For my graph library petgraph I found a new pattern for visitor callbacks that hits the sweet spot for both convenience and the “pay for what you use” principle.

It’s a visitor callback based graph traversal function, and of course it should support breaking the traversal early.

One common solution is to use a boolean return value for the visitor closure. true to continue, and false to break — or is it the other way around? At this point in my Rust experience much prefer enums to booleans, they make the code easier to both read and write.

Enums are one of Rust’s absolute best features, and we can quickly express what we want. We allow the user to break with a value:

pub enum Control<B> {

At the same time we don’t want to burden the user with verbose enum imports for the common case of never breaking at all. Traits to the rescue!

The default return type of a closure is (); this is returned if you just leave off with a semicolon. Uniting both Control<B> and () with a common trait will be really useful!

pub trait ControlFlow {
    fn continuing() -> Self;
    fn should_break(&self) -> bool;

impl ControlFlow for () {
    fn continuing() { }
    fn should_break(&self) -> bool { false }

impl<B> ControlFlow for Control<B> {
    fn continuing() -> Self { Control::Continue }
    fn should_break(&self) -> bool {
	if let Control::Break(_) = *self { true } else { false }

The result is an API where the default case (no break) is seamlessly available. Breaking with a value is opt-in, and what’s even better is that the compiler knows statically whether it needs to check for early return or not, which is the “pay for what you use” factor.

The finished graph traversal function is depth_first_search.

As a bonus, we let errors break through as well (which makes some algorithms beautiful):

impl<E> ControlFlow for Result<(), E> {
    fn continuing() -> Self { Ok(()) }
    fn should_break(&self) -> bool {
        if let Err(_) = *self { true } else { false }

In the usage site we use a macro similar to try!() to simplify the usage of the ControlFlow trait.

/// Return if the expression is a break value.
macro_rules! try_control {
    ($e:expr) => {
        match $e {
            x => if x.should_break() {
                return x;