A Prism is a lossless invertible optic that can see into a structure and optionally find its focus, and construct a value given that piece of data. They’re mostly used for structures that have a relationship only under a certain condition, i.e., a certain sum of a sum type (sealed class), the head of a list, or all whole double values and integers (safe casting).

Since Prism has an optional focus, it can be seen as a pair of functions: getOrModify and reverseGet.

  • getOrModify: A -> Either<A, B>, meaning we can get the focus of a Prism OR return the original value.
  • reverseGet : B -> A, meaning we can construct the source type of a Prism from a B.

Given a Prism<S, A>, we can write functions that work on the focus A without having to worry if the focus can be seen in S.

For a sum type NetworkResult, we can create a Prism that has a focus into Success.

import arrow.core.*
import arrow.optics.*

sealed class NetworkResult {
    data class Success(val content: String): NetworkResult()
    object Failure: NetworkResult()

val networkSuccessPrism: Prism<NetworkResult, NetworkResult.Success> = Prism(
        getOrModify = { networkResult ->
            when(networkResult) {
                is NetworkResult.Success -> networkResult.right()
                else -> networkResult.left()
        reverseGet = { networkResult -> networkResult } //::identity

As is clear from above Prism definition, it gathers two concepts: pattern matching and constructor.

As mentioned, we can now operate on NetworkResult as if it were Success.

val networkResult = NetworkResult.Success("content")

networkSuccessPrism.modify(networkResult) { success ->
    success.copy(content = "different content")

We can also lift such functions.

val lifted: (NetworkResult) -> NetworkResult = networkSuccessPrism.lift { success ->
        success.copy(content = "different content")

Prisms can easily be created by using any of the already mentioned constructors, although, for a sealed class, a Prism could easily be generated. But we can also use a PartialFunction to create a Prism.

val doubleToInt: Prism<Double, Int> = Prism(
  getOption = { double: Double ->
    val i = double.toInt()
    if (i.toDouble() == double) Some(i) else None
  reverseGet = Int::toDouble


Nesting pattern matching blocks are tedious. We would prefer to define them separately and compose them together. We can do that by composing multiple Prisms.

Let’s imagine from our previous example that we want to retrieve an Int from the network. We get a Success OR a Failure from the network. In case of a Success, we want to safely cast the String to an Int.

import arrow.core.*

val successToInt: Prism<NetworkResult.Success, Int> = Prism(
  getOption = { success -> success.content.toIntOrNull().toOption() },
  reverseGet = NetworkResult::Success compose Int::toString

val networkInt: Prism<NetworkResult, Int> = networkSuccessPrism compose successToInt
networkInt.getOrNull(NetworkResult.Success("invalid int"))

Prism can be composed with all optics but Getter, and result in the following optics:

  Iso Lens Prism Optional Getter Setter Fold Traversal
Prism Prism Optional Prism Optional X Setter Fold Traversal

Generated prisms

Prisms can be generated for sealed classes by the @optics annotation. For every defined subtype, a Prism will be generated. The prisms will be generated as extension properties on the companion object val T.Companion.subTypeName.

@optics sealed class Shape {
  companion object { }
  data class Circle(val radius: Double) : Shape()
  data class Rectangle(val width: Double, val height: Double) : Shape()
val circleShape: Prism<Shape, Shape.Circle> =
val rectangleShape: Prism<Shape, Shape.Rectangle> = Shape.rectangle

Polymorphic prisms

When dealing with polymorphic sum types like Option<A>, we can also have polymorphic prisms that allow us to polymorphically change the type of the focus of our PPrism. The following method is also available as PSome<A, B>() in the arrow.optics package:

fun <A, B> optionSome(): PPrism<Option<A>, Option<B>, A, B> = PPrism(
    getOrModify = { option -> option.fold({ Either.Left(None) }, { Either.Right(it) }) },
    reverseGet = { b -> Some(b) }

val liftSome: (Option<Int>) -> Option<String> = PSome<Int, String>().lift(Int::toString)


Arrow provides PrismLaws in the form of test cases for internal verification of lawful instances and third party apps creating their own prisms.

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