subprocess 0.1.20

Execution of child processes and pipelines, inspired by Python's subprocess module, with Rust-specific extensions.


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The subprocess library provides facilities for execution of and interaction with external processes and pipelines. It is inspired by Python's subprocess module, adding a Rust spin on top. subprocess is hosted on, with API Documentation on


The following features are available:

  • Launching external processes with optional redirection of standard input, output, and error.

  • Connecting multiple commands into OS-level pipelines.

  • Builder-style API for building and executing commands and pipelines.

  • The communicate method for deadlock-free reading of output while simultaneously providing input to the subprocess.

  • Waiting for the process to finish and polling its status: poll, wait, and wait_timeout.

  • Redirecting standard streams to arbitrary files, and merging of output and error, the equivalent of 2>&1 and 1>&2.

The crate has minimal dependencies to third-party crates, only requiring libc on POSIX and crossbeam and Win32 crates on Windows. It is intended to work on Unix-like platforms as well as on reasonably recent Windows. It is regularly tested on Linux, MacOS and Windows, and occasionally on FreeBSD.

API Overview

The API is separated in two parts: the low-level Popen API similar to Python's subprocess.Popen, and the higher-level API for convenient creation of commands and pipelines. The two can be mixed, so it is possible to use builder to create Popen instances, and then to continue working with them directly.

The Popen type offers some functionality currently missing from the Rust standard library. It provides methods for polling the process, waiting with timeout, and the communicate method, useful enough to have been created independently. While the design follows Python's subprocess module, it is not a literal translation. Some of the changes accommodate the differences between the languages, such as the lack of default and keyword arguments in Rust, and others take advantage of Rust's more advanced type system, or of additional capabilities such as the ownership system and the Drop trait. Python's utility functions such as are not included because they have better alternatives in the form of the builder API.

The builder API offers a more Rustic process creation interface, along with convenience methods for capturing output and building pipelines.


Note: the examples assume they run in a function returning a subprocess::Result or equivalent. If you are pasting them to a function that doesn't return a Result, replace ? with .expect("informative message").


Execute an command and wait for it to complete:

let exit_status = Exec::cmd("umount").arg(dirname).join()?;

To prevent quoting issues and injection attacks, subprocess will not spawn a shell unless explicitly requested. To execute a command using the OS shell, like C's system, use Exec::shell:

Exec::shell("shutdown -h now").join()?;

Start a subprocess and obtain its output as a Read trait object, like C's popen:

let stream = Exec::cmd("ls").stream_stdout()?;
// call stream.read_to_string, construct io::BufReader(stream), etc.

Capture the output of a command:

let out = Exec::cmd("ls")

Redirect standard error to standard output, and capture them in a string:

let out_and_err = Exec::cmd("ls")

Provide some input to the command and read its output:

let out = Exec::cmd("sort")
assert!(out == "a\nb\nc\n");

Connecting stdin to an open file would have worked as well.


Popen objects support connecting input and output to arbitrary open files, including other Popen objects. This can be used to form pipelines of processes. The builder API will do it automatically with the | operator on Exec objects.

Execute a pipeline and return the exit status of the last command:

let exit_status =
  (Exec::shell("ls *.bak") | Exec::cmd("xargs").arg("rm")).join()?;

Capture the pipeline's output:

let dir_checksum = {
    Exec::shell("find . -type f") | Exec::cmd("sort") | Exec::cmd("sha1sum")

Low-level Popen type

let mut p = Popen::create(&["command", "arg1", "arg2"], PopenConfig {
    stdout: Redirection::Pipe, ..Default::default()

// Since we requested stdout to be redirected to a pipe, the parent's
// end of the pipe is available as p.stdout.  It can either be read
// directly, or processed using the communicate() method:
let (out, err) = p.communicate(None)?;

// check if the process is still alive
if let Some(exit_status) = p.poll() {
  // the process has finished
} else {
  // it is still running, terminate it

Interacting with subprocess

Check whether a previously launched process is still running:

let mut p = Exec::cmd("sleep").arg("2").popen()?;
thread::sleep(Duration::new(1, 0))
if p.poll().is_none() {
    // poll() returns Some(exit_status) if the process has completed
    println!("process is still running");

Give the process 1 second to run, and kill it if it didn't complete by then.

let mut p = Exec::cmd("sleep").arg("2").popen()?;
if let Some(status) = p.wait_timeout(Duration::new(1, 0))? {
    println!("process finished as {:?}", status);
} else {
    println!("process killed");


subprocess is distributed under the terms of both the MIT license and the Apache License (Version 2.0). See LICENSE-APACHE and LICENSE-MIT for details. Contributing changes is assumed to signal agreement with these licensing terms.