Combinators: and_then

map() was described as a chainable way to simplify match statements. However, using map() on a function that returns an Option<T> results in the nested Option<Option<T>>. Chaining multiple calls together can then become confusing. That's where another combinator called and_then(), known in some languages as flatmap, comes in.

and_then() calls its function input with the wrapped value and returns the result. If the Option is None, then it returns None instead.

In the following example, cookable_v2() results in an Option<Food>. Using map() instead of and_then() would have given an Option<Option<Food>>, which is an invalid type for eat().

#![allow(dead_code)]

#[derive(Debug)] enum Food { CordonBleu, Steak, Sushi }
#[derive(Debug)] enum Day { Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday }

// We don't have the ingredients to make Sushi.
fn have_ingredients(food: Food) -> Option<Food> {
    match food {
        Food::Sushi => None,
        _           => Some(food),
    }
}

// We have the recipe for everything except Cordon Bleu.
fn have_recipe(food: Food) -> Option<Food> {
    match food {
        Food::CordonBleu => None,
        _                => Some(food),
    }
}

// To make a dish, we need both the ingredients and the recipe.
// We can represent the logic with a chain of `match`es:
fn cookable_v1(food: Food) -> Option<Food> {
    match have_ingredients(food) {
        None       => None,
        Some(food) => match have_recipe(food) {
            None       => None,
            Some(food) => Some(food),
        },
    }
}

// This can conveniently be rewritten more compactly with `and_then()`:
fn cookable_v2(food: Food) -> Option<Food> {
    have_ingredients(food).and_then(have_recipe)
}

fn eat(food: Food, day: Day) {
    match cookable_v2(food) {
        Some(food) => println!("Yay! On {:?} we get to eat {:?}.", day, food),
        None       => println!("Oh no. We don't get to eat on {:?}?", day),
    }
}

fn main() {
    let (cordon_bleu, steak, sushi) = (Food::CordonBleu, Food::Steak, Food::Sushi);

    eat(cordon_bleu, Day::Monday);
    eat(steak, Day::Tuesday);
    eat(sushi, Day::Wednesday);
}

See also:

closures, Option, and Option::and_then()