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try Function

try evaluates all of its argument expressions in turn and returns the result of the first one that does not produce any errors.

This is a special function that is able to catch errors produced when evaluating its arguments, which is particularly useful when working with complex data structures whose shape is not well-known at implementation time.

For example, if some data is retrieved from an external system in JSON or YAML format and then decoded, the result may have attributes that are not guaranteed to be set. We can use try to produce a normalized data structure which has a predictable type that can therefore be used more conveniently elsewhere in the configuration:

Code Block
locals {
raw_value = yamldecode(file("${path.module}/example.yaml"))
normalized_value = {
name = tostring(try(, null))
groups = try(local.raw_value.groups, [])

With the above local value expressions, configuration elsewhere in the module can refer to local.normalized_value attributes without the need to repeatedly check for and handle absent attributes that would otherwise produce errors.

We can also use try to deal with situations where a value might be provided in two different forms, allowing us to normalize to the most general form:

Code Block
variable "example" {
type = any

locals {
example = try(

The above permits var.example to be either a list or a single string. If it's a single string then it'll be normalized to a single-element list containing that string, again allowing expressions elsewhere in the configuration to just assume that local.example is always a list.

This second example contains two expressions that can both potentially fail. For example, if var.example were set to {} then it could be converted to neither a string nor a list. If try exhausts all of the given expressions without any succeeding, it will return an error describing all of the problems it encountered.

We strongly suggest using try only in special local values whose expressions perform normalization, so that the error handling is confined to a single location in the module and the rest of the module can just use straightforward references to the normalized structure and thus be more readable for future maintainers.

The try function can only catch and handle dynamic errors resulting from access to data that isn't known until runtime. It will not catch errors relating to expressions that can be proven to be invalid for any input, such as a malformed resource reference.


Code Block
"bar" = "baz"
> try(, "fallback")
> try(, "fallback")

The try function will not catch errors relating to constructs that are provably invalid even before dynamic expression evaluation, such as a malformed reference or a reference to a top-level object that has not been declared:

Code Block
> try(local.nonexist, "fallback")

Error: Reference to undeclared local value

A local value with the name "nonexist" has not been declared.
  • can, which tries evaluating an expression and returns a boolean value indicating whether it succeeded.