GHC, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler

GHC is the most popular Haskell compiler. Like with other languages, when it comes to building a program consisting of more than a single source file, invoking the compiler directly becomes unfeasible. In any case, it's good to know that ghc is the compiler executable name and ghci is the interactive read-eval-print loop (REPL).

$ ghci
GHCi, version 8.2.2:  :? for help
Prelude> print "Hello, World!"
"Hello, World!"

As a side note, I initially found GHC error messages intractable. After some practice, I still do. Hope it'll change over time.

Cabal build tool

Cabal is a build tool with dependency management for Haskell. It uses Hackage package archive. Build configuration is stored in files with .cabal extension, its content is common sense for a build configuration: module description, dependencies, etc.

Cabal users may end up in Cabal Hell and even though there is official survival guide, I found Stack to be a good solution.

Stack build tool

Stack is a user-friendly build and dependency system, it uses Cabal under the hood but fixes the Cabal Hell problem by introducing Stackage - a versioned collection of Haskell packages where packages in each Stackage release are known to compile well together. As long as you stick to the default version of the package from the Stackage when adding a new dependency to your package, you're guaranteed to avoid going to hell.

Stack features a set of subcommands you'd expect a build tool to have: build, test, exec. It can also start an interactive GHC REPL with all your project packages and dependencies available with stack ghci. There's Docker support, or even two! Firstly, you can run Stack inside Docker, secondly, it's possible to generate Docker images with your freshly built Haskell programs, handy!

Stack introduces two more build config files:

Does it mean that Stack requires you to write and support three config files? No and no; you can get default configs when creating a project with stack new, and the Cabal files don't need to be supported because they are auto-generated. It turns out you don't need to work with Cabal directly if you use Stack. Using stack new is a great way to get a new Haskell project started because it creates a solid directory structure for you with an entry-point into the program, a library package and an Hspec unit test skeleton.

For my Python colleagues, one way to think of Stack is that it's similar to Conda:

Hspec testing framework

Hspec is a testing framework for Haskell, I found it to be easy to learn and intuitive to use. Hspec with Quickcheck is a recipe for property-based testing.

Brittany code formatter

Brittany is a Haskell source code formatter. I like my code formatted.


data Channel = Channel { title :: Maybe T.Text, link :: Maybe T.Text
    , description :: Maybe T.Text, items :: [I.Item], categories :: [T.Text]
    , image :: Maybe T.Text } deriving (Show, Eq)


data Channel = Channel
    { title :: Maybe T.Text
    , link :: Maybe T.Text
    , description :: Maybe T.Text
    , items :: [I.Item]
    , categories :: [T.Text]
    , image :: Maybe T.Text
    } deriving (Show, Eq)

Britanny seems nice.

Hlint linter

Hlint is, as the name suggests, a linting tool for Haskell. I find it helpful to make my code style more Haskell-y.


Haddock is a tool for generating documentation from annotated source code (similar to Javadoc in Java world or Pydoc in Python).

IDE support

I normally use IntelliJ for larger projects and Visual Studio Code for smaller things. There's a plugin for IntelliJ which is somewhat unstable and has an intrusive approach to using the notification area.

For VS Code we get to chose between Haskell Language Server and Haskero. I found the former to be extremely CPU-heavy, to a degree where it becomes unusable. Haskero seems to work fine. There are also plugins for Brittany and Hlint for VS Code.

My subjective opinion is that Haskell ecosystem is lacking the most when it comes to a good IDE experience. This is something you may not notice coming from C++, but for a person familiar with first-class support modern editors and IDEs provide for Java or Python, it's quite clear.