Homebrew Installer

since 0.2.0

cargo-dist can automatically build and publish Homebrew formulae (packages) for your application. Users can install your application with an expression like brew install axodotdev/tap/axolotlsay and automatically get updates whenever they update their Homebrew packages.

The homebrew package will fetch your prebuilt archives, and install the contents in the traditional homebrew directory structure.

Building a formula is pretty straight-forward, but publishing it requires you to create a your own Homebrew tap (package repository), because the core Homebrew tap does not accept prebuilt binaries from third parties. This sounds hard, but surprisingly it's not: you need to make a repository named "homebrew-tap" under your GitHub org or user, and get a GitHub API token to push to it. cargo-dist will manage the contents of the repo for you.


To setup your homebrew installer you need to create a custom tap and enable the installer. This is broken up into parts because a project administrator may need to be involved in part 1, while part 2 can be done by anyone.

Part 1: Creating A Custom Homebrew Tap

  1. Create a GitHub repository called "homebrew-tap" (axodotdev/homebrew-tap)
  2. Create a GitHub personal access token with the repo scope
  3. Add the token as a GitHub Secret called HOMEBREW_TAP_TOKEN to the repository you want to publish from (axodotdev/axolotlsay)

We recommend initializing the repository with a README, but otherwise the directory structure will be managed by cargo-dist, and many separate repos can publish to the same tap without issue.

A Homebrew Tap is just a GitHub repository that starts with homebrew-. Many homebrew features allow that prefix to be elided, so the package axolotlsay published in axodotdev/homebrew-tap, can be installed as axodotdev/tap/axolotlsay. Your users don't need to "register" anything to use it, custom taps are just that builtin to Homebrew.

Part 2: Enabling The Homebrew Installer

  1. run cargo dist init on your project
  2. when prompted to pick installers, enable "homebrew"
  3. this should trigger a prompt for your tap (axodotdev/homebrew-tap)

...that's it! Assuming you already setup your custom tap, as described in the previous section. If this worked, your config should now contain the following entries:

# "..." indicates other installers you may have selected
installers = ["...", "homebrew", "..."]
tap = "axodotdev/homebrew-tap"
publish-jobs = ["homebrew"]

Next make sure that description and homepage are set in your Cargo.toml. These fields are optional but make for better formula definitions.

description = "a CLI for learning to distribute CLIs in rust"
homepage = "https://github.com/axodotdev/axolotlsay"

Renaming Formulae

since 0.11.0

By default, your formula will be named using the app name (in Rust, this is the crate name). If you are overriding the bin name, you may want to make your Homebrew formula match with the formula setting:

name = "legacyname"

name = "coolname"
path = "src/main.rs"

formula = "coolname"

Adding Binary Aliases

since 0.14.0

If you want to install symlinked aliases for your binaries, you can do so with the bin-aliases setting.


since 0.6.0

The formulae cargo-dist builds automatically support Linux and macOS, as long as you release your application for the relevant targets.

Limitations / Caveats

There Is Only One Version

Homebrew fundamentally does not support the notion of a package having multiple published versions. There is only the latest version. If you publish a new version of a package, it will always replace the current one. This is why the publish-prereleases setting is disabled by default: otherwise publishing 2.0.0-prerelease.1 would completely obliterate 1.0.0, which presumably you'd prefer users installing.

Unfortunately if you have any kind of non-linear version history (such as doing a patch release for 1.0 after already releasing 2.0), the published Homebrew package will randomly contain whichever one you released last. The releases are just git commits though, so you can manually revert a release if you want.

Unsupported Formats

  • Does not support creating a formula which builds from source
  • Does not support Cask for more convenient GUI app installation