proc-macro-error 1.0.4

Almost drop-in replacement to panics in proc-macros

Makes error reporting in procedural macros nice and easy

travis ci unsafe forbidden

This crate aims to make error reporting in proc-macros simple and easy to use. Migrate from panic!-based errors for as little effort as possible!

Also, you can explicitly append a dummy token stream to your errors.

To achieve his, this crate serves as a tiny shim around proc_macro::Diagnostic and compile_error!. It detects the most preferable way to emit errors based on compiler's version. When the underlying diagnostic type is finally stabilized, this crate will be simply delegating to it, requiring no changes in your code!

So you can just use this crate and have both some of proc_macro::Diagnostic functionality available on stable ahead of time and your error-reporting code future-proof.

proc-macro-error = "1.0"

Supports rustc 1.31 and up

Documentation and guide

Quick example


pub fn make_fn(input: TokenStream) -> TokenStream {
    let mut input = TokenStream2::from(input).into_iter();
    let name =;
    if let Some(second) = {
        abort! { second,
            "I don't like this part!";
                note = "I see what you did there...";
                help = "I need only one part, you know?";

    quote!( fn #name() {} ).into()

This is how the error is rendered in a terminal:

And this is what your users will see in their IDE:


Panic-like usage

use proc_macro_error::{
use proc_macro::TokenStream;
use syn::{DeriveInput, parse_macro_input};
use quote::quote;

// This is your main entry point
// This attribute *MUST* be placed on top of the #[proc_macro] function
pub fn make_answer(input: TokenStream) -> TokenStream {
    let input = parse_macro_input!(input as DeriveInput);

    if let Err(err) = some_logic(&input) {
        // we've got a span to blame, let's use it
        // This immediately aborts the proc-macro and shows the error
        // You can use `proc_macro::Span`, `proc_macro2::Span`, and
        // anything that implements `quote::ToTokens` (almost every type from
        // `syn` and `proc_macro2`)
        abort!(err, "You made an error, go fix it: {}", err.msg);

    // `Result` has some handy shortcuts if your error type implements
    // `Into<Diagnostic>`. `Option` has one unconditionally.
    more_logic(&input).expect_or_abort("What a careless user, behave!");

    if !more_logic_for_logic_god(&input) {
        // We don't have an exact location this time,
        // so just highlight the proc-macro invocation itself
            "Bad, bad user! Now go stand in the corner and think about what you did!");

    // Now all the processing is done, return `proc_macro::TokenStream`
    quote!(/* stuff */).into()

proc_macro::Diagnostic-like usage

use proc_macro_error::*;
use proc_macro::TokenStream;
use syn::{spanned::Spanned, DeriveInput, ItemStruct, Fields, Attribute , parse_macro_input};
use quote::quote;

fn process_attrs(attrs: &[Attribute]) -> Vec<Attribute> {
        .filter_map(|attr| match process_attr(attr) {
            Ok(res) => Some(res),
            Err(msg) => {
                emit_error!(attr, "Invalid attribute: {}", msg);

fn process_fields(_attrs: &Fields) -> Vec<TokenStream> {
    // processing fields in pretty much the same way as attributes

pub fn make_answer(input: TokenStream) -> TokenStream {
    let input = parse_macro_input!(input as ItemStruct);
    let attrs = process_attrs(&input.attrs);

    // abort right now if some errors were encountered
    // at the attributes processing stage

    let fields = process_fields(&input.fields);

    // no need to think about emitted errors
    // #[proc_macro_error] will handle them for you
    // just return a TokenStream as you normally would
    quote!(/* stuff */).into()

Real world examples


  • Warnings are emitted only on nightly, they are ignored on stable.
  • "help" suggestions can't have their own span info on stable, (essentially inheriting the parent span).
  • If your macro happens to trigger a panic, no errors will be displayed. This is not a technical limitation but rather intentional design. panic is not for error reporting.

MSRV policy

proc_macro_error will always be compatible with proc-macro Holy Trinity: proc_macro2, syn, quote crates. In other words, if the Trinity is available to you - proc_macro_error is available too.


If you want to use #[proc_macro_error] with synstructure, you're going to have to put the attribute inside the decl_derive! invocation. Unfortunately, due to some bug in pre-1.34 rustc, putting proc-macro attributes inside macro invocations doesn't work, so your MSRV is effectively 1.34.


Error handling in proc-macros sucks. There's not much of a choice today: you either "bubble up" the error up to the top-level of the macro and convert it to a compile_error! invocation or just use a good old panic. Both these ways suck:

  • Former sucks because it's quite redundant to unroll a proper error handling just for critical errors that will crash the macro anyway; so people mostly choose not to bother with it at all and use panic. Simple .expect is too tempting.

    Also, if you do decide to implement this Result-based architecture in your macro you're going to have to rewrite it entirely once proc_macro::Diagnostic is finally stable. Not cool.

  • Later sucks because there's no way to carry out the span info via panic!. rustc will highlight the invocation itself but not some specific token inside it.

    Furthermore, panics aren't for error-reporting at all; panics are for bug-detecting (like unwrapping on None or out-of-range indexing) or for early development stages when you need a prototype ASAP so error handling can wait. Mixing these usages only messes things up.

  • There is proc_macro::Diagnostic which is awesome but it has been experimental for more than a year and is unlikely to be stabilized any time soon.

    This crate's API is intentionally designed to be compatible with proc_macro::Diagnostic and delegates to it whenever possible. Once Diagnostics is stable this crate will always delegate to it, no code changes will be required on user side.

That said, we need a solution, but this solution must meet these conditions:

  • It must be better than panic!. The main point: it must offer a way to carry the span information over to user.
  • It must take as little effort as possible to migrate from panic!. Ideally, a new macro with similar semantics plus ability to carry out span info.
  • It must maintain compatibility with proc_macro::Diagnostic .
  • It must be usable on stable.

This crate aims to provide such a mechanism. All you have to do is annotate your top-level #[proc_macro] function with #[proc_macro_error] attribute and change panics to abort!/abort_call_site! where appropriate, see the Guide.


Please note that this crate is not intended to be used in any way other than error reporting in procedural macros, use Result and ? (possibly along with one of the many helpers out there) for anything else.