Dealing with deeply nested structs

Hey friends,

I’m currently writing an integration to an API, and I’m curious of how to deal with deeply nested structs.

I have been writing a bunch of GoLang recently, and I love how all of your data structures end up being extremely well documented because everything is a struct.

I was trying to adopt a similar strategy for my API: Everything being documented and contained in a struct. But! I’m having issues. I end up having to write code like this in all of my modules:

  def to_struct(body = %{"courses" => courses}) do
      courses:, fn(course) -> TheApi.Resources.TheStruct.to_struct(course) end)

Having to write boilerplate for constructing complex structs has not been particularly pleasent, and I can’t help but think I’m missing something obvious that would solve my problems.

Thanks a bunch!

There are libraries out for that, one of the ones I like is ExConstructor. You still have to write the constructor with it, but it is nice. :slight_smile:

You can always write a macro for your specific case though to auto-generate struct mapping code too.

@csaintc: Here is how you can do it without any extra library:

# example structs:
defmodule Author do
  defstruct contact_email: "", first_name: "", last_name: ""
defmodule Comment do
  defstruct author: %Author{}, body: ""
defmodule Post do
 defstruct author: %Author{}, body: "", comments: [], title: ""

# here is my module with to_struct proposition
defmodule Example do
  # here we are calling to_struct for has_many associations
  def to_struct(list, mod) when is_list(list) and is_atom(mod),
      do:, &to_struct(&1, mod))
  # here we are calling to_struct for has_one and belongs_to association
  def to_struct(map, key, mod) when is_map(map) and is_atom(key) and is_atom(mod),
      do: Map.update!(map, key, &to_struct(&1, mod))
  # here is custome to_struct for Post, because it has 2 extra relations
  def to_struct(map, Post) do
    |> struct(map)
    |> to_struct(:author, Author)
    |> to_struct(:comments, Comment)
  # here is custom to_struct for Comment, because it has 1 extra relation
  def to_struct(map, Comment) do
    |> struct(map)
    |> to_struct(:author, Author)
  # this applies to any other module - without relation i.e. sub-structs
  def to_struct(map, module) when is_map(map) and is_atom(module),
      do: struct(module, map)

# example post data:
post = %{
  author: %{
    contact_email: "",
    first_name: "Michael",
    last_name: "Smith",
  body: "Elixir rules! Elixir is the best! Elixir ...",
  comments: [
      author: %{
        contact_email: "",
        first_name: "David",
        last_name: "Smith",
      body: "Nice article",
      author: %{
        contact_email: "",
        first_name: "John",
        last_name: "Smith",
      body: "John was here!",
  title: "An awesome title here ...",

IO.inspect post
IO.inspect Example.to_struct(post, Post)
# you can also call lists of posts:
Example.to_struct([post], Post)

If I would suggest a library then it would be Ecto, because it also supports validations.

1 Like

This sounds like a perfect use case for a data conformance library, such as


The solution I’ve come to is using the nested struct coersion that is built into Poison.

It looks like this:

def foo_bar(foo_id, bar_id) do
    |> TheApi.Resources.Bar.url(bar_id)
    |> Poison(%TheApi.Resources.Foo{as: bar_list: [%Bar{}]})

And it works exactly like I want it to.

Saul looks great. I’ll 100% be looking into it.

ExConstructor looks nice, but it does not currently support nested coersion, from what I can tell.

Quick question about Saul: Will it convert my maps to named structs?

I like structs because they are NAMED data structured, so my fellow developers know what properties to expect on these maps.

I don’t think there’s one built-in, but it’s rather easy to extend it.

Not by default, but fixable via a macro. :slight_smile:

One possible alternative for the nested struct coercion with the following validation of conformance to struct’s @type t() and associated preconditions is with the Jason + Nestru + Domo libraries combo.

Usage example: GitHub - IvanRublev/contentful-elixir-parse-example-nestru-domo