Hot code reloading

The hotCodeReloading option enables special compilation mode where changes in the code can be applied automatically to a running program. The code reloading happens at the granularity of an individual module. When a module is reloaded, any newly added global variables will be initialized, but all other top-level code appearing in the module won't be re-executed and the state of all existing global variables will be preserved.

Basic workflow

Currently, hot code reloading does not work for the main module itself, so we have to use a helper module where the major logic we want to change during development resides.

In this example, we use SDL2 to create a window and we reload the logic code when F9 is pressed. The important lines are marked with #***. To install SDL2 you can use nimble install sdl2.

# logic.nim
import sdl2

#*** import the hotcodereloading stdlib module ***
import std/hotcodereloading

var runGame*: bool = true
var window: WindowPtr
var renderer: RendererPtr
var evt = sdl2.defaultEvent

proc init*() =
  discard sdl2.init(INIT_EVERYTHING)
  window = createWindow("testing", SDL_WINDOWPOS_UNDEFINED.cint, SDL_WINDOWPOS_UNDEFINED.cint, 640, 480, 0'u32)
  assert(window != nil, $sdl2.getError())
  renderer = createRenderer(window, -1, RENDERER_SOFTWARE)
  assert(renderer != nil, $sdl2.getError())

proc destroy*() =

var posX: cint = 1
var posY: cint = 0
var dX: cint = 1
var dY: cint = 1

proc update*() =
  while pollEvent(evt):
    if evt.kind == QuitEvent:
      runGame = false
    if evt.kind == KeyDown:
      if evt.key.keysym.scancode == SDL_SCANCODE_ESCAPE: runGame = false
      elif evt.key.keysym.scancode == SDL_SCANCODE_F9:
        #*** reload this logic.nim module on the F9 keypress ***
  # draw a bouncing rectangle:
  posX += dX
  posY += dY
  if posX >= 640: dX = -2
  if posX <= 0: dX = +2
  if posY >= 480: dY = -2
  if posY <= 0: dY = +2
  discard renderer.setDrawColor(0, 0, 255, 255)
  discard renderer.clear()
  discard renderer.setDrawColor(255, 128, 128, 0)
  var rect: Rect = (x: posX - 25, y: posY - 25, w: 50.cint, h: 50.cint)
  discard renderer.fillRect(rect)

# mymain.nim
import logic

proc main() =
  while runGame:


Compile this example via:

nim c --hotcodereloading:on mymain.nim

Now start the program and KEEP it running!

# Unix:
mymain &
# or Windows (click on the .exe)
# edit

For example, change the line:

discard renderer.setDrawColor(255, 128, 128, 0)


discard renderer.setDrawColor(255, 255, 128, 0)

(This will change the color of the rectangle.)

Then recompile the project, but do not restart or quit the mymain.exe program!

nim c --hotcodereloading:on mymain.nim

Now give the mymain SDL window the focus, press F9, and watch the updated version of the program.

Reloading API

One can use the special event handlers beforeCodeReload and afterCodeReload to reset the state of a particular variable or to force the execution of certain statements:

 settings = initTable[string, string]()
 lastReload: Time

for k, v in loadSettings():
  settings[k] = v


  lastReload = now()

On each code reload, Nim will first execute all beforeCodeReload handlers registered in the previous version of the program and then all afterCodeReload handlers appearing in the newly loaded code. Please note that any handlers appearing in modules that weren't reloaded will also be executed. To prevent this behavior, one can guard the code with the hasModuleChanged() API:

import mydb

var myCache = initTable[Key, Value]()

  if hasModuleChanged(mydb):

The hot code reloading is based on dynamic library hot swapping in the native targets and direct manipulation of the global namespace in the JavaScript target. The Nim compiler does not specify the mechanism for detecting the conditions when the code must be reloaded. Instead, the program code is expected to call performCodeReload() every time it wishes to reload its code.

It's expected that most projects will implement the reloading with a suitable build-system triggered IPC notification mechanism, but a polling solution is also possible through the provided hasAnyModuleChanged() API.

In order to access beforeCodeReload, afterCodeReload, hasModuleChanged or hasAnyModuleChanged one must import the hotcodereloading module.

Native code targets

Native projects using the hot code reloading option will be implicitly compiled with the -d:useNimRtl option and they will depend on both the nimrtl library and the nimhcr library which implements the hot code reloading run-time. Both libraries can be found in the lib folder of Nim and can be compiled into dynamic libraries to satisfy runtime demands of the example code above. An example of compiling nimhcr.nim and nimrtl.nim when the source dir of Nim is installed with choosenim follows.

# Unix/MacOS
# Make sure you are in the directory containing your .nim files
$ cd your-source-directory

# Compile two required files and set their output directory to current dir
$ nim c --outdir:$PWD ~/.choosenim/toolchains/nim-#devel/lib/nimhcr.nim
$ nim c --outdir:$PWD ~/.choosenim/toolchains/nim-#devel/lib/nimrtl.nim

# verify that you have two files named libnimhcr and libnimrtl in your
# source directory (.dll for Windows, .so for Unix, .dylib for MacOS)

All modules of the project will be compiled to separate dynamic link libraries placed in the nimcache directory. Please note that during the execution of the program, the hot code reloading run-time will load only copies of these libraries in order to not interfere with any newly issued build commands.

The main module of the program is considered non-reloadable. Please note that procs from reloadable modules should not appear in the call stack of program while performCodeReload is being called. Thus, the main module is a suitable place for implementing a program loop capable of calling performCodeReload.

Please note that reloading won't be possible when any of the type definitions in the program has been changed. When closure iterators are used (directly or through async code), the reloaded definitions will affect only newly created instances. Existing iterator instances will execute their original code to completion.

JavaScript target

Once your code is compiled for hot reloading, a convenient solution for implementing the actual reloading in the browser using a framework such as LiveReload or BrowserSync.