Mix Compiler Basics

The mix compiler takes care of compiling your NIFs along with your project, in addition to providing boilerplate generators.

Setting up a new Rust NIF in your project is fairly easy:

  1. Add the :rustler dependency to your applications mix.exs.
  2. Run mix deps.get to fetch the dependency.
  3. Run mix rustler.new and follow the instructions to generate the boilerplate for your NIF.
  4. Enable the :rustler mix compiler by adding compilers: [:rustler] ++ Mix.compilers(), to the project section of your mix.exs.
  5. Add a configuration entry to the rustler_crates section of your mix.exs. See below.
  6. Load the NIF in your program. See below.

Crate configuration

The rustler_crates configuration is a keyword list mapping the NIF id (an atom) to the NIF configuration (another keyword list). The nif configuration may contain the following entries:

  • path - The path to the crate directory relative to the project root.
  • cargo (:system default) - The rust/cargo version to build the NIF with. May be one of the following:

    • :system - Use the version installed on the system.
    • {:rustup, "rust-version"} - Use rustup to compile the NIF with a spesific version.
    • {:bin, "path"} - Use path as the cargo command. This is not portable, and you should not normally use this.
  • default_features (true default) - Boolean indicating if you want the NIF built with or without default cargo features.
  • features ([] default) - List of binaries indicating what cargo features you want enabled when building.
  • mode (:release default) - Indicates what cargo build flavor you want.

    • :release - Optimized build, normally a LOT faster than debug.
    • :debug - Unoptimized debug build with debug assertions and more.

When you are done, the project section might look something like this:

def project do
[app: :my_app,
 version: "0.1.0",
 compilers: [:rustler] ++ Mix.compilers,
 rustler_crates: rustler_crates(),
 deps: deps()]
end

defp rustler_crates do
  [io: [
    path: "native/io",
    mode: (if Mix.env == :prod, do: :release, else: :debug),
  ]]
end

Loading the NIF

Loading a Rustler NIF is done in almost the same way as normal NIFs.

The actual loading is done by calling use Rustler, otp_app: :my_app in the module you want to load the NIF in. This sets up the @on_load module hook to load the NIF when the module is first loaded.

defmodule MyProject.MyModule do
  use Rustler, otp_app: :my_project, crate: :my_crate

  # When loading a NIF module, dummy clauses for all NIF function are required.
  # NIF dummies usually just error out when called when the NIF is not loaded, as that should never normally happen.
  def my_native_function(_arg1, _arg2), do: exit(:nif_not_loaded)
end

Note that :crate is the name in the [lib] section of your Cargo.toml. The :crate option is optional if your crate and otp_app use the same name.