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Building a Command-Line Application in Rust

Photo by Ugi K. on Unsplash

Building a Command-Line Application in Rust

December 19, 2022

Updated 2023-07-03: I posted a follow-up post with some updated code.

Each Monday, I post a record of my last week’s music listening. These now can be found on Mastodon for reasons. To create these posts, I have been running a small tool I wrote in Python. But I thought this type of application would make for a good tutorial.

Let’s create a small command-line application using Rust!

Application Creation

I have always been impressed with the ease of creating a new Rust crate. Running the following command creates all the scaffolding you need. The following command gets us up and running!

$ cargo init lfmc

The crate we are creating is called lfmc for “ Count”. Feel free to call this whatever you want. That’s it. We can head into the newly created folder and run our application!

$ cd lfmc
$ cargo run
   Compiling lfmc v0.1.0 (/Users/joshfinnie/src/lfmc)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 1.96s
     Running `target/debug/lfmc`
Hello, world!

Now that we have a great start to our application, we need some more packages to make the application function.

Adding Crates

We want to add the crate that we are going to use for our application. First, we need to install clap. This is going to help us parse arguments for our application.

Since Rust 1.62, we have the amazing tool cargo add built in! So let’s add clap:

$ cargo add clap --features derive

At the time of writing, this command updated my Cargo.toml to read as the following:

name = "lfmc"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

clap = { version = "4.0.29", features = ["derive"] }

Notice I added the --features flag. This allows us to add specific features of the crates we are using. Since we will need the derive feature of Clap, it is added with the cargo add command!

Now let’s modify our src/ file to run a simplified example application using clap.

use clap::Parser;

/// Simple program to greet a person
#[derive(Parser, Debug)]
#[command(author, version, about, long_about = None)]
struct Args {
    /// Name of the person to greet
    #[arg(short, long)]
    name: String,

fn main() {
    let args = Args::parse();
    println!("Hello {}!",

When we run this command, we should see the following output for both --help and --name josh:

$ cargo run -- --help
Simple program to greet a person

Usage: lfmc --name <NAME>

  -n, --name <NAME>  Name of the person to greet
  -h, --help         Print help information
  -V, --version      Print version information

$ cargo run -- --name Josh
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.04s
     Running `target/debug/lfmc --name Josh`
Hello Josh!

Note: We are running our application without building it. This means we need the -- to inject the arguments into our application, and not cargo itself. This will not be needed once we build our application binary. Other than that little “gotcha”, we have an amazing working application. Let’s start expandind it to fit our needs!

Next we will want to add the reqwest crate with the json and blocking features, serde with the derive feature, serde_json, and anyhow. We will want to deserialize the json response from our API call. Also we will not want to have to worry about asynchronous calls due to the complication it adds; blocking allows synchronous calls. Anyhow will allow us to handle errors and unexpected outcomes better.

$ cargo add reqwest --features json,blocking
$ cargo add serde --features derive
$ cargo add serde_json
$ cargo add anyhow

Our Cargo.toml should look like this:

name = "lfmc"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

anyhow = "1.0.66"
clap = { version = "4.0.29", features = ["derive"] }
reqwest = { version = "0.11.13", features = ["json", "blocking"] }
serde = { version = "1.0.150", features = ["derive"] }
serde_json = "1.0.89"

Adding Features

It is wonderful we already have a working command-line application. But we want this application to do something specific. To not bury the lede, this is what I expect our application to do at the end of this tutorial:

$ ./lfmc --help
An application to view your latest artists from

Usage: lfmc [OPTIONS] --api-key <API_KEY> --username <USERNAME> --limit <LIMIT>

  -k, --api-key <API_KEY>    Your API Key
  -u, --username <USERNAME>  Your Username
  -l, --limit <LIMIT>        The limit of Artists
  -p, --period <PERIOD>      The lookback period [default: 7day]
  -h, --help                 Print help information
  -V, --version              Print version information

$ ./lfmc --api-key xxxxx --username joshfinnie --limit 5
 My Top 5 played artists in the past week: Royal Canoe (4), River Boy (2), Swet Shop Boys (2), 88-Keys (1), & Allie X (1). Via #LastFM ♫

If you do not want to read this tutorial, the code is up on Github here.

Let’s first work on implementing the rest of the Args struct so that we have the base for the above application. We’ll need to remove the name keyword and add the arguments we want to use. will look like this:

use clap::Parser;

/// An application to view your latest artists from
#[derive(Parser, Debug)]
#[command(author, version, about, long_about = None)]
struct Args {
    /// Your API Key
    #[arg(short='k', long)]
    api_key: String,

    /// Your Username
    #[arg(short, long)]
    username: String,

    /// The limit of Artists
    #[arg(short, long)]
    limit: u16,

    /// The lookback period
    #[arg(short, long, default_value="7day")]
    period: String

fn main() {
    let args = Args::parse();
    println!("Hello World!")

I let each of the fields in the Args struct be optional because eventually I want to also read off a .env file too. The idea being that if the user has a .env file, we will use that but the user could also pass the variables in through arguments. But that won’t be until later.

Also note, I have changed the short character for api_key. Clap defaults to the first letter of the field name, but a did not feel right to me. It is an easy change; made it k for “key”.

Building Features

The first step in building our application further is to take the inputs from our user and build a URI that will fetch what we need from I like to break out logic like this into its own section to keep the overall code clean. Let’s implement a Config struct and some functions.

struct Config {
    api_key: String,
    username: String,
    limit: u16,
    period: String,

impl Config {
    fn new(api_key: String, username: String, limit: u16, period: String) -> Self {
        Config {

    fn get_uri(&self) -> String {

Reviewing the struct above, you can see that we need a few more variables than what we will request from our user. There are some defaults that I use that do not have a reason to be changed. Then I implemented two different functions within the Config struct. The first one just creates a populated Config struct. And the second one renders the formatted URI string we will need for the API.

The next step is using that URI we built and reach out to We will use the reqwest crate and pipe the response into a serde_json::Value. This will allow us to manipulate the data just like JSON. I have updated our main function to do this:

fn main() -> Result<()>{
    let args = Args::parse();

    let c = Config::new(

    let r: Result<_, reqwest::Error> = reqwest::blocking::get(c.get_uri())?.json::<Value>();

    if let Ok(j) = r {
        let artists = j["topartists"]["artist"].as_array().unwrap();
        for a in artists.iter() {
                "{} ({})",
    } else {
        return Err(anyhow!("Could not convert response to JSON."))


Running the below code now gets this information from!

$ cargo run -- --api-key xxxxx --username joshfinnie --limit 5
   Compiling lfmc v0.1.0 (/Users/joshfinnie/src/lfmc)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 1.47s
     Running `target/debug/lfmc --api-key xxxxx --username joshfinnie --limit 5`
Royal Canoe (9)
Hero (3)
Allie X (2)
Art School Girlfriend (1)
Better Oblivion Community Center (1)

As you can see, we now get a print out of our top five artists for a given timeframe. Lastly, we want to convert this into a useful string we can Toot or post where we want to! To do this, I think we would benefit from an external function. This will make it a bit more clean. Below is the external function that creates the output we want:

fn construct_output(config: Config, json: Value) -> Result<String> {
    let period: &str = match config.period.as_str() {
        "overall" => "",
        "7day" => " week",
        "1month" => " month",
        "3month" => " 3 months",
        "6month" => " 6 months",
        "12month" => " year",
        _ => return Err(anyhow!("Period {} not allowed. Only allow \"overall\", \"7day\", \"1month\", \"3month\", \"6month\", or \"12month\".", config.period))

    let mut f = format!(
        "♫ My Top {} played artists in the past{}:",

    let artists = json["topartists"]["artist"].as_array().unwrap();
    for (i, artist) in artists.iter().enumerate() {
        let ending = match i {
            x if x <= (config.limit as usize - 3) => ",",
            x if x == (config.limit as usize - 2) => ", &",
            _ => "",

        f = format!(
            " {} {} ({}){}",
    f = format!("{}. Via #LastFM ♫", f);

Now, if we call this function from our main function, we get the following output!

cargo run -- --api-key xxxxx --username joshfinnie --limit 5
   Compiling lfmc v0.1.0 (/Users/joshfinnie/src/lfmc)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.93s
     Running `target/debug/lfmc --api-key xxxxx -username joshfinnie --limit 5`
 My Top 5 played artists in the past week: Royal Canoe (9), Lana Del Rey (3), Tiësto (2), Allie X (1), & Art School Girlfriend (1). Via #LastFM ♫

At this point in time, we are excited with the outcome. We have a command-line application that accepts some variables, reaches out to an API, and spits out a formatted string we can toot! There are some things that we could clean up and perfect. But that will probably be for another blog post!

Lastly, we want to build the production binary and finally run it as an application!

$ cargo build --release
$ ./target/release/lfmc --api-key xxxxx --username joshfinnie --limit 5
 My Top 5 played artists in the past week: Royal Canoe (4), River Boy (2), Swet Shop Boys (2), 88-Keys (1), & Allie X (1). Via #LastFM ♫

Notice it is very quick! This is such an improvement over my Python version. I am happy.


I hope that this blog post has shown how easy it is to get a command-line application up and running. We showed how to install some helper crates, reach out to an API, and parse the results. Again, I will throw the code up on Github here. And if you have any questions or comments, find me on Mastodon. Thanks for reading!


After posting this to Reddit, I took some time to update the code based off of some people’s feedback. I always love having the opportunity to learn more. And the suggestions offered in the thread have been valuable. I removed the optionality of the config (This was a mistake on my part for not properly descoping the tutorial). And I have adding Anyhow for better error handling. I hope that this tutorial is now stronger than ever. Thanks!