Translating C to Rust

To translate C files specified in compile_commands.json (see below), run the c2rust tool with the transpile subcommand:

c2rust transpile compile_commands.json

(The c2rust refactor tool is also available for refactoring Rust code, see refactoring).

The translator requires the exact compiler commands used to build the C code. To provide this information, you will need a standard compile_commands.json file. Many build systems can automatically generate this file, as it is used by many other tools, but see below for recommendations on how to generate this file for common build processes.

Once you have a compile_commands.json file describing the C build, translate the C code to Rust with the following command:

c2rust transpile path/to/compile_commands.json

To generate a Cargo.toml template for a Rust library, add the -e option:

c2rust transpile --emit-build-files path/to/compile_commands.json

To generate a Cargo.toml template for a Rust binary, do this:

c2rust transpile --main myprog path/to/compile_commands.json

Where --main myprog tells the transpiler to use the main method from as the entry point.

The translated Rust files will not depend directly on each other like normal Rust modules. They will export and import functions through the C API. These modules can be compiled together into a single static Rust library or binary.

There are several known limitations in this translator. The translator will emit a warning and attempt to skip function definitions that cannot be translated.

Generating compile_commands.json files

The compile_commands.json file can be automatically created using either cmake, intercept-build, or bear.

It may be a good idea to remove optimizations(-OX) from the compile commands file, as there are optimization builtins which we do not support translating.

... with cmake

When creating the initial build directory with cmake specify -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=1. This only works on projects configured to be built by cmake. This works on Linux and MacOS.


... with intercept-build

intercept-build (part of the scan-build tool) is recommended for non-cmake projects. intercept-build is bundled with clang under tools/scan-build-py but a standalone version can be easily installed via PIP with:

pip install scan-build


intercept-build <build command>

You can also use intercept-build to generate a compilation database for compiling a single C file, for example:

intercept-build sh -c "cc program.c"

... with bear (linux only)

If you have bear installed, it can be used similarly to intercept-build:

bear <build command>