#path #paths #fs


Provides with_paths! macro, for joining paths ergonomically and without allocation

4 releases

0.1.2 Nov 26, 2022
0.1.1 Nov 26, 2022
0.1.0 Nov 26, 2022

#1 in #no-allocation

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Used in working_dir

MIT license

462 lines

path_no_alloc: An ergonomic library for stack-allocated paths

Recently I started work on a library that relies very heavily on path manipulation. After dealing with functions littered with calls to Path.join, I wanted something faster and more ergonomic. Surely there was a better way, right?

Enter path_no_alloc. It's a simple library for joining and using paths while avoiding allocation entirely for small paths (paths less than 128 bytes).

Usage is very simple. Inside with_paths!, paths are joined with the / operator, if the total length of the paths are less than 128 bytes, the operation will occur inside a stack-allocated buffer.

use path_no_alloc::with_paths;

let p1 = "hello";
let p2 = "world";

// Here, we create a variable `path` of type `&Path` that
// represents p1 joined to p2
with_paths! {
    path = p1 / p2

assert_eq!(path, std::path::Path::new("hello/world"));

with_paths! can also be used as a compound expression by appending statements after the declaration using the => operator:

use path_no_alloc::with_paths;

let p1 = "some/dir";
let p2 = "file.txt";

let file_exists: bool = with_paths! {
    path = p1 / p2 => path.exists()

You can have an unlimited number of statements inside a with_paths! block, and you can also create and join as many paths as you want. Anything that implements AsRef<Path> can be used in a declaration and joined to other paths.

use path_no_alloc::with_paths;
use std::path::{Path, PathBuf};

let p1 = Path::new("hello");
let p2 = "world".to_string();
let my_file = "file.txt";
let some_root = PathBuf::from("some/project/root");

let path_exists = with_paths! {
    path = p1 / p2,
    another_path = some_root / p1 / my_file,
    some_third_path = p1 / p2 / some_root / my_file


    assert_eq!(path, std::path::Path::new("hello/world"));
    assert_eq!(another_path, std::path::Path::new("some/project/root/hello/file.txt"));
    let path_exists = some_third_path.exists();
    println!("{some_third_path:?} exists? {path_exists}");


Finally, paths joined in a with_paths! block behave identically to paths joined with Path.join. This means that joining an absolute path to another path truncates and just returns the absolute path:

use path_no_alloc::with_paths;
use std::path::Path;

let working_dir = "my/working/dir";
let rel_path = "path/to/file.txt";
let abs_path = "/path/to/file.txt";

with_paths! {
    relative = working_dir / rel_path,
    absolute = working_dir / abs_path

// Joining a relative path appends it
assert_eq!(relative, Path::new("my/working/dir/path/to/file.txt"));
// But joining an absolute path just results in the absolute path
assert_eq!(absolute, Path::new("/path/to/file.txt"));

// this is the same as the behavior of Path.join():
assert_eq!(relative, Path::new(working_dir).join(rel_path));
assert_eq!(absolute, Path::new(working_dir).join(abs_path));



When tested on a set of 131072 random paths, using the with_paths! macro is 2-3.5 times faster than calling Path.join(), and this is under ideal conditions Path.join. Allocation is fundamentally non-deterministic; it's subject to contention from multiple threads; and it must be avoided altogether in the context of certain latency-specific applications.

Using with_paths! will avoid allocation in a majority of cases under real-world conditions (I assume dealing with paths greater than 128 characters isn't common).

Even when it's necessary to do a system call (such as checking for the existence of a file), using with_paths! can still result in a performance improvement of 20-30%.

(If these images are not displayed in the crate documentation, please view them at github.com/codeinred/path_no_alloc

Shown above is a comparison for the time it takes to join two randomly selected paths using Path.join, versus the time taken to join two paths with with_paths!. The X axis represents the average total length of two randomly selected paths. Starting with an average path length of 64, there is a non-zero probability of the two randomly chosen paths having a combined length greater than 128, resulting in an allocation occuring.

Shown above is a violin plot of the same data as in the line graph. The final number in the benchmark ID corresponds to average total length of two randomly selected paths.

Have you tested edge cases?

Yes. All of the following edge cases are tested:

  • joining 1 or more paths, with one being absolute
  • joining 1 or more paths, with some or all of them being empty
  • joining paths where the resulting path is exactly the size of the buffer

There is additional fuzzing, wherein combinations of 10 random paths are tested, with some of the paths being potentially empty, or absolute, and with the length of the paths potentially exceeding the size of the stack buffer.

See tests.rs

What happens if the paths don't fit in the stack buffer?

If the paths don't fit in the stack buffer, then with_paths! will compute the combined length of all paths; reserve a PathBuf with the appropriate size; and join the paths using that PathBuf. This operation is entirely transparent to the user, and when doing path manipulations, you'll still be doing them with a &Path.

Note that this is still more efficient than Path::new(a).join(b), because the typical call to Path.join will result in 2 allocations:

  • first it will create a PathBuf containing a,
  • then it will push b onto the pathbuf.

Unfortunately, Path.join does not allocate enough space upfront, resulting in the second allocation.

I hope to submit a bug fix to the standard library regarding this issue.

Why I wrote path_no_alloc

Unfortunately unless your app is doing a lot of path manipulations, using with_paths! won't result in meaningful performance improvements on a global level. Typically, the time taken to join two paths is dwarfed by the operations done with the resulting path - file creation, IO, reading/writing, or other interactions with the OS / filesystem.

I wrote this library mainly for my own curiosity, and because I found the resulting interface to be nicer than calling Path.join everywhwere. It was my first foray into uninitilaized memory and stack-allocated buffers in Rust, and I can honestly say I learned a lot.

Writing path operations that avoided allocation was a challenge, and one that I found interesting.

In languages like C++, stack-allocated buffers can be a headache, especially since most of the time programmers simply assume that the buffer is sufficient - if the stack buffer is overrun, too bad! Rust's hygenic macros enable the safe, performant use of stack-allocated buffers, with proper fallback to heap-allocated memory if the buffer is overrun, and they allow you to do it in a way that's actually transparent to the programmer. I incur no additional mental overhead from using with_paths!, because the syntax is cleaner and more straight-forward than Path.join!

With that said, I hope you might find this library useful, or at least educational.

With love,

— Alecto

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