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#150 in Algorithms

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A Rust interface for convenient interaction with the CProver tools.

Building instructions

To build the Rust project you need the Rust language toolchain installed (you can install from rustup.rs).

With that instaled, you can execute cargo build under this (src/libcprover-rust) directory.

For this to work, you need to supply two environment variables to the project:

  • CBMC_LIB_DIR, for selecting where the libcprover-x.y.z.a is located (say, if you have downloaded a pre-packaged release which contains the static library),
  • CBMC_INCLUDE_DIR, for selecting where the cprover/api.h is located, and
  • CBMC_VERSION, for selecting the version of the library to link against (this is useful if you have multiple versions of the library in the same location and you want to control which version you compile against).

As an example, a command sequence to build the API through cargo would look like this (assuming you're executing these instructions from the root level directory of the CBMC project.)

$ cd src/libcprover-rust
$ cargo clean
$ CBMC_INCLUDE_DIR=../../build/include CBMC_LIB_DIR=../../build/lib CBMC_VERSION=5.78.0 cargo build

To build the project and run its associated tests, the command sequence would look like this:

$ cd src/libcprover-rust
$ cargo clean
$ CBMC_INCLUDE_DIR=../../build/include CBMC_LIB_DIR=../../build/lib CBMC_VERSION=5.78.0 cargo test -- --test-threads=1 --nocapture

Basic Usage

This file will guide through a sample interaction with the API, under a basic scenario: loading a file and verifying the model contained within.

To begin, we will assume that you have a file under /tmp/api_example.c, with the following contents:

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
  int arr[] = {0, 1, 2, 3};
  __CPROVER_assert(arr[3] != 3, "expected failure: arr[3] == 3");

The first thing we need to do to initiate any interaction with the API itself is to create a new api_sessiont handle by using the function new_api_session:

let client = cprover_api::new_api_session();

Then, we need to add the file to a vector with filenames that indicate which files we want the verification engine to load the models of:

let vec: Vec<String> = vec!["/tmp/api_example.c".to_owned()];

let vect = ffi_util::translate_rust_vector_to_cpp(vec);

In the above code example, we created a Rust language Vector of Strings (vec). In the next line, we called a utility function from the module ffi_util to translate the Rust Vec<String> into the C++ equivalent std::vector<std::string> - this step is essential, as we need to translate the type into something that the C++ end understands.

These operations are explicit: we have opted to force users to translate between types at the FFI level in order to reduce the "magic" and instill mental models more compatible with the nature of the language-border (FFI) work. If we didn't, and we assumed the labour of translating these types transparently at the API level, we risked mistakes from our end or from the user end frustrating debugging efforts.

At this point, we have a handle of a C++ vector containing the filenames of the files we want the CProver verification engine to load. To do so, we're going to use the following piece of code:

// Invoke load_model_from_files and see if the model has been loaded.
if let Err(_) = client.load_model_from_files(vect) {
    eprintln!("Failed to load model from files: {:?}", vect);

The above is an example of a Rust idiom known as a if let - it's effectively a pattern match with just one pattern - we don't match any other case.

What we we do above is two-fold:

  • We call the function load_model_from_files with the C++ vector (vect) we prepared before. It's worth noting that this function is being called with client. - what this does is that it passes the api_session handle we initialised at the beginning as the first argument to the load_model_from_files on the C++ API's end.
  • We handled the case where the model loading failed for whatever reason from the C++ end by catching the error on the Rust side and printing a suitable error message and exiting the process gracefully.

Interlude: Error Handling

cxx.rs (the FFI bridge we're using to build the Rust API) allows for a mechanism wherein exceptions from the C++ program can be translated into Rust Result<> types provided suitable infrastructure has been built.

Our Rust API contains a C++ shim which (among other things) intercepts CProver exceptions (from cbmc, etc.) and translates them into a form that the bridge can then translate to appropriate Result types that the Rust clients can use.

This means that, as above, we can use the same Rust idioms and types as we would use on a purely Rust based codebase to interact with the API.

All of the API calls are returning Result types such as above.

After we have loaded the model, we can proceed to then engage the verification engine for an analysis run:

if let Err(_) = client.verify_model() {
    eprintln!("Failed to verify model from files: {:?}", vect);

While all this is happening, we are collecting the output of the various phases into a message buffer. We can go forward and print any messages from that buffer into stdout:

let msgs_cpp = cprover_api::get_messages();
let msgs_rust = ffi_util::translate_cpp_vector_to_rust(msgs_cpp);


  • The functions supported by the Rust API are catalogued within the ffi module within lib.rs.
  • The API supports exception handling from inside CBMC by catching the exceptions in a C++ shim, and then translating the exception into the Rust Result type.
  • Because of limitations from the C++ side of CBMC, the API is not thread-safe.


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