PathExpress provides increased powers (like nil-safey) from `Kernel.get_in/2` calls




PathExpress is a shortened form of "path expression" also intended to bring brevity to mind. I first encountered the concept of path expressions as a way to navigate object-oriented databases. You can also imagine a similarity with XPath, used to navigate xml documents.


I need to pull values out of json documents from untrusted third parties at the edges of my system. There's multiple incoming json structures from different sources that I map to a common Ecto struct for core business logic processing. The initial step is to navigate paths to fields in the json and save in a map of names known to my changeset function.

Kernel.get_in/2 is nil-safe if you are navigating purely a path of maps embedded in maps, however once you need to navigate steps that deal with lists, then you open the chance of nil exceptions when keys are missing or are nil instead of an empty list. For these reasons I developed PathExpress.

Compatible with Kernel.get_in/2

You can use PathExpress as a replacement for the Access module functions that operate on lists in any existing get_in/2 calls and gain the same nil safety for lists as it has for maps.



iex> %{"items" => nil} |> get_in(["items",])
** (RuntimeError) expected a list, got: nil
   (elixir) lib/access.ex:663:


iex> %{"items" => nil} |> get_in(["items",])

The "Express" part of the name

If you do this often, you can gain some brevity by letting PathExpress wrap the calls to get_in/2 for you. In those cases, there are shortcuts for specifying the path elements involving lists. An integer retrieves that element of a list, like and an empty list acts as PathExpress.all/0. The example above could be expressed as:

iex> alias PathExpress, as: PE
iex> %{"items" => nil} |> PE.get_in(["items", 0])

In the rare cases (in my experience) that you might want to deal with map keys that are integers or an empty list, then Access.key/1 has you covered.


If available in Hex, the package can be installed by adding path_express to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:

def deps do
    {:path_express, "~> 0.1.0"}

Documentation can be generated with ExDoc and published on HexDocs. Once published, the docs can be found at