Features

Cargo "features" provide a mechanism to express conditional compilation and optional dependencies. A package defines a set of named features in the [features] table of Cargo.toml, and each feature can either be enabled or disabled. Features for the package being built can be enabled on the command-line with flags such as --features. Features for dependencies can be enabled in the dependency declaration in Cargo.toml.

See also the Features Examples chapter for some examples of how features can be used.

The [features] section

Features are defined in the [features] table in Cargo.toml. Each feature specifies an array of other features or optional dependencies that it enables. The following examples illustrate how features could be used for a 2D image processing library where support for different image formats can be optionally included:

[features]
# Defines a feature named `webp` that does not enable any other features.
webp = []

With this feature defined, cfg expressions can be used to conditionally include code to support the requested feature at compile time. For example, inside lib.rs of the package could include this:


#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
// This conditionally includes a module which implements WEBP support.
#[cfg(feature = "webp")]
pub mod webp;
}

Cargo sets features in the package using the rustc --cfg flag, and code can test for their presence with the cfg attribute or the cfg macro.

Features can list other features to enable. For example, the ICO image format can contain BMP and PNG images, so when it is enabled, it should make sure those other features are enabled, too:

[features]
bmp = []
png = []
ico = ["bmp", "png"]
webp = []

Feature names may include characters from the Unicode XID standard (which includes most letters), and additionally allows starting with _ or digits 0 through 9, and after the first character may also contain -, +, or ..

Note: crates.io imposes additional constraints on feature name syntax that they must only be ASCII alphanumeric characters or _, -, or +.

The default feature

By default, all features are disabled unless explicitly enabled. This can be changed by specifying the default feature:

[features]
default = ["ico", "webp"]
bmp = []
png = []
ico = ["bmp", "png"]
webp = []

When the package is built, the default feature is enabled which in turn enables the listed features. This behavior can be changed by:

Note: Be careful about choosing the default feature set. The default features are a convenience that make it easier to use a package without forcing the user to carefully select which features to enable for common use, but there are some drawbacks. Dependencies automatically enable default features unless default-features = false is specified. This can make it difficult to ensure that the default features are not enabled, especially for a dependency that appears multiple times in the dependency graph. Every package must ensure that default-features = false is specified to avoid enabling them.

Another issue is that it can be a SemVer incompatible change to remove a feature from the default set, so you should be confident that you will keep those features.

Optional dependencies

Dependencies can be marked "optional", which means they will not be compiled by default. For example, let's say that our 2D image processing library uses an external package to handle GIF images. This can be expressed like this:

[dependencies]
gif = { version = "0.11.1", optional = true }

Optional dependencies implicitly define a feature of the same name as the dependency. This means that the same cfg(feature = "gif") syntax can be used in the code, and the dependency can be enabled just like a feature such as --features gif (see Command-line feature options below).

Note: A feature in the [feature] table cannot use the same name as a dependency. Experimental support for enabling this and other extensions is available on the nightly channel via namespaced features.

Explicitly defined features can enable optional dependencies, too. Just include the name of the optional dependency in the feature list. For example, let's say in order to support the AVIF image format, our library needs two other dependencies to be enabled:

[dependencies]
ravif = { version = "0.6.3", optional = true }
rgb = { version = "0.8.25", optional = true }

[features]
avif = ["ravif", "rgb"]

In this example, the avif feature will enable the two listed dependencies.

Note: Another way to optionally include a dependency is to use platform-specific dependencies. Instead of using features, these are conditional based on the target platform.

Dependency features

Features of dependencies can be enabled within the dependency declaration. The features key indicates which features to enable:

[dependencies]
# Enables the `derive` feature of serde.
serde = { version = "1.0.118", features = ["derive"] }

The default features can be disabled using default-features = false:

[dependencies]
flate2 = { version = "1.0.3", default-features = false, features = ["zlib"] }

Note: This may not ensure the default features are disabled. If another dependency includes flate2 without specifying default-features = false, then the default features will be enabled. See feature unification below for more details.

Features of dependencies can also be enabled in the [features] table. The syntax is "package-name/feature-name". For example:

[dependencies]
jpeg-decoder = { version = "0.1.20", default-features = false }

[features]
# Enables parallel processing support by enabling the "rayon" feature of jpeg-decoder.
parallel = ["jpeg-decoder/rayon"]

Note: The "package-name/feature-name" syntax will also enable package-name if it is an optional dependency. Experimental support for disabling that behavior is available on the nightly channel via weak dependency features.

Command-line feature options

The following command-line flags can be used to control which features are enabled:

  • --features FEATURES: Enables the listed features. Multiple features may be separated with commas or spaces. If using spaces, be sure to use quotes around all the features if running Cargo from a shell (such as --features "foo bar"). If building multiple packages in a workspace, the package-name/feature-name syntax can be used to specify features for specific workspace members.

  • --all-features: Activates all features of all packages selected on the command-line.

  • --no-default-features: Does not activate the default feature of the selected packages.

Feature unification

Features are unique to the package that defines them. Enabling a feature on a package does not enable a feature of the same name on other packages.

When a dependency is used by multiple packages, Cargo will use the union of all features enabled on that dependency when building it. This helps ensure that only a single copy of the dependency is used. See the features section of the resolver documentation for more details.

For example, let's look at the winapi package which uses a large number of features. If your package depends on a package foo which enables the "fileapi" and "handleapi" features of winapi, and another dependency bar which enables the "std" and "winnt" features of winapi, then winapi will be built with all four of those features enabled.

winapi features example

A consequence of this is that features should be additive. That is, enabling a feature should not disable functionality, and it should usually be safe to enable any combination of features. A feature should not introduce a SemVer-incompatible change.

For example, if you want to optionally support no_std environments, do not use a no_std feature. Instead, use a std feature that enables std. For example:


#![allow(unused)]
#![no_std]

fn main() {
#[cfg(feature = "std")]
extern crate std;

#[cfg(feature = "std")]
pub fn function_that_requires_std() {
    // ...
}
}

Mutually exclusive features

There are rare cases where features may be mutually incompatible with one another. This should be avoided if at all possible, because it requires coordinating all uses of the package in the dependency graph to cooperate to avoid enabling them together. If it is not possible, consider adding a compile error to detect this scenario. For example:

#[cfg(all(feature = "foo", feature = "bar"))]
compile_error!("feature \"foo\" and feature \"bar\" cannot be enabled at the same time");

Instead of using mutually exclusive features, consider some other options:

  • Split the functionality into separate packages.
  • When there is a conflict, choose one feature over another. The cfg-if package can help with writing more complex cfg expressions.
  • Architect the code to allow the features to be enabled concurrently, and use runtime options to control which is used. For example, use a config file, command-line argument, or environment variable to choose which behavior to enable.

Inspecting resolved features

In complex dependency graphs, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how different features get enabled on various packages. The cargo tree command offers several options to help inspect and visualize which features are enabled. Some options to try:

  • cargo tree -e features: This will show features in the dependency graph. Each feature will appear showing which package enabled it.
  • cargo tree -f "{p} {f}": This is a more compact view that shows a comma-spearated list of features enabled on each package.
  • cargo tree -e features -i foo: This will invert the tree, showing how features flow into the given package "foo". This can be useful because viewing the entire graph can be quite large and overwhelming. Use this when you are trying to figure out which features are enabled on a specific package and why. See the example at the bottom of the cargo tree page on how to read this.

Feature resolver version 2

A different feature resolver can be specified with the resolver field in Cargo.toml, like this:

[package]
name = "my-package"
version = "1.0.0"
resolver = "2"

See the resolver versions section for more detail on specifying resolver versions.

The version "2" resolver avoids unifying features in a few situations where that unification can be unwanted. The exact situations are described in the resolver chapter, but in short, it avoids unifying in these situations:

Avoiding the unification is necessary for some situations. For example, if a build-dependency enables a std feature, and the same dependency is used as a normal dependency for a no_std environment, enabling std would break the build.

However, one drawback is that this can increase build times because the dependency is built multiple times (each with different features). When using the version "2" resolver, it is recommended to check for dependencies that are built multiple times to reduce overall build time. If it is not required to build those duplicated packages with separate features, consider adding features to the features list in the dependency declaration so that the duplicates end up with the same features (and thus Cargo will build it only once). You can detect these duplicate dependencies with the cargo tree --duplicates command. It will show which packages are built multiple times; look for any entries listed with the same version. See Inspecting resolved features for more on fetching information on the resolved features. For build dependencies, this is not necessary if you are cross-compiling with the --target flag because build dependencies are always built separately from normal dependencies in that scenario.

Resolver version 2 command-line flags

The resolver = "2" setting also changes the behavior of the --features and --no-default-features command-line options.

With version "1", you can only enable features for the package in the current working directory. For example, in a workspace with packages foo and bar, and you are in the directory for package foo, and ran the command cargo build -p bar --features bar-feat, this would fail because the --features flag only allowed enabling features on foo.

With resolver = "2", the features flags allow enabling features for any of the packages selected on the command-line with -p and --workspace flags. For example:

# This command is allowed with resolver = "2", regardless of which directory
# you are in.
cargo build -p foo -p bar --features foo-feat,bar-feat

Additionally, with resolver = "1", the --no-default-features flag only disables the default feature for the package in the current directory. With version "2", it will disable the default features for all workspace members.

Build scripts

Build scripts can detect which features are enabled on the package by inspecting the CARGO_FEATURE_<name> environment variable, where <name> is the feature name converted to uppercase and - converted to _.

Required features

The required-features field can be used to disable specific Cargo targets if a feature is not enabled. See the linked documentation for more details.

SemVer compatibility

Enabling a feature should not introduce a SemVer-incompatible change. For example, the feature shouldn't change an existing API in a way that could break existing uses. More details about what changes are compatible can be found in the SemVer Compatibility chapter.

Care should be taken when adding and removing feature definitions and optional dependencies, as these can sometimes be backwards-incompatible changes. More details can be found in the Cargo section of the SemVer Compatibility chapter. In short, follow these rules:

See the links for caveats and examples.

Feature documentation and discovery

You are encouraged to document which features are available in your package. This can be done by adding doc comments at the top of lib.rs. As an example, see the regex crate source, which when rendered can be viewed on docs.rs. If you have other documentation, such as a user guide, consider adding the documentation there (for example, see serde.rs). If you have a binary project, consider documenting the features in the README or other documentation for the project (for example, see sccache).

Clearly documenting the features can set expectations about features considered "unstable" or otherwise shouldn't be used. For example, if there is an optional dependency, but you don't want users to explicitly list that optional dependency as a feature, exclude it from the documented list.

Documentation published on docs.rs can use metadata in Cargo.toml to control which features are enabled when the documentation is built. See docs.rs metadata documentation for more details.

Note: Rustdoc has experimental support for annotating the documentation to indicate which features are required to use certain APIs. See the doc_cfg documentation for more details. An example is the syn documentation, where you can see colored boxes which note which features are required to use it.

Discovering features

When features are documented in the library API, this can make it easier for your users to discover which features are available and what they do. If the feature documentation for a package isn't readily available, you can look at the Cargo.toml file, but sometimes it can be hard to track it down. The crate page on crates.io has a link to the source repository if available. Tools like cargo vendor or cargo-clone-crate can be used to download the source and inspect it.