How to Iterate over Strings in Rust

Alex Garella

7th November 2023

Let's explore how to iterate over Strings, character by character in Rust.

We will start simple by iterating over characters, followed by more complex examples dealing with unicode, bytes, indices and error handling.

Iterating Over Characters

A String in Rust is a growable, mutable, owned, UTF-8 encoded string type. When it comes to iteration, you often work with str, the string slice type, which is an immutable view into a String.

Here’s a straightforward example of iterating over each character in a str:

fn main() { let s = "Hello, Rust!"; for c in s.chars() { println!("{}", c); } }

The chars method returns an iterator over the char values of the string. This method is Unicode-aware and handles multi-byte characters, making your iteration safe and accurate.

Dealing with Unicode

Since Rust strings are UTF-8 encoded, a single visual character (grapheme cluster) can be composed of multiple char values. For more complex iteration that respects grapheme clusters, the unicode-segmentation crate can be used:

First install the unicode-segmentation crate:

[dependencies] unicode-segmentation = "1"

Then you can use it like in the following example:

use unicode_segmentation::UnicodeSegmentation; fn main() { let complex_string = "é"; // Note: 'e' with an acute accent for g in complex_string.graphemes(true) { println!("{}", g); } }

This will ensure that combined characters are treated as a single unit during iteration.

Byte-level Iteration

Sometimes you need to iterate over the raw bytes of a string:

fn main() { let s = "Rust bytes"; for b in s.bytes() { println!("{}", b); } }

Iterating over bytes can be useful for ASCII strings, but remember, it's not appropriate for UTF-8 strings where characters may span multiple bytes.

Iterating with Indices

If you need the index of each character while iterating, char_indices is your go-to method:

fn main() { let s = "Rust is amazing!"; for (i, c) in s.char_indices() { println!("{}: {}", i, c); } }

This method provides a tuple containing the byte index and the character, which is particularly useful for string manipulation.

Handling Errors Gracefully

Rust is all about safety, including when iterating over strings. If you're dealing with potentially invalid UTF-8 sequences when converting a Vec<u8> to a String, you should handle errors gracefully:

fn main() { let bytes = vec![82, 117, 115, 116, 255]; // The last byte is invalid UTF-8 match String::from_utf8(bytes) { Ok(s) => { for c in s.chars() { println!("{}", c); } }, Err(_) => println!("Invalid UTF-8 sequence"), } }

By using String::from_utf8, you can catch any errors and ensure that your iteration is only over valid UTF-8 data.


Rust's stringent string handling reflects its commitment to performance and safety. Iterating over strings character by character may seem daunting due to the intricacies of Unicode, but Rust provides the tools to handle this complexity with confidence.

Whether you're a seasoned Rustacean or a newcomer to the language, mastering string iteration is a vital skill that unlocks a myriad of possibilities in text processing and beyond.

Happy coding, and may your Rust strings always be iterated with ease!

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