Processing a Series of Items with Iterators

The iterator pattern allows you to perform some task on a sequence of items in turn. An iterator is responsible for the logic of iterating over each item and determining when the sequence has finished. When you use iterators, you don’t have to reimplement that logic yourself.

In Rust, iterators are lazy, meaning they have no effect until you call methods that consume the iterator to use it up. For example, the code in Listing 13-10 creates an iterator over the items in the vector v1 by calling the iter method defined on Vec<T>. This code by itself doesn’t do anything useful.

fn main() {
    let v1 = vec![1, 2, 3];

    let v1_iter = v1.iter();
}

Listing 13-10: Creating an iterator

The iterator is stored in the v1_iter variable. Once we’ve created an iterator, we can use it in a variety of ways. In Listing 3-5 in Chapter 3, we iterated over an array using a for loop to execute some code on each of its items. Under the hood this implicitly created and then consumed an iterator, but we glossed over how exactly that works until now.

In the example in Listing 13-11, we separate the creation of the iterator from the use of the iterator in the for loop. When the for loop is called using the iterator in v1_iter, each element in the iterator is used in one iteration of the loop, which prints out each value.

fn main() {
    let v1 = vec![1, 2, 3];

    let v1_iter = v1.iter();

    for val in v1_iter {
        println!("Got: {}", val);
    }
}

Listing 13-11: Using an iterator in a for loop

In languages that don’t have iterators provided by their standard libraries, you would likely write this same functionality by starting a variable at index 0, using that variable to index into the vector to get a value, and incrementing the variable value in a loop until it reached the total number of items in the vector.

Iterators handle all that logic for you, cutting down on repetitive code you could potentially mess up. Iterators give you more flexibility to use the same logic with many different kinds of sequences, not just data structures you can index into, like vectors. Let’s examine how iterators do that.

The Iterator Trait and the next Method

All iterators implement a trait named Iterator that is defined in the standard library. The definition of the trait looks like this:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
pub trait Iterator {
    type Item;

    fn next(&mut self) -> Option<Self::Item>;

    // methods with default implementations elided
}
}

Notice this definition uses some new syntax: type Item and Self::Item, which are defining an associated type with this trait. We’ll talk about associated types in depth in Chapter 19. For now, all you need to know is that this code says implementing the Iterator trait requires that you also define an Item type, and this Item type is used in the return type of the next method. In other words, the Item type will be the type returned from the iterator.

The Iterator trait only requires implementors to define one method: the next method, which returns one item of the iterator at a time wrapped in Some and, when iteration is over, returns None.

We can call the next method on iterators directly; Listing 13-12 demonstrates what values are returned from repeated calls to next on the iterator created from the vector.

Filename: src/lib.rs

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn iterator_demonstration() {
        let v1 = vec![1, 2, 3];

        let mut v1_iter = v1.iter();

        assert_eq!(v1_iter.next(), Some(&1));
        assert_eq!(v1_iter.next(), Some(&2));
        assert_eq!(v1_iter.next(), Some(&3));
        assert_eq!(v1_iter.next(), None);
    }
}

Listing 13-12: Calling the next method on an iterator

Note that we needed to make v1_iter mutable: calling the next method on an iterator changes internal state that the iterator uses to keep track of where it is in the sequence. In other words, this code consumes, or uses up, the iterator. Each call to next eats up an item from the iterator. We didn’t need to make v1_iter mutable when we used a for loop because the loop took ownership of v1_iter and made it mutable behind the scenes.

Also note that the values we get from the calls to next are immutable references to the values in the vector. The iter method produces an iterator over immutable references. If we want to create an iterator that takes ownership of v1 and returns owned values, we can call into_iter instead of iter. Similarly, if we want to iterate over mutable references, we can call iter_mut instead of iter.

Methods that Consume the Iterator

The Iterator trait has a number of different methods with default implementations provided by the standard library; you can find out about these methods by looking in the standard library API documentation for the Iterator trait. Some of these methods call the next method in their definition, which is why you’re required to implement the next method when implementing the Iterator trait.

Methods that call next are called consuming adaptors, because calling them uses up the iterator. One example is the sum method, which takes ownership of the iterator and iterates through the items by repeatedly calling next, thus consuming the iterator. As it iterates through, it adds each item to a running total and returns the total when iteration is complete. Listing 13-13 has a test illustrating a use of the sum method:

Filename: src/lib.rs

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn iterator_sum() {
        let v1 = vec![1, 2, 3];

        let v1_iter = v1.iter();

        let total: i32 = v1_iter.sum();

        assert_eq!(total, 6);
    }
}

Listing 13-13: Calling the sum method to get the total of all items in the iterator

We aren’t allowed to use v1_iter after the call to sum because sum takes ownership of the iterator we call it on.

Methods that Produce Other Iterators

Iterator adaptors are methods defined on the Iterator trait that don’t consume the iterator. Instead, they produce different iterators by changing some aspect of the original iterator.

Listing 13-17 shows an example of calling the iterator adaptor method map, which takes a closure to call on each item as the items are iterated through. The map method returns a new iterator that produces the modified items. The closure here creates a new iterator in which each item from the vector will be incremented by 1:

Filename: src/main.rs

fn main() {
    let v1: Vec<i32> = vec![1, 2, 3];

    v1.iter().map(|x| x + 1);
}

Listing 13-14: Calling the iterator adaptor map to create a new iterator

However, this code produces a warning:

$ cargo run
   Compiling iterators v0.1.0 (file:///projects/iterators)
warning: unused `Map` that must be used
 --> src/main.rs:4:5
  |
4 |     v1.iter().map(|x| x + 1);
  |     ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  |
  = note: `#[warn(unused_must_use)]` on by default
  = note: iterators are lazy and do nothing unless consumed

warning: `iterators` (bin "iterators") generated 1 warning
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.47s
     Running `target/debug/iterators`

The code in Listing 13-14 doesn’t do anything; the closure we’ve specified never gets called. The warning reminds us why: iterator adaptors are lazy, and we need to consume the iterator here.

To fix this warning and consume the iterator, we’ll use the collect method, which we used in Chapter 12 with env::args in Listing 12-1. This method consumes the iterator and collects the resulting values into a collection data type.

In Listing 13-15, we collect the results of iterating over the iterator that’s returned from the call to map into a vector. This vector will end up containing each item from the original vector incremented by 1.

Filename: src/main.rs

fn main() {
    let v1: Vec<i32> = vec![1, 2, 3];

    let v2: Vec<_> = v1.iter().map(|x| x + 1).collect();

    assert_eq!(v2, vec![2, 3, 4]);
}

Listing 13-15: Calling the map method to create a new iterator and then calling the collect method to consume the new iterator and create a vector

Because map takes a closure, we can specify any operation we want to perform on each item. This is a great example of how closures let you customize some behavior while reusing the iteration behavior that the Iterator trait provides.

You can chain multiple calls to iterator adaptors to perform complex actions in a readable way. But because all iterators are lazy, you have to call one of the consuming adaptor methods to get results from calls to iterator adaptors.

Using Closures that Capture Their Environment

Many iterator adapters take closures as arguments, and commonly the closures we’ll specify as arguments to iterator adapters will be closures that capture their environment.

For this example, we’ll use the filter method that takes a closure. The closure gets an item from the iterator and returns a bool. If the closure returns true, the value will be included in the iteration produced by filter. If the closure returns false, the value won’t be included.

In Listing 13-16, we use filter with a closure that captures the shoe_size variable from its environment to iterate over a collection of Shoe struct instances. It will return only shoes that are the specified size.

Filename: src/lib.rs

#[derive(PartialEq, Debug)]
struct Shoe {
    size: u32,
    style: String,
}

fn shoes_in_size(shoes: Vec<Shoe>, shoe_size: u32) -> Vec<Shoe> {
    shoes.into_iter().filter(|s| s.size == shoe_size).collect()
}

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    fn filters_by_size() {
        let shoes = vec![
            Shoe {
                size: 10,
                style: String::from("sneaker"),
            },
            Shoe {
                size: 13,
                style: String::from("sandal"),
            },
            Shoe {
                size: 10,
                style: String::from("boot"),
            },
        ];

        let in_my_size = shoes_in_size(shoes, 10);

        assert_eq!(
            in_my_size,
            vec![
                Shoe {
                    size: 10,
                    style: String::from("sneaker")
                },
                Shoe {
                    size: 10,
                    style: String::from("boot")
                },
            ]
        );
    }
}

Listing 13-16: Using the filter method with a closure that captures shoe_size

The shoes_in_size function takes ownership of a vector of shoes and a shoe size as parameters. It returns a vector containing only shoes of the specified size.

In the body of shoes_in_size, we call into_iter to create an iterator that takes ownership of the vector. Then we call filter to adapt that iterator into a new iterator that only contains elements for which the closure returns true.

The closure captures the shoe_size parameter from the environment and compares the value with each shoe’s size, keeping only shoes of the size specified. Finally, calling collect gathers the values returned by the adapted iterator into a vector that’s returned by the function.

The test shows that when we call shoes_in_size, we get back only shoes that have the same size as the value we specified.