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cargo xtask

cargo-xtask is way to add free-form automation to a Rust project, a-la make, npm run or bespoke bash scripts.

The two distinguishing features of xtask are:

  • It doesn't require any other binaries besides cargo and rustc, it fully bootstraps from them
  • Unlike bash, it can more easily be cross platform, as it doesn't use the shell.


cargo-xtask is neither an officially recommended workflow, nor a de-facto standard (yet?). It might or might not work for your use case.

How Does It Work?

cargo-xtask is a polyfill for cargo workflows feature. It is a way to extend stock, stable cargo with custom commands (xtasks), written in Rust.

This polyfill doesn't need any code, just a particular configuration of a cargo project. This repository serves as a specification of such configuration.

Defining xtasks

The best way to create an xtask is to do so inside of a Cargo workspace. If you don't have a workspace already, you can create one inside your package by moving the contents into a new directory. Let's say that our package is named "testing." We first move everything into a sub-directory:

$ mkdir testing

# then move all of the stuff except your .git directory into the new testing directory:
$ mv src testing
$ mv Cargo.toml testing
$ mv .gitignore testing
$ mv README.md testing

# Don't forget anything else your package may have.

Then, add a new package named xtask:

$ cargo new --bin xtask

Then, we need to create a Cargo.toml for our workspace:

members = [

If you had a workspace previously, you'd add xtask to your existing workspace Cargo.toml.

Then, the alias. This is where the magic happens. Create a .cargo:

$ mkdir .cargo

and create a file in it named config.toml with these contents:

xtask = "run --package xtask --"

Example directory layout:


Both the xtask directory and the .cargo/config should be committed to the version control system.

If you don't want to use a workspace, you can use run --manifest-path ./xtask/Cargo.toml -- for the alias, but this is not recommended.

The xtask binary should expect at least one positional argument, which is a name of the task to be executed. Tasks are implemented in Rust, and can use arbitrary crates from crates.io. Tasks can execute cargo (it is advisable to use CARGO environmental variable to get the right cargo).

The xtask crate may or may not be a part of the main workspace. Usually, but not always, the workspace setup is better. If xtask is a part of the workspace, you can share dependencies between xtask and main crates, and dependencies update process is easier. Additionally, you will be able to use xtask = "run --package xtask --" as an alias, which works regardless of Cargo's working directory. If xtask is not a part of the workspace, you can use different feature sets for shared dependencies, and you can cache xtask/target more easily on CI. It is advisable to commit xtask lockfile to the repository.

It is advisable to minimize the compile time of xtasks.

You can find some examples of xtasks in the ./examples directory in this repository.

The current recommendation is to define various task as subcommands of the single xtask binary. An alternative is to use a separate binary and a separate entry in .cargo/config for each task.

External examples

And many more examples can be found via e.g. Github Code search.


xtasks do not integrate with Cargo lifecycle. If you need to do custom post-processing after cargo build, you'll need to define and call cargo xtask build task, which calls cargo build internally. There's no way to intercept stock cargo build command.

It's impossible to use xtasks from dependencies, xtasks are project-local. However, it is possible to share logic for implementing common xtasks as crates.io packages.

If xtask is not a workspace member, cargo xtask will work only from the project's root directory.

Using xtasks

Use cargo xtask task-name command to run the task.


cargo xtask deploy

Note that this doesn't require any additional setup besides cloning the repository, and will automatically build the xtask binary on the first run.

Not Using xtasks

xtasks are entirely optional, and you don't have to use them! In particular, if, for your purposes, cargo build and cargo test are enough, don't use xtasks. If you prefer to write a short bash script, and don't need to support windows, there's no need to use xtasks either.

Standard xtasks

The following specifies the names and behaviors of some common xtasks, to help establish common conventions. If you want to tweak behavior of a standard task for your project, you can add custom flags to it. If you feel an important common task is missing, feel free to submit a PR!

cargo xtask, cargo xtask --help

When run without argument or with the --help argument, xtask should print a help message which lists available tasks.

cargo xtask dist

This should package the software and produce a set of distributable artifacts. Artifacts should be placed into ./target/dist directory. The precise meaning of artifacts is not defined, but, for a CLI tool, you can expect the binary itself (build in release mode and stripped), man pages and shell completion files. The dist command should clean the ./target/dist directory before populating it with artifacts. It is expected that the dist command calls cargo build --release internally.

See #3 for additional discussion.

cargo xtask codegen

This command should run code generation, which happens outside of build.rs. For example, if you are writing a gPRC server, and would like to commit the generated code into the repository (so that the clients don't have to have protoc installed), you can implement code generation as cargo xtask codegen.

cargo xtask ci

This task should run cargo test and any additional checks that are required on CI, like checking formatting, running miri test, checking links in the documentation. The CI configuration should generally look like this:

  - cargo xtask ci

The expectation is that, if cargo xtask ci passes locally, the CI will be green as well.

You don't need this task if cargo test is enough for your purposes. Moreover, there are certain tradeoffs associated with using xtasks instead of CI provider's built-in ways to specify CI process. So, we do not recommend to blindly use xtask ci over .travis.yml, but, if you want to use xtasks for CI, use ci as the name of the task.

See #1 for discussion.



  • devx: collection of useful utilities (spawning processes, git pre-commit hooks, etc.)
  • xshell: ergonomic "bash" scripting in Rust
  • duct: a library for running child processes with support for pipelines and IO redirection

If you write tools or libraries for xtasks, send a PR to this document. Some possible ideas:

  • cargo subcomand to generate xtask template
  • implementations of common xtasks, like "check that code is formatted with rustfmt" or "build completions for a clap app", as libraries.


To my knowledge, the idea of xtasks was first introduced in this post. In some sense, the present document just specifies some conventions around original idea.

The name xtask is chosen so as not to conflict with potential future built-in cargo feature for tasks.

No runtime deps