Run your command. Send EOF. Get output.




Ever stumped trying to get output from a port?

Rambo has one mission. Start your program, pipe standard input, send EOF and return with output.

Rambo.run("cat", in: "hello")
{:ok, %Rambo{out: "hello"}}

Rambo.run("echo", ["-n", "world"])
{:ok, %Rambo{out: "world"}}

Rambo.run("ls") |> Rambo.run("sort") |> Rambo.run("head")
{:ok, %Rambo{out: "bar\nbaz\nfoo\n"}}

Kill your command if it’s stuck and Rambo returns any gathered results.

task = Task(fn ->


{:killed, %Rambo{out: "", status: nil}}


Erlang ports do not work with programs that expect EOF to produce output. The only way to close standard input is to close the port, which also closes standard output preventing results from coming back to your app. This gotcha is marked Won’t Fix.


When Rambo is asked to run a command, it creates a port to a shim. Then the shim runs your command, closes standard input and waits for output. After your command exits, its output is returned to your app before the port is closed and the shim exits.

+-----------------+       stdin
|          +------+------+ --> +---------+
|  Erlang  | Port | Shim |     | Command |
|          +------+------+ <-- +---------+
+-----------------+       stdout

If the Erlang node stops during the command, your command is killed and the shim exits to avoid creating orphans (process leak).

Rambo does not start a pool of processes nor support bidirectional communication with your commands. It is intentionally kept simple and lightweight to run transient jobs with minimal overhead, such as calling a Python or Node script to transform some data. For more complicated use cases, see other libraries below.


You cannot call Rambo.run from a GenServer because Rambo uses receive, which interferes with GenServer’s receive loop. However, you can wrap the call in a Task.

task = Task.async(fn ->




If you don’t need to pipe standard input to your external program, just use System.cmd.


Porcelain cannot send EOF to trigger output by default. The Goon driver must be installed separately to add this capability. Rambo ships with the required native binaries.

Goon is written in Go, a multithreaded runtime with a garbage collector. To be as lightweight as possible, Rambo’s shim is written in Rust. No garbage collector, no runtime overhead.

Most importantly, Porcelain currently leaks processes. Writing a new driver to replace Goon should fix it, but Porcelain appears to be abandoned so effort went into creating Rambo.


erlexec is great if you want fine grain control over external programs.

Each external OS process is mirrored as an Erlang process, so you get asynchronous and bidirectional communication. You can kill your OS processes with any signal or monitor them for termination, among many powerful features.

Choose erlexec if you want a kitchen sink solution.


Add rambo to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:

def deps do
    {:rambo, "~> 0.2"}

This package bundles macOS, Linux and Windows binaries (x86-64 architecture only). For other environments, install the Rust compiler or Rambo will not compile.

To remove unused binaries, set :purge to true in your configuration.

config :rambo,
  purge: true



Rambo is released under MIT license.