AST lowering

The AST lowering step converts AST to HIR. This means many structures are removed if they are irrelevant for type analysis or similar syntax agnostic analyses. Examples of such structures include but are not limited to

  • Parenthesis
    • Removed without replacement, the tree structure makes order explicit
  • for loops and while (let) loops
    • Converted to loop + match and some let bindings
  • if let
    • Converted to match
  • Universal impl Trait
    • Converted to generic arguments (but with some flags, to know that the user didn't write them)
  • Existential impl Trait
    • Converted to a virtual existential type declaration

Lowering needs to uphold several invariants in order to not trigger the sanity checks in compiler/rustc_passes/src/

  1. A HirId must be used if created. So if you use the lower_node_id, you must use the resulting NodeId or HirId (either is fine, since any NodeIds in the HIR are checked for existing HirIds)
  2. Lowering a HirId must be done in the scope of the owning item. This means you need to use with_hir_id_owner if you are creating parts of an item other than the one being currently lowered. This happens for example during the lowering of existential impl Trait
  3. A NodeId that will be placed into a HIR structure must be lowered, even if its HirId is unused. Calling let _ = self.lower_node_id(node_id); is perfectly legitimate.
  4. If you are creating new nodes that didn't exist in the AST, you must create new ids for them. This is done by calling the next_id method, which produces both a new NodeId as well as automatically lowering it for you so you also get the HirId.

If you are creating new DefIds, since each DefId needs to have a corresponding NodeId, it is advisable to add these NodeIds to the AST so you don't have to generate new ones during lowering. This has the advantage of creating a way to find the DefId of something via its NodeId. If lowering needs this DefId in multiple places, you can't generate a new NodeId in all those places because you'd also get a new DefId then. With a NodeId from the AST this is not an issue.

Having the NodeId also allows the DefCollector to generate the DefIds instead of lowering having to do it on the fly. Centralizing the DefId generation in one place makes it easier to refactor and reason about.