error>`.
type Result<T> = std::result::Result<T, Box<error::Error>>;

struct EmptyVec;

impl fmt::Display for EmptyVec {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut fmt::Formatter) -> fmt::Result {
        write!(f, "invalid first item to double")

impl error::Error for EmptyVec {
    fn description(&self) -> &str {
        "invalid first item to double"

    fn cause(&self) -> Option<&error::Error> {
        // Generic error, underlying cause isn't tracked.

// The same structure as before but rather than chain all `Results`
// and `Options` along, we `?` to get the inner value out immediately.
fn double_first(vec: Vec<&str>) -> Result<i32> {
    let first = vec.first().ok_or(EmptyVec)?;
    let parsed = first.parse::<i32>()?;
    Ok(2 * parsed)

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

fn main() {
    let numbers = vec!["42", "93", "18"];
    let empty = vec![];
    let strings = vec!["tofu", "93", "18"];


This is actually fairly clean now. Compared with the original panic, it is very similar to replacing the unwrap calls with ? except that the return types are Result. As a result, they must be destructured at the top level.

See also:

From::from and ?