Bringing Paths into Scope with the use Keyword

It might seem like the paths we’ve written to call functions so far are inconveniently long and repetitive. For example, in Listing 7-7, whether we chose the absolute or relative path to the add_to_waitlist function, every time we wanted to call add_to_waitlist we had to specify front_of_house and hosting too. Fortunately, there’s a way to simplify this process. We can bring a path into a scope once and then call the items in that path as if they’re local items with the use keyword.

In Listing 7-11, we bring the crate::front_of_house::hosting module into the scope of the eat_at_restaurant function so we only have to specify hosting::add_to_waitlist to call the add_to_waitlist function in eat_at_restaurant.

Filename: src/lib.rs

mod front_of_house {
    pub mod hosting {
        pub fn add_to_waitlist() {}
    }
}

use crate::front_of_house::hosting;

pub fn eat_at_restaurant() {
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
}
# fn main() {}

Listing 7-11: Bringing a module into scope with use

Adding use and a path in a scope is similar to creating a symbolic link in the filesystem. By adding use crate::front_of_house::hosting in the crate root, hosting is now a valid name in that scope, just as though the hosting module had been defined in the crate root. Paths brought into scope with use also check privacy, like any other paths.

Specifying a relative path with use is slightly different. Instead of starting from a name in the current scope, we must start the path given to use with the keyword self. Listing 7-12 shows how to specify a relative path to get the same behavior as Listing 7-11.

Filename: src/lib.rs

mod front_of_house {
    pub mod hosting {
        pub fn add_to_waitlist() {}
    }
}

use self::front_of_house::hosting;

pub fn eat_at_restaurant() {
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
}
# fn main() {}

Listing 7-12: Bringing a module into scope with use and a relative path starting with self

Note that using self in this way might not be necessary in the future; it’s an inconsistency in the language that Rust developers are working to eliminate.

Creating Idiomatic use Paths

In Listing 7-11, you might have wondered why we specified use crate::front_of_house::hosting and then called hosting::add_to_waitlist in eat_at_restaurant rather than specifying the use path all the way out to the add_to_waitlist function to achieve the same result, as in Listing 7-13.

Filename: src/lib.rs

mod front_of_house {
    pub mod hosting {
        pub fn add_to_waitlist() {}
    }
}

use crate::front_of_house::hosting::add_to_waitlist;

pub fn eat_at_restaurant() {
    add_to_waitlist();
    add_to_waitlist();
    add_to_waitlist();
}
# fn main() {}

Listing 7-13: Bringing the add_to_waitlist function into scope with use, which is unidiomatic

Although both Listing 7-11 and 7-13 accomplish the same task, Listing 7-11 is the idiomatic way to bring a function into scope with use. Bringing the function’s parent module into scope with use so we have to specify the parent module when calling the function makes it clear that the function isn’t locally defined while still minimizing repetition of the full path. The code in Listing 7-13 is unclear as to where add_to_waitlist is defined.

On the other hand, when bringing in structs, enums, and other items with use, it’s idiomatic to specify the full path. Listing 7-14 shows the idiomatic way to bring the standard library’s HashMap struct into the scope of a binary crate.

Filename: src/main.rs

use std::collections::HashMap;

fn main() {
    let mut map = HashMap::new();
    map.insert(1, 2);
}

Listing 7-14: Bringing HashMap into scope in an idiomatic way

There’s no strong reason behind this idiom: it’s just the convention that has emerged, and folks have gotten used to reading and writing Rust code this way.

The exception to this idiom is if we’re bringing two items with the same name into scope with use statements, because Rust doesn’t allow that. Listing 7-15 shows how to bring two Result types into scope that have the same name but different parent modules and how to refer to them.

Filename: src/lib.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::fmt;
use std::io;

fn function1() -> fmt::Result {
#     Ok(())
}

fn function2() -> io::Result<()> {
#     Ok(())
}
#}

Listing 7-15: Bringing two types with the same name into the same scope requires using their parent modules.

As you can see, using the parent modules distinguishes the two Result types. If instead we specified use std::fmt::Result and use std::io::Result, we’d have two Result types in the same scope and Rust wouldn’t know which one we meant when we used Result. Try it and see what compiler error you get!

Providing New Names with the as Keyword

There’s another solution to the problem of bringing two types of the same name into the same scope with use: after the path, we can specify as and a new local name, or alias, for the type. Listing 7-16 shows another way to write the code in Listing 7-15 by renaming one of the two Result types using as.

Filename: src/lib.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::fmt::Result;
use std::io::Result as IoResult;

fn function1() -> Result {
#     Ok(())
}

fn function2() -> IoResult<()> {
#     Ok(())
}
#}

Listing 7-16: Renaming a type when it’s brought into scope with the as keyword

In the second use statement, we chose the new name IoResult for the std::io::Result type, which won’t conflict with the Result from std::fmt that we’ve also brought into scope. Listing 7-15 and Listing 7-16 are considered idiomatic, so the choice is up to you!

Re-exporting Names with pub use

When we bring a name into scope with the use keyword, the name available in the new scope is private. To enable the code that calls our code to refer to that name as if it had been defined in that code’s scope, we can combine pub and use. This technique is called re-exporting because we’re bringing an item into scope but also making that item available for others to bring into their scope.

Listing 7-17 shows the code in Listing 7-11 with use in the root module changed to pub use.

Filename: src/lib.rs

mod front_of_house {
    pub mod hosting {
        pub fn add_to_waitlist() {}
    }
}

pub use crate::front_of_house::hosting;

pub fn eat_at_restaurant() {
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
    hosting::add_to_waitlist();
}
# fn main() {}

Listing 7-17: Making a name available for any code to use from a new scope with pub use

By using pub use, external code can now call the add_to_waitlist function using hosting::add_to_waitlist. If we hadn’t specified pub use, the eat_at_restaurant function could call hosting::add_to_waitlist in its scope but external code couldn’t take advantage of this new path.

Re-exporting is useful when the internal structure of your code is different than the way programmers calling your code would think about the domain. For example, in this restaurant metaphor, the people running the restaurant think about “front of house” and “back of house.” But customers visiting a restaurant probably won’t think about the parts of the restaurant in those terms. With pub use, we can write our code with one structure but expose a different structure. Doing so makes our library well organized for programmers working on the library and programmers calling the library.

Using External Packages

In Chapter 2, we programmed a guessing game project that used an external package called rand to get random numbers. To use rand in our project, we added this line to Cargo.toml:

Filename: Cargo.toml

[dependencies]
rand = "0.5.5"

Adding rand as a dependency in Cargo.toml tells Cargo to download the rand package and any dependencies from https://crates.io and make rand available to our project.

Then, to bring rand definitions into the scope of our package, we added a use line starting with the name of the package, rand, and listing the items we wanted to bring into scope. Recall that in the section “Generating a Random Number” in Chapter 2, we brought the Rng trait into scope and called the rand::thread_rng function:

use rand::Rng;
fn main() {
    let secret_number = rand::thread_rng().gen_range(1, 101);
}

Members of the Rust community have made many packages available at https://crates.io, and pulling any of them into your package involves these same steps: listing them in your package’s Cargo.toml file and using use to bring items into scope.

Note that the standard library (std) is also a crate that’s external to our package. Because the standard library is shipped with the Rust language, we don’t need to change Cargo.toml to include std. But we do need to refer to it with use to bring items from there into our package’s scope. For example, with HashMap we would use this line:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::collections::HashMap;
#}

This is an absolute path starting with std, the name of the standard library crate.

Using Nested Paths to Clean Up Large use Lists

If we’re using multiple items defined in the same package or same module, listing each item on its own line can take up a lot of vertical space in our files. For example, these two use statements we had in Listing 2-4 in the Guessing Game bring items from std into scope:

Filename: src/main.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::cmp::Ordering;
use std::io;
// ---snip---
#}

Instead, we can use nested paths to bring the same items into scope in one line. We do this by specifying the common part of the path, followed by two colons, and then curly brackets around a list of the parts of the paths that differ, as shown in Listing 7-18.

Filename: src/main.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::{cmp::Ordering, io};
// ---snip---
#}

Listing 7-18: Specifying a nested path to bring multiple items with the same prefix into scope

In bigger programs, bringing many items into scope from the same package or module using nested paths can reduce the number of separate use statements needed by a lot!

We can use a nested path at any level in a path, which is useful when combining two use statements that share a subpath. For example, Listing 7-19 shows two use statements: one that brings std::io into scope and one that brings std::io::Write into scope.

Filename: src/lib.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::io;
use std::io::Write;
#}

Listing 7-19: Two use statements where one is a subpath of the other

The common part of these two paths is std::io, and that’s the complete first path. To merge these two paths into one use statement, we can use self in the nested path, as shown in Listing 7-20.

Filename: src/lib.rs


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::io::{self, Write};
#}

Listing 7-20: Combining the paths in Listing 7-19 into one use statement

This line brings std::io and std::io::Write into scope.

The Glob Operator

If we want to bring all public items defined in a path into scope, we can specify that path followed by *, the glob operator:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
use std::collections::*;
#}

This use statement brings all public items defined in std::collections into the current scope. Be careful when using the glob operator! Glob can make it harder to tell what names are in scope and where a name used in your program was defined.

The glob operator is often used when testing to bring everything under test into the tests module; we’ll talk about that in the section “How to Write Tests” in Chapter 11. The glob operator is also sometimes used as part of the prelude pattern: see the standard library documentation for more information on that pattern.