#no-std #self-referential

no-std selfie

Experimental, macro-free and allocation-free self-referential structs

2 releases

Uses new Rust 2021

0.0.2 Jul 16, 2022
0.0.1 Jun 29, 2022

#311 in Rust patterns

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Cargo Documentation

A lightweight self-referential struct library. Macro-free, allocation-free, and #![no_std].

This crate is experimental and not yet ready for production use!

This crate is an experiment to create simple and allocation-free self-referential structs, which I need in realtime audio contexts.

While this library is small and extensively tested under MIRI, and I believe it to be safe, it has not yet been peer-reviewed or seen decent real-world usage.

If you are willing to experiment with it, please do! Soundness and usability reviews and PRs are also more than welcome: self-referential structs are a complex problem, and the only part I feel confidently smart about is the library's name.


There are other self-referential struct libraries out there, but these didn't quite fit my needs:

  • Macro-free: Selfie does not use neither proc-macros nor macros to make self-referential structs. This allows for speedy compile times, but also simple, IDE-friendly syntax, which doesn't get in the way of more complex scenarios.
  • Allocation-free: Creating a Selfie does not perform any allocation, and is in fact a zero-cost operation. Selfie structs store the owned pointer and the referential type right next to each other, so the only indirection is the one from the already existing Owned pointer. This also means the Selfie library is entirely #![no_std].
  • Few restrictions for the Owned type: The only requirement for the Owned type is to be behind a pointer that is both Pin-able and stable (i.e. implementing StableDeref). Candidates from the standard library include &T, &mut T, Box, Rc, Arc, String, Vec and others, but any pointer provided by an external library such as basedrop is also inherently supported.
  • No restrictions for the Referential types: Selfie can be used with any type that has a lifetime relationship to the owned type, including any of your custom types (with a bit of boilerplate however, see the examples below).
  • Support for mutable self-references: Selfie also has a SelfieMut variant, which allows the referential to be constructed with a pinned mutable reference instead of a simple shared reference.
  • Support for non-static pointers: Selfie can be tied to any lifetime, allowing the "Owned" pointer to be also borrowing something else.
  • Support for cascading self-references: Because Selfies can be non-static, and there are no restrictions on referential types, a Selfie can itself be used as a referential type in another Selfie! This allows complex self-referential structures to be created.


  • Some boilerplate needed: Although Selfie has little inherent complexity, because it doesn't rely on macros, that complexity is pushed directly onto the user of this library. This makes the Selfie type quite a bit of a mouthful at times, and also require some boilerplate to use custom referential types.
  • Referential types can be moved: This may be an issue if your referential type is referenced by another member of your struct, as it will need to have a stable address as well. With the current version of Selfie this requires multiple pointers (potentially allocating), even though it could be theoretically consolidated in a single allocation. This may be addressed by a separate Selfie variant in the future.


Caching String subslices

use core::pin::Pin;
use selfie::{refs::Ref, Selfie};

let data: Pin<String> = Pin::new("Hello, world!".to_owned());
let selfie: Selfie<String, Ref<str>> = Selfie::new(data, |s| &s[0..5]);

assert_eq!("Hello", selfie.referential());
assert_eq!("Hello, world!", selfie.owned());

Using custom referential types

use std::pin::Pin;
use selfie::{refs::RefType, Selfie};

#[derive(Copy, Clone)]
struct MyReferentialType<'a>(&'a str);

struct MyReferentialTypeStandIn;

impl<'a> RefType<'a> for MyReferentialTypeStandIn {
  type Ref = MyReferentialType<'a>;

// MyReferentialType can now be used in Selfies!
let data = Pin::new("Hello, world!".to_owned());
let selfie: Selfie<String, MyReferentialTypeStandIn> = Selfie::new(data, |str| MyReferentialType(&str[0..5]));

assert_eq!("Hello", selfie.referential().0);

Mutable self-referential

use core::pin::Pin;
use selfie::{refs::Mut, SelfieMut};

let data: Pin<String> = Pin::new("Hello, world!".to_owned());
let mut selfie: SelfieMut<String, Mut<str>> = SelfieMut::new(data, |s| &mut Pin::into_inner(s)[0..5]);

selfie.with_referential_mut(|s| s.make_ascii_uppercase());
selfie.with_referential(|s| assert_eq!("HELLO", *s));

// By dropping the referential part, we get back the access to the owned data
let data: String = Pin::into_inner(selfie.into_owned());
assert_eq!("HELLO, world!", &data);

Cascading Selfies

use std::pin::Pin;
use selfie::refs::{Ref, SelfieRef};
use selfie::Selfie;

let data = Pin::new("Hello, world!".to_owned());
let selfie: Selfie<String, SelfieRef<Ref<str>, Ref<str>>> = Selfie::new(data, |str| {
    let substr = Pin::new(&str[0..5]);
    Selfie::new(substr, |str| &str[3..])

assert_eq!("Hello, world!", selfie.owned());
selfie.with_referential(|r| {
    assert_eq!("Hello", r.owned());
    assert_eq!("lo", r.referential());