Pattern Matching

Using the match keyword

Like many other languages, nu offers a matchopen in new window keyword. Usually this is used as a slightly more ergonomic version of if-else statements if you have many branches

[black red yellow green purple blue indigo] | each {|c|
  match $c {
    "black" => "classy"
    "red" | "green" | "blue" => "fundamental"
    "yellow" | "purple" => "vibrant"
    _ => "innovative"


 0 │ classy
 1 │ funamental
 2 │ vibrant
 3 │ funamental
 4 │ vibrant
 5 │ funamental
 6 │ innovative

The equivalent in if-else statements would be:

[black red yellow green purple blue] | each {|c|
  if ($c == "black") {
  } else if ($c in ["red", "green", "blue"]) {
  } else if ($c in ['yellow', "purple"]) {
  } else {

As you can see you can also use command expressions in match statements (in this case used with |). Also notice the _ case at the end, this is called the default arm and is used in case none of the other patterns match. Note also that in the case that cases overlap the first matching pattern will be used (just like with if-else statements):

[yellow green] | each {|c|
  match $c {
    "green" => "fundamental"
    "yellow" | "green" => "vibrant"


 0 │ vibrant
 1 │ funamental

Pattern matching on types

You can use the describeopen in new window command to get more info about the types of values. For example:

{one: 1 two: 2} | describe


record<one: int, two: int>
[{a: 1 b: 2} {a: 2 b:3 }] | describe


table<a: int, b: int>

Together with match and some clever regex use you can do quite powerful type matching. For example, let's say we wanted to implement a str append function that would work on both strings and lists. On strings it would work as expected, on lists of strings, it should append the same string to each element of the list. Using match one might do that like so:

def "str append" [tail: string]: [string -> string, list<string> -> list<string>] {
    let input = $in
    match ($input | describe | str replace --regex '<.*' '') {
        "string" => { $input ++ $tail },
        "list" => { $input | each {|el| $el ++ $tail} },
        _ => $input

The $input | describe would output for example string if the input was a string, and for example list<any> for a list containing multiple different types. The regex, removes everying after the first < leaving us just with list.

Then with the match statement we can handle the different types separately. Finally in the default case we just return the input unaltered so that other types can simply pass through this filter without issue. Also note that we have to capture the $in variable on the first statement of the function to still have access to it in each match arm.

With this implementation we can check that the command works as expected:

use std assert
assert equal ("foo" | str append "/") "foo/"
assert equal (["foo", "bar", "baz"] | str append "/") ["foo/", "bar/", "baz/"]