#julia #math #mathematics #bindings #ffi


jlrs is a library built around bindings to the Julia C API that enables Julia code to be called from Rust. jlrs can move many kinds of data from Rust to Julia and back, share n-dimensional numerical arrays between languages, call arbitrary functions, and load code from arbitrary Julia source files. jlrs currently supports Linux and Windows.

13 releases (7 breaking)

0.8.1 Feb 13, 2021
0.8.0 Dec 20, 2020
0.7.0 Oct 10, 2020
0.5.0 May 31, 2020
0.1.3 Feb 25, 2020

#9 in Windows APIs

Download history 14/week @ 2020-11-06 7/week @ 2020-11-13 6/week @ 2020-11-20 20/week @ 2020-11-27 10/week @ 2020-12-04 2/week @ 2020-12-11 15/week @ 2020-12-18 5/week @ 2020-12-25 20/week @ 2021-01-01 11/week @ 2021-01-08 21/week @ 2021-01-15 20/week @ 2021-01-22 7/week @ 2021-01-29 7/week @ 2021-02-05 197/week @ 2021-02-12 15/week @ 2021-02-19

52 downloads per month
Used in jlrs-ndarray

MIT license

14K SLoC


Build Status Windows Build Status Coverage Status Rust Docs License:MIT

The main goal behind jlrs is to provide a simple and safe interface to the Julia C API that lets you call code written in Julia from Rust and vice versa. Currently this crate is only tested on Linux and Windows in combination with Julia 1.5 and is not compatible with earlier versions of Julia.


An incomplete list of features that are currently supported by jlrs:

  • Access arbitrary Julia modules and their contents.
  • Call arbitrary Julia functions, including functions that take keyword arguments.
  • Include and use your own Julia code.
  • Load a custom system image.
  • Create values that Julia can use, and convert them back to Rust, from Rust.
  • Access the type information and fields of values and check their properties.
  • Create and use n-dimensional arrays.
  • Support for mapping Julia structs to Rust structs which can be generated with JlrsReflect.jl.
  • Structs that can be mapped to Rust include those with type parameters and bits unions.
  • Use these features when calling Rust from Julia through ccall.
  • Offload long-running functions to another thread and .await the result with the (experimental) async runtime.


Add this to your Cargo.toml:

jlrs = "0.8"

This crate depends on jl-sys which contains the raw bindings to the Julia C API, these are generated by bindgen. You can find the requirements for using bindgen in their User Guide.


The recommended way to install Julia is to download the binaries from the official website, which is distributed in an archive containing a directory called julia-x.y.z. This directory contains several other directories, including a bin directory containing the julia executable.

In order to ensure the julia.h header file can be found, either /usr/include/julia/julia.h must exist, or you have to set the JULIA_DIR environment variable to /path/to/julia-x.y.z. This environment variable can be used to override the default. Similarly, in order to load libjulia.so you must add /path/to/julia-x.y.z/lib to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable.


The recommended way to install Julia is to download the installer from the official website, which will install Julia in a folder called Julia-x.y.z. This folder contains several other folders, including a bin folder containing the julia.exe executable. You must set the JULIA_DIR environment variable to the Julia-x.y.z folder and add Julia-x.y.z\bin to the PATH environment variable. For example, if Julia is installed at D:\Julia-x.y.z, JULIA_DIR must be set to D:\Julia-x.y.z and D:\Julia-x.y.z\bin must be added to PATH.

Additionally, MinGW must be installed through Cygwin. To install this and all potentially required dependencies, follow steps 1-4 of the instructions for compiling Julia on Windows using Cygwin and MinGW. You must set the CYGWIN_DIR environment variable to the installation folder of Cygwin; this folder contains some icons, Cygwin.bat and folders with names like usr and bin. For example, if Cygwin is installed at D:\cygwin64, CYGWIN_DIR must be set to D:\cygwin64.

Julia is compatible with the GNU toolchain on Windows. If you use rustup, you can set the toolchain for a project that depends on jl-sys by calling the command rustup override set stable-gnu in the project root folder.

Interacting with Julia

The first thing you should do is use the prelude-module with an asterisk, this will bring all the structs and traits you're likely to need into scope. If you're calling Julia from Rust, you must initialize Julia before you can use it. You can do this by calling Julia::init. Note that this method can only be called once, if you drop Julia you won't be able to create a new one and have to restart the entire program. If you want to use a custom system image, you must call Julia::init_with_image instead of Julia::init. If you're calling Rust from Julia everything has already been initialized, you can use CCall instead.

Calling Julia from Rust

You can call Julia::include to include your own Julia code and either Julia::frame or Julia::dynamic_frame to interact with Julia.

The other two methods, Julia::frame and Julia::dynamic_frame, take a closure that provides you with a Global, and either a StaticFrame or DynamicFrame respectively. Global is a token that lets you access Julia modules their contents, and other global values, while the frames are used to deal with local Julia data.

Local data must be handled properly: Julia is a programming language with a garbage collector that is unaware of any references to data outside of Julia. In order to make it aware of this usage a stack must be maintained. You choose this stack's size when calling Julia::init. The elements of this stack are called stack frames; they contain a pointer to the previous frame, the number of protected values, and that number of pointers to values. The two frame types offered by jlrs take care of all the technical details, a DynamicFrame will grow to the required size while a StaticFrame has a definite number of slots. These frames can be nested (ie stacked) arbitrarily.

In order to call a Julia function, you'll need two things: a function to call, and arguments to call it with. You can acquire the function through the module that defines it with Module::function; Module::base and Module::core provide access to Julia's Base and Core module respectively, while everything you include through Julia::include is made available relative to the Main module which you can access by calling Module::main.

Julia data is represented by a Value. Basic data types like numbers, booleans, and strings can be created through Value::new and several methods exist to create an n-dimensional array. Each value will be protected by a frame, and the two share a lifetime in order to enforce that a value can only be used as long as its protecting frame hasn't been dropped. Julia functions, their arguments and their results are all Values too. All Values can be called as functions, whether this will succeed depends on the value actually being a function. You can copy data from Julia to Rust by calling Value::cast.

As a simple example, let's create two values and add them:

use jlrs::prelude::*;

fn main() {
    let mut julia = unsafe { Julia::init(16).unwrap() };
    julia.dynamic_frame(|global, frame| {
        // Create the two arguments
        let i = Value::new(frame, 2u64)?;
        let j = Value::new(frame, 1u32)?;

        // We can find the addition-function in the base module
        let func = Module::base(global).function("+")?;

        // Call the function and unbox the result
        let output = func.call2(frame, i, j)?.unwrap();

You can also do this with a static frame:

use jlrs::prelude::*;

fn main() {
    let mut julia = unsafe { Julia::init(16).unwrap() };
    // Three slots; two for the inputs and one for the output.
    julia.frame(3, |global, frame| {
        // Create the two arguments, each value requires one slot
        let i = Value::new(frame, 2u64)?;
        let j = Value::new(frame, 1u32)?;

        // We can find the addition-function in the base module
        let func = Module::base(global).function("+")?;

        // Call the function and unbox the result.  
        let output = func.call2(frame, i, j)?.unwrap();

This is only a small example, other things can be done with Value as well: their fields can be accessed if the Value is some tuple or struct. They can contain more complex data; if a function returns an array or a module it will still be returned as a Value. There complex types are compatible with Value::cast. Additionally, you can create Outputs in a frame in order to protect a value from with a specific frame; this value will share that frame's lifetime.

Standard library and installed packages

Julia has a standard library that includes modules like LinearAlgebra and Dates, and comes with a package manager that makes it easy to install new packages. In order to use these modules and packages, they must first be loaded. This can be done by calling Module::require.

Calling Rust from Julia

Julia's ccall interface can be used to call extern "C" functions defined in Rust. There are two major ways to use ccall, with a pointer to the function or a (:function, "library") pair.

A function can be cast to a void pointer and converted to a Value:

use jlrs::prelude::*;

unsafe extern "C" fn call_me(arg: bool) -> isize {
    if arg {
    } else {

fn main() {
    let mut julia = unsafe { Julia::init(16).unwrap() };
    julia.frame(2, |global, frame| {
        // Cast the function to a void pointer
        let call_me_val = Value::new(frame, call_me as *mut std::ffi::c_void)?;

        // `myfunc` will call the function pointer, it's defined in the next block of code
        let func = Module::main(global).function("myfunc")?;

        // Call the function and unbox the result.  
        let output = func.call1(frame, call_me_val)?

        assert_eq!(output, 1);

This pointer can be called from Julia:

function myfunc(callme::Ptr{Cvoid})::Int
    ccall(callme, Int, (Bool,), true)

You can also use functions defined in dylib and cdylib libraries. In order to create such a library you need to add

crate-type = ["dylib"]


crate-type = ["cdylib"]

respectively to your crate's Cargo.toml. Use a dylib if you want to use the crate in other Rust crates, but if it's only intended to be called through ccall a cdylib is the better choice. On Linux, compiling such a crate will be compiled to lib<crate_name>.so, on Windows lib<crate_name>.dll.

The functions you want to use with ccall must be both extern "C" functions to ensure the C ABI is used, and annotated with #[no_mangle] to prevent name mangling. Julia can find libraries in directories that are either on the default library search path or included by setting the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable on Linux, or PATH on Windows. If the compiled library is not directly visible to Julia, you can open it with Libdl.dlopen and acquire function pointers with Libdl.dlsym. These pointers can be called the same way as the pointer in the previous example.

If the library is visible to Julia you can access it with the library name. If call_me is defined in a crate called foo, the following should work:

ccall((:call_me, "libfoo"), Int, (Bool,), false)

One important aspect of calling Rust from other languages in general is that panicking across an FFI boundary is undefined behaviour. If you're not sure your code will never panic, wrap it with std::panic::catch_unwind.

Many features provided by jlrs including accessing modules, calling functions, and borrowing array data require a Global or a frame. You can access these by creating a CCall first.

Async runtime

The experimental async runtime runs Julia in a separate thread and allows multiple tasks to run in parallel by offloading functions to a new thread in Julia and waiting for them to complete without blocking the runtime. To use this feature you must to enable the async feature flag:

jlrs = { version = "0.8", features = ["async"] }

This features is only supported on Linux.

The struct AsyncJulia is exported by the prelude and lets you initialize the runtime in two ways, either as a task or as a thread. The first type should be used if you want to integrate the async runtime into a larger project that uses async_std. In order for the runtime to work correctly the JULIA_NUM_THREADS environment variable must be set to a value larger than 1.

In order to call Julia with the async runtime you must implement the JuliaTask trait. The run-method of this trait is similar to the closures that are used in the examples above for the sync runtime; it provides you with a Global and an AsyncFrame which implements the Frame trait. The AsyncFrame is required to use Value::call_async which calls a function on a new thread using Base.Threads.@spawn and returns a Future. While you await the result the runtime can handle another task. If you don't use Value::call_async tasks are handled sequentially.

It's important to keep in mind that allocating memory in Julia uses a lock, so if you run multiple functions at the same time that allocate new values frequently the performance will drop significantly. The garbage collector can only run when all threads have reached a safepoint, which is the case whenever a function needs to allocate memory. If your function takes a long time to complete but needs to allocate rarely, you should periodically call GC.safepoint in Julia to ensure the garbage collector can run.

You can find fully commented basic examples in the examples directory of the repository.

Custom types

In order to map a struct in Rust to one in Julia you can derive JuliaStruct. This will implement Cast, JuliaType, ValidLayout, and JuliaTypecheck for that type. If the struct in Julia has no type parameters and is a bits type you can also derive IntoJulia, which lets you use the type in combination with Value::new.

You should not implement these structs manually. The JlrsReflect.jl package can generate generate the correct Rust struct for types that don't include any unions or tuples with type parameters. The reason for this restriction is that the layout of tuple and union fields can be very different depending on these parameters in a way that can't be nicely expressed in Rust.

These custom types can also be used when you call Rust from Julia through ccall.


~85K SLoC