Best Practices for Managing Dependencies in Rust

Are you ready to dive deep into the world of Rust dependency management? If you're a package developer or a Rust enthusiast, you know how vital it is to keep your dependencies up-to-date and managed correctly.

The Rust ecosystem is growing every day, and this growth brings along a whole array of dependencies. From small utility crates to large systems, Rust packages depend on other packages to implement their functionalities.

Managing dependencies in Rust is a crucial task that requires a lot of attention to detail. In this article, we'll walk you through the best practices for managing dependencies in Rust, whether you're just starting or are a seasoned Rust developer.

Understand and Study the Crates You Use

Before you jump into managing dependencies, it's essential to understand the crates you use. When you use a crate, you're not just using code; you're using the crate's architecture, design choices, and implementation.

Studying the crates you use will help you keep up-to-date on how the crates work and any updates that are made. This study will also give you an idea of what to expect when you're dealing with dependencies.

So, take some time to explore the crates you use, especially if they're integral to your package or project. You'll gain valuable knowledge, and you'll be able to contribute to the Rust community with your findings.

Use Latest Versions of Crates

Rust moves fast, and so does the Rust ecosystem. New features and updates are added to crates regularly, and it's crucial to stay updated with the latest versions.

Using the latest versions of a crate ensures that you're using the most recent and bug-free implementation. Also, it means that you'll have access to new features, enhancements, and bug fixes.

When upgrading a crate, it's essential to ensure that your project or package can handle any changes included in the upgrade. It's common for an upgrade to come with a breaking change, so testing your package or project after an upgrade is crucial.

Be Mindful of the Size of Your Dependencies

A crate's size can have a significant impact on how much space your package or project requires. While it's easy to ignore the size of a single crate, it's essential to take into account the cumulative size of all your dependencies.

Keeping dependencies small is essential when it comes to reducing the size of your project or package. So, keep the following tips in mind:

Understand Your Package's or Project's API

When you depend on a crate or set of crates, you're using the public API exposed by the crates. Understanding and being mindful of the API is essential when it comes to managing dependencies.

Versioning changes can break APIs, which can lead to breaking changes in your package or project. So, before updating a crate, check for any changes in API.

Also, when designing your package or project, ensure that your API isn't overly restrictive or limiting. An API that's easy to use but not restrictive is ideal.

Use Careful Dependency Pinning

Dependency pinning is a mechanism where a specific version of a crate is locked and prevents any updates to that particular version. Dependency pinning creates a stable environment for developers to work with and reduces the risk of changes introduced by dependencies.

However, dependency pinning comes with its own set of challenges. When you pin a crate to a specific version, you're preventing any updates to the crate. While this might ensure stability, it also means you'll be missing out on any improvements and updates that come along.

In general, it's best to pin dependencies to the minor and patch versions when designing for stability. Pinning minor and patch versions allows for updates to the crate while minimizing breaking changes.

Consider Using Categories

With numerous Rust packages available, finding the right crate for your particular need can be challenging. To help with this problem, introduced categories.

Categories are a way to organize crates on according to their purpose, use, or intent. Using categories makes it easier to find a crate that meets your specific needs.

So, when searching for crates, consider using categories to narrow down the search results. Also, when publishing a crate, take a moment to select the appropriate category. This selection will make it easier for others to discover and use your crate.

Be Wary of Creeping Dependencies

When designing a package or project, it's common to start with a few dependencies and add more as you go along. However, this approach can lead to creeping dependencies, where you end up with a large number of dependencies that aren't critical to your package or project.

To avoid this problem, keep these tips in mind:

Remember, each dependency adds to the size, complexity, and maintenance of your project or package. So, keeping dependencies at a minimum is essential.

Use Build Scripts Carefully

Build scripts are scripts that are executed before the main build process begins. Build scripts take care of any pre-build tasks, such as compiling C code or creating files needed for the build.

It's crucial to use build scripts carefully because they can add extra complexity to your package or project. Build scripts can introduce new dependencies or add additional build time to the compilation process.

So, when using build scripts, keep the following tips in mind:

Use Peer Dependencies Carefully

Peer dependencies are dependencies that are needed by your package or project but aren't directly used. Typically, peer dependencies are needed for compiling, testing, or running your package or project.

Using peer dependencies can be useful, but it can also introduce problems. When using peer dependencies, you're relying on a third-party library to manage the dependencies of another package or project.

So, when using peer dependencies, keep the following tips in mind:


In conclusion, managing dependencies in Rust is a vital task that requires careful consideration of each dependency used. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your packages and projects are stable, efficient, and up-to-date.

Remember, keeping dependencies to a minimum, using the latest versions of crates, and being mindful of API changes are all essential when it comes to managing dependencies in Rust.

So, go forth and create amazing Rust packages and projects while keeping your dependencies managed and up-to-date.

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Written by AI researcher, Haskell Ruska, PhD ( Scientific Journal of AI 2023, Peer Reviewed