#xcode #cargo-subcommand #trace #macos

app cargo-instruments

Profile binary targets on macOS using Xcode Instruments

19 releases

0.4.8 Nov 17, 2022
0.4.7 Jul 27, 2022
0.4.5 Mar 10, 2022
0.4.4 Oct 26, 2021
0.2.0 Mar 20, 2019

#15 in Cargo plugins

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MIT license

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Easily profile your rust crate with Xcode Instruments.

cargo-instruments is the glue between Cargo and Xcode's bundled profiling suite. It allows you to easily profile any binary in your crate, generating files that can be viewed in the Instruments app.

Instruments Time Profiler Instruments System Trace


Xcode Instruments

This crate only works on macOS because it uses Instruments for profiling and creating the trace file. The benefit is that Instruments provides great templates and UI to explore the Profiling Trace.

To install Xcode Instruments, simply install the Command Line Tools:

$ xcode-select --install


This crate works on macOS 10.13+. In practice, it transparently detects and uses the appropriate Xcode Instruments version based on your macOS version: either /usr/bin/instruments on older macOS, or starting with macOS 10.15, the new xcrun xctrace.



The simplest way to install is via Homebrew:

$ brew install cargo-instruments

Alternatively, you can install from source.

Building from Source

First, ensure that you are running macOS, with Cargo, Xcode, and the Xcode Command Line Tools installed.

If OpenSSL is installed (e.g., via brew), then install with

$ cargo install cargo-instruments

If OpenSSL is not installed or if cargo install fails with an error message starting with "Could not find directory of OpenSSL installation, and this -sys crate cannot proceed without this knowledge," then install with

$ cargo install --features vendored-openssl cargo-instruments

Building from Source on nix

If you're using nix, this command should provide all dependencies and build cargo-instruments from source:

$ nix-shell --command 'cargo install cargo-instruments' --pure -p \
	darwin.apple_sdk.frameworks.SystemConfiguration \
	darwin.apple_sdk.frameworks.CoreServices \
	rustc cargo sccache libgit2 pkg-config libiconv \
	llvmPackages_13.libclang openssl



cargo-instruments requires a binary target to run. By default, it will try to build the current crate's main.rs. You can specify an alternative binary by using the --bin or --example flags, or a benchmark target with the --bench flag.

Assuming your crate has one binary target named mybin, and you want to profile using the Allocations Instruments template:

Generate a new trace file (by default saved in target/instruments)

$ cargo instruments -t Allocations

Open the trace file in Instruments.app manually

By default the trace file will immediatly be opened with Instruments.app. If you do not want this behavior use the --no-open flag.

$ open target/instruments/mybin_Allocations_2021-05-09T12_34_56.trace

If there are mutliple packages, you can specify the package to profile with the --package flag.

For example, you use Cargo's workspace to manage multiple packages. To profile the bin bar of the package foo:

$ cargo instruments --package foo --template alloc --bin bar

In many cases, a package only has one binary. In this case --package behaves the same as --bin.

Profiling application in release mode

When profiling the application in release mode the compiler doesn't provide debugging symbols in the default configuration.

To let the compiler generate the debugging symbols even in release mode you can append the following section in your Cargo.toml.

debug = true

All options

As usual, thanks to Clap, running cargo instruments -h prints the compact help.

cargo-instruments 0.4.8
Profile a binary with Xcode Instruments.

By default, cargo-instruments will build your main binary.

    cargo instruments [FLAGS] [OPTIONS] --template <TEMPLATE> [ARGS]...

    -h, --help                   Prints help information
    -l, --list-templates         List available templates
        --no-open                Do not open the generated trace file in Instruments.app
        --release                Pass --release to cargo
    -V, --version                Prints version information
        --all-features           Activate all features for the selected target
        --no-default-features    Do not activate the default features for the selected target

        --bench <NAME>                 Benchmark target to run
        --bin <NAME>                   Binary to run
        --example <NAME>               Example binary to run
        --features <CARGO-FEATURES>    Features to pass to cargo
        --manifest-path <PATH>         Path to Cargo.toml
    -p, --package <NAME>               Specify package for example/bin/bench
        --profile <NAME>               Pass --profile NAME to cargo
    -t, --template <TEMPLATE>          Specify the instruments template to run
        --time-limit <MILLIS>          Limit recording time to the specified value (in milliseconds)
    -o, --output <PATH>                Output .trace file to the given path

    <ARGS>...    Arguments passed to the target binary

    cargo instruments -t time    Profile main binary with the (recommended) Time Profiler.

And cargo instruments --help provides more detail.


Instruments has the concept of 'templates', which describe sets of dtrace probes that can be enabled. You can ask cargo-instruments to list available templates, including your custom ones (see help above). If you don't provide a template name, you will be prompted to choose one.

Typically, the built-in templates are

built-in            abbrev
Activity Monitor
Allocations         (alloc)
Animation Hitches
App Launch
Core Data
Energy Log
File Activity       (io)
Game Performance
Metal System Trace
System Trace        (sys)
Time Profiler       (time)


# View all args and options
$ cargo instruments --help
# View all built-in and custom templates
$ cargo instruments --list-templates
# profile the main binary with the Allocations template
$ cargo instruments -t alloc
# profile examples/my_example.rs, with the Allocations template,
# for 10 seconds, and open the trace when finished
$ cargo instruments -t Allocations --example my_example --time-limit 10000 --open


Instruments Help

WWDC videos

The best source of information about Instruments is likely the various WWDC sessions over the years:


~1M SLoC