IO, Exceptions, and More Typeclasses

In this tutorial, we will take a brief look at IO including exceptions and then at few more advanced typeclasses that you might want to use in some projects. They are not described in high detail, but just in an introductory manner, so when you encounter some problem - you should know what you can use and learn specific details for your case.

Working with IO

When you need to incorporate input and output (CLI, files, sockets, etc.), you bring impureness into your program. Obviously, IO brings side effects (it interacts with the environment and changes the global state). It can be a bit complicated and so we won’t go deep into theory this time and instead, we will just show how to use it. Theoretical part will be covered in the future.

Prelude> :info IO
newtype IO a
  = GHC.Types.IO (GHC.Prim.State# GHC.Prim.RealWorld
                  -> (# GHC.Prim.State# GHC.Prim.RealWorld, a #))
        -- Defined in ‘GHC.Types’
instance Monad IO -- Defined in ‘GHC.Base’
instance Functor IO -- Defined in ‘GHC.Base’
instance Applicative IO -- Defined in ‘GHC.Base’
instance Monoid a => Monoid (IO a) -- Defined in ‘GHC.Base’

It is instance of Monad, but also Functor, Aplicative, and Monoid (iff a is also Monoid):

import System.Random
import Control.Applicative

main0 :: IO ()
main0 = mempty

main1 :: IO ()
main1 = putStrLn "a" `mappend` putStrLn "b"

main2 :: IO ()
main2 = mconcat (map print [1..5])

main3 :: IO ()
main3 = do
     rname <- reverse <$> getLine  -- fmap reverse getLine
     print rname

main4 :: IO ()
main4 = print 1 *> print 2 *> print 3

main5 :: IO ()
main5 = print 1 <* print 2 <* print 3

main6 :: IO ()
main6 = do
     res <- (+) <$> randomInt <*> randomInt
     print res
       where randomInt = randomRIO (1, 10) :: IO Integer

main7 :: IO ()
main7 = do
    res <- liftA2 (\x y -> x + read y) randomInt getLine
    print res
      where randomInt = randomRIO (1, 10) :: IO Integer

A lot of confusion comes from ideas such as “Monad is IO”, “To do something impure I need a monad”, “Monad brings imperative style to FP”, or “Monad is something hard and weird”. No, Monad is just a type class with defined operations and laws, just as Monoid (so pretty simple, right?!). IO actions manipulate and output, this is their essence. And BY THE WAY, they are (very conveniently) an instance of Monad, Applicative, and Functor. Those allow you to do some pure composition and other tricks with IO type and actions. A great and detailed explanation can be found on HaskellWiki - IO inside.

The main and gets + puts

If you know C/C++, Python, or other programming languages, you should be familiar with “main”. As in other languages, main is defined to be the entry point of a Haskell program. For Stack projects, it is located in a file inside app directory and can be defined in package.yaml in executables section (it is possible to have multiple entrypoints per program). The type of main is IO () – it can do something (some actions) with IO and nothing () is returned. You may wonder why it is not IO Int (with a return code). It is because giving a return code is also an IO action and you can do it from main with functions from System.Exit.

Now, let’s take a look at basic IO examples:

main1 :: IO ()
main1 = putStr "Hello, Haskeller!"     -- putStr :: String -> IO ()

main2 :: IO ()
main2 = putStrLn "Hello, Haskeller!"   -- putStrLn :: String -> IO ()

main3 :: IO ()
main3 = do
          putStr "Haskell "
          putChar 'F'                   -- putChar :: Char -> IO ()
          putChar 'T'
          putChar 'W'
          putStrLn "! Don't you think?!"

-- pure function
sayHello :: String -> String
sayHello name = "Hello, " ++ name ++ "!"

main4 :: IO ()
main4 = do
          putStrLn "Enter your name:"
          name <- getLine                -- getLine :: IO String, see getChar & getContents
          putStrLn . sayHello $ name

-- custom IO action
promptInt :: IO Int
promptInt = do
              putStr "Enter single integer: "
              inpt <- getLine       -- unwraps from IO (inpt :: String)
              return (read inpt)    -- return wraps with IO, read :: String -> Int

compute x y = 50 * x + y

main5 :: IO ()
main5 = do
          intA <- promptInt
          intB <- promptInt
          putStrLn ("Result: ++ show . compute $ intA intB)

main6 :: IO ()
main6 = print 1254                  -- print = putStrLn . show

What does do do?

It doesn’t look so weird if you recall how imperative programming works… But we are in the functional world now, so what is going on? Haskell provides do notation, which is just a syntactic sugar for chaining actions and bindings (not just IO, in general!) in a simple manner instead of using >> (then) and >>= (bind) operators of the typeclass Monad. We cover this topic in detail in the next lecture, right now you can remember that although do looks imperative, it is actually still pure thanks to a smart “trick”.

When you use the binding operator <-, it means that the result of a bound action can be used in following actions. In the example with main4, IO action getLine is of type IO String and you want to use the wrapped String - you bind the result to name name and then use it in combination with pure function sayHello for the following action that will do the output. The do block consists of actions and bindings and binding cannot be the last one!

You might have noticed the return in custom promptInt action. This is a confusing thing for beginners, as return here has nothing to do with imperative languages return. The confusing thing is that it looks very much like it. However, conceptually it is not a control-flow expression, but just a function of the typeclass Monad which is used for wrapping back something, in this case return :: String -> IO String. This is one of the reasons why PureScript got rid of return and uses pure instead. Again, we will look at this in detail in the next lecture.

Be interactive

A very interesting construct for building a simple CLI is interact :: (String -> String) -> IO (). The interact function takes a function of type String -> String as its argument. The entire input from the standard input device is passed to this function as its argument, and the resulting string is output on the standard output device. Btw. this is a nice example of a higher-order function at work, right?

import Data.Char

main1 :: IO ()
main1 = interact (map toUpper)

main2 :: IO ()
main2 = interact (show . length)

main3 :: IO ()
main3 = interact reverse

As is emphasized, it works with an entire input. If you’ve tried the examples above, you could observe a difference made by lazy evaluation in the first case. If you need to interact by lines or by words, you can create helper functions for that easily.

eachLine :: (String -> String) -> (String -> String)
eachLine f = unlines . f . lines

eachWord :: (String -> String) -> (String -> String)
eachWord f = unwords . f . words

main5 :: IO ()
main5 = interact (eachLine reverse)

main6 :: IO ()
main6 = interact (eachWord reverse)

chatBot "Hello" = "Hi, how are you?"
chatBot "Fine" = "Lucky you... bye!"
chatBot "Bad" = "Me too!"
chatBot _ = "Sorry, I'm too dumb to understand this..."

main7 :: IO ()
main7 = interact (eachLine chatBot)

IO with files

Working with files is very similar to working with console IO. As you may already know, most of IO for consoles is built by using IO for files with system “file” stdin and stdout. Such thing is called a Handle in Haskell and it is well described in System.IO.

main1 :: IO ()
main1 = withFile "test.txt" ReadMode $ \handle -> do
           fileSize <- hFileSize handle
           print fileSize
           xs <- getlines handle
           sequence_ $ map (putStrLn . reverse) xs

main2 :: IO ()
main2 = do
          handle <- openFile  "test.txt" ReadMode    -- :: IO Handle
          fileSize <- hFileSize handle
          print fileSize
          hClose handle

In a similar manner, you can work with binary files (you would use ByteStrings) and temporary files. To work with sockets (network communication), you can use a library like network or specifically for HTTP wreq and req.

For some well-known file formats there are libraries ready, so you don’t have to work with them over and over again just with functions from Prelude:

… and so on. Also, you probably know the fabulous pandoc, which is written in Haskell – and you can use it as a library!

Hmmm, who said that Haskell is just for math and mad academics? ;-)

Arguments and env variables

Another way of interacting with a program is via its command-line arguments and environment variables. Again, there is a little bit clumsy but simple way in System.Environment and then some fancy libraries that can help you with more complex cases…

main :: IO ()
main = do
         progName <- getProgName    -- IO String
         print progName
         path <- getExecutablePath  -- IO String
         print path
         args <- getArgs            -- :: IO [String]
         print args
         user <- lookupEnv "USER"   -- :: IO (Maybe String), vs. getEnv :: IO String
         print user
         env <- getEnvironment      -- :: IO [(String, String)]
         print env

The most used library for command line option parser is cmdargs:

{-# LANGUAGE DeriveDataTypeable #-}
module Sample where
import System.Console.CmdArgs

data Sample = Hello {whom :: String}
            | Goodbye
              deriving (Show, Data, Typeable)

hello = Hello{whom = def}
goodbye = Goodbye

main = do
         args <- cmdArgs (modes [hello, goodbye])
         print args

For a more complex example, visit their documentation – for example, hlint or diffy use this one.

Handling errors

As we saw, a very elegant way way how to handle errors is using Maybe or Either types. This is a preferred way with obvious advantages, however, in practice, it may still come to a more explosive situation.


error is a special function which stops execution with given message:

Prelude> error "Stop now"
*** Exception: Stop now
CallStack (from HasCallStack):
  error, called at <interactive>:1:1 in interactive:Ghci1

There is another quite similar one - errorWithoutStackTrace:

Prelude> errorWithoutStackTrace "Stop now without stack trace"
*** Exception: Stop now without stack trace

It is obviously even worse than just error because you somewhere deep in your code say something about rendering the error…


Special case of error is that something is undefined and it does not accept any message:

Prelude> undefined
*** Exception: Prelude.undefined
CallStack (from HasCallStack):
  error, called at libraries/base/GHC/Err.hs:79:14 in base:GHC.Err
  undefined, called at <interactive>:5:1 in interactive:Ghci1

Semantically, it can be used where the value is not defined (for example when you want to divide by zero). Sometimes you can see it used as a basic placeholder with meaning “Not implemented yet”. For such things, you can use custom error or some specialized package like Development.Placeholders, which are more suitable.

throw, try and catch

We have throw, try and catch, but those are functions - not keywords!

Prelude> import Control.Exception
Prelude Control.Exception> :type try
try :: Exception e => IO a -> IO (Either e a)
Prelude Control.Exception> :type throw
throw :: Exception e => e -> a
Prelude Control.Exception> :type catch
catch :: Exception e => IO a -> (e -> IO a) -> IO a

If you are interested you can read the documentation of Control.Exception, however, exceptions are considered an anti-pattern in Haskell and you should always try to deal with potential errors in a more systematic way using types. We will slightly get back to these after getting the notion of Monads.

import System.IO
import Control.Exception

myHandler exc = do
  putStrLn "Oops, error occured while trying to read the file"
  putStrLn $ "It failed with: " ++ show (exc :: SomeException)

main = handle myHandler $ do
        fp <- openFile "test.txt" ReadMode
        fileSize <- hFileSize fp
        print fileSize
        hClose fp

Advanced Typeclasses


Recall the time when we were talking about folds… The Foldable type class provides a generalization of list folding (foldr and friends) and operations derived from it to arbitrary data structures. The class does not require the Functor superclass in order to allow containers like Set or StorableVector that have additional constraints on the element type. But many interesting Foldables are also Functors. A foldable container is a container with the added property that its items can be ‘folded’ to a summary value. Recall what foldr and foldl do…

In other words, it is a type which supports “foldr”. Once you support foldr, of course, it can be turned into a list, by using toList = foldr (:) []. This means that all foldables have a representation as a list, but the order of the items may or may not have any particular significance. However, if a Foldable is also a Functor, parametricity, and the Functor law guarantee that toList and fmap commute. Further, in the case of Data.Sequence, there is a well-defined order and it is exposed as expected by toList. A particular kind of fold well-used by Haskell programmers is mapM_, which is a kind of fold over (>>), and Foldable provides this along with the related sequence_.

import Data.Foldable

class Foldable (t :: * -> *) where
  fold :: Monoid m => t m -> m
  foldMap :: Monoid m => (a -> m) -> t a -> m
  foldr :: (a -> b -> b) -> b -> t a -> b
  foldr' :: (a -> b -> b) -> b -> t a -> b
  foldl :: (b -> a -> b) -> b -> t a -> b
  foldl' :: (b -> a -> b) -> b -> t a -> b
  foldr1 :: (a -> a -> a) -> t a -> a
  foldl1 :: (a -> a -> a) -> t a -> a
  toList :: t a -> [a]
  null :: t a -> Bool
  length :: t a -> Int
  elem :: Eq a => a -> t a -> Bool
  maximum :: Ord a => t a -> a
  minimum :: Ord a => t a -> a
  sum :: Num a => t a -> a
  product :: Num a => t a -> a
  {-# MINIMAL foldMap | foldr #-}

This class is very straight-forward, it has no specific laws, but it is very powerful as we’ve already known… It allows you to create new or use various containers with same generic functions like null, length, elem, minimum, maximum, and others seamlessly and without any problems. For more, see Data.Foldable.

Specialized folds

Aside functions defined in Foldable typeclass, there are some additional specialized folds that can be very useful and avoid reinventing the wheel in your code:

concat :: Foldable t => t [a] -> [a]
concatMap :: Foldable t => (a -> [b]) -> t a -> [b]

and :: Foldable t => t Bool -> Bool
or :: Foldable t => t Bool -> Bool

any :: Foldable t => (a -> Bool) -> t a -> Bool
all :: Foldable t => (a -> Bool) -> t a -> Bool

maximumBy :: Foldable t => (a -> a -> Ordering) -> t a -> a
minimumBy :: Foldable t => (a -> a -> Ordering) -> t a -> a

notElem :: (Foldable t, Eq a) => a -> t a -> Bool
find :: Foldable t => (a -> Bool) -> t a -> Maybe a

Foldable and Applicative

Then, there are some specialized functions that are useful when you have Applicative objects in a Foldable structure or want to apply them over a Foldable structure. (Notice the underscores)

traverse_ :: (Foldable t, Applicative f) => (a -> f b) -> t a -> f ()

for_ :: (Foldable t, Applicative f) => t a -> (a -> f b) -> f ()      -- flip . traverse_

sequenceA_ :: (Foldable t, Applicative f) => t (f a) -> f ()

asum :: (Foldable t, Alternative f) => t (f a) -> f a                 -- Alternative is described in this tutorial
Prelude Data.Foldable> traverse_ print [1..3]
Prelude Data.Foldable> :t traverse_ print [1..3]
traverse_ print [1..3] :: IO ()
Prelude Data.Foldable> for_ [1..3] print
Prelude Data.Foldable> :t for_ [1..3] print
for_ [1..3] print :: IO ()
Prelude Data.Foldable> sequenceA_ [print 1, print 2, print 3]
Prelude Data.Foldable Data.Traversable> sequenceA_ [getLine, getLine, getLine]
Prelude Data.Foldable> :t sequenceA_ [getLine, getLine, getLine]
sequenceA_ [getLine, getLine, getLine] :: IO ()
Prelude Data.Foldable> asum [print 1, print 2, print 3]
Prelude Data.Foldable> :t asum [print 1, print 2, print 3]
asum [print 1, print 2, print 3] :: IO ()
Prelude Data.Foldable> asum [Just "a", Nothing, Just "b"]
Just "a"
Prelude Data.Foldable> asum [Nothing, Just "b"]
Just "b"

Foldable and Monad

Similarly, there are also same folds for Monads, just naming is a bit different:

mapM_ :: (Foldable t, Monad m) => (a -> m b) -> t a -> m ()

forM_ :: (Foldable t, Monad m) => t a -> (a -> m b) -> m ()  -- flip . mapM_

sequence_ :: (Foldable t, Monad m) => t (m a) -> m ()

msum :: (Foldable t, MonadPlus m) => t (m a) -> m a          -- An alternative is described in this tutorial


A Traversable type is a kind of upgraded Foldable with use of Functor. Where Foldable gives you the ability to go through the structure processing the elements (catamorphism) but throwing away the “shape”, Traversable allows you to do that whilst preserving the “shape” and, e.g., putting new values in. Traversable is what we need for mapM and sequence: note the apparently surprising fact that the versions ending with an underscore (e.g., mapM_) are in a different typeclass - in Foldable.

class (Functor t, Foldable t) => Traversable (t :: * -> *) where
  traverse :: Applicative f => (a -> f b) -> t a -> f (t b)
  sequenceA :: Applicative f => t (f a) -> f (t a)
  mapM :: Monad m => (a -> m b) -> t a -> m (t b)
  sequence :: Monad m => t (m a) -> m (t a)
  {-# MINIMAL traverse | sequenceA #-}

Traversable has, unlike Foldable, a few laws (naturality, identity, composition, …). For more, see Data.Traversable.

No more underscore

Indeed, some functions from Foldable are in Traversable without trailing _ and it means “preserving the structure”:

for :: (Traversable t, Applicative f) => t a -> (a -> f b) -> f (t b)

forM :: (Traversable t, Monad m) => t a -> (a -> m b) -> m (t b)
Prelude Data.Traversable> traverse print [1..3]
Prelude Data.Traversable> for [1..3] print
Prelude Data.Foldable Data.Traversable> sequenceA [print 1, print 2, print 3]
Prelude Data.Foldable Data.Traversable> sequenceA [getLine, getLine, getLine]


As you know, Haskell is great, there is no mutability, which results in reference transparency, everything has a mathematical foundations, and life is perfect. Or not? Using a mutable state is clearly over-used in imperative and object-oriented programming, at the same time, the concept of “state” may be inherently present in the modelled domain and so we need to deal with it.

In the simplest case, the solution is to pass the state (or context) to the function, do something, and get the result with new (new - next one, no mutability) state that you can pass further. This creates a pattern, which is embodied in the State Monad. You can write your own or you can use Control.Monad.State and (little bit different) Control.Monad.Trans.State

import Control.Monad

newtype State s a = State { runState :: s -> (a, s) }

instance Functor (State s) where
  fmap = Control.Monad.liftM

instance Applicative (State s) where
  pure = return
  (<*>) = Control.Monad.ap

instance Monad (State s) where
  return x  = State (\s -> (x, s))
  p >>= k   = State $ \s0 ->                       -- Sequencing:
                      let (x, s1) = runState p s0  -- Running p on s0.
                      in runState (k x) s1         -- Running k on s1.

There are two interesting things. First, State is a record type with one field of type s -> (a, s). Then (>>=) operator returns a State with a function that first runs p on given state s0, get intermediary result (x, s) and returns the result of running k x on s1

Example: simple counter

Let’s look at a simple example:

import Control.Monad.State

type Counter = State Int Int

tick :: Counter
tick = state (\x -> (x + 1, x + 1))

tick3 :: Counter
tick3 = do

main = do
          print (evalState tick3 0)
          print (evalState tick3 5)

If still not clear, try to read about Reader and Writer monads and look here or into the classic LYAH.

Random in Haskell

When you are using System.Random, you work with State: State is the generator for pseudorandom numbers (some equation with “memory”).

import System.Random

main = do
   gen <- newStdGen   -- state
   let ns = randoms gen :: [Int]
   print $ take 10 ns


Another typical example where you use State is when you want to parse something. So for this purpose, we have Parser monadic combinator as follows:

newtype Parser a = Parser (parse :: String -> [(a,String)])

A very nice example is here.

For custom Read instance, you can do something simple, but it still works as a parser and uses ReadS (S ~ state):

import Data.Char

data Time = Time Int Int Int

timePart x
  | x < 10    = '0' : show x
  | otherwise = show x

instance Show Time where
  show (Time hours minutes seconds) = timePart hours ++ ":" ++ timePart minutes ++ ":" ++ timePart seconds

instance Read Time where
  readsPrec _ (h1:h2:':':m1:m2:':':s1:s2:remaining)
    | all isDigit [h1,h2,m1,m2,s1,s2] = [(Time h m s, remaining)]
    | otherwise = []
      h = mkTimePart h1 h2
      m = mkTimePart m1 m2
      s = mkTimePart s1 s2
      mkTimePart x1 x2 = 10 * digitToInt x1 + digitToInt x2
  readsPrec _ _ = []

Notice that you have to return list of tuples of type (a, String) just like in parse. The readsPrec gets and Int and then String where the number serves for the operator precedence of the enclosing context (can be often omitted).

Alternative and MonadPlus

We are used use type Maybe when the result can be something or fail/nothing, and lists when there are many results of the same type and arbitrary size. Typeclasses Alternative and MonadPlus are here to provide a generic way of aggregating results together. Maybe and [] are its instances - read more: Control.Applicative#Alternative and Control.Monad#MonadPlus. You might find this very useful for parsing.

class Applicative f => Alternative f where
  empty :: f a
  (<|>) :: f a -> f a -> f a

class Monad m => MonadPlus m where
  mzero :: m a
  mplus :: m a -> m a -> m a
Prelude Control.Applicative> (Just 5) <|> (Just 7)
Just 5
Prelude Control.Applicative> Nothing <|> (Just 7)
Just 7
Prelude Control.Applicative> [1..5] <|> [3..7]
Prelude Control.Applicative> getLine <|> getLine

guard (don’t mix with guards!)

An interesting function related to Alternative is guard :: Alternative f => Bool -> f (). What does it do? It works like a guard in a sequence of actions!

import Control.Monad

getIntGt100 :: IO Int
getIntGt100 = do
                putStrLn "Enter number > 100:"
                number <- (read :: String -> Int) <$> getLine
                guard (number > 100)
                return number

main = do
         x <- getIntGt100
         print "OK, it is bigger than 100"

Monad Transformers

We have seen how monads can help handling IO actions, Maybe, lists, and state. With monads providing a common way to use such useful general-purpose tools, a natural thing we might want to do is using the capabilities of several monads at once. For instance, a function could use both I/O and Maybe exception handling. While a type like IO (Maybe a) would work just fine, it would force us to do pattern matching within IO do-blocks to extract values, something that the Maybe monad was meant to spare us from. Sounds like a dead end, right?!

Luckily, we have monad transformers that can be used to combine monads in this way, save us time, and make the code easier to read.


Consider following simple program:

getPassphrase :: IO (Maybe String)
getPassphrase = do s <- getLine
                   if isValid s then return $ Just s
                                else return Nothing

-- The validation test could be anything we want it to be.
isValid :: String -> Bool
isValid s = length s >= 8
            && any isAlpha s
            && any isNumber s
            && any isPunctuation s

askPassphrase :: IO ()
askPassphrase = do putStrLn "Insert your new passphrase:"
                   maybe_value <- getPassphrase
                   case maybe_value of
                       Just value -> do putStrLn "Storing in database..."  -- do stuff
                       Nothing -> putStrLn "Passphrase invalid."

Not nice even for a simple example. Now, we will get rid of the complexity with MaybeT.

-- newtype MaybeT m a = MaybeT { runMaybeT :: m (Maybe a) }

getPassphrase :: MaybeT IO String
getPassphrase = do s <- lift getLine
                   guard (isValid s) -- Alternative provides guard.
                   return s

askPassphrase :: MaybeT IO ()
askPassphrase = do lift $ putStrLn "Insert your new passphrase:"
                   value <- getPassphrase
                   lift $ putStrLn "Storing in database..."

For more about monad transformers visit this and the transformers package. There is also a very nice chapter about them in

Category and Arrow

Recall what was told about Category Theory in the last tutorial. In Haskell, we have also typeclasses Category and Arrow (Do you remember? Alias for morphisms.). We mention it here just as an interesting part of Haskell and let you explore it if you are interested…

Arrows are a new abstract view of computation, defined by John Hughes. They serve much the same purpose as monads – providing a common structure for libraries – but are more general. In particular, they allow notions of computation that may be partially static (independent of the input) or may take multiple inputs. If your application works fine with monads, you might as well stick with them. But if you’re using a structure that’s very like a monad, but isn’t one, maybe it’s an arrow. (see [])

class Category (cat :: k -> k -> *) where
  id  :: forall (a :: k). cat a a
  (.) :: forall (b :: k) (c :: k) (a :: k). cat b c -> cat a b -> cat a c
  {-# MINIMAL id, (.) #-}

class Category a => Arrow (a :: * -> * -> *) where
  arr :: (b -> c) -> a b c
  first :: a b c -> a (b, d) (c, d)
  second :: a b c -> a (d, b) (d, c)
  (***) :: a b c -> a b' c' -> a (b, b') (c, c')
  (&&&) :: a b c -> a b c' -> a b (c, c')
  {-# MINIMAL arr, (first | (***)) #-}

A simple example (from Haskell Wiki):

import Control.Category
import Control.Arrow

newtype SimpleFunc a b = SimpleFunc { runF :: (a -> b) }

instance Arrow SimpleFunc where
  arr f = SimpleFunc f
  first  (SimpleFunc f) = SimpleFunc (mapFst f)
                           where mapFst g (a,b) = (g a, b)
  second (SimpleFunc f) = SimpleFunc (mapSnd f)
                           where mapSnd g (a,b) = (a, g b)

instance Category SimpleFunc where
  (SimpleFunc f) . (SimpleFunc g) = SimpleFunc (f . g)
  id = arr id
*Main> func1 x = x + 2
*Main> func2 = show
*Main> func3 = reverse
*Main> arrow1 = SimpleFunc { run
runF        runKleisli
*Main> arrow1 = SimpleFunc { runF = func1 }
*Main> :type arrow1
arrow1 :: Num b => SimpleFunc b b
*Main> arrow2 = SimpleFunc { runF = func2 }
*Main> arrow3 = arr func3
*Main> :type arrow3
arrow3 :: Arrow a => a [a1] [a1]
*Main> arrow4 = first arrow1
*Main> runF arrow4 (2, 4)
*Main> runF arrow4 (2, "Hello")
*Main> arrow5 = second arrow1
*Main> runF arrow4 (2, 4)
*Main> runF arrow5 (2, 4)
*Main> arrow6 = arrow1 *** arrow3
*Main> runF arrow6 (5, "Hello")
*Main> arrow7 = arrow1 &&& arrow2
*Main> runF arrow7 5
*Main> arrow8 = arrow1 >>> arrow2
*Main> runF arrow8 5

A good explanation with nice visualization is in the chapter Understanding Arrows at wikibooks.

Lens (and the taste of Template Haskell)

The last thing we are going to get into this time is Lens. It is something that can make you a way more productive while working with records and especially nested records - which is something really common in non-trivial programs.

At the same time, you should know that there is some controversy about Lens, as they bring quite heavy dependencies (including Template Haskell, see below). As with every dependency, it is neccesary to weigh the pros and cons, so do not use Lens just for everything, because they are so nice ;-).

The combinators in Control.Lens provide a highly generic toolbox for composing families of getters, folds, isomorphisms, traversals, setters and lenses and their indexed variants. A lens is a first-class reference to a subpart of some data type. For instance, we have _1 which is the lens that “focuses on” the first element of a pair. Given a lens there are essentially three things you might want to do:

  1. View the subpart
  2. Modify the whole by changing the subpart
  3. Combine this lens with another lens to look even deeper

If you are interested in Control.Lens, follow links in Further reading sections…

Lens example

First, let’s try example without lens:

data Point2D = Point2D { x, y :: Int } deriving Show
data Line = Line { pA, pB :: Point2D } deriving Show
Main*> :type x
x :: Point2D -> Int
Main*> :type pA
pA :: Line -> Point2D
Main*> line = Line { pA = Point2D { x = 0, y = 0 }, pB = Point2D { x = 5, y = 7 } }
Main*> line
Line {pA = Point2D {x = 0, y = 0}, pB = Point2D {x = 5, y = 7}}
Main*> pA line
Point2D {x = 0, y = 0}
Main*> x . pA $ line
Main*> x . pB $ line
Main*> line { pA = ((pA line) { y = 2 }) }  -- change y of first point
Line {pA = Point2D {x = 0, y = 2}, pB = Point2D {x = 5, y = 7}}

And now with lens - it will help us:

{-# LANGUAGE TemplateHaskell, RankNTypes #-}

import Control.Lens

data Point2D = Point2D { _x, _y :: Int } deriving Show
data Line = Line { _pA, _pB :: Point2D } deriving Show

makeLenses ''Point2D -- magic
makeLenses ''Line    -- magic
*Main> :type x
x :: Functor f => (Int -> f Int) -> Point2D -> f Point2D
*Main> :type pA
pA :: Functor f => (Point2D -> f Point2D) -> Line -> f Line
*Main> view pA line       -- view~get
Point2D {_x = 0, _y = 0}
*Main> view (pA.x) line   -- view~get
*Main> set (pA.y) 2 line
Line {_pA = Point2D {_x = 0, _y = 2}, _pB = Point2D {_x = 5, _y = 7}}
*Main> set (pA.y) 2 line
Line {_pA = Point2D {_x = 0, _y = 2}, _pB = Point2D {_x = 5, _y = 7}}
*Main> over (pB.x) (+5) line
Line {_pA = Point2D {_x = 0, _y = 0}, _pB = Point2D {_x = 10, _y = 7}}

What is makeLenses

The function makeLenses indeed does some magic! From its type signature makeLenses :: Language.Haskell.TH.Syntax.Name -> Language.Haskell.TH.Lib.DecsQ, you can see it has something to do with Template Haskell. It is GHC extension that allows metaprogramming. In this case, the function makeLenses builds lenses (and traversals) with a sensible default configuration. You need to provide the data type name where the record starts with an underscore and it will basically generate lenses for you.

Template Haskell is very powerful and allows you to do interesting stuff, but it is pretty advanced and we will leave it up to you if you want to look at it… Also, Template Haskell is relevant just for GHC, other compilers do not support it. Last, but not least, Template-Haskell programmes compile (even) longer.

Further reading

Licenses and Attributions

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