Forbind 1.0

Forbind 1.0

LangLanguage SwiftSwift
License MIT
ReleasedLast Release Apr 2015
SPMSupports SPM

Maintained by Ulrik Damm.

  • By
  • Ulrik Damm


Functional chaining and promises in Swift

Note: still in an experimental state. Everything could change. I would love some feedback on this. Write to @ulrikdamm on Twitter.

What is it

Forbind is a library to introduce functional chaining of expressions into your Swift code. It contains a lot of powerful components for writing code that is stateless and expressive. It’s key features are:

• A bind operator (=>) to bind expressions together, that can handle errors.

• A combine operator (++) to combine two potentially optional values together.

• A Result type for better error handling.

• A Promise type for better handling of async values.

• Some extensions for Foundation and UIKit which introduces Forbind concepts in common classes.

When you put these features together, you can begin to write your code in a whole new way. No if-lets, no code littered with error handling, no many-times indented code.

The idea is that you can write your code as a series of expressions, which produce a final result. All error handling is left until the end, when you unpack the result. And it works even for async operations. No more if-lets, no more NSErrorPointer checking, no more completion blocks. Your code changes from something like this:

if let data = readFile("file") {
    if let result = parseJson(data, error: nil) as? NSDictionary {
        if let thingy = parseData(result) {

To something like this:

readFile("file") => parseJson => parseData => handleResult

Show me an example of it

Let’s try to do a simple network request with NSURLConnection. Here’s how it probably will look today:

class NetworkRequestExampleOldWay {
    func handleResponse(response : NSURLResponse?, data : NSData?) -> String? {
        if let data = data {
            return NSString(data: data, encoding: NSUTF8StringEncoding) as? String
        } else {
            return nil

    func performRequest(completion : (String?, NSError?) -> Void) {
        if let url = NSURL(string: "") {
            let request = NSURLRequest(URL: url)
            NSURLConnection.sendAsynchronousRequest(request, queue: NSOperationQueue.mainQueue()) { response, data, error in
                if let error = error {
                    completion(nil, error)
                } else {
                    if let result = self.handleResponse(response, data: data) {
                        completion(result, nil)
                    } else {
                        completion(nil, nil)

There’s some problems with this:

• Need to have all your code nested in an if-let.

• Error and data can have a value at the same time.

• You might forget handling the error.

• Error handling and logic in between each other.

• Error handling at multiple different places.

• Multiple levels of indention.

• Completion call with two nils? Let’s hope that doesn’t cause problems.

• 25 lines.

Here’s how you would do the exact same with Forbind:

class NetworkRequestExampleWithForbind {
    func handleResponse(response : NSURLResponse?, data : NSData?) -> String? {
        return data => { NSString(data: $0, encoding: NSUTF8StringEncoding) as? String }

    func performRequest() -> ResultPromise<String> {
        let request = NSURL(string: "") => { NSURLRequest(URL: $0) }
        let response = request ++ NSOperationQueue.mainQueue() => NSURLConnection.sendAsynchronousRequest
        return response => handleResponse

Problems solved with this:

• You define all your logic before you do any error handling.

• You are forced to handle all errors.

• Only indentation is when receiving the final result.

• 9 lines!!

There are some conventions that are changed from the usual way of writing code:

• Nested calls becomes chained calls (func1 => func2 instead func2(func1()))

• Chain calls with multiple arguments are ++’ed together (arg1 ++ arg2 => func instead of func(arg1, arg2))

• You do error handling in the end. If anything fails, it skips the rest.

I’m intrigued. How do I learn more?

For more examples, open the Xcode project and run the ForbindDemo iOS app. It has a few practical examples. Or you can just see the sources files for the animation demo, the network request demo and the print IP demo

The whole library is in the files bind.swift, combine.swift and dataStructures.swift. Each file has comments explaining how it works in more detail.

If you want to learn more about the concept behind the bind operator, you can read my blog post about it.

What is the state of the project?

It’s still very experimental, so I would love some feedback on it. I wouldn’t recommend relying on this for product code yet. If you have a good idea, or just questions, submit a pull request or contact me at @ulrikdamm on Twitter.

Things that still needs to be considered:

• General direction of the project (are there some fundamental flaws?)

• Promise cancellation (support for cancelling an async operation if a promise is deallocated)

• Handling of dispatch queues (currently promise callbacks are run on the same queue as the operation finished on)

• More extensions for common UIKit/AppKit/Foundation methods to use Promise and Result instead of NSErrorPointer and completion blocks.

• “Expression was too complex to be solved in reasonable time” for big expressions.