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The cabal-install package provides the cabal command-line tool which simplifies the process of managing Haskell software by automating the fetching, configuration, compilation and installation of Haskell libraries and programs. Those packages must be prepared using Cabal and should be present at Hackage.


Installing a package

Once you have the tool installed, installing other packages is easy. The first thing to do is to give the command:

 cabal update

This will download the most recent list of packages; this must be done from time to time, to get the latest version of each package, when installing.

It is advisable to use a sandbox, to prevent version incompatibility with earlier installed packages. To initiate a sandbox, give command:

 cabal sandbox init

To install Cabal packages from Hackage use:

 cabal install foo

Other common variations:

 cabal install                             Package in the current directory
 cabal install foo                         Package from the Hackage server
 cabal install foo-1.0                     Specific version of a package
 cabal install 'foo < 2'                   Constrained package version
 cabal install foo bar baz                 Several packages at once
 cabal install foo --dry-run               Show what would be installed
 cabal install foo --constraint=bar==1.0   Use version 1.0 of package bar

One thing to be especially aware of, is that the packages are installed locally by default, whereas the commands

 runhaskell Setup configure
 runhaskell Setup build
 runhaskell Setup install

install globally by default. If you install a package globally, the local packages are ignored. The default for cabal-install can be modified by editing the configuration file.

Help about cabal-install can be obtained by giving commands like:

 cabal --help
 cabal install --help





  cabal [GLOBAL FLAGS]

Global flags:

-h --help                     Show the help text
-V --version                  Print version information
   --numeric-version          Print just the version number
   --config-file=FILE         Set an alternate location for the config file
   --sandbox-config-file=FILE Set an alternate location for the sandbox config
                              file (default: './cabal.sandbox.config')
   --require-sandbox          Enable requiring the presence of a sandbox for
                              sandbox-aware commands
   --no-require-sandbox       Disable requiring the presence of a sandbox for
                              sandbox-aware commands
   --ignore-sandbox           Ignore any existing sandbox


 install      Installs a list of packages.
 update       Updates list of known packages.
 list         List packages matching a search string.
 info         Display detailed information about a particular package.
 fetch        Downloads packages for later installation.
 freeze       Freeze dependencies.
 get          Gets a package's source code.
 check        Check the package for common mistakes.
 sdist        Generate a source distribution file (.tar.gz).
 upload       Uploads source packages to Hackage.
 report       Upload build reports to a remote server.
 run          Runs the compiled executable.
 init         Interactively create a .cabal file.
 configure    Prepare to build the package.
 build        Compile all targets or specific targets.
 repl         Open an interpreter session for the given target.
 sandbox      Create/modify/delete a sandbox.
 haddock      Generate Haddock HTML documentation.
 exec         Run a command with the cabal environment
 copy         Copy the files into the install locations.
 clean        Clean up after a build.
 hscolour     Generate HsColour colourised code, in HTML format.
 register     Register this package with the compiler.
 test         Run the test suite, if any (configure with UserHooks).
 bench        Run the benchmark, if any (configure with UserHooks).
 help         Help about commands.

For more information about a command use:

 cabal COMMAND --help

To install Cabal packages from Hackage, use:

 cabal install foo [--dry-run]

If --dry-run is specified, the packages are not installed, but a list of packages to install is given.

Occasionally you need to update the list of available packages:

 cabal update

The cabal-install configuration file

You can edit the cabal configuration file to set defaults, for *nix based systems this is:


The config file on a Windows system is


Things to put in the config file

To turn on --global by default:

 user-install: False

The root-cmd configuration parameter can be used to automatically run cabal-install with root privileges on *nix based systems, when needed:

 root-cmd: sudo


If you have the Haskell Platform installed, you already have cabal-install; no further action is needed.



Get a pre-built cabal.exe from:

You must put the cabal.exe in a directory that is on your %PATH%, for example C:\Program Files\Haskell\bin.


Download the latest cabal-install tarball from:

It includes a shell script that you can run to download and install the other dependencies.

Note this assumes you have the zlib C library and its header files installed. Those header files are usually in a native system package like zlib-devel (On debian-based systems it is zlib1g-dev). You should also have the Haskell packages parsec and network installed. If you installed GHC via your native system package manager then you may also need to use it to install these two packages. (On debian-based systems they are called libghc6-parsec-dev and libghc6-network-dev.)

 tar -zxf cabal-install-0.14.0.tar.gz 
 cd cabal-install-0.14.0

If this completes successfully you will have the cabal binary in ~/.cabal/bin. You should either add this directory to your $PATH or copy the cabal program to some location that is on your $PATH, eg ~/bin.

to get the current list of package from Hackage you should now run:

 cabal update

By default the cabal tool will install programs in ~/.cabal/bin. If you decided not to put this directory on your $PATH then you can get cabal to symlink binaries into another directory, eg ~/bin. To use this feature edit ~/.cabal/config and see the symlink-bindir field. Note that the ~/.cabal/config file is not created until you run a cabal command for the first time, eg cabal update.

Error reporting

Errors in cabal-install can be reported at the GitHub Cabal issues page


I just installed packages, but now the packages are not found

This happens when you install a package globally, and the previous packages were installed locally. Note that cabal-install install locally by default and the "runhaskell Setup" commands install globally by default.

How can I uninstall packages?

There is no "cabal uninstall" command. You can only unregister packages with ghc-pkg:

 ghc-pkg unregister

See also