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Migrate spirit to version 0.4

This post can serve as a step by step migration guide from spirit 0.3 to spirit 0.4. If you already have an application using the crate, read on.

If you haven’t heard about the spirit library yet, it is a library to help you manage your configuration in an application and have it reloaded at runtime. It allows you to have the changes applied automatically and also to manage lifetime of the application. You can read more about it here. In that case, a migration guide won’t help you much, but I’m planning on having a tutorial how to start with the library soon.

I’ve been working on the next version for a while. This brings several breaking changes and here I want to describe both why they happened and how to adapt your code to them.

The overall theme

Mostly, the changes don’t bring any new functionality. The common theme of these changes is cutting down on dependencies of spirit a bit and removing as many foreign types from other pre-1.0 crates from the public interface, to prevent having to do breaking changes. Some other changes are piggy-backing with it, like removing deprecated functions or moving few things around in the module tree.

These are changes tho the base crate of spirit most of the time. There will be some further changes to, for example, spirit-tokio once [tokio] releases a 0.2 version. That change will however have limited impact (and it’ll be possible to use spirit-tokio versions for either version of [tokio] in parallel). Anyway, these changes still have to be written, which I’ll be happy to accept a helping hand with.

Preliminary: updating the dependencies

The chances are, you have several spirit’s crates (both the main one and extensions) as your dependencies. As the version bump of the base crate requires version bump of all the spirit-* extension crates as well, you’ll need to update all of them at once.

One of the spirit’s dependencies that weren’t possible to hide is structopt. Than one went from 0.2 to 0.3 and spirit 0.4 goes with the latter. So update that one too if you have it as your own dependency (you likely do). The interface of structopt is almost unchanged between the versions, so the version bump is likely the only change you’ll have to do about it. If not, little tweaking of attributes should do the migration there.

Once you do that, you’re going to get a wallpaper of compiler errors. While the changes in spirit’s API are simple ones, they are quite loud in terms of how much code needs to be (trivially) changed.

The error handling

At the level where spirit fits into an application, many things can fail and most of the errors are just passing through it, possibly getting some more context on them. Eventually they are likely to end up in a log and optionally stop the application. Spirit uses multi-layered errors, sometimes called cause or error chains. It goes the way of putting all levels of the error into the log, to provide as much information to the user as possible.

Previously, the failure was used to handle the errors. The library is really convenient for use. However, it comes with several drawbacks. It provides its own Error type that is not directly compatible with the standard library types. This means that mostly the whole application is then forced to use failure. Considering the crate is in its 0.1 and is expecting breaking changes, this is kind of problematic. Second, it unconditionally depends on backtrace. That crate is sometimes really painful to cross-compile as I’ve noticed on multiple occasions.

So, from now on, spirit uses spirit::AnyError in its interface. Unlike the Error from failure, this is only a type alias for a boxed trait object from the standard library (type AnyError = Box<dyn std::error::Error + Send + Sync>). Using this gives the maximum possible forward compatibility and flexibility ‒ as equivalent type aliases are considered equal and it only uses things from the standard library, any other error handling library can be used by whatever applications and dependencies. You don’t need to depend on spirit to return compatible error type from your crate, just use the same trait object or a your own concrete error.

An application has two options how to adapt. One is to keep using failure on its side and its compat method. This is less work for migration, but it has a significant downside. The compatibility error type is not transparent for the causes chain, something that is heavily used through spirit. That means at the point of conversion, some error causes will get lost and not shown to the user, possibly hiding valuable information.

The other option is to replace failure with some other error handling libraries. The combination of err-derive and err-context covers quite a large part of failure’s API surface and it’s what I used when migrating my applications, but as mentioned above, any other replacement should work.

If going the way I did, you’d do these things:

The logging fragment can be renamed

If you were using the [spirit-log] to configure logging destinations, you had something like this in your configuration:

#[derive(Clone, Default, Debug, Deserialize)]
struct Cfg {
    logging: Logging,

    // Other stuff here

Unfortunately, no matter how you you named the field, it was always called logging in your configuration and there was nothing that could be done about it. The new version reflects the changes of the name of the field, but at the cost of changing the needed attributes. This is how it should look like now:

#[derive(Clone, Default, Debug, Deserialize, Serialize)]
struct Cfg {
    #[serde(default, skip_serializing_if = "Logging::is_empty")]
    logging: Logging,

    // Other stuff here

Also, due to the changes, if your field is named differently than logging, you’ll need to rename it either in your configuration or in the struct.

Prelude pruning

Because spirit uses extension traits heavily to do the setup, it contains a prelude module to import all of them. Previously, the prelude also contained several concrete types. This is generally considered a bad practice. Currently, only the traits are exported from the prelude and these are exported anonymously. Therefore, there’s no chance of collision of the trait or type names.

However, due to this change you may need to import some types or traits explicitly, the most likely ones are use spirit::{Empty, Pipeline, Spirit}. The compiler should provide hints where any other types or traits live.

Feature flag tweaks

Some parts of functionality (and dependency graph) were opt-out previously. The new version is more aggressive in using feature flags ‒ more parts of the functionality are configurable by them and some features that were previously opt-out are now opt-in.

The most significant ones are:

The spirit’s background thread is now auto-joined by default

Currently, the main application wrapper ( will wait for the background thread to terminate. This can, under some occasions, cause a deadlock (caused by improper use of your application resources).

You have either the possibility of hunting it down, or changing the behaviour back with autojoin_bg_thread(Autojoin::Abandon).

Warning on unused parts of the configuration

If some parts of the configurations are unused, there’ll be a warning in the logs. If you have such options there on purpose, you can turn this off with warn_on_unused(false).

The detection is best-effort and doesn’t work fully reliably. In some cases unused parts of configuration can slip undetected.

All the rest

There are some other changes too. Some of them are bugfixes, some of them are formally breaking changes. But I hope these should produce no errors in common use cases.

There are also few things that moved around. They should be easy to fix, as rustc is very capable of pointing the new location out in the hint messages.

If there are any significant difficulties not described here, please let me know.