ARGV - command line parameters for simple CLI program

CLI args ARGV count nth next

For applications that need multiple command line parameters it is probably much better to use one of the crates that can deal with command line parameters well, but for simple cases with 1-2 parameter we might prefer to use the raw values as seen by Rust.

Using the std::env::args function we create a vector of all the arguments on the command line. This will include the name of the program itself as the first parameter.

If the user does not provide any parameter we'll have one element in this vector.

If the user provides one value on the command line then we'll have a vector with two elements.

Having a program that accepts a single parameter is such a common case (at least for the programs I write) that I have a separate article for when you expect one command line parameter.

In this example first we create the array we called argv.

Then we print the content of the array and the number of elements so you can experiment with it.

Then there are several examples on how do deal with the various cases.

We can iterate over all the parameters excluding the first one which is the name of the program.

We can check if we the number of parameters is less than a certain number (in our case 3) to make sure we don't try to extract the parameters if the user has not supplied them.

We can assign the content of the argv vector to specific variables to make the code more readable. (Ok, maybe use names that are more descriptive for your purposes than "first" and "second".)


fn main() {
    let argv: Vec<String> = std::env::args().collect();

    println!("{:?}", argv);
    println!("Number of elements on the command line {}", argv.len());

    for param in &argv[1..argv.len()] {
        println!("{}", param);

    if argv.len() < 3 {
        println!("Usage: {} FIRST SECOND", argv[0]);

    let first = &argv[1];
    let second = &argv[2];
    println!("First: {}", first);
    println!("Second: {}", second);

cargo run apple banana

["target/debug/argv-simple-command-line-parameters", "apple", "banana"]
Number of elements on the command line 3


First: apple
Second: banana

Alternative without a vector

I am not sure if this is a "better" solution, or in what way would this be a better solution, but I've seen this used in a number of examples.


fn main() {
    let (first, second) = if std::env::args().count() == 3 {
    } else {
        println!("Usage: {} FIRST SECOND", std::env::args().next().unwrap());

    println!("Number of elements on the command line {}", std::env::args().count());

    println!("First: {}", first);
    println!("Second: {}", second);

Here we use various features of the fact that args() returns an iterator. We can use the count() method to get the number of elements, we can use the nth() method to get the nth element and we can use the next() method to get, surprise, surprise, the next element.

The nth() method uses 0-based index and thus nth(1) is in reality the 2nd element the iterator returns.

I'd probably use nth(0) to get the first element of the iterator, but [clippy]( suggested I try next()` instead so that's what I have in the example.

Related Pages

Clap - show version number of the command line application in Rust
Clap - positional command line arguments in Rust
CLI - Command Line Interface in Rust


Gabor Szabo (szabgab)

Gabor Szabo, the author of the Rust Maven web site maintains several Open source projects in Rust and while he still feels he has tons of new things to learn about Rust he already offers training courses in Rust and still teaches Python, Perl, git, GitHub, GitLab, CI, and testing.

Gabor Szabo