bugprone-unchecked-optional-access

Note: This check uses a flow-sensitive static analysis to produce its results. Therefore, it may be more resource intensive (RAM, CPU) than the average clang-tidy check.

This check identifies unsafe accesses to values contained in std::optional<T>, absl::optional<T>, or base::Optional<T> objects. Below we will refer to all these types collectively as optional<T>.

An access to the value of an optional<T> occurs when one of its value, operator*, or operator-> member functions is invoked. To align with common misconceptions, the check considers these member functions as equivalent, even though there are subtle differences related to exceptions versus undefined behavior. See go/optional-style-recommendations for more information on that topic.

An access to the value of an optional<T> is considered safe if and only if code in the local scope (for example, a function body) ensures that the optional<T> has a value in all possible execution paths that can reach the access. That should happen either through an explicit check, using the optional<T>::has_value member function, or by constructing the optional<T> in a way that shows that it unambiguously holds a value (e.g using std::make_optional which always returns a populated std::optional<T>).

Below we list some examples, starting with unsafe optional access patterns, followed by safe access patterns.

Unsafe access patterns

Access the value without checking if it exists

The check flags accesses to the value that are not locally guarded by existence check:

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  use(*opt); // unsafe: it is unclear whether `opt` has a value.
}

Access the value in the wrong branch

The check is aware of the state of an optional object in different branches of the code. For example:

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  if (opt.has_value()) {
  } else {
    use(opt.value()); // unsafe: it is clear that `opt` does *not* have a value.
  }
}

Assume a function result to be stable

The check is aware that function results might not be stable. That is, consecutive calls to the same function might return different values. For example:

void f(Foo foo) {
  if (foo.opt().has_value()) {
    use(*foo.opt()); // unsafe: it is unclear whether `foo.opt()` has a value.
  }
}

Rely on invariants of uncommon APIs

The check is unaware of invariants of uncommon APIs. For example:

void f(Foo foo) {
  if (foo.HasProperty("bar")) {
    use(*foo.GetProperty("bar")); // unsafe: it is unclear whether `foo.GetProperty("bar")` has a value.
  }
}

Check if a value exists, then pass the optional to another function

The check relies on local reasoning. The check and value access must both happen in the same function. An access is considered unsafe even if the caller of the function performing the access ensures that the optional has a value. For example:

void g(std::optional<int> opt) {
  use(*opt); // unsafe: it is unclear whether `opt` has a value.
}

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  if (opt.has_value()) {
    g(opt);
  }
}

Safe access patterns

Check if a value exists, then access the value

The check recognizes all straightforward ways for checking if a value exists and accessing the value contained in an optional object. For example:

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  if (opt.has_value()) {
    use(*opt);
  }
}

Check if a value exists, then access the value from a copy

The criteria that the check uses is semantic, not syntactic. It recognizes when a copy of the optional object being accessed is known to have a value. For example:

void f(std::optional<int> opt1) {
  if (opt1.has_value()) {
    std::optional<int> opt2 = opt1;
    use(*opt2);
  }
}

Ensure that a value exists using common macros

The check is aware of common macros like CHECK, DCHECK, and ASSERT_THAT. Those can be used to ensure that an optional object has a value. For example:

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  DCHECK(opt.has_value());
  use(*opt);
}

Ensure that a value exists, then access the value in a correlated branch

The check is aware of correlated branches in the code and can figure out when an optional object is ensured to have a value on all execution paths that lead to an access. For example:

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  bool safe = false;
  if (opt.has_value() && SomeOtherCondition()) {
    safe = true;
  }
  // ... more code...
  if (safe) {
    use(*opt);
  }
}

Stabilize function results

Since function results are not assumed to be stable across calls, it is best to store the result of the function call in a local variable and use that variable to access the value. For example:

void f(Foo foo) {
  if (const auto& foo_opt = foo.opt(); foo_opt.has_value()) {
    use(*foo_opt);
  }
}

Do not rely on uncommon-API invariants

When uncommon APIs guarantee that an optional has contents, do not rely on it – instead, check explicitly that the optional object has a value. For example:

void f(Foo foo) {
  if (const auto& property = foo.GetProperty("bar")) {
    use(*property);
  }
}

instead of the HasProperty, GetProperty pairing we saw above.

Do not rely on caller-performed checks

If you know that all of a function’s callers have checked that an optional argument has a value, either change the function to take the value directly or check the optional again in the local scope of the callee. For example:

void g(int val) {
  use(val);
}

void f(std::optional<int> opt) {
  if (opt.has_value()) {
    g(*opt);
  }
}

and

struct S {
  std::optional<int> opt;
  int x;
};

void g(const S &s) {
  if (s.opt.has_value() && s.x > 10) {
    use(*s.opt);
}

void f(S s) {
  if (s.opt.has_value()) {
    g(s);
  }
}

Additional notes

Aliases created via using declarations

The check is aware of aliases of optional types that are created via using declarations. For example:

using OptionalInt = std::optional<int>;

void f(OptionalInt opt) {
  use(opt.value()); // unsafe: it is unclear whether `opt` has a value.
}

Lambdas

The check does not currently report unsafe optional accesses in lambdas. A future version will expand the scope to lambdas, following the rules outlined above. It is best to follow the same principles when using optionals in lambdas.