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Summary

Add the family of [Op]Assign traits to allow overloading assignment operations like a += b.

Motivation

We already let users overload the binary operations, letting them overload the assignment version is the next logical step. Plus, this sugar is important to make mathematical libraries more palatable.

Detailed design

Add the following unstable traits to libcore and reexported them in libstd:

// `+=`
#[lang = "add_assign"]
trait AddAssign<Rhs=Self> {
    fn add_assign(&mut self, Rhs);
}

// the remaining traits have the same signature
// (lang items have been omitted for brevity)
trait BitAndAssign { .. }  // `&=`
trait BitOrAssign { .. }   // `|=`
trait BitXorAssign { .. }  // `^=`
trait DivAssign { .. }     // `/=`
trait MulAssign { .. }     // `*=`
trait RemAssign { .. }     // `%=`
trait ShlAssign { .. }     // `<<=`
trait ShrAssign { .. }     // `>>=`
trait SubAssign { .. }     // `-=`

Implement these traits for the primitive numeric types without overloading, i.e. only impl AddAssign<i32> for i32 { .. }.

Add an op_assign feature gate. When the feature gate is enabled, the compiler will consider these traits when typecheking a += b. Without the feature gate the compiler will enforce that a and b must be primitives of the same type/category as it does today.

Once we feel comfortable with the implementation we'll remove the feature gate and mark the traits as stable. This can be done after 1.0 as this change is backwards compatible.

RHS: By value vs by ref

Taking the RHS by value is more flexible. The implementations allowed with a by value RHS are a superset of the implementations allowed with a by ref RHS. An example where taking the RHS by value is necessary would be operator sugar for extending a collection with an iterator [1]: vec ++= iter where vec: Vec<T> and iter impls Iterator<T>. This can't be implemented with the by ref version as the iterator couldn't be advanced in that case.

[1] Where ++ is the "combine" operator that has been proposed elsewhere. Note that this RFC doesn't propose adding that particular operator or adding similar overloaded operations (vec += iter) to stdlib's collections, but it leaves the door open to the possibility of adding them in the future (if desired).

Drawbacks

None that I can think of.

Alternatives

Take the RHS by ref. This is less flexible than taking the RHS by value but, in some instances, it can save writing &rhs when the RHS is owned and the implementation demands a reference. However, this last point will be moot if we implement auto-referencing for binary operators, as lhs += rhs would actually call add_assign(&mut lhs, &rhs) if Lhs impls AddAssign<&Rhs>.

Unresolved questions

Should we overload ShlAssign and ShrAssign, e.g. impl ShlAssign<u8> for i32, since we have already overloaded the Shl and Shr traits?

Should we overload all the traits for references, e.g. impl<'a> AddAssign<&'a i32> for i32 to allow x += &0;?