How do you select a struct based on a string in Rust?

Problem Statement

I have a set of structs, A, B, C, and D, which all implement a trait Runnable.

trait Runnable {
    fn run(&mut self);
impl Runnable for A {...}
impl Runnable for B {...}
impl Runnable for C {...}
impl Runnable for D {...}

I also have a struct Config which serves as the specification for constructing A, B, C, and D instances.

struct Config {
    filename: String,
    other_stuff: u8,

impl From<Config> for A {...}
impl From<Config> for B {...}
impl From<Config> for C {...}
impl From<Config> for D {...}

In my program, I would like to parse a Config instance and construct either an A, B, C, or D depending on the value of the filename field, and then call Runnable::run on it. The struct should be selected by sequentially checking each struct against a filename string and selecting the first one that "matches" that string.

Naïve Implementation

Here is a naïve implementation.

trait CheckFilename {
    fn check_filename(filename: &str) -> bool;
impl CheckFilename for A {...}
impl CheckFilename for B {...}
impl CheckFilename for C {...}
impl CheckFilename for D {...}

fn main() {
    let cfg: Config = get_config(); // Some abstract way of evaluating a Config at runtime.

    let mut job: Box<dyn Runnable> = if A::check_filename(&cfg.filename) {
        println!("Found matching filename for A");
    } else if B::check_filename(&cfg.filename) {
        println!("Found matching filename for B");
    } else if C::check_filename(&cfg.filename) {
        println!("Found matching filename for C");
    } else if D::check_filename(&cfg.filename) {
        println!("Found matching filename for D");
    } else {
        panic!("did not find matching pattern for filename {}", cfg.filename);

This works but has some code smells:

  • Giant if else if else if else if else... statement is smelly IMO
  • Lots of repetition: The code used to check the filename, print which struct type was selected, and construct the instance from the config are the same for each branch and only differ in which struct type they're dealing with. Is there a way to abstract this repetition away?
  • Very error prone: its very easy to accidentally screw up the mapping between filename string and struct by failing to synchronize the struct with the predicate; for example writing something like:
    if D::check_filename(&cfg.filename) {
        println!("Found matching filename for D");
        Box::new(B::from(cfg)) // Developer error: constructs a B instead of a D.
    and the compiler would not catch this.
  • Adding new structs (e.g. E, F, G, etc.) to the program is not very ergonomic. It requires adding a new branch for each to the main if else statement. It'd be much nicer to simply add the struct to some sort of "master list" of srtuct types.

Is there a more elegant or idiomatic way of doing this that addresses these smells?


  • Since the conversion consumes Config, the challenge in unifying the logic for all types is that you need to conditionally move the config value in order to convert it. The standard library has multiple cases of fallible consuming functions and the pattern they use is to return Result, handing back the maybe-consumed value in the Err case. For example, Arc::try_unwrap extracts the inner value of an Arc, but if this fails it gives the Arc back in the Err variant.

    We can do the same here, creating a single function that produces one of the appropriate structs if the filename matches, but giving back the config on an error:

    fn try_convert_config_to<T>(config: Config) -> Result<Box<dyn Runnable>, Config>
        T: Runnable + CheckFilename + 'static,
        Config: Into<T>,
        if T::check_filename(&config.filename) {
        } else {

    Then you can write another function with a static slice of specific instantiations of this function, and it can try each in order until one succeeds. Since we move the config into each loader function, we have to put it back in the Err case so the next loop iteration can move it again.

    fn try_convert_config(mut config: Config) -> Option<Box<dyn Runnable>> {
        static CONFIG_LOADERS: &[fn(Config) -> Result<Box<dyn Runnable>, Config>] = &[
        for loader in CONFIG_LOADERS {
            match loader(config) {
                Ok(c) => return Some(c),
                Err(c) => config = c,

    This solves all of your concerns:

    • There is no longer a giant if-else chain, just a loop.
    • The code duplication is gone because try_convert_config_to implements the logic for all types one time.
    • It's impossible to accidentally invoke the two parts of the process (check_filename and into) on different types as long as you use try_convert_config_to.
    • To add a new type you just need to add a new element to the CONFIG_LOADERS slice.