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malachite

An arbitrary-precision arithmetic library for Rust.

Iterators that generate everything, part 1

05 Jun 2022 — Mikhail Hogrefe

Iterators

If you’ve ever used a modern programming language, you’re probably familiar with iterators. For example, if you’ve got a Vec<u64> called xs in Rust, you can write this:

for x in &xs {
    println!("{}", x);
}

This code takes xs and produces an iterator, a thing that knows how to spit out elements. Iterators are very flexible: you can filter them, map them, zip them, and collect them into concrete collections like Vecs or sets. In Haskell, the basic aggregate type, List, is an iterator.

Iterators are also very general. An iterator doesn’t have to be backed by anything in memory. You can easily write this:

for x: u16 in 0..10 {
    println!("{}", x);
}

or even

for x: u16 in 0.. {
    println!("{}", x);
}

There’s something compelling about an iterator that generates EVERY u16. If you were testing a function that takes a u16, you could test it on every possible input! If we were dealing with with u64s instead, you’d want to cut it off after some number of values using take.

Some simple examples

The malachite_base crate provides lots of exhaustive iterators. Let me show you:

for b in exhaustive_bools() {
    println!("{}", b);
}
false
true

I mentioned 0.. earlier. Malachite provides an iterator that does the same thing but more explicitly:

for u in exhaustive_unsigneds::<u16>().take(10) {
    println!("{}", u);
}
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Ok, this isn’t very interesting so far. How about signed integers?

for u in exhaustive_signeds::<i16>().take(10) {
    println!("{}", u);
}
0
1
-1
2
-2
3
-3
4
-4
5

The philosophy behind exhaustive iterators in Malachite is that simpler values should come first. That’s why the i16s are sorted by absolute value rather than by their usual order. If you do want to start at -65536 and go up from there, you can use primitive_int_increasing_inclusive_range(i16::MIN, i16::MAX) instead.

By the way, there are lots of other iterators I’m skipping over, like exhaustive_nonzero_integers. You can find them by going here and Ctrl-F’ing “exhaustive”.

How about chars?

for c in exhaustive_chars().take(10) {
    println!("{}", c);
}
a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
i
j

Again, these are not in their usual order. Thanks to various historical circumstances, the chars that are usually ordered first are mostly unprintable useless characters like “vertical tab” and “unit separator”. exhaustive_chars pushes these to the back of the line; see its documentation for details.

Combining iterators

We’ve touched on most of Rust’s primitive types, except for floats; those are more complicated and I’ll discuss them later. But now, let’s see how to create iterators for composite types, like Option<i32>:

for ox in exhaustive_options(exhaustive_signeds::<i32>()).take(10) {
    println!("{:?}", ox);
}
None
Some(0)
Some(1)
Some(-1)
Some(2)
Some(-2)
Some(3)
Some(-3)
Some(4)
Some(-4)

Reasonable.

Next, I want to talk about Unions. These don’t exist in the standard library, so I’ve defined them in Malachite. (Since variadic generics aren’t a thing in Rust yet, what I’ve actually defined are Union2s and a macro to define unions of higher arity.)

A union (specifically a tagged union, also called a variant or a sum type) is essentially a generic enum. For example, a value of type Union2<u16, char> might be Union2::A(12) or Union2::B('d'). It’s usually better to use a purpose-built enum than a union, but it’s very handy to have exhaustive iterators for unions. If you want to create an exhaustive iterator for a 2-variant enum, you can just do exhaustive_union2s(...).map(|u| match u { ... }).

Actually, before exhaustive_union2s, let me show you lex_union2s:

for b_or_u in lex_union2s(exhaustive_bools(), 1..=3) {
    println!("{}", b_or_u);
}
A(false)
A(true)
B(1)
B(2)
B(3)

It’s very simple; it just produces all the values of the first variant, then all the values of the second variant. I’ve called it lex because it returns its elements in lexicographic, or “dictionary”, order (with respect to the order of the input iterators’ elements). It’s only suitable when the first iterator is short. You don’t want to use lex_union2s(exhaustive_unsigneds::<u64>(), ...) because you’ll be waiting forever before you see the second variant. In general, exhaustive_union2s is the better choice:

for u_or_b in exhaustive_union2s(
    exhaustive_unsigneds::<u64>(),
    exhaustive_bools()
).take(10) {
    println!("{}", u_or_b);
}
A(0),
B(false),
A(1),
B(true),
A(2),
A(3),
A(4),
A(5),
A(6),
A(7),

and now the B variant gets to see the light of day. exhaustive_union3s, etc., work in the same way, selecting between their variants in a round-robin fashion.

Intermission

We haven’t gotten to the really interesting bits, which have to do with generating tuples (and after that, lists, sets, and floats). I’ll talk about those in future posts.

Part 2: Generating tuples


Copyright © 2022 Mikhail Hogrefe