Wrappers [libraries.wrappers]

Prefer native Nim code when available.

C libraries and libraries that expose a C API may be used (including rust, C++, go).

Avoid C++ libraries.

Prefer building the library on-the-fly from source using {.compile.}. Pin the library code using a submodule or amalgamation.

The interop guide contains more information about foreing language interoperability.


  • Wrapping existing code can improve time-to-market for certain features
  • Maintenance is shared with upstream
  • Build simplicity is maintained when {.compile.} is used


  • Often leads to unnatural API for Nim
  • Constrains platform support
  • Nim and nimble tooling poorly supports 3rd-party build systems making installation difficult
  • Nim C++ support incomplete
    • Less test suite coverage - most of Nim test suite uses C backend
    • Many core C++ features like const, & and && difficult to express - in particular post-C++11 code has a large semantic gap compared to Nim
    • Different semantics for exceptions and temporaries compared to C backend
    • All-or-nothing - can't use C++ backend selectively for C++ libraries
  • Using {.compile.} increases build times, specially for multi-binary projects - use judiciously for large dependencies

Practical notes

  • Consider tooling like c2nim and nimterop to create initial wrapper
  • Generate a .nim file corresponding to the .h file of the C project
    • preferably avoid the dependency on the .h file (avoid {.header.} directives unless necessary)
  • Write a separate "raw" interface that only imports C names and types as they're declared in C, then do convenience accessors on the Nim side
    • Name it xxx_abi.nim
  • To use a C++ library, write a C wrapper first
    • See llvm for example
  • When wrapping a C library, consider ABI, struct layout etc