Dynamic Dispatch

Sometimes, we want to take the decision of which implementation to use at runtime instead of letting the compiler monomorphize the code.

There’s two approaches.

Dispatch through Enums

If the number of possible choices is limited, an Enum can be used:

enum Operation {

fn execute(op: Operation) {
    match op {
        Operation::Get => execute_get(),
        Operation::Set(s) => execute_set(s),
        Operation::Count => execute_count()

Alternative Form

enum Operation {

impl Operation {
    fn execute(&self) {
        match &self {
            &Operation::Get => execute_get(),
            &Operation::Set(s) => execute_set(s),
            &Operation::Count => execute_count()


Try to minimise repeated matches on the Enum, if not strictly necessary.

Trait Objects

References or raw pointers on traits, also boxes, describe so-called "trait objects".

Trait objects are a pair of pointers to a virtual function table and the data.


  • You can only use one trait per object

  • This trait must fulfill certain conditions

Rules for object-safe traits (abbreviated)

  • Object-safe traits are not allowed to require Self: Sized

  • All methods are object-safe

    • They have no type parameters

    • They don’t use Self

Trait Objects and Closures

Closure traits fulfill object safety rules.

fn factory() -> Box<dyn Fn(i32) -> i32> {
    let num = 5;

    Box::new(move |x| x + num)

Further properties

  • As trait objects know about their exact type at runtime, they support downcasts through the Any trait.

use std::fmt::Debug;
use std::any::Any;

// Logger function for any type that implements Debug.
fn log<T: Any + Debug>(value: &T) {
    let value_any = value as &dyn Any;

    // try to convert our value to a String.  If successful, we want to
    // output the String's length as well as its value.  If not, it's a
    // different type: just print it out unadorned.
    match value_any.downcast_ref::<String>() {
        Some(as_string) => {
            println!("String ({}): {}", as_string.len(), as_string);
        None => {
            println!("{:?}", value);

fn main() {
    log(&String::from("String here"));