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How to use `optional` helper function in Laravel

2 min read
Published on 19th January 2024

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In Laravel, dealing with null values is a common challenge, especially when you're trying to access properties or call methods on an object that might not exist. Laravel's optional helper function provides a clean, fluent way to handle these situations gracefully. Let's explore how to use optional to enhance the robustness and readability of your Laravel application.

What is optional in Laravel?

The optional helper function is a convenience provided by Laravel for handling cases where a variable might be null. It allows you to access properties or call methods on an object without first checking if the object is null. If the object is indeed null, optional will return null instead of causing an error.

Basic Usage of optional

The most common use case for optional is accessing a property or method on an Eloquent relationship that might return null.

Example Without optional:

return view('profile', [
    'phone' => $user->phone ? $user->phone->number : null,
]);

In this example, if $user->phone is null, trying to access the number property would result in an error.

Example With optional:

return view('profile', [
    'phone' => optional($user->phone)->number,
]);

Here, if $user->phone is null, optional will return null instead of trying to access the number property, preventing an error.

Advanced Usage

optional is also useful when you want to call a method on a potentially null object.

Example:

$profilePhotoUrl = optional($user->profilePhoto())->getUrl();

If $user->profilePhoto() returns null, optional will return null instead of calling getUrl() on it.

Using optional with Closure

For more complex conditional operations, optional can take a closure as its second argument. The closure will only be executed if the object is not null.

Example:

$greeting = optional($user, function ($user) {
    return 'Welcome, ' . $user->name;
});

If $user is not null, the closure will execute and return the greeting. Otherwise, optional will return null.

Chainability

One of the elegant features of optional is its chainability. You can chain method calls or property accesses without worrying about encountering a null object in the middle of the chain.

Example:

$country = optional($user->address)->country->name;

This line will not throw an error even if $user->address is null.

When to Use optional

optional is particularly useful when:

  • Dealing with nested relationships where an intermediate relationship might be null.
  • Accessing data from an API response that may not always contain certain fields.
  • Working with complex data structures where checking each property or method call for null would be cumbersome.

Laravel's optional helper function is a simple yet powerful tool for handling null objects gracefully. It helps in writing cleaner and more maintainable code, reducing the need for repetitive null checks. By understanding and utilizing optional, you can avoid common pitfalls associated with null values and enhance the overall quality of your Laravel applications.