#hot-reloading #autoreload #hot-reload #live-programming


Utility to reload libraries on change. For faster feedback cycles.

20 releases

0.7.0 Jan 10, 2024
0.6.5 Feb 4, 2023
0.6.4 Oct 27, 2022
0.1.0 Jul 31, 2022

#80 in Development tools

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848 downloads per month
Used in hotline-rs

MIT license

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Crates.io CI License

hot-lib-reloader is a development tool that allows you to reload functions of a running Rust program. This allows to do "live programming" where you modify code and immediately see the effects in your running program.

This is build around the libloading crate and will require you to put code you want to hot-reload inside a Rust library (dylib). For a detailed discussion about the idea and implementation see this blog post.

For a demo and explanation see also this Rust and Tell presentation.

Table of contents:


To quicky generate a new project supporting hot-reload you can use a cargo generate template: cargo generate rksm/rust-hot-reload.



On macOS the reloadable library needs to get codesigned. For this purpose, hot-lib-reloader will try to use the codesign binary that is part of the XCode command line tools. It is recommended to make sure those are installed.

Other platforms

It should work out of the box.

Example project setup

Assuming you use a workspace project with the following layout:

├── Cargo.toml
└── src
│   └── main.rs
└── lib
    ├── Cargo.toml
    └── src
        └── lib.rs


Setup the workspace with a root project named bin in ./Cargo.toml:

resolver = "2"
members = ["lib"]

name = "bin"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

hot-lib-reloader = "^0.6"
lib = { path = "lib" }

In ./src/main.rs define a sub-module using the hot_lib_reloader_macro::hot_module attribute macro which wraps the functions exported by the library:

// The value of `dylib = "..."` should be the library containing the hot-reloadable functions
// It should normally be the crate name of your sub-crate.
#[hot_lib_reloader::hot_module(dylib = "lib")]
mod hot_lib {
    // Reads public no_mangle functions from lib.rs and  generates hot-reloadable
    // wrapper functions with the same signature inside this module.
    // Note that this path relative to the project root (or absolute)

    // Because we generate functions with the exact same signatures,
    // we need to import types used
    pub use lib::State;

fn main() {
    let mut state = hot_lib::State { counter: 0 };
    // Running in a loop so you can modify the code and see the effects
    loop {
        hot_lib::step(&mut state);


The library should expose functions. It should set the crate type dylib in ./lib/Cargo.toml:

name = "lib"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

crate-type = ["rlib", "dylib"]

The functions you want to be reloadable should be public and have the #[no_mangle] attribute. Note that you can define other function that are not supposed to change without no_mangle and you will be able to use those alongside the other functions.

pub struct State {
    pub counter: usize,

pub fn step(state: &mut State) {
    state.counter += 1;
    println!("doing stuff in iteration {}", state.counter);

Running it

  1. Start compilation of the library: cargo watch -w lib -x 'build -p lib'
  2. In another terminal run the executable: cargo run

Now change for example the print statement in lib/lib.rs and see the effect on the runtime.

In addition, using a tool like cargo runcc is recommended. This allows to run both the lib build and the application in one go.

lib-reload events


You can get notified about two kinds of events using the methods provided by LibReloadObserver:

This is useful to run code before and / or after library updates. One use case is to serialize and then deserialize state another one is driving the application.

To continue with the example above, let's say instead of running the library function step every second we only want to re-run it when the library has changed. In order to do that, we first need to get hold of the LibReloadObserver. For that we can expose a function subscribe() that is annotated with the #[lib_change_subscription] (that attribute tells the hot_module macro to provide an implementation for it):

#[hot_lib_reloader::hot_module(dylib = "lib")]
mod hot_lib {
    /* code from above */

    // expose a type to subscribe to lib load events
    pub fn subscribe() -> hot_lib_reloader::LibReloadObserver {}

And then the main function just waits for reloaded events:

fn main() {
    let mut state = hot_lib::State { counter: 0 };
    let lib_observer = hot_lib::subscribe();
    loop {
        hot_lib::step(&mut state);
        // blocks until lib was reloaded

How to block reload to do serialization / deserialization is shown in the reload-events example.

was_updated flag

To just figure out if the library has changed, a simple test function can be exposed:

#[hot_lib_reloader::hot_module(dylib = "lib")]
mod hot_lib {
    /* ... */
    pub fn was_updated() -> bool {}

hot_lib::was_updated() will return true the first time it is called after the library was reloaded. It will then return false until another reload occurred.

Usage tips

Know the limitations

Reloading code from dynamic libraries comes with a number of caveats which are discussed in some detail here.

No signature changes

When the signature of a hot-reloadable function changes, the parameter and result types the executable expects differ from what the library provides. In that case you'll likely see a crash.

Type changes require some care

Types of structs and enums that are used in both the executable and library cannot be freely changed. If the layout of types differs you run into undefined behavior which will likely result in a crash.

See use serialization for a way around it.

Hot-reloadable functions cannot be generic

Since #[no_mangle] does not support generics, generic functions can't be named / found in the library.

Global state in reloadable code

If your hot-reload library contains global state (or depends on a library that does), you will need to re-initialize it after reload. This can be a problem with libraries that hide the global state from the user. If you need to use global state, keep it inside the executable and pass it into the reloadable functions if possible.

Note also that "global state" is more than just global variables. As noted in this issue, crates relying on the TypeId of a type (like most ECS systems do) will expect the type/id mapping to be constant. After reloading, types will have different ids, however, which makes (de)serialization more challenging.

Use feature flags to switch between hot-reload and static code

See the reload-feature example for a complete project.

Cargo allows to specify optional dependencies and conditional compilation through feature flags. When you define a feature like this

default = []
reload = ["dep:hot-lib-reloader"]

hot-lib-reloader = { version = "^0.6", optional = true }

and then conditionally use either the normal or the hot module in the code calling the reloadable functions you can seamlessly switch between a static and hot-reloadable version of your application:

#[cfg(feature = "reload")]
use hot_lib::*;
#[cfg(not(feature = "reload"))]
use lib::*;

#[cfg(feature = "reload")]
#[hot_lib_reloader::hot_module(dylib = "lib")]
mod hot_lib { /*...*/ }

To run the static version just use cargo run the hot reloadable variant with cargo run --features reload.

Disable #[no-mangle] in release mode

To not pay a penalty for exposing functions using #[no_mangle] in release mode where everything is statically compiled (see previous tip) and no functions need to be exported, you can use the no-mangle-if-debug attribute macro. It will conditionally disable name mangling, depending on wether you build release or debug mode.

Use serialization or generic values for changing types

If you want to iterate on state while developing you have the option to serialize it. If you use a generic value representation such as serde_json::Value, you don't need string or binary formats and typically don't even need to clone anything.

Here is an example where we crate a state container that has an inner serde_json::Value:

#[hot_lib_reloader::hot_module(dylib = "lib")]
mod hot_lib {
    pub use lib::State;

fn main() {
    let mut state = hot_lib::State {
        inner: serde_json::json!(null),

    loop {
        state = hot_lib::step(state);

In the library we are now able to change the value and type layout of InnerState as we wish:

pub struct State {
    pub inner: serde_json::Value,

#[derive(serde::Deserialize, serde::Serialize)]
struct InnerState {}

pub fn step(state: State) -> State {
    let inner: InnerState = serde_json::from_value(state.inner).unwrap_or(InnerState {});

    // You can modify the InnerState layout freely and state.inner value here freely!

    State {
        inner: serde_json::to_value(inner).unwrap(),

Alternatively you can also do the serialization just before the lib is to be reloaded and deserialize immediately thereafter. This is shown in the reload-events example.

Use a hot-reload friendly app structure

Whether or not hot-reload is easy to use depends on how you architect your app. In particular, the "functional core, imparative shell" pattern makes it easy to split state and behavior and works well with hot-lib-reloader

For example, for a simple game where you have the main loop in your control, setting up the outer state in the main function and then passing it into a fn update(state: &mut State) and a fn render(state: &State) is a straightforward way to get two hot-reloadable functions.

But even when using a framework that takes control, chances are that there are ways to have it call hot-reloadable code. The bevy example where system functions can be made hot-reloadable, shows how this can work. See the egui and tokio examples possible setupts.

Adjust the file watch debounce duration

The hot_module macro allows setting the file_watch_debounce attribute which defines the debounce duration for file changes in milliseconds. This is 500ms by default. If you see multiple updates triggered for one recompile (can happen the library is very large), increase that value. You can try to decrease it for faster reloads. With small libraries / fast hardware 50ms or 20ms should work fine.

#[hot_module(dylib = "lib", file_watch_debounce = 50)]
/* ... */

Change the name and location of the dylib file

By default hot-lib-reloader assumes that there will be a dynamic library available in the $CARGO_MANIFEST_DIR/target/debug/ or $CARGO_MANIFEST_DIR/target/release folder, depending on whether the debug or release profile is used. The name of the library is defined by the dylib = "..." portion of the #[hot_module(...)] macro. So by specifying #[hot_module(dylib = "lib")] and building with debug settings, hot-lib-reloader will try to load a target/debug/liblib.dylib on MacOS, a target/debug/liblib.so on Linux or a target/debug/lib.dll on Windows.

If the library should be loaded from a different location you can specify this by setting the lib_dir attribute like:

    dylib = "lib",
    lib_dir = concat!(env!("CARGO_MANIFEST_DIR"), "/target/debug")
mod hot_lib {
    /* ... */

Adjust the dylib filename

The hot_module macro allows setting the shadow file name using the loaded_lib_name_template parameter. This is useful when multiple processes are trying to hot reload the same library and can be used to prevent conflicts. This attribute allows for placeholders that can be dynamically replaced:

Placeholder Description Feature Flag
{lib_name} Name of the library as defined in your code None
{load_counter} Incremental counter for each hot reload None
{pid} Process ID of the running application None
{uuid} A UUID v4 string uuid

If you don't specify the loaded_lib_name_template parameter, a default naming convention is used for the shadow filename. This default pattern is: {lib_name}-hot-{load_counter}.

    dylib = "lib",
    // Might result in the following shadow file lib_hot_2644_0_5e659d6e-b78c-4682-9cdd-b8a0cd3e8fc6.dll
    // Requires the 'uuid' feature flags for the {uuid} placeholder
    loaded_lib_name_template = "{lib_name}_hot_{pid}_{load_counter}_{uuid}"
mod hot_lib {
    /* ... */


If your hot_module gives you a strange compilation error, try cargo expand to see what code is generated.

By default the hot-lib-reloader crate won't write to stdout or stderr but it logs what it does with info, debug, and trace log levels using the log crate. Depending on what logging framework you use (e.g. env_logger), you can enable those logs by setting a RUST_LOG filter like RUST_LOG=hot_lib_reloader=trace.


Examples can be found at rksm/hot-lib-reloader-rs/examples.

  • minimal: Bare-bones setup.
  • reload-feature: Use a feature to switch between dynamic and static version.
  • serialized-state: Shows an option to allow to modify types and state freely.
  • reload-events: How to block reload to do serialization / deserialization.
  • all-options: All options the hot_module macro accepts.
  • bevy: Shows how to hot-reload bevy systems.
  • nannou: Interactive generative art with nannou.
  • egui: How to hot-reload a native egui / eframe app.
  • iced: How to hot-reload an iced app.

Known issues

tracing crate

When used with the tracing crate multiple issues can occur:

  • When tracing is used in the library that is reloaded the app sometimes crashes with Attempted to register a DefaultCallsite that already exists!
  • When used in combination with bevy, commands.insert(component) operations stop to work after a reload, likely because of internal state getting messed up.

If you can, don't use hot-lib-reloader in combination with tracing.



License: MIT


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