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Rebar3 Features (part 4): Profiles

Running tests and need meck or proper? Building docs and want edown? Bundling up a target system and want to include erts and turn off relx’s dev_mode? Rebar3 now has you covered for these scenarios through profiles.

Profiles can be named with any atom, can add new items to the configuration, or prepend new options to existing elements, and multiple profiles can be combined themselves.

The two special profiles are default and global. default is the profile everything is run under, with output going to _build/default/, unless another is specified in addition to default. When multiple profiles are used together the output directory is the profiles concatenated together with +, for example running rebar3 as test,prod <task> would produce _build/test+prod/, however the actual combination of profiles used in that run is default,test,prod, in the output default is always removed from the beginning unless it is the only profile in use.

The other special case for how profiles decide where output is written is global always refers to ~/.cache/rebar3/.

Providers are able to set profiles they will run under (in addition to default) with the {profiles, [atom()]} option to providers:create/1. Four providers that come with rebar3 specify a profile: eunit, ct and cover use test and edoc uses docs.

Examples of profile usage can help give an idea of how you might use them in your projects.

Since eunit, ct and cover run with the test profile adding deps specific to tests, like meck and eunit_formatters, which will be used when running rebar3 ct or any of the others, there is no need to include as test in the run, but to be clear, profiles are deduplicated so rebar3 as test ct will still be _build/test and not _build/test+test.

  [{test, [{deps,
             {eunit_formatters, {git, "git://github.com/seancribbs/eunit_formatters", {branch, "master"}}}

            {eunit_opts, [
              {report, {eunit_progress, [colored, profile]}}

Another common dependency that in rebar2 would be included in the main dependency list and thus be fetched even when using used as a dependency is edown. With the docs profile that edoc runs with that is solved by moving edown under the profile:

{profiles, [{docs, 
            [{deps, [
              {edown, {git, "git://github.com/uwiger/edown.git", {branch, "master"}}}

When developing a release, it is useful to use relx’s dev_mode and to set include_erts to false. But when building a release for production you’ll want the opposite. In this case, unlike with tests and docs, it is required to specify the profile you want to run the command with. Running rebar3 release will run as default, so with dev_mode true and include_erts false, while rebar3 as prod release pulls in the settings from the prod profile making dev_mode false and include_erts true.

{relx, [...
        {dev_mode, true},
        {include_erts, false},

  [{prod, [{relx, [
                   {dev_mode, false},
                   {include_erts, true}

The global profile is used in particular for plugins that the user defines in their personal rebar.config. For example I run rebar3 as global plugins upgrade to upgrade the two plugins in my ~/.config/rebar3/rebar.config:

{plugins, [rebar3_hex, rebar3_run]}.

Profiles are an important addition to the rebar configuration for making development and dependency management simpler. Please be a good Erlang citizen and separate your dependencies into the appropriate profiles, those who depend on your application will appreciate it.