Conversion Between Option and the Collections


Option can be seen as a collection that has zero or exactly one element, and it provides a degree of interoperability with the collection types found in the package scala.collection. In particular, it implements the interface IterableOnce, which models the simplest form of collections: something that can be iterated over, at least once. However, Option does not implement the more comprehensive interface of Iterable. Indeed, we cannot provide a sensible implementation for the operation fromSpecific, which is supposed to create an Option from a collection of possibly more than one element. Starting from Scala 2.13, Option was made an IterableOnce but not an Iterable.

Hence Option can be used everywhere an IterableOnce is expected, for example, when calling flatMap on a collection (or inside a for-comprehension)

for {
  a <- Set(1)
  b <- Option(41)
} yield (a + b)
// : Set[Int] = Set(42)
  a <- Set(1)
  b <- Option(41)
yield (a + b)
// : Set[Int] = Set(42)

since the operation flatMap on the type Set[Int] takes a function returning an IterableOnce:

def flatMap[B](f: Int => IterableOnce[B]): Set[B]

Although Option does not extend Iterable, there exists an implicit conversion between Option and Iterable

implicit def option2Iterable[A](xo: Option[A]): Iterable[A]

so although Option[A] is not a full collection it can be viewed as one. For example,

// : Iterable[Int] = List()

expands to

// : Iterable[Int] = List()

because drop is not defined on Option. A downside of the above implicit conversion is that instead of getting back an Option[A] we are left with an Iterable[A]. For this reason, Option’s documentation carries the following note:

Many of the methods in Option are duplicative with those in the Iterable hierarchy, but they are duplicated for a reason: the implicit conversion tends to leave one with an Iterable in situations where one could have retained an Option.

Contributors to this page: