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CLI Parsing with Rust

CLI Parsing with Rust

Now that I have my previous F# code converted to Rust, it is time for me to start adding the new features and creating a CLI application. Besides deciding the command structure, there is the parsing that has to happen. Rust has a few things in the standard library to aid us in this, and it would be suitable for a small and basic CLI application. As the complexity increases, in this case, two primary commands with several subcommands, the standard library will start making it more difficult. After reviewing StructOpt and clap I decided that I would roll with clap to get this app off the ground.

Clap takes an interesting approach as it uses the builder pattern to build our your CLI. I like that, but I did get a little lost within the parentheses at times.

So here is how to build out a basic app in clap, of course, it is hello world.

use clap::{Arg, App, SubCommand};

fn main() {
    let matches = App::new("A simple app")
        .author("Jamie Phillips")
                .about("Prints hello <name>!")
                        .help("your name")

    match matches.subcommand() {
        ("hello", Some(hello_matches)) => {
            println!("Hello {}!", hello_matches.value_of("name").unwrap());
        _ => unreachable!(),

The cool thing about clap is that I can focus on providing the information about the commands that I care about and you get help and version commands for free. The info above feeds into the help system as documentation. There are a couple of other exciting items happening. I have configured my argument not to be required, but I am providing a default value. By setting a default value, the help documentation will include that in the help for that command. The section that is using that is matching the commands can get a little tedious due to the tuple, but so far it isn’t caused many issues for me navigating the commands.

Let’s build this and execute the app on the command line.

$ ./simpleapp.exe --help
A simple app 0.1.0
Jamie Phillips

    simpleapp.exe [SUBCOMMAND]

    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -V, --version    Prints version information

    hello    Prints hello <name>!
    help     Prints this message or the help of the given subcommand(s)

That output is cool, and I didn’t even need to define most of it. We also have help specific to our hello command.

$ ./simpleapp.exe hello --help
Prints hello <name>!

    clitest.exe hello [name]

    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -V, --version    Prints version information

    <name>    your name [default: world]

Now let’s execute the hello command.

$ ./simpleapp.exe hello
Hello world!

$ ./simpleapp.exe hello jamie
Hello Jamie!

I just wanted to provide a quick little tour of clap and show some of the features that I am leveraging with the subcommands and default values.

Thanks for reading,


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