[][src]Crate gcmodule

Reference cycle garbage collection inspired by cpython.

The type Cc<T> provides shared ownership of a value of type T, similar to std::rc::Rc<T>. Unlike Rc<T>, collect_thread_cycles can be used to drop unreachable values that form circular references.


Cloning references

Similar to Rc<T>, use clone() to get cloned references.

use gcmodule::Cc;
let foo = Cc::new(vec![1, 2, 3]);
let foo_cloned = foo.clone();

// foo and foo_cloned both point to the same `vec![1, 2, 3]`.
assert!(std::ptr::eq(&foo[0], &foo_cloned[0]));

Collecting cycles

Use collect_thread_cycles() to collect thread-local garbage.

Use count_thread_tracked() to count how many objects are tracked by the collector.

use gcmodule::{Cc, Trace};
use std::cell::RefCell;
    type List = Cc<RefCell<Vec<Box<dyn Trace>>>>;
    let a: List = Default::default();
    let b: List = Default::default();

// a and b form circular references. The objects they point to are not
// dropped automatically, despite both variables run out of scope.

assert_eq!(gcmodule::count_thread_tracked(), 2);   // 2 values are tracked.
assert_eq!(gcmodule::collect_thread_cycles(), 2);  // This will drop a and b.
assert_eq!(gcmodule::count_thread_tracked(), 0);   // no values are tracked.

Defining new types

Cc<T> requires Trace implemented for T so the collector knows how values are referred. That can usually be done by #[derive(Trace)].

Acyclic types

If a type is acyclic (cannot form reference circles about Cc), Trace::is_type_tracked() will return false.

use gcmodule::{Cc, Trace};

struct Foo(String);

struct Bar;

assert!(!Foo::is_type_tracked()); // Acyclic
assert!(!Bar::is_type_tracked()); // Acyclic

let foo = Cc::new(Foo("abc".to_string()));
let bar = Cc::new(Bar);
let foo_cloned = foo.clone(); // Share the same `"abc"` with `foo`.
assert_eq!(gcmodule::count_thread_tracked(), 0); // The collector tracks nothing.
drop(foo); // The ref count of `"abc"` drops from 2 to 1.
drop(foo_cloned); // `"abc"` will be dropped here..

Container types

Whether a container type is acyclic or not depends on its fields. Usually, types without referring to trait objects or itself are considered acyclic.

use gcmodule::{Cc, Trace};

struct Foo<T1: Trace, T2: Trace>(T1, T2, u8);

// `a` is not tracked - types are acyclic.
let a = Cc::new(Foo(Foo(Cc::new(1), 2, 3), Cc::new("abc"), 10));
assert_eq!(gcmodule::count_thread_tracked(), 0);

// `b` is tracked because it contains a trait object.
let b = Cc::new(Foo(Box::new(1) as Box<dyn Trace>, 2, 3));
assert_eq!(gcmodule::count_thread_tracked(), 1);

The #[trace(skip)] attribute can be used to skip tracking specified fields in a structure.

use gcmodule::{Cc, Trace};

struct AlienStruct; // Does not implement Trace

struct Foo {
    field: String,

    alien: AlienStruct, // Field skipped in Trace implementation.

Technical Details

Memory Layouts

Cc<T> uses different memory layouts depending on T.

Untracked types

If <T as Trace>::is_type_tracked() returns false, the layout is similar to Rc<T> but without a weak_count:

Shared T                    Pointer
+------------------+     .-- Cc<T>
| ref_count: usize | <--<
|------------------|     '-- Cc<T>::clone()
| T (shared data)  | <--- Cc<T>::deref()

Tracked types

If <T as Trace>::is_type_tracked() returns true, the layout has an extra GcHeader that makes the value visible in a thread-local linked list:

Shared T with GcHeader
| gc_prev: pointer | ---> GcHeader in a linked list.
| gc_next: pointer |
| vptr<T>: pointer | ---> Pointer to the `&T as &dyn Trace` virtual table.
| ref_count: usize | <--- Cc<T>
| ---------------- |
| T (shared data)  | <--- Cc<T>::deref()

Incorrect Trace implementation

While most public APIs provided by this library looks safe, incorrectly implementing the Trace trait has consequences.

This library should cause no undefined behaviors (UB) even with incorrect Trace implementation on debug build.

Below are some consequences of a wrong Trace implementation.

Memory leak

If Trace::trace does not visit all referred values, the collector might fail to detect cycles, and take no actions on cycles. That causes memory leak.


If Trace::trace visits more values than it should (for example, visit indirectly referred values, or visit a directly referred value multiple times), the collector can detect such issues and panic the thread with the message:

bug: unexpected ref-count after dropping cycles
This usually indicates a buggy Trace or Drop implementation.

Undefined behavior (UB)

After the above panic (bug: unexpected ref-count after dropping cycles), dereferencing a garbage-collected Cc<T> will trigger panic! or UB depending on whether it's a debug build or not.

On debug build, sanity checks are added at Cc::<T>::deref(). It will panic if T was garbage-collected:

bug: accessing a dropped CcBox detected

In other words, no UB on debug build.

On release build the dereference would access dropped values, which is an undefined behavior. Again, the UB can only happen if the Trace::trace is implemented wrong, and panic will happen before the UB.



A single-threaded reference-counting pointer that integrates with cyclic garbage collection.



Defines how the cycle collector should collect a type.



Collect cyclic garbage in the current thread. Return the number of objects collected.


Count number of objects tracked by the collector in the current thread. Return the number of objects tracked.

Type Definitions


Callback function that serves as the parameter of Trace::trace.

Derive Macros


Derive Trace implementation for a structure.