This tutorial assumes that you are familiar with lambda expressions. Take a look at the lambda introduction first, if you are not!

💪 Motivation

The Optional class is widely used in Javacord. Basically, every method that might return a null value will return an Optional in Javacord instead. Optionals help you to avoid NullPointerExceptions and make it very clear if a method may not have a result. Here's a small example:

The old way of doing it

User user = api.getCachedUserById(123L);
if (user != null) {

The new way of doing it

api.getCachedUserById(123L).ifPresent(user -> 

You can imagine an Optional like a box 📦 that may or may not contain a value. Before accessing this value, you have to "unpack" this box first.

📖 Methods

The Optional class has many useful methods which can all be found in the JavaDocsopen in new window. This tutorial gives a short introduction to the most common ones.


The get method returns the value of the Optional or throws a NoSuchElementException if it does not contain a value.

TextChannel channel = api.getTextChannelById(123L).get();


You should never use this method blindly but only if you are 100% sure the optional contains a value.

Every time you use this method carelessly, a kitten dies 🙀! True story.


The isPresent methods checks, if the Optional contains a value.

Optional<TextChannel> channel = api.getTextChannelById(123L);
if (channel.isPresent()) {
  // A text channel with the id 123 exists. It's safe to call #get() now


The orElse methods returns the value of the Optional if it is present. Otherwise, it returns the given default value.

// The user may not have a nickname on the given server. 
// In this case, we use the user's "regular" name.
String displayName = user.getNickname(server).orElse(user.getName());

The example above is (mostly) equivalent to the example below but much more concise.

String displayName = "";
Optional<String> nickname = user.getNickname(server);
if (nickname.isPresent()) {
  displayName = nickname.get();
} else {
  displayName = user.getName();


In this case you can just use user.getDisplayName(server) instead.


The ifPresent method is very similar to an if (value != null) { ... } check. It takes a Consumeropen in new window as it's argument. This consumer is called if the Optional contains a value. Together with lambda expressions this can be a very handy method.

api.getTextChannelById(123L).ifPresent(channel -> {

The example above is (mostly) equivalent to the example below but more concise.

Optional<TextChannel> channel = api.getTextChannelById(123L);
if (channel.isPresent()) {


The filter method filters the Optional for a given criteria.

Optional<User> botUser = api.getCachedUserById(123L).filter(User::isBot);

The example above is equivalent to the example below but more concise.

Optional<User> user = api.getCachedUserById(123L);
Optional<User> botUser;
if (user.isPresent() && user.get().isBot()) {
  botUser = user;
} else {
  botUser = Optional.empty();


The map method "converts" the type of an Optional. This is useful, if the type of an Optional does not contain the final value you need.

The following example gets the name of the bots current activity (the "Playing xyz" status) or "None" if the bot has no current activity.

String activityName = api.getYourself().getActivity().map(Activity::getName).orElse("None");

For better understanding, here's the exact same code but with the types as comments:

String activityName =  api.getYourself() // User
        .getActivity() // Optional<Activity>
        .map(Activity::getName) // Optional<String>
        .orElse("None"); // String


The flatMap method if very similar to the map methods. It is used to map values that itself are Optionals to prevent Optional nesting (a "box in a box").

String activityName = api.getCachedUserById(123L) // Optional<User>
        .flatMap(User::getActivity) // Optional<Activity>
        .map(Activity::getName) // Optional<String>
        .orElse("None"); // String

Without flatMap, the code would look like this:

String activityName = api.getCachedUserById(123L) // Optional<User>
        .map(User::getActivity) // Optional<Optional<Activity>>
        .filter(Optional::isPresent) // Optional<Optional<Activity>>
        .map(Optional::get) // Optional<Activity>
        .map(Activity::getName) // Optional<String>
        .orElse("None"); // String

📚 Further Read

This tutorial only focuses on the absolute basics. For an in-depth introduction to Optionals, you can take a look at Oracle's article about optionalsopen in new window.