Advanced and Practical Enum usage in Swift

Error Handling

released Fri, 01 Mar 2019
Swift Version 5.0

Error Handling

One of the prime examples of Enum usage in Swift is, of course, the new error handling in Swift 2.0. Your throwing function can throw anything which conforms to the empty ErrorType protocol. As the Swift documentation succinctly observes:

Swift enumerations are particularly well suited to modeling a group of related error conditions, with associated values allowing for additional information about the nature of an error to be communicated.

As an example, have a look at the popular JSON Decoding library Argo. When their JSON Decoding fails, it can fail due to two primary reasons.

  1. The JSON Data lacks a key which the end model requires (say your model has a property username and somehow the JSON lacks that)
  2. There's a type mismatch. Say instead of a String the username property in the JSON contains an NSNull 1.

In addition to that, Argo also includes a custom error for anything not fitting in these two categories above. Their ErrorType enum looks like this:

enum DecodeError: Error {

   case typeMismatch(expected: String, actual: String)

   case missingKey(String)

   case custom(String)


All cases have associated values that contain additional information about the error in question.

A more general ErrorType for complete HTTP / REST API handling could look like this:

enum APIError : Error {

     // Can't connect to the server (maybe offline?)

     case connectionError(error: NSError)

     // The server responded with a non 200 status code

     case serverError(statusCode: Int, error: NSError)

     // We got no data (0 bytes) back from the server

     case noDataError

     // The server response can't be converted from JSON to a Dictionary

     case JSONSerializationError(error: Error)

     // The Argo decoding Failed

     case JSONMappingError(converstionError: DecodeError)


This ErrorType implements the complete REST Stack up to the point where your app would get the completely decoded native struct or class object.

More information on ErrorType and more enum examples in this context can be found in the official documentation here.