Day 9 - anymap

Relevancy: 1.9 stable

In this article we will focus on the anymap crate by Chris Morgan of rust-http and teepee fame. This crate provides the AnyMap type - a slightly peculiar, interesting container.

The AnyMap type is different from a regular map. For example, a HashMap in Rust is a generic type parametrized by K - the type of keys and V - the type of values stored in map. (There's also a hasher parameter, but it's not relevant here.) Meanwhile, AnyMap itself is not a generic type. It uses a HashMap internally but we don't need to know that; conceptually, AnyMap maps from types to values. This means that for each and every type there can be at most one value contained in the mapping.

You may ask - why would I ever need something that holds just one value of each type? A lot of programs use some kind of a map from (usually) strings to some arbitrary values, for example to store configuration data, process environment etc. Let me quote Chris on that:

It’s typically something like map[string]interface{} and is accessed with arbitrary strings which may clash and type assertions which are a little unwieldy and must be used very carefully. (Personally I would consider that it is just asking for things to blow up in your face.) In a language like Go, lacking in generics, this is the best that can be done; such a thing cannot possibly be made safe without generics.

We can use AnyMap together with the newtype idiom to create a strongly typed configuration holder.

extern crate anymap;

use std::net::Ipv4Addr;
use anymap::AnyMap;

enum HostAddress {

struct Port(u32);

struct ConnectionLimit(u32);

let mut config = AnyMap::new();
    println!("{:?}", config.get::<HostAddress>());
    println!("{:?}", config.get::<Port>());

The output:

$ cargo run

Here the Port and ConnectionLimit types are abstractions over the underlying integer (with no overhead at runtime!). It is also impossible to mix these two - they are totally different types (not aliases to u32) and you can't pass a Port value where a ConnectionLimit is expected. This fact suggests that we can use these as separate entries in the AnyMap. And that is correct, as shown in the example above. It's also worth noting that inserting a value wrapped in a newtype does not make the original type appear in the mapping (seems obvious, I guess).

When we insert another value of a type that already exists in the AnyMap, the previous value gets overwritten. Even if this is another enum variant - as enum variants are values grouped under one type - and remember we think of AnyMap as mapping from types to values.

config.insert(HostAddress::Ip(Ipv4Addr::new(127, 0, 0, 1)));
    println!("{:?}", config.get::<HostAddress>());
$ cargo run

Generic types are considered different for every type parameter, so for example every Option-al type gets a separate entry in the AnyMap.

if !config.contains::<Option<f32>>() {
        println!("There's no optional 32-bit float in the configuration...");
    let dummy: Option<f32> = None;
    if config.contains::<Option<f32>>() {
        println!("There's an optional 32-bit float in the configuration...");
    if !config.contains::<Option<f64>>() {
        println!("...but not an optional 64-bit float.");