6 releases (stable)

1.4.0 Jul 6, 2019
1.3.0 Jul 6, 2019
1.1.0 Jun 29, 2019
0.1.0 Jun 23, 2019

#867 in Data structures

Download history 83/week @ 2022-11-28 139/week @ 2022-12-05 117/week @ 2022-12-12 130/week @ 2022-12-19 105/week @ 2022-12-26 117/week @ 2023-01-02 126/week @ 2023-01-09 118/week @ 2023-01-16 185/week @ 2023-01-23 565/week @ 2023-01-30 978/week @ 2023-02-06 902/week @ 2023-02-13 642/week @ 2023-02-20 600/week @ 2023-02-27 838/week @ 2023-03-06 804/week @ 2023-03-13

2,999 downloads per month
Used in smithay

MIT license

261 lines

AppendList: An append-only list that preserves references to its elements

Build Status

This list lets you add new things to the end, even if you're holding a reference to something already inside it. It also avoids reallocations.

When should you use it?

  • You need to insert into a list while its other elements are borrowed
  • You have so much data that Vec reallocations are significant

When shouldn't you use it?

  • You are storing indices into a list, rather than actual references (just use Vec<T>)
  • Vec reallocations don't matter very much (normally the case!)

What are some features?

  • A push(&self, item: T) method (you'd expect push(&mut self, item: T))
  • Non-amortized constant-time insertions and indexes (normally insertions are amortized constant-time, like Vec, or indexing is linear-time, like LinkedList)
  • You can hold onto references in the list
  • Only 2 lines of unsafe code

What does this let me do?

This example fails to compile because second_element has a reference into list when list.push() is called.

let list: Vec<u32> = (1..=10).collect();

let second_element = &list[1];

list.push(11); // Push needs &mut self, but list is already borrowed

assert_eq!(*second_element, 2); // Fails to compile

But if you just swap in AppendList for Vec, everything works!

use appendlist::AppendList;

let list: AppendList<u32> = (1..=10).collect();

let second_element = &list[1];

list.push(11); // Push only needs &self, so this works fine

assert_eq!(*second_element, 2); // All OK!

What's all this about reallocations?

In general, Vecs are pretty cool, and you should use them by default. But they have a weakness: when you create one, it gets created with a finite amount of space. When it runs out of space, it needs to reallocate: grab a new hunk of memory (usually twice as big as the current one) and copy everything over, then release the old memory.

Reallocations take O(n) time to do: you need to copy all n elements in the list. But you don't have to do them very often: only O(log n) reallocations are needed to do n insertions (for the current Vec implementation). In fact, the reallocations are rare enough that if you spread them out across all the insertions, they just add a constant extra time. This is why the Rust docs say that Vec has "O(1) amortized push" -- it generally takes constant time to push and it occasionally takes linear time, but if you spread out those expensive pushes over all the cheap pushes, it's still constant.

Reallocations have another issue: any reference to an element inside the Vec is invalidated. If you have a reference to one of the elements when it gets copied over, your reference has no way of knowing its new location and will still point to the old location, which is now invalid memory. Using that reference would be a use-after-free bug, so Rust forces you to have no references into a Vec before you push another element on, just in case that push would reallocate.

The AppendList solves both issues by keeping a Vec of chunks of data. When you push a new element on, it goes to the end of the current chunk. If the chunk is full, rather than reallocate it, AppendList creates a whole new chunk that starts off empty. Each chunk is double the size of the last chunk, so only O(log n) allocations are needed, and each one takes constant time (for most allocators) rather than linear time. By eliminating reallocations, an AppendList gives you a couple of benefits compared to Vec:

  • You can keep your references while pushing
  • You don't have to pay the occasional linear reallocate-and-copy cost

However, it also comes with some drawbacks:

  • Indexing takes longer (you have to index into a chunk, then into your item)
  • CPU cache behavior might be somewhat worse near a chunk boundary (because the next chunk isn't generally contiguous)

So should I use this crate?

Probably not.

In general, you should just use a Vec and keep track of indices rather than references. But if keeping references is very important, then this is your solution.

No runtime deps