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Working With Results in Elm - With Morphir Examples

This post explains the Result type in the Elm Programming Language and use cases in Morphir.


  1. Overview of the Result Type
  2. Mapping Results (map)
  3. Chaining Results (andThen)
  4. Result Error Handling
  5. Use Cases in Morphir

###1. Overview of the Result Type Result is a built-in type in Elm that accepts two arguments: error and value. It represents the result of a computation that has the possibility of failure. The two types of constructors for the result type are given below:

type Result error value
= Ok value
| Err error

A result could be either:

  • OK - which means the operation succeeded
  • Err - which means that the operation failed \ So the Result type has two parameters: error and value. It also has two constructors: Ok and Err.

###2. Mapping Results (map) When a computation returns a Result, it is common to use the map function to further process the Result. If the result is Ok (which means that it is successful), then the function is applied and a value is returned. If however, the result fails, then the error is propagated. An example is given below taken from the String.elm file

Example 1 This example is taken from the String module

evaluate "" value 
(\val -> Value.Literal () (StringLiteral val))

In the snippet, the evaluate function is called which takes two string argumnents (an empty string and a value) and returns a Result Error String. The output of the evaluate function is transformed to a Value Literal using the map function.

Example 2 In the example below which is taken from the List Module, we use the map function to transform the result of the evaluate function (applied to an empty list []) to an empty Value.List type.

|> evaluate []
|> (Value.List ())

Example 3 \ This example is taken from the CLI.elm module.

resultIR : Result Decode.Error IR
resultIR =
|> Decode.decodeValue DistributionCodec.decodeVersionedDistribution
|> IR.fromDistribution

In the snippet, the Decode.decodeValue function takes a decoder and a value. The value argument is the distributionJson returned from IR.fromDistribution while the decoder is returned from DistributionCodec.decodeVersionedDistribution function. The Decode.decodeValue returns a Result. A successful result (which is a distribution) is transformed into an IR using the map function applied to IR.fromDistribution.

3. Chaining Results (andThen)

Sometimes we could have a sequence of operations where each of them have the possibility of failure. The signature for the andThen function is given below:

andThen : (a -> Result e b) -> Result e a -> Result e b
andThen callback result =
case result of
Ok value -> callback value
Err msg -> Err msg

In the code snippet above, the andThen function takes two arguments:

  • the callback - this is the function that gets called on the value when the result is OK
  • result = this is Result type returned by a prior computation

###4. Result Error Handling In the previous examples, we covered how to handle successful results. Let's now examine how to handle errors. Elm provides the following function that could be used for handling errors with the result type

withDefault: a -> Result x a -> a

This function returns a specified default value when the result is Err

toMaybe: Result x a -> Maybe a

This function returns a specified default value when the result is Err

fromMaybe: x -> Maybe a -> Result x a

This function converts a Maybe to a Result

mapError: (x -> y) -> Result x a -> Result y a

Just like the map function mentioned earlier, the mapError function allows you to apply a function to a result if it is an error

###5. Use Cases in Morphir To understand the result type more clearly, we would look at a number of use cases from the Morphir codebase.

Returning a Result Type \ In a computatation that contains the possibility of failure, it would be necessary to return a Result type. For example, the code snippet below taken from the JSONBackend.elm file contains a function that returns the encoder reference for a given type:

genEncodeReference : Type () -> Result Error Scala.Value
genEncodeReference tpe =
case tpe of
Type.Variable _ varName ->
Ok (Scala.Variable ("encode" :: varName |> Name.toCamelCase))

In the snippet, the genEncoderReference function would have the possibility of failure and so the return type is Result Error Scala.Value. This means that if no failure occurs, then a Scala.Value type is returned but if failure occurs, then Error is returned. For Type.Variable, the operation produces a Scala.Variable type which is then wrapped into a Result type using the Ok constructor. This could also achieved by piping the output into Result.Ok.

Handling Result Using mapError \ The snippet below shows the use of mapError in handling Error from the Result type. It is taken from Incremental Frontend module

{-| Converts an elm source into a ParsedModule.
parseSource : ( FilePath.Path, String ) -> Result Error ParsedModule
parseSource ( path, content ) =
Elm.Parser.parse content
|> Result.mapError (ParseError path)
|> ParsedModule.parsedModule

In the example, the parseSource function returns a Result type but the Elm.Parser.parse function returns a Result (List Deadend) RawFile. This means that we need to transform both the two parameters of the Result. The mapError transforms the (List Deadend) into Error while the map transforms the RawFile into ParsedModule

Chaining Result Example The example below shows the use of Result chaining taken from Spark Backend module.

mapFunctionBody : TypedValue -> Result Error Scala.Value
mapFunctionBody body =
|> RelationalBackend.mapFunctionBody
|> Result.mapError RelationalBackendError
|> Result.andThen mapRelation

In the mapFunctionBody example, Result.mapError and Result.andThen is used. First, the mapFunctionBody returns a Result Error Scala.Value. As explained earlier, the mapError is used to transform the Error using the RelationalBackendError. The andThen is used to chain the result with mapRelation (which also returns a Result)