#pointer #tag

no-std tagged-pointer

Platform-independent space-efficient tagged pointers

5 releases

0.2.0 Aug 21, 2021
0.1.3 Mar 19, 2021
0.1.2 Mar 19, 2021
0.1.1 Mar 18, 2021
0.1.0 Mar 17, 2021

#305 in Data structures

Used in btree-vec


325 lines


This crate provides an implementation of tagged pointers: pointers that also contain an integer tag in a space-efficient manner.

Unless the fallback implementation is used (see the Assumptions section below), both TaggedPtr and Option<TaggedPtr> are guaranteed to be the size of a pointer.

This crate depends only on core, so it can be used in no_std environments.


use core::mem::size_of;
use core::ptr::NonNull;
use tagged_pointer::TaggedPtr;

struct Item(u32, u32);

// `TaggedPtr` and `Option<TaggedPtr>` are both the size of a pointer:
assert_eq!(size_of::<TaggedPtr<Item, 2>>(), size_of::<usize>());
assert_eq!(size_of::<Option<TaggedPtr<Item, 2>>>(), size_of::<usize>());

let item1 = Item(1, 2);
let item2 = Item(3, 4);

// We can store two bits of the tag, since `Item` has an alignment of 4.
let tp1 = TaggedPtr::<_, 2>::new(NonNull::from(&item1), 1);
let tp2 = TaggedPtr::<_, 2>::new(NonNull::from(&item2), 3);

let (ptr1, tag1) = tp1.get();
let (ptr2, tag2) = tp2.get();

assert_eq!((ptr1, tag1), (NonNull::from(&item1), 1));
assert_eq!((ptr2, tag2), (NonNull::from(&item2), 3));


This crate relies on pointer::align_offset not failing under certain circumstances. Specifically, align_offset, when called on a pointer to u8, must succeed when the desired alignment is less than or equal to the alignment of the allocation pointed to by the provided pointer. In practice, this is true, even in Miri with the -Zmiri-symbolic-alignment-check flag, but the specifications of align_offset technically allow an implementation not to follow this behavior. If you experience issues due to this, please file an issue in the Git repository. As a workaround, you can enable the "fallback" feature, which avoids relying on align_offset at the cost of making TaggedPtr twice as large.

Note that this crate is always sound: an implementation of align_offset that doesn’t follow the required behavior may cause panics, but not undefined behavior.

Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to implement space-efficient tagged pointers in Rust without making some assumptions. However, this approach has some advantages over the usual method of casting the pointer to a usize and reusing the lower bits: the usual approach makes platform-specific assumptions about the representation of pointers (which currently apply to all platforms supported by rustc but could be invalidated if support for new architectures is added, and there are real architectures which do not allow reusing the lower bits of aligned pointers), whereas this crate’s assumptions are platform-independent (aside from the requirements already imposed by Rust, like having 8-bit bytes) and are satisfied by all known implementations of Rust, including Miri with -Zmiri-symbolic-alignment-check.

No runtime deps


  • fallback