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✓ Uses Rust 2018 edition

0.1.2 Jun 1, 2019
0.1.1 May 25, 2019
0.1.0 May 25, 2019

#176 in Unix APIs

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Used in 4 crates (via ndless)




Utilities related to FFI bindings, for embedded platforms that use Unix-like conventions. This is mostly copy & pasted from the Rust standard library.

Note that OsString and CString require the alloc feature enabled in your Cargo.toml.

This module provides utilities to handle data across non-Rust interfaces, like other programming languages and the underlying operating system. It is mainly of use for FFI (Foreign Function Interface) bindings and code that needs to exchange C-like strings with other languages.


Rust represents owned strings with the String type, and borrowed slices of strings with the [str] primitive. Both are always in UTF-8 encoding, and may contain nul bytes in the middle, i.e., if you look at the bytes that make up the string, there may be a \0 among them. Both String and str store their length explicitly; there are no nul terminators at the end of strings like in C.

C strings are different from Rust strings:

  • Encodings - Rust strings are UTF-8, but C strings may use other encodings. If you are using a string from C, you should check its encoding explicitly, rather than just assuming that it is UTF-8 like you can do in Rust.

  • Character size - C strings may use char or wchar_t-sized characters; please note that C's char is different from Rust's. The C standard leaves the actual sizes of those types open to interpretation, but defines different APIs for strings made up of each character type. Rust strings are always UTF-8, so different Unicode characters will be encoded in a variable number of bytes each. The Rust type [char] represents a 'Unicode scalar value', which is similar to, but not the same as, a 'Unicode code point'.

  • Nul terminators and implicit string lengths - Often, C strings are nul-terminated, i.e., they have a \0 character at the end. The length of a string buffer is not stored, but has to be calculated; to compute the length of a string, C code must manually call a function like strlen() for char-based strings, or wcslen() for wchar_t-based ones. Those functions return the number of characters in the string excluding the nul terminator, so the buffer length is really len+1 characters. Rust strings don't have a nul terminator; their length is always stored and does not need to be calculated. While in Rust accessing a string's length is a O(1) operation (because the length is stored); in C it is an O(length) operation because the length needs to be computed by scanning the string for the nul terminator.

  • Internal nul characters - When C strings have a nul terminator character, this usually means that they cannot have nul characters in the middle — a nul character would essentially truncate the string. Rust strings can have nul characters in the middle, because nul does not have to mark the end of the string in Rust.

Representations of non-Rust strings

[CString] and [CStr] are useful when you need to transfer UTF-8 strings to and from languages with a C ABI, like Python.

  • From Rust to C: [CString] represents an owned, C-friendly string: it is nul-terminated, and has no internal nul characters. Rust code can create a [CString] out of a normal string (provided that the string doesn't have nul characters in the middle), and then use a variety of methods to obtain a raw *mut [u8] that can then be passed as an argument to functions which use the C conventions for strings.

  • From C to Rust: [CStr] represents a borrowed C string; it is what you would use to wrap a raw *const [u8] that you got from a C function. A [CStr] is guaranteed to be a nul-terminated array of bytes. Once you have a [CStr], you can convert it to a Rust [&str][str] if it's valid UTF-8, or lossily convert it by adding replacement characters.

[OsString] and [OsStr] are useful when you need to transfer strings to and from the operating system itself, or when capturing the output of external commands. Conversions between [OsString], [OsStr] and Rust strings work similarly to those for [CString] and [CStr].

  • [OsString] represents an owned string in whatever representation the operating system prefers. In the Rust standard library, various APIs that transfer strings to/from the operating system use [OsString] instead of plain strings.

  • [OsStr] represents a borrowed reference to a string in a format that can be passed to the operating system. It can be converted into an UTF-8 Rust string slice in a similar way to [OsString].


On Unix

On Unix, [OsStr] implements the [OsStrExt] trait, which augments it with two methods, from_bytes and as_bytes. These do inexpensive conversions from and to UTF-8 byte slices.

Additionally, on Unix [OsString] implements the [OsStringExt] trait, which provides from_vec and into_vec methods that consume their arguments, and take or produce vectors of [u8].