TL;DR: I created a Cargo subcommand called cargo-wizard that simplifies the configuration of Cargo projects for maximum runtime performance, fastest compilation time or minimal binary size.

As a member of the compiler performance working group, and generally as someone who cares a lot about performance, I’m always quite excited about the continuous improvements to Rust’s compilation times, runtime performance and binary size. Many of these improvements silently improve your Rust programs or the compiler, and you might not even notice them, except for something being slightly faster or smaller.

However, for various reasons, not all optimizations are always applied by default, and you might need to properly configure your Cargo projects using the many available configuration options to enable them. This means that many Rust users don’t take advantage of them, simply because they don’t know that they exist or how can they be enabled.

It’s a running joke that the most common solution to fix the “slow performance” of a Rust program is to compile with --release. But that’s just one of many things that can be configured. How many people use LTO, gather PGO profiles or configure the number of CGUs? How many people have experimented with the new parallel frontend or switched the linker that they use?

While these concepts are probably not new to experienced system programmers, people coming e.g. from a web development or a scripting language background might not know about them. The great thing about Rust and Cargo is that you don’t even need to know how these things work, you can just configure them with a few lines in a TOML file, and then reap the benefits. But the configuration step is still crucial.

I think that there are two issues that we could improve upon in this area:

  • Discoverability - how can I easily find out the most important Cargo configuration options that can help me improve the performance of my Rust program, and/or the speed of developing it? While Cargo has pretty nice documentation, the useful tidbits are often distributed amongst multiple places. I have to give a shoutout to the Rust Performance Book by Nicholas Nethercote, which makes this information readily available on a single place, which is awesome.
  • Automation - even if I am aware of all the available options, how can I easily apply them to my existing Cargo projects or to each new project that I create? This might seem trivial, but I actually think that it is quite important to make this easier. Even though I follow the development of rustc and know a lot about all the in-progress improvements, I realized that I almost never use them for my own projects. Just recently, I switched to the lld linker for one of the projects that I work on in my day job, and it has cut its incremental rebuild time in half1! It’s mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to look up and configure these options all the time.

In short, I saw an opportunity for automation, so I created YACS (Yet Another Cargo Subcommand) called cargo-wizard. It can apply three predefined templates (fast compilation time, fast runtime and minimal binary size) to your Cargo workspace with a single command, which mostly solves the automation issue. It also allows you to customize the templates and shows you the available configuration options that can be used to optimize your project. This can hopefully help with the discoverability issue.

As with most other Cargo subcommands, you can install it easily with the following command:

$ cargo install cargo-wizard

cargo-wizard can be used non-interactively using the cargo wizard apply command, but where’s the fun in that, so here is an example of its interactive TUI dialog interface2:

Interactive usage of cargo-wizard.

The idea of cargo-wizard is that instead of having to remember all the useful configuration options and having to manually apply them to your project, you can just run cargo wizard and let it do that for you in a few seconds, on any Cargo project that you work on.

There are some things that are out of scope for cargo-wizard, for example more complicated compilation workflows, like PGO. But don’t worry, you can use my other Cargo subcommand, cargo-pgo, for that :)

Currently, cargo-wizard is mostly focused on performance configuration options, but in theory nothing stops it from becoming a general tool for interactive configuration of Cargo projects. And who knows, maybe one day it can even become a part of Cargo itself :)


I hope that you will find cargo-wizard useful and that it will help you to quickly configure your Cargo projects so that you can avoid having to keep all the useful options in your head. If you find bugs or want to suggest new features, please let me know in the issue tracker. Pull requests are, of course, also welcome :)

If you have any comments or questions about this blog post or cargo-wizard, you can also let me know on Reddit.

  1. Yes, I have also tried mold, but it didn’t seem to help for this specific project. 

  2. Created using the cool inquire crate.