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XProf is a visual tracer and profiler that allows you to track execution time of Elixir / Erlang functions. It's also able to capture arguments and results (return value or exception) of function calls that lasted longer than given number of milliseconds.


XProf was created to help solving performance problems of live, highly concurrent and utilized BE systems. It's often the case that high latency or big CPU usage is caused by very specific requests that are triggering inefficient code. Finding this code is usually pretty difficult.

How does it look like

Click the image below to watch a short demo investigating the TryMe application with XProf. The function nap sometimes takes way too much time (as you would guess from the name, it takes a bit of sleep). In the video we:

  • observe call count and duration percentiles
  • capture arguments and return values of a few long calls
  • apply a match spec to filter out "long" calls
  • compare two functions

XProf Demo


The latest stable version of XProf is 1.3.0. The upcoming 2.0.0 version is in continuous development on the release_2.0 branch, everyone is encouraged to test the latest release condidate from

XProf currently supports Erlang/OTP R16B - 20 (both 1.x and 2.x versions). Newer OTP versions might work but are not tested.

How to use it

  1. Add xprof to your build tool config file (and optionally also to the release config file such as reltool.config in order to include it in your release).
  2. Build your project.
  3. Start xprof by executing xprof:start(). in Erlang shell, or :xprof.start in Elixir shell.
  4. Go to http://localhost:7890 (replace localhost with your server’s hostname if you connect to a remote host).
  5. Type in function that you would like to start tracing.
  6. Start tracing clicking green button.

The preferred way is to add the xprof Hex package as a dependency to your rebar3 config or Mix project file:

%% rebar.config (at least version `3.3.3` is required):

{deps, [
       {xprof, "1.3.0"}
# `mix.exs`:

defp deps do
      {:xprof, "~> 1.3.0"}

You can also fetch from the github repository:

{deps, [
       {xprof, {git, "", {tag, "1.3.0"}}}

Keyboard shortcuts

  • UP/DOWN arrows: select previous/next item in the dropdown suggestion list
  • TAB: if no suggetion is selected yet auto-complete to longest common prefix of dropdown list items. Otherwise copy the selected item to the search box and refresh the dropdown list.
  • ENTER: start tracing either the selected suggestion if there is any or the expression in the search box.

Syntax mode

XProf supports both Erlang and Elixir syntax. If the elixir application is running it will use Elixir syntax and Erlang syntax otherwise to read the function to trace and to print captured arguments. It is also possible to manually set the preferred mode.

Recursive functions

By default XProf only measures the outermost call to a recursive function. For example lists:map(fun f/1, [1, 2, 3]). will only register one call to lists:map/2. This is also true for indirectly recursive functions (such as when a calls b and b calls a again). This behaviour can be undesireable so it can be disabled by setting the ignore_recursion environment variable to false.


You can configure xprof by changing its application variables:

Key Default Description
port 7890 Port for the web interface
max_tracer_queue_len 1000 Overflow protection. If main tracer proccess will have more than 1000 messages in its process queue tracing will be stopped and one needs to use trace button to resume. The purpose of this is to prevent out of memory crashes when tracer process is not able to process incomming traces fast enough. This may happen when we trace very "hot" function.
max_duration 30000 The largest duration value in ms. In case a call takes even longer, this maximum value is stored instead.
ignore_recursion true Whether to only measure the outermost call to a recursive function or not (ie. measure all calls).
mode Syntax mode (erlang or elixir)

XProf flavoured match-spec funs

In the function browser you can also specify further filters in the form of a match-spec fun (similar to recon or redbug). After the module and function name one can also give a function definition instead of arity. This gives the user the full power of match specifications and can be used both to selectively measure duration of function calls that match complicated filters and to capture only part of the arguments. The function has the same limitations as dbg:fun2ms/1. (See Match Specifications in Erlang and ms_transform).

The part after the module and function name can have different forms. It can be only an argument filter or match-spec head optionally with guards. Or it can also have a match-spec body and even multiple clauses. In the majority of practical cases however the body is not necessary.

If the body is present the function can be terminated in Erlang syntax by a single dot (just like a function definition) or end. (like a fun object definition) but both can be omitted. In Elixir syntax no end keyword should be placed at the end of the expression (unlike when defining a function or fun object).

The return_trace/exception_trace switches are always implicitly on (as that is how xprof measures duration)

Let's see some examples to make sense of all this.

Erlang examples

Only measure the duration of ets:lookup on table data

ets:lookup(data, _)

Measure connecting to either TCP port 80 or 443

gen_tcp:connect(_, Port, _, _) when Port =:= 80; Port =:= 443

Only capture the important field of a possibly big tuple

ets:insert(_, Data) -> message(element(3, Data)).

And just for the sake of example connecting to either port expressed with multiple clauses. (As the match-spec body is only evaluated for its side-efects or action-function calls and the actual return value is ignored to achieve the default behaviour any dummy term can be put there like ok or true)

gen_tcp:connect(_, 80, _, _) -> true; (_, 443, _, _) -> true end.

Elixir examples

Measure duration of Registry lookups on MyApp.Registry

Registry.lookup(MyApp.Registry, _)

Measure duration of dispatching to "topic1" or "topic2"

Registry.dispatch(MyApp.Registry, topic, _) when topic in ["topic1", "topic2"]

Instead of a possibly long list only capture the length of the list

Enum.fetch(list, index) when is_list(list) -> message([length(list), index])

Again just for the example dispatching to multiple topics expressed with multiple clauses. (Notice there is no closing end keyword)

Registry.dispatch(MyApp.Registry, "topic1", _) -> nil; (MyApp.Registry, "topic2", _) -> nil


All improvements, fixes and ideas are very welcomed!

Project uses rebar3 for building and testing erlang code. WebUI part resides in xprof app's priv directory and it's already precompiled so there is no need to build JS sources in order to run xprof.

Running tests

make test

Working with JS sources

The WebUI uses

  • React.js
  • ECMAScript 6 (with elements from 7th version).
  • Bootstrap
  • Webpack

All sources are in priv directory. The app folder contains the sources and the build folder is a placeholder for final JS generated by webpack and then served by cowboy server (XProf's dependency).

Starting XProf in development mode

To develop xprof in a convenient way the following setup is recommended.

You have to invoke following command once, if you do not have dependencies or you need to update them:

$ make bootstrap_front_end

Then going with normal development flow - in the first terminal window start Erlang xprof by calling make dev. The sync app will be started, It automatically reloads erlang modules that have changed, so you don't need to recompile every time something changed.

$ make dev

In the second window install all the assets and start webpack in development mode which is also going to recompile all JS files in priv directory when they are modified. To achieve that use following command:

$ make webpack_autoreload