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Know JS, want to try Rust, but not sure where to start? This is for you!
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Rust for JavaScript peeps

Rust for JavaScript peeps


People seem to like Rust a lot! But if you're coming from JavaScript, not everything may make a lot of sense at first. But no problem; this guide is for you!

Because I think Rust and JavaScript are really similar in many ways; to the point that if you know JS it's mostly a matter of getting the hang of some of the nuances before you can more or less get the hang of Rust.

Quick Start

Alright. So you want to write Rust? Step one is to get yourself a working environment. This means installing tools. Here's an overview of what you need (more or less in-order):


rustup: this is like nvm for Node, but officially supported and really well done! It helps you install and manage Rust compiler versions.

Installing Rustup also installs a valid compiler toolchain, which gives you 3 new commands in total

  • $ rustup: runs "rustup" to manage your compiler toolchain
  • $ rustc: which is the Rust compiler. You'll never need to call this because of:
  • $ cargo: cargo is to Rust, what npm is to Node. It builds, compiles, installs and more. Getting to know cargo well is usually time well-spent!


cargo-edit provides essential extensions to cargo. In particular: it allows you to run cargo add which works somewhat similar to npm install.

Importantly: cargo install works similar to npm install -g. And when you run cargo add only your Cargo.toml file (Rust's package.json file) is updated with the right versions. Run cargo build or cargo check to actually download and compile dependencies.

You can install cargo-edit by running:

$ cargo install cargo-edit

Rust fmt

rustfmt is Rust's version of prettier. Everyone uses it, and even if the default config might take some getting used to, it's what everyone uses.

It's a binary component that hooks into the compiler, so it needs to be installed with rustup:

$ rustup component add rustfmt

This should take a few seconds on a fast connection. Whenever you update your rust version, rustfmt will also be updated.

Important commands are:

$ cargo fmt                    # runs rustfmt to format your code
$ cargo fmt -- --check         # do a dry-run, outputting a diff of changes that would be made
$ cargo fmt -- --edition=2018  # pass this flag if you're doing stuff with async/await


clippy is a "linting" tool for Rust, similar to standard's style lints. cargo fmt takes care of formatting. rustc takes care of correctness. But clippy is in charge of helping you write "idiomatic" Rust.

This doesn't mean every lint in Clippy is perfect. But when you're getting started it can be suuuper helpful to run!


Rust has two language-server implementations: rls and rust-analyzer. Try using rust-analyzer first, as it's a far superior experience. But if it doesn't work for your setup, it's good to be aware of (the much older, kind of unmaintained) rls.

You'll have to figure out for yourself how you want to set this up. But if you're undecided, I've heard VSCode is generally straight forward.


Cargo ships with a cargo test command, which will run both doctests and files under test/. The Rust book has a whole chapter dedicated to testing you should read on this. But it's good to know this is provided for you out of the box!

Creating new projects

You can create new projects using cargo new or cargo init. new creates a new directory, init outputs files in the current directory. It's pretty basic, but it's useful to get started with. If you want to write a library you can pass either command the --lib flag. By default you'll create binaries (applications with a main function that can be run).

There's also the newer cargo-generate project. This is a more powerful version of the built-in cargo commands, and allows you to pick from templates. You may not need this if you're just messing around, but it's probably good to be aware of.


cargo publish works like npm publish. The central repository is called and is very similar to NPM. Importantly it's not owned by a scummy for-profit company, but is instead part of the Rust project.

If you've built something nice in Rust, consider going ahead and publishing it to All that's needed is a GitHub account to sign up, and you're good to go!


Most docs in JS seem to either be written in a, or as part of some special website. In Rust documentation is generated automatically using rustdoc.

You can run rustdoc through $ cargo doc. Every package on also has documentation generated for you on It's even versioned, so you can check out older documentation too. For example: you can find async-std's docs under

Writing docs in Rust is by using "doc comments" (/// instead of the regular // comments). You'll see a bunch in the rest of this guide. Important documentation commands are:

$ cargo doc            # generate docs
$ cargo doc --open     # generate docs and then open them
$ rustup doc --std     # open the stdlib docs offline
$ rustup doc --book    # open the "Rust Programming Language" offline


It can sometimes be tedious to run cargo check after every change. Which is why cargo-watch exists. You can install it by running:

$ cargo install cargo-watch

Important cargo-watch commands are:

$ cargo watch              # Run "cargo check" on every change
$ cargo watch -x "test"    # Run "cargo test" on every change


Before we continue, let's establish some quick terminology:

  • Struct: like an "object" in JS. It can both be a data-only type. But can also work like a "class" with methods (both inherent and static).
  • Vec: like a JS "array".
  • Slice: like a "view" into a TypedArray in JS. You can't grow them, but you can create a "view of a view" (slice of a slice).
  • Traits: essentially the answer to the question: "what if a class could inherit from multiple other classes". Traits are also referred to as "mixins" in other languages. They don't allocate any data, but only provide methods and type definitions related to those methods.

Thinking in Rust

Aside of the obvious type system stuff, I think there are a few core differences between Rust and JS:

Object-Oriented everything

In Rust everything is object-oriented. Imports are always done through namespaces, and namespaces kind of behave like structs.

// println comes from the "std" namespace -- print something to the screen.
std::println!("hello world");

// Call the "new" method from the `HashMap` type from the `std::collections`
// namespace
let hashmap = std::collections::HashMap::new();

Classes & Structs

Structs don't have "constructor" methods the way JS do; instead you define a method that returns Self (which is a shorthand for the name of the struct).

/// How to instantiate:
/// ```js
/// let rect = new Rectangle(5, 10);
/// ```
class Rectangle {
  constructor(height, width) {
    this.height = height;
    this.width = width;
/// How to instantiate:
/// ```rs
/// let rect = Rectangle::new(5, 10);
/// ```
pub struct Rectangle {
    height: usize,
    width: usize,

impl Rectangle {
    /// Create a new instance.
    pub fn new(height: usize, width: usize) -> Self {
        Self { height, width }


Everything is an expression. Which is to say: blocks suddenly have a lot more meaning, and you can do some fun substitutions.

These are all equivalent:

let y = 1 + 1;
let x = y * y;
if x == 4 {
    println!("hello world");
// If we omit the `;` from a statement, it becomes the return value of the
// block it's in.
let x = {
    let y = 1 + 1;
    y * y
if x == 4 {
    println!("hello world");
// Expressions means that you can inline almost anything. Don't actually do this
// please.
if {
    let y = 1 + 1;
    y * y
} == 4 {
    println!("hello world");

Know your self

There are 3 kinds of self: self, &self, &mut self.

pub struct Rectangle {
    height: usize,
    width: usize,

impl Rectangle {
    pub fn new(height: usize, width: usize) -> Self {
        Self { height, width }

    /// Get the height
    /// We want to reference the value as read-only,
    /// so we use `&self` for shared access.
    pub fn height(&self) -> usize {

    /// Set the height
    /// We want to reference the value as "writable", so we use
    /// `&mut self` for exclusive access.
    pub fn set_height(&mut self, height: usize) -> usize {
        self.height = height

    /// Get the height + width as a tuple.
    /// We want to "consume" the current struct, and return its internal parts.
    /// So instead of taking a reference, we take an owned value `self` after
    /// which the struct can no longer be used, and return a tuple (anonymous
    /// struct) containing its internals.
    pub fn parts(self) -> (usize, usize) {
        (self.height, self.width)

This is the core of everything around the borrow checker. If you have exclusive access to a variable, nobody else can have access to that variable too and you can mutate it. If you have shared access to a variable, others may too, but you're not allowed to update the value. That's how data races are prevented!

There's some escape hatches using RefCell, Mutex and other things to get around this; but they apply clever tricks internally to uphold the same guarantees at runtime rather than compile-time. Less efficient, but same rules!

That's it! Everything else is basically an application of these rules.


Instead of using opts or default values, most things use builders instead. Kind of the way superagent works:

let opts = {
  method: 'GET',
  headers: {
    'X-API-Key': 'foobar',
    'accept': 'json'

try {
  let res = await fetch('/api/pet', opts);
} catch(err) {
  throw err
  .set('X-API-Key', 'foobar')
  .set('accept', 'json')
  .end((err, res) => {
    // Calling the end function will send the request
let res = surf::post("/api/pet")
    .set_header("X-API-Key", "foobar")
    .set_header("accept", "json")
    .await?; // Calling .await will send the request

Internally builders generally take self, and return self as the output so you can chain the methods together.

? and .await

In Rust:

  • ? is for error handling; it says: "if it's an error, return the error, if it's not an error, return the value".
  • .await is like await but you can chain it just like any other property.

Speaking of .await though. Do yourself a big favor and start with synchronous Rust first. Starting with async Rust is going full throttle on hard mode, and I can guarantee it's going to be confusing.

Start easy. Do synchronous Rust for a bit. Skip HTTP. Don't do timeouts. Try, uhh, other things first. Loops, and printing stuff to the console. Maybe even borrowing if you're feeling cheeky.


Hopefully this is somewhat useful for JS peeps looking at Rust. There's a lot more that should be written here, but hopefully this is somewhat helpful!


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