June 17, 2024


The Joy of Technology

Rust tutorial: Get started with the Rust language

The world of programming languages is a dynamic one, constantly evolving to meet the demands of modern software development. In this tutorial, we will embark on a journey into the realm of Rust, a powerful and innovative language that has been gaining traction in recent years. Whether you’re a seasoned programmer or a newcomer to the coding landscape, Rust offers a unique blend of features that make it a compelling choice for your next project. So, let’s dive into this Rust tutorial and get started with this fascinating language.

What Is Rust?

Rust is a system programming language known for its emphasis on safety, performance, and concurrency. Developed by Mozilla, Rust was created as an answer to the shortcomings of C and C++, aiming to provide developers with a language that eliminates common programming errors, such as null pointer dereferencing and data races. It achieves this while still delivering near-native performance.

Setting Up Your Development Environment

Before we can start coding in Rust, we need to set up our development environment. First, you’ll need to download and install the Rust compiler, known as rustc, and the package manager, Cargo. These tools are the backbone of Rust development and are readily available for various platforms, from your computer to your favorite tablet.

Once installed, you can verify your setup by opening a terminal or command prompt and running the following commands:


$ rustc --version $ cargo --version

If you see version information for both rustc and cargo, congratulations! Your Rust development environment is ready to roll.

Your First Rust Program

Now that your development environment is set up, it’s time to write your first Rust program. Create a new file with the .rs extension, which is the file extension for Rust source code. Let’s start with a classic “Hello, World!” program:


fn main() { println!("Hello, World!"); }

Save this code in a file, say main.rs, and then open your terminal or command prompt. Navigate to the directory where you saved the file and run the following command to compile and execute your Rust program:


$ rustc main.rs $ ./main

You should see the familiar “Hello, World!” message printed to the console. Congratulations, you’ve just written and executed your first Rust program!

Variables and Data Types

In Rust, like in any programming language, variables are a fundamental concept. You declare variables using the let keyword. For example, to declare an integer variable, you can do the following:


let my_number = 42;

Rust is a statically typed language, which means you need to specify the data type of your variables. However, Rust’s type inference is smart enough to often figure it out for you.

Here’s a quick overview of some common data types in Rust:

  • Integer types: i8, i16, i32, i64, i128, u8, u16, u32, u64, u128.
  • Floating-point types: f32, f64.
  • Boolean type: bool.
  • Character type: char.
  • String type: String (from the std::string module).
  • Arrays: Fixed-size sequences of elements.
  • Vectors: Dynamic-size sequences of elements.
  • Tuples: Fixed-size ordered collections of elements of different types.

Functions and Control Flow

Rust, like most programming languages, supports functions and control flow statements. Functions are declared using the fn keyword. Here’s a simple function that calculates the square of a number:


fn square(x: i32) -> i32 { x * x }

In Rust, the last expression in a function is used as the return value unless you specify a return statement.

Control flow statements like if, else, and match work similarly to other languages. Here’s an example of using an if statement:


fn is_even(x: i32) -> bool { if x % 2 == 0 { true } else { false } }

And here’s an example of a match statement to categorize a number:


fn categorize_number(x: i32) { match x { 0 => println!("It's zero!"), 1 | 2 => println!("It's one or two!"), _ => println!("It's something else!"), } }

Ownership and Borrowing

One of Rust’s most distinctive features is its ownership system, which eliminates many common bugs like null pointer dereferencing and data races. Rust enforces strict rules about memory management, ensuring that memory is allocated and deallocated safely.

The ownership system revolves around three core concepts:

  1. Ownership: Each value in Rust has a variable that’s its “owner.” This owner is responsible for cleaning up the value when it’s no longer needed.
  2. Borrowing: Instead of transferring ownership, you can “borrow” a reference to a value. There are two types of borrowing in Rust: mutable and immutable.
  3. Lifetimes: Lifetimes ensure that references are always valid and don’t outlive the data they point to.

These concepts may sound complex at first, but they are essential for writing safe and efficient Rust code.


This brief Rust tutorial has only scratched the surface of what this powerful language has to offer. Rust’s focus on safety, performance, and concurrency makes it a compelling choice for systems programming, game development, web services, and more. As you delve deeper into Rust, you’ll discover its robust ecosystem, rich libraries, and a thriving community ready to support your journey into the world of safe and efficient coding. So, whether you’re coding on your trusty computer or even on your favorite tablet, Rust has a lot to offer for your programming adventures.