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12/04 — 2022
81.92 cm   5.4 min

# Powerful just features

just is a command runner written in Rust. Commands, or recipes in just lingo, are populated in a file called ‘justfile’, and are expressed in a make-like syntax.

I’ve been using just as my command runner for all of my projects, big or small, and find it extremely useful to have a file in the projects root that contains every command needed to interact with the project.

There are quite a few features baked into this program that make it unique from similar projects, which I find nice to have when crafting software. This post simply documents the few I use most often.

### Aliases

Recipes can have aliases, or alternative names which refer to the original recipe that can be used with just to invoke the original recipe.

For instance, if you have a recipe called run, you can alias it to r like so:

alias r := run

run:
cargo run

and invoke it with just r.

Somewhat related side note: consider aliasing the just command to j, it’ll save you some typing if you frequently execute commands with just.

### Fuzzy searching recipes

One feature I discovered recently is just --choose, which lets you fuzzy search through recipes defined in your justfile. You can also specify a chooser by passing it into just --chooser, else it will default to using fzf.

There is work planned to support recipe previews and command line arguments for recipes that take them when using the default chooser.

However, with the help of just --summary, just --show and a bit of Python, here’s how you can get to look:

### Recipes in arbitrary languages

just recipes can be expressed in another language by adding a shebang at the top of the recipe, as they get executed as scripts by the shell.

For instance, we can write a small script in Python that lists the contents of the current directory, and put it in a recipe:

ls:
#!/usr/bin/env python3
import os
print(*os.listdir())

### Taking advantage of the default recipe

just allows you to specify a default recipe that gets executed when invoking just without any arguments in a directory that contains a justfile (or a sub-directory in which a parent directory contains a justfile).

For instance:

default:
just --list

I usually use this feature to list out all recipes that are available in the justfile however this could be used for anything that merits being quickly invoked with a single command.

### Recipe dependencies

just recipes can contain ‘dependencies’, or other recipes that should be ran before a given recipe.

For example, let’s say you have a ‘build’ recipe and want to run tests – specified in a ‘test’ recipe – each time before executing the contents of the recipe, you can do so by making ‘test’ a dependency of ‘build’, like so:

default:
just --list

build: test # this is a dependency
cargo build

test:
cargo test

This also comes in handy when you want to run multiple recipes in sequence, just allows for a very expressive syntax via dependencies:

default:
just --list

all: build test fmt

build:
cargo build

test:
cargo test

fmt:
cargo +nightly fmt

As of recently, just supports justfile formatting via the --fmt command.

It currently requires the --unstable flag, like so:

\$ just --fmt --unstable

Invoking the command above can turn a justfile that looks like this:

default:
just --list

build:
cargo build

test:
cargo test

clippy:
cargo clippy --all-targets --all-features

into this:

default:
just --list

build:
cargo build

test:
cargo test

clippy:
cargo clippy --all-targets --all-features

This can be useful if you have many people working on your project and recipes get added or modified in your projects justfile on the regular.

### Documenting recipes

just allows for comments above recipes that get appeared when invoking just --list.

For example, here is a sample justfile with a run recipe that contains a comment above it:

# Run the project
run:
cargo run

invoking just --list will yield the following output:

Available recipes:
run # Run the project

This is extremely useful for documenting obscure commands, especially when working in teams where people come and go on a project frequently.

### Fin

I personally think any project could benefit greatly by having a single source of truth in regards to project specific commands, and just provides a simple way to set that up.

Have a look over at the official readme document on GitHub for more information and further elaboration on the features mentioned here.

Hi.

I'm Liam.

I am an incoming honours math/compsci undergrad @ mcgill, programmer and rationalist.

Send me a message by email: liam [at] scalzulli.com or matrix: worse:matrix.org

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