unsized_locals

The tracking issue for this feature is: #48055


This implements RFC1909. When turned on, you can have unsized arguments and locals:

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

use std::any::Any;

fn main() {
    let x: Box<dyn Any> = Box::new(42);
    let x: dyn Any = *x;
    //  ^ unsized local variable
    //               ^^ unsized temporary
    foo(x);
}

fn foo(_: dyn Any) {}
//     ^^^^^^ unsized argument

The RFC still forbids the following unsized expressions:

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

use std::any::Any;

struct MyStruct<T: ?Sized> {
    content: T,
}

struct MyTupleStruct<T: ?Sized>(T);

fn answer() -> Box<dyn Any> {
    Box::new(42)
}

fn main() {
    // You CANNOT have unsized statics.
    static X: dyn Any = *answer();  // ERROR
    const Y: dyn Any = *answer();  // ERROR

    // You CANNOT have struct initialized unsized.
    MyStruct { content: *answer() };  // ERROR
    MyTupleStruct(*answer());  // ERROR
    (42, *answer());  // ERROR

    // You CANNOT have unsized return types.
    fn my_function() -> dyn Any { *answer() }  // ERROR

    // You CAN have unsized local variables...
    let mut x: dyn Any = *answer();  // OK
    // ...but you CANNOT reassign to them.
    x = *answer();  // ERROR

    // You CANNOT even initialize them separately.
    let y: dyn Any;  // OK
    y = *answer();  // ERROR

    // Not mentioned in the RFC, but by-move captured variables are also Sized.
    let x: dyn Any = *answer();
    (move || {  // ERROR
        let y = x;
    })();

    // You CAN create a closure with unsized arguments,
    // but you CANNOT call it.
    // This is an implementation detail and may be changed in the future.
    let f = |x: dyn Any| {};
    f(*answer());  // ERROR
}

However, the current implementation allows MyTupleStruct(..) to be unsized. This will be fixed in the future.

By-value trait objects

With this feature, you can have by-value self arguments without Self: Sized bounds.

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

trait Foo {
    fn foo(self) {}
}

impl<T: ?Sized> Foo for T {}

fn main() {
    let slice: Box<[i32]> = Box::new([1, 2, 3]);
    <[i32] as Foo>::foo(*slice);
}

And Foo will also be object-safe. However, this object-safety is not yet implemented.

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

trait Foo {
    fn foo(self) {}
}

impl<T: ?Sized> Foo for T {}

fn main () {
    let slice: Box<dyn Foo> = Box::new([1, 2, 3]);
    // doesn't compile yet
    <dyn Foo as Foo>::foo(*slice);
}

Unfortunately, this is not implemented yet.

One of the objectives of this feature is to allow Box<dyn FnOnce>, instead of Box<dyn FnBox> in the future. See #28796 for details.

Variable length arrays

The RFC also describes an extension to the array literal syntax: [e; dyn n]. In the syntax, n isn't necessarily a constant expression. The array is dynamically allocated on the stack and has the type of [T], instead of [T; n].

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

fn mergesort<T: Ord>(a: &mut [T]) {
    let mut tmp = [T; dyn a.len()];
    // ...
}

fn main() {
    let mut a = [3, 1, 5, 6];
    mergesort(&mut a);
    assert_eq!(a, [1, 3, 5, 6]);
}

VLAs are not implemented yet. The syntax isn't final, either. We may need an alternative syntax for Rust 2015 because, in Rust 2015, expressions like [e; dyn(1)] would be ambiguous. One possible alternative proposed in the RFC is [e; n]: if n captures one or more local variables, then it is considered as [e; dyn n].

Advisory on stack usage

It's advised not to casually use the #![feature(unsized_locals)] feature. Typical use-cases are:

  • When you need a by-value trait objects.
  • When you really need a fast allocation of small temporary arrays.

Another pitfall is repetitive allocation and temporaries. Currently the compiler simply extends the stack frame every time it encounters an unsized assignment. So for example, the code

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

fn main() {
    let x: Box<[i32]> = Box::new([1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);
    let _x = {{{{{{{{{{*x}}}}}}}}}};
}

and the code

#![feature(unsized_locals)]

fn main() {
    for _ in 0..10 {
        let x: Box<[i32]> = Box::new([1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);
        let _x = *x;
    }
}

will unnecessarily extend the stack frame.