A lot of languages have pattern matching, so not all of this is Rust magic, but the set of things you can do with pattern matching, and the powerful alternatives it also provides, help write both efficient and readable code. This is definitely a topic I will probably come back to as I keep discovering new and better ways to work with the tools that Rust provides.

I included an example of the Rust match expression in a previous post, copied below.

impl Display for MyError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
            match self {
                MyError::NotFound => "Where'd it go?".to_string(),
                MyError::DidntLikeThis(s) =>
                    format!("This looks bad: '{}'", s),
                MyError::IOError(err) =>
                    format!("Well crap. '{}'", err),

In this example the match looks very much like a case or switch statement, matching simply against static identifiers. The real fun comes when you step beyond just “id” patterns.

For example, imagine I have two Option values that interact in some way, so rather than writing nested matches we can make use of the Rust tuple type and construct a tuple with these two values and then match on particular tuple values that further deconstruct their components. Tuples are nice because they are not constrained to use values of the same time, so I could pass flags in as tuple values to differ the handling of the left/right values as well.

match (left, right) {
    (Some(v), None) => do_this(v),
    (None, Some(v)) => do_that(v),
    _ => (),

Now, is often the case in Rust there is an even easier way to accomplish this specific case as it turns out. Option has an xor() function, which is really what we are doing in the match above, so we can use if let to unpack the value from xor, if it is present.

if let Some(v) = left.xor(right) {

The if let construct is also a useful alternative where you care only about one specific pattern, especially if you have no “else” behavior. A personal rule-of-thumb, if you have a single case, no “else”, use if let, if you have multiple cases, regardless of whether there’s an “else”, use match, the one-case-and-else could be either if let or match and the choice for me tends to be on the style of the surrounding code.

Another example is the explicit optional processing, in the following there may or may not be a second value to deal with, and the use of if let is actually a good choice because it’s very explicit that I really don’t care about the None case at all, I either process and_maybe_this or just pass on by.

fn optionally_do_this<T>(to_this: T, and_maybe_this: Option<T>) {
    if let Some(as_well) = and_maybe_this {

Another easy problem, one that happens often when you start writing, is the overly nested match, logically it’s perfectly OK, and makes sense, but there’s something just off about the result. One blog post called this the Russian doll effect, things inside things.

match start_with {
    None => {}
    Some(next) => match process_one(next) {
        None => {}
        Some(next) => match process_two(next) {
            None => {}
            Some(next) => {

Well, it turns out Option itself can solve this. The and_then() function will apply a function to a value if that value is Some(_), and return an Option so you can chain them. So, the code above can be written as just a chain, and is way more readable.