Data Types

Every value in Rust is of a certain data type, which tells Rust what kind of data is being specified so it knows how to work with that data. We’ll look at two data type subsets: scalar and compound.

Keep in mind that Rust is a statically typed language, which means that it must know the types of all variables at compile time. The compiler can usually infer what type we want to use based on the value and how we use it. In cases when many types are possible, such as when we converted a String to a numeric type using parse in the “Comparing the Guess to the Secret Number” section in Chapter 2, we must add a type annotation, like this:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
let guess: u32 = "42".parse().expect("Not a number!");

If we don’t add the type annotation here, Rust will display the following error, which means the compiler needs more information from us to know which type we want to use:

error[E0282]: type annotations needed
 --> src/
2 |     let guess = "42".parse().expect("Not a number!");
  |         ^^^^^
  |         |
  |         cannot infer type for `_`
  |         consider giving `guess` a type

You’ll see different type annotations for other data types.

Scalar Types

A scalar type represents a single value. Rust has four primary scalar types: integers, floating-point numbers, Booleans, and characters. You may recognize these from other programming languages. Let’s jump into how they work in Rust.

Integer Types

An integer is a number without a fractional component. We used one integer type in Chapter 2, the u32 type. This type declaration indicates that the value it’s associated with should be an unsigned integer (signed integer types start with i, instead of u) that takes up 32 bits of space. Table 3-1 shows the built-in integer types in Rust. Each variant in the Signed and Unsigned columns (for example, i16) can be used to declare the type of an integer value.

Table 3-1: Integer Types in Rust

Length Signed Unsigned
8-bit i8 u8
16-bit i16 u16
32-bit i32 u32
64-bit i64 u64
128-bit i128 u128
arch isize usize

Each variant can be either signed or unsigned and has an explicit size. Signed and unsigned refer to whether it’s possible for the number to be negative or positive—in other words, whether the number needs to have a sign with it (signed) or whether it will only ever be positive and can therefore be represented without a sign (unsigned). It’s like writing numbers on paper: when the sign matters, a number is shown with a plus sign or a minus sign; however, when it’s safe to assume the number is positive, it’s shown with no sign. Signed numbers are stored using two’s complement representation.

Each signed variant can store numbers from -(2n - 1) to 2n - 1 - 1 inclusive, where n is the number of bits that variant uses. So an i8 can store numbers from -(27) to 27 - 1, which equals -128 to 127. Unsigned variants can store numbers from 0 to 2n - 1, so a u8 can store numbers from 0 to 28 - 1, which equals 0 to 255.

Additionally, the isize and usize types depend on the kind of computer your program is running on: 64 bits if you’re on a 64-bit architecture and 32 bits if you’re on a 32-bit architecture.

You can write integer literals in any of the forms shown in Table 3-2. Note that all number literals except the byte literal allow a type suffix, such as 57u8, and _ as a visual separator, such as 1_000.

Table 3-2: Integer Literals in Rust

Number literals Example
Decimal 98_222
Hex 0xff
Octal 0o77
Binary 0b1111_0000
Byte (u8 only) b'A'

So how do you know which type of integer to use? If you’re unsure, Rust’s defaults are generally good choices, and integer types default to i32: this type is generally the fastest, even on 64-bit systems. The primary situation in which you’d use isize or usize is when indexing some sort of collection.

Integer Overflow

Let’s say that you have a variable of type u8, which can hold values between 0 and 255. What happens if you try to change the variable's value to 256? This is called integer overflow, and Rust has some interesting rules around this behavior. When compiling in debug mode, Rust includes checks for integer overflow that will cause your program to panic at runtime if integer overflow occurs. Panicking is the term Rust uses when a program exits with an error; we’ll discuss panics more in the "Unrecoverable Errors with panic! section" of Chapter 9.

When compiling in release mode with the --release flag, Rust does not include checks for integer overflow that cause panics. Instead, if overflow occurs, Rust will perform something called two’s complement wrapping. In short, values greater than the maximum value the type can hold "wrap around" to the minimum of the values the type can hold. In the case of a u8, 256 becomes 0, 257 becomes 1, etc. Relying on the wrapping behavior of integer overflow is considered an error. If you want to wrap explicitly, the standard library has a type named Wrapping that provides this behavior.

Floating-Point Types

Rust also has two primitive types for floating-point numbers, which are numbers with decimal points. Rust’s floating-point types are f32 and f64, which are 32 bits and 64 bits in size, respectively. The default type is f64 because on modern CPUs it’s roughly the same speed as f32 but is capable of more precision.

Here’s an example that shows floating-point numbers in action:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let x = 2.0; // f64

    let y: f32 = 3.0; // f32

Floating-point numbers are represented according to the IEEE-754 standard. The f32 type is a single-precision float, and f64 has double precision.

Numeric Operations

Rust supports the basic mathematical operations you’d expect for all of the number types: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and remainder. The following code shows how you’d use each one in a let statement:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    // addition
    let sum = 5 + 10;

    // subtraction
    let difference = 95.5 - 4.3;

    // multiplication
    let product = 4 * 30;

    // division
    let quotient = 56.7 / 32.2;

    // remainder
    let remainder = 43 % 5;

Each expression in these statements uses a mathematical operator and evaluates to a single value, which is then bound to a variable. Appendix B contains a list of all operators that Rust provides.

The Boolean Type

As in most other programming languages, a Boolean type in Rust has two possible values: true and false. Booleans are one byte in size. The Boolean type in Rust is specified using bool. For example:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let t = true;

    let f: bool = false; // with explicit type annotation

The main way to use Boolean values is through conditionals, such as an if expression. We’ll cover how if expressions work in Rust in the “Control Flow” section.

The Character Type

So far we’ve worked only with numbers, but Rust supports letters too. Rust’s char type is the language’s most primitive alphabetic type, and the following code shows one way to use it. (Note that char literals are specified with single quotes, as opposed to string literals, which use double quotes.)

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let c = 'z';
    let z = 'ℤ';
    let heart_eyed_cat = '😻';

Rust’s char type is four bytes in size and represents a Unicode Scalar Value, which means it can represent a lot more than just ASCII. Accented letters; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters; emoji; and zero-width spaces are all valid char values in Rust. Unicode Scalar Values range from U+0000 to U+D7FF and U+E000 to U+10FFFF inclusive. However, a “character” isn’t really a concept in Unicode, so your human intuition for what a “character” is may not match up with what a char is in Rust. We’ll discuss this topic in detail in “Storing UTF-8 Encoded Text with Strings” in Chapter 8.

Compound Types

Compound types can group multiple values into one type. Rust has two primitive compound types: tuples and arrays.

The Tuple Type

A tuple is a general way of grouping together some number of other values with a variety of types into one compound type. Tuples have a fixed length: once declared, they cannot grow or shrink in size.

We create a tuple by writing a comma-separated list of values inside parentheses. Each position in the tuple has a type, and the types of the different values in the tuple don’t have to be the same. We’ve added optional type annotations in this example:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let tup: (i32, f64, u8) = (500, 6.4, 1);

The variable tup binds to the entire tuple, because a tuple is considered a single compound element. To get the individual values out of a tuple, we can use pattern matching to destructure a tuple value, like this:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let tup = (500, 6.4, 1);

    let (x, y, z) = tup;

    println!("The value of y is: {}", y);

This program first creates a tuple and binds it to the variable tup. It then uses a pattern with let to take tup and turn it into three separate variables, x, y, and z. This is called destructuring, because it breaks the single tuple into three parts. Finally, the program prints the value of y, which is 6.4.

In addition to destructuring through pattern matching, we can access a tuple element directly by using a period (.) followed by the index of the value we want to access. For example:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let x: (i32, f64, u8) = (500, 6.4, 1);

    let five_hundred = x.0;

    let six_point_four = x.1;

    let one = x.2;

This program creates a tuple, x, and then makes new variables for each element by using their index. As with most programming languages, the first index in a tuple is 0.

The Array Type

Another way to have a collection of multiple values is with an array. Unlike a tuple, every element of an array must have the same type. Arrays in Rust are different from arrays in some other languages because arrays in Rust have a fixed length, like tuples.

In Rust, the values going into an array are written as a comma-separated list inside square brackets:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let a = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];

Arrays are useful when you want your data allocated on the stack rather than the heap (we will discuss the stack and the heap more in Chapter 4) or when you want to ensure you always have a fixed number of elements. An array isn’t as flexible as the vector type, though. A vector is a similar collection type provided by the standard library that is allowed to grow or shrink in size. If you’re unsure whether to use an array or a vector, you should probably use a vector. Chapter 8 discusses vectors in more detail.

An example of when you might want to use an array rather than a vector is in a program that needs to know the names of the months of the year. It’s very unlikely that such a program will need to add or remove months, so you can use an array because you know it will always contain 12 items:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
let months = ["January", "February", "March", "April", "May", "June", "July",
              "August", "September", "October", "November", "December"];

Writing an array's type is done with square brackets containing the type of each element in the array followed by a semicolon and the number of elements in the array, like so:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
let a: [i32; 5] = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];

Here, i32 is the type of each element. After the semicolon, the number 5 indicates the element contains five items.

The way an array's type is written looks similar to an alternative syntax for initializing an array: if you want to create an array that contains the same value for each element, you can specify the initial value, then a semicolon, then the length of the array in square brackets as shown here:

# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
let a = [3; 5];

The array named a will contain 5 elements that will all be set to the value 3 initially. This is the same as writing let a = [3, 3, 3, 3, 3]; but in a more concise way.

Accessing Array Elements

An array is a single chunk of memory allocated on the stack. You can access elements of an array using indexing, like this:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let a = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];

    let first = a[0];
    let second = a[1];

In this example, the variable named first will get the value 1, because that is the value at index [0] in the array. The variable named second will get the value 2 from index [1] in the array.

Invalid Array Element Access

What happens if you try to access an element of an array that is past the end of the array? Say you change the example to the following code, which will compile but exit with an error when it runs:

Filename: src/

fn main() {
    let a = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
    let index = 10;

    let element = a[index];

    println!("The value of element is: {}", element);

Running this code using cargo run produces the following result:

$ cargo run
   Compiling arrays v0.1.0 (file:///projects/arrays)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.31 secs
     Running `target/debug/arrays`
thread '<main>' panicked at 'index out of bounds: the len is 5 but the index is
 10', src/
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

The compilation didn’t produce any errors, but the program resulted in a runtime error and didn’t exit successfully. When you attempt to access an element using indexing, Rust will check that the index you’ve specified is less than the array length. If the index is greater than or equal to the array length, Rust will panic.

This is the first example of Rust’s safety principles in action. In many low-level languages, this kind of check is not done, and when you provide an incorrect index, invalid memory can be accessed. Rust protects you against this kind of error by immediately exiting instead of allowing the memory access and continuing. Chapter 9 discusses more of Rust’s error handling.