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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 around iterating over each item in the sequence and determining when the sequence has finished. When we use iterators, we don't have to reimplement that logic ourselves.

In Rust, iterators are lazy, which means they have no effect until we call methods on them that consume the iterator to use it up. For example, the code in Listing 13-13 creates an iterator over the items in the vector v1 by calling the iter method defined on Vec. This code by itself doesn't do anything useful:

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

let v1_iter = v1.iter();

#}

Listing 13-13: Creating an iterator; this by itself isn't useful

After creating an iterator, we can choose to use it in a variety of ways. In Listing 3-6, we actually used iterators with for loops to execute some code on each item, though we glossed over what the call to iter did until now. The example in Listing 13-14 separates the creation of the iterator from the use of the iterator in the for loop. The iterator is stored in the v1_iter variable, and no iteration takes place at that time. Once the for loop is called using the iterator in v1_iter, then each element in the iterator is used in one iteration of the loop, which prints out each value:

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

let v1_iter = v1.iter();

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

#}

Listing 13-13: Making use of an iterator in a for loop

In languages that don't have iterators provided by their standard libraries, we 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 its value gets up to the total number of items in the vector. Iterators take care of all of that logic for us, which cuts down on the repetitive code we would have to write and potentially mess up. In addition, the way iterators are implemented gives us more flexibility to use the same logic with many different kinds of sequences, not just data structures that we can index into like vectors. Let's see how iterators do that.

The Iterator trait and the next method

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

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

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

    // methods with default implementations elided
}

#}

You'll notice some new syntax that we haven't covered yet: 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, but for now, all you need to know is that this code says implementing 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 of element that's returned from the iterator.

The next method is the only method that the Iterator trait requires implementers of the trait to define. next returns one item of the iterator at a time wrapped in Some, and when iteration is over, it returns None. We can call the next method on iterators directly if we'd like; Listing 13-14 has a test that demonstrates the values we'd get on repeated calls to next on the iterator created from the vector:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[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 13-14: Calling the next method on an iterator

Note that we needed to make v1_iter mutable: calling the next method on an iterator changes the iterator's state that keeps track of where it is in the sequence. Put another way, this code consumes, or uses up, the iterator. Each call to next eats up an item from the iterator.

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 wanted 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 in the Iterator Trait that Consume the Iterator

The Iterator trait has a number of different methods with default implementations provided for us by the standard library; you can find out all 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 we're required to implement the next method when implementing the Iterator trait.

The methods that call the next method are called consuming adaptors, since calling them uses up the iterator. An example of a consuming adaptor is the sum method. This method takes ownership of the iterator and iterates through the items by repeatedly calling next, thus consuming the iterator. As it iterates through each item, it adds each item to a running total and returns the total when iteration has completed. Listing 13-15 has a test illustrating a use of the sum method:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[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 13-15: 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 since sum takes ownership of the iterator we call it on.

Methods in the Iterator Trait that Produce Other Iterators

Another kind of method defined on the Iterator trait are methods that produce other iterators. These methods are called iterator adaptors and allow us to change iterators into different kind of iterators. We can chain multiple calls to iterator adaptors. Because all iterators are lazy, however, we have to call one of the consuming adaptor methods in order to get results from calls to iterator adaptors. Listing 13-16 shows an example of calling the iterator adaptor method map, which takes a closure that map will call on each item in order to produce a new iterator in which each item from the vector has been incremented by 1. This code produces a warning, though:

Filename: src/main.rs

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

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

#}

Listing 13-16: Calling the iterator adapter map to create a new iterator

The warning we get is:

warning: unused result which must be used: iterator adaptors are lazy and do
nothing unless consumed
 --> src/main.rs:4:1
  |
4 | v1.iter().map(|x| x + 1);
  | ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  |
  = note: #[warn(unused_must_use)] on by default

The code in Listing 13-16 isn't actually doing anything; the closure we've specified never gets called. The warning reminds us why: iterator adaptors are lazy, and we probably meant to consume the iterator here.

In order to fix this warning and consume the iterator to get a useful result, we're going to use the collect method, which we saw briefly in Chapter 12. This method consumes the iterator and collects the resulting values into a data structure. In Listing 13-17, we're going to collect the results of iterating over the iterator returned from the call to map into a vector that will contain each item from the original vector incremented by 1:

Filename: src/main.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#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 13-17: Calling the map method to create a new iterator, then calling the collect method to consume the new iterator and create a vector

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

Using Closures that Capture their Environment with Iterators

Now that we've introduced iterators, we can demonstrate a common use of closures that capture their environment by using the filter iterator adapter. The filter method on an iterator takes a closure that takes each item from the iterator and returns a boolean. If the closure returns true, the value will be included in the iterator produced by filter. If the closure returns false, the value won't be included in the resulting iterator. Listing 13-18 demonstrates using filter with a closure that captures the shoe_size variable from its environment in order to iterate over a collection of Shoe struct instances in order to return only shoes that are the specified size:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[derive(PartialEq, Debug)]
struct Shoe {
    size: i32,
    style: String,
}

fn shoes_in_my_size(shoes: Vec<Shoe>, shoe_size: i32) -> Vec<Shoe> {
    shoes.into_iter()
        .filter(|s| s.size == shoe_size)
        .collect()
}

#[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_my_size(shoes, 10);

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

#}

Listing 13-18: Using the filter method with a closure that captures shoe_size

The shoes_in_my_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_my_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 we've specified captures the shoe_size parameter from the environment and uses the value to compare with each shoe's size to only keep shoes that are of the size specified. Finally, calling collect gathers the values returned by the adapted iterator into a vector that the function returns.

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

Implementing the Iterator Trait to Create Our Own Iterators

We've shown that we can create an iterator by calling iter, into_iter, or iter_mut on a vector. We can also create iterators from the other collection types in the standard library, such as hash map. Additionally, we can implement the Iterator trait in order to create iterators that do anything we want. As previously mentioned, the only method we're required to provide a definition for is the next method. Once we've done that, we can use all the other methods that have default implementations provided by the Iterator trait on our iterator!

The iterator we're going to create is one that will only ever count from 1 to 5. First, we'll create a struct to hold on to some values, and then we'll make this struct into an iterator by implementing the Iterator trait and use the values in that implementation.

Listing 13-19 has the definition of the Counter struct and an associated new function to create instances of Counter:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
struct Counter {
    count: u32,
}

impl Counter {
    fn new() -> Counter {
        Counter { count: 0 }
    }
}

#}

Listing 13-19: Defining the Counter struct and a new function that creates instances of Counter with an initial value of 0 for count

The Counter struct has one field named count. This field holds a u32 value that will keep track of where we are in the process of iterating from 1 to 5. The count field is private since we want the implementation of Counter to manage its value. The new function enforces the behavior we want of always starting new instances with a value of 0 in the count field.

Next, we're going to implement the Iterator trait for our Counter type by defining the body of the next method to specify what we want to happen when this iterator is used, as shown in Listing 13-20:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
# struct Counter {
#     count: u32,
# }
#
impl Iterator for Counter {
    type Item = u32;

    fn next(&mut self) -> Option<Self::Item> {
        self.count += 1;

        if self.count < 6 {
            Some(self.count)
        } else {
            None
        }
    }
}

#}

Listing 13-20: Implementing the Iterator trait on our Counter struct

We set the associated Item type for our iterator to u32, meaning the iterator will return u32 values. Again, don't worry about associated types yet, we'll be covering them in Chapter 19. We want our iterator to add one to the current state, which is why we initialized count to 0: we want our iterator to return one first. If the value of count is less than six, next will return the current value wrapped in Some, but if count is six or higher, our iterator will return None.

Using Our Counter Iterator's next Method

Once we've implemented the Iterator trait, we have an iterator! Listing 13-21 shows a test demonstrating that we can use the iterator functionality our Counter struct now has by calling the next method on it directly, just like we did with the iterator created from a vector in Listing 13-14:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
# struct Counter {
#     count: u32,
# }
#
# impl Iterator for Counter {
#     type Item = u32;
#
#     fn next(&mut self) -> Option<Self::Item> {
#         self.count += 1;
#
#         if self.count < 6 {
#             Some(self.count)
#         } else {
#             None
#         }
#     }
# }
#
#[test]
fn calling_next_directly() {
    let mut counter = Counter::new();

    assert_eq!(counter.next(), Some(1));
    assert_eq!(counter.next(), Some(2));
    assert_eq!(counter.next(), Some(3));
    assert_eq!(counter.next(), Some(4));
    assert_eq!(counter.next(), Some(5));
    assert_eq!(counter.next(), None);
}

#}

Listing 13-21: Testing the functionality of the next method implementation

This test creates a new Counter instance in the counter variable and then calls next repeatedly, verifying that we have implemented the behavior we want this iterator to have of returning the values from 1 to 5.

Using Other Iterator Trait Methods on Our Iterator

Because we implemented the Iterator trait by defining the next method, we can now use any Iterator trait method's default implementations that the standard library has defined, since they all use the next method's functionality.

For example, if for some reason we wanted to take the values that an instance of Counter produces, pair those values with values produced by another Counter instance after skipping the first value that instance produces, multiply each pair together, keep only those results that are divisible by three, and add all the resulting values together, we could do so as shown in the test in Listing 13-22:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
# struct Counter {
#     count: u32,
# }
#
# impl Counter {
#     fn new() -> Counter {
#         Counter { count: 0 }
#     }
# }
#
# impl Iterator for Counter {
#     // Our iterator will produce u32s
#     type Item = u32;
#
#     fn next(&mut self) -> Option<Self::Item> {
#         // increment our count. This is why we started at zero.
#         self.count += 1;
#
#         // check to see if we've finished counting or not.
#         if self.count < 6 {
#             Some(self.count)
#         } else {
#             None
#         }
#     }
# }
#
#[test]
fn using_other_iterator_trait_methods() {
    let sum: u32 = Counter::new().zip(Counter::new().skip(1))
                                 .map(|(a, b)| a * b)
                                 .filter(|x| x % 3 == 0)
                                 .sum();
    assert_eq!(18, sum);
}

#}

Listing 13-22: Using a variety of Iterator trait methods on our Counter iterator

Note that zip produces only four pairs; the theoretical fifth pair (5, None) is never produced because zip returns None when either of its input iterators return None.

All of these method calls are possible because we implemented the Iterator trait by specifying how the next method works and the standard library provides default implementations for other methods that call next.