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Add macros and traits, for minimal support of structural enums.

The new constructs are:

  • Two traits EnumxFrom, IntoEnumx.

  • A new proc-macro derive EnumX applicable for enums, generating type convertion impls defined in these traits.

In client code, write the following

use enumx::Enum;
use enumx::prelude::*;

to use the constructs mentioned above.


An enum can be utilized to express a set of finite, known elements. Enums composed of variants that do not refer to domain knowledge are considered as structural enums. They serve as a mechanism of code organisations.

Full-fledged structural enums provide mechanisms not only for gathering values of variants into enums, but also for gathering variants of an structural enum, into another one.

Such a mechanism is not available in Rust, requiring Rustaceans to implement it themselves when needed.

While it is easy to write maros for "variants => enum" gathering, a general "enum => enum" convertion is non-trival to implement.

These facts have caused some unfavorable results:

  • Programmers are developing such non-trival equivalents in specific domains. A notable example is "error-chain". It had reinvented the wheel for some kind of structural enum, aka ErrorKind.

  • Tempting to use trait object instead, in cases which structural enum is most suitable for.

This library addresses these issues by inroducing a minimum support of structural enums, aka exchangeable enums.


An enum with #[derive(EnumX)] is considered as an exchangeable enum.

enum Info {
    Text(&'static str),

An exchangeable enum can be constructed from one of its variants:

let info: Info = 42.into_enumx();
let info = Info::enumx_from(42);

An exchangeable enum can be exchanged from/into another exchangeable one, as long as one has all the variant types appearing in the other one's definition.

enum Data {
    Text(&'static str),

let info: Info = 42.into_enumx();
let data: Data = info.into_enumx();

let info = Info::enumx_from(42);
let data = Data::enumx_from(info);

Enum methods

By now, we call enumx_from(), into_enumx() as enum exchange methods.

Syntax limits of exchangeable enum

All variants must be in the form of "newtype".

enum Info {
    Text(String),  // ok, it is newtype
    Code(i32,u32), // compile error

should cause an error:

1926 | Code(i32,u32),
     | ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ all variants of an exchangeable enum must be newtype

Convertion rules

The following 2 methods are the minimum support of structural enum:

  • enumx_from() and into_enumx().

The following rules are considered perculiar to exchangeable enums, which distinguish them from "union types" in Typed Racket.

  1. An exchangeable enum composed of duplicated variant types is a valid enum, but it is nonsense because acual uses of its enum exchange methods will cause compile errors.
9 | let a = <Enum!(i32,i32)>::_0( 3722 );
  |         ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ variants of an exchangeable enum must be unique.
  1. No automatic flattening

For example, Enum!(A,Enum!(B,C)) can not be converted to Enum!(A,B,C) via enum exchange methods. Further more, making these two equal types will need changes in type systems, which is not possible for a proc-macro derive.

Detailed design

The definition of enum exchange traits are as following:

pub trait EnumxFrom<Src,Index> {
    fn enumx_from( src: Src ) -> Self;

pub trait IntoEnumx<Dest,Index> {
    fn into_enumx( self ) -> Dest;

Notice that the traits have phantom types Index in their generics to hold positional information to help compiler accomplishing type inferences and avoid overlapping impls.

Distinguish from std::convert

Since standard From/Into does not have such phantom types, it is not feasible to implement enum exchange methods in From/Into. Trying to implement in From will cause compile error because we need to impl multiple From<Variant> but the generic Variant type in different impls could be of the same actual type, resulting in overlapping impls.


  • Abusing structural enums in cases that they are not suitable for.

  • As a library mimicing structrual enums, enumx supports a limited count of variants. The default is 16, and can be twisted via environment variable ENUMX_MAX_VARIANTS.

Rationale and alternatives

Prior art

Concepts similar with structural enum exist in other language. One example is union types in Typed Racket. However, it supports more powerful type inferences such as uniquifing and flattening. All these seems to bring significant changes to Rust internals.

The frunk_core library provides coproduct which is similar with structural enums, by which this library is inspired. However it aims at generic programming and the coproduct is nested enums, not supporting pattern matching.


Licensed under MIT.