Customizing Builds with Release Profiles

In Rust release profiles are pre-defined, and customizable, profiles with different configurations, to allow the programmer more control over various options for compiling your code. Each profile is configured independently of the others.

Cargo has four profiles defined with good default configurations for each use case. Cargo uses the different profiles based on which command you’re running. The commands correspond to the profiles as shown in Table 14-1:

Command Profile
cargo build dev
cargo build --release release
cargo test test
cargo doc doc

Table 14-1: Which profile is used when you run different Cargo commands

This may be familiar from the output of your builds, which shows the profile used in the build:

$ cargo build
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.0 secs
$ cargo build --release
    Finished release [optimized] target(s) in 0.0 secs

The “dev” and “release” notifications here indicate that the compiler is using different profiles.

Customizing Release Profiles

Cargo has default settings for each of the profiles that apply when there aren’t any [profile.*] sections in the project’s Cargo.toml file. By adding [profile.*] sections for any profile we want to customize, we can choose to override any subset of the default settings. For example, here are the default values for the opt-level setting for the dev and release profiles:

[profile.dev]
opt-level = 0

[profile.release]
opt-level = 3

The opt-level setting controls how many optimizations Rust will apply to your code, with a range of zero to three. Applying more optimizations makes compilation take longer, so if you’re in development and compiling very often, you’d want compiling to be fast at the expense of the resulting code running slower. That’s why the default opt-level for dev is 0. When you’re ready to release, it’s better to spend more time compiling. You’ll only be compiling in release mode once, and running the compiled program many times, so release mode trades longer compile time for code that runs faster. That’s why the default opt-level for the release profile is 3.

We can choose to override any default setting by adding a different value for them in Cargo.toml. If we wanted to use optimization level 1 in the development profile, for example, we can add these two lines to our project’s Cargo.toml:

Filename: Cargo.toml

[profile.dev]
opt-level = 1

This overrides the default setting of 0. Now when we run cargo build, Cargo will use the defaults for the dev profile plus our customization to opt-level. Because we set opt-level to 1, Cargo will apply more optimizations than the default, but not as many as a release build.

For the full list of configuration options and defaults for each profile, see Cargo’s documentation.