Advanced Functions and Closures in Rust

Function Pointers

We can also pass functions to functions, like passing closures to functions.

This is useful when we want to pass a function we already defined instead of creating a new closure.

To pass in a function as an argument, we can use a function pointer specified using fn:

fn add_one(x: i32) -> i32 {
    x + 1

// `f` accept a function with one input i32 and returns i32
fn do_twice(f: fn(i32)) -> i32, arg: i32) -> i32 {
    f(arg) + f(arg)

fn main() {
    let answer = do_twice(add_one, 5);

    println!("The answer is: {}", answer);

Unlike closures fn is a type rather than a trait. So, we can use fn directly.

If we recall from Closures section:

fn traits

there are three closure traits:

  1. Fn: specifies that the closure the variables in its environment immutably
  2. FnMut: specifies the closure capture the variables in its environment mutably
  3. FnOnce: specifies that the closure takes ownership of the values in its environment (thus cosuming the variables)

Function pointers implement all these three closure traits.

i.e., if we have a function that expects a closure, we can pass it a closure or function pointer. That’s why it’s preferable to write function that expects a closure instead of just pointer type.

In above code we can update do_twice() function to take either closure or function like this:

// 1. specify generic
// 2. change f: T
// 3. Introduce trait bound using `Fn`
fn do_twice<T>(f: T, arg: i32) -> i32 
where T: Fn(i32) -> i32 {
    f(arg) + f(arg)

Fn is closure trait bound whereas fn which is a function pointer type.

The case in which we may only want to accept function pointer instead of functions pointers and closures is if you’re interfacing with external code that does not support closures. C functinos don’t closures.

Another example where we can use closure or predefined function:

fn main() {
    let list_of_numbers = vec![1, 2, 3];
    let list_of_strings: Vec<String> = 
            .map(|i| i.to_string()) // map takes closure or function pointer called for every int
    println!("{:?}", list_of_strings);

To pass in a function pointer to map() method, we can do using fully qualified syntax:

// passing `to_string()` method on ToString trait
// because there can be other method named `to_string` in this scope

Anoter useful pattern that exploits an implementation detail of tuple structs and tuple struct enum variants.

fn main() {
    enum Status {

Tuple struct uses parantheses () to initialize values inside the tuple struct which looks like function call.

Actually these initializers are implemented as functions that take in arguments and return an instance of that tuple struct.

That means we can use these initializers as function pointers:

// creating vector of Statuses 
// by calling map on range passing in `Value` variant
// map treats `Value` as a function pointer with argument being `u32`
// return value being `Value` variant
let list_of_statuses: Vec<Status> = 

Obviously closures can also be passed in.

Returning Closures

Returning closures from functions.

fn returns_closure() -> {
    |x| x + 1

This function returns a closure, but it’s unfinished. Closures are represented using traits, so the function won’t return a concrete type.

What we want to say is we want to return something that implements the Fn trait taking in an integer and returning an integer.

fn returns_closure() -> impl Fn(i32) -> i32 {
    |x| x + 1

The above syntax might not work in all situation. For example, like in this where we return a closue based on input argument:

fn returns_closure(a: i32) -> impl Fn(i32) -> i32 { // this syntax only work when returning one type
    if a > 0 {
        move |b| a + b
    } else {
        move |b| a - b
      //^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ error: no two closures, even if identical have same type  
      // consider boxing your closure and/or using it as a trait object

So instead, we need to return a trait object, wrapped in smart pointer so compiler can know it’s size like this:

fn returns_closure(a: i32) -> Box<dyn Fn(i32) -> i32> { 
    if a > 0 {
        Box::new(move |b| a + b)
    } else {
        Box::new(move |b| a - b)