How to write a Haskell program

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A guide to the best practice for creating a new Haskell project or program.


The basic structure of a new Haskell project can be adopted from HNop, the minimal Haskell project.


Library code for the base libraries must be BSD licensed. Otherwise, it is your call. Choose a licence (inspired by this). Check licence of things you use, both other Haskell packages and C libraries. Use same as related where possible. Haskell community is split into 2 camps, roughly, those who release everything under BSD, and GPLers. We recommend avoiding LGPL, due to cross module optimisation issues.

Revision control

Use Darcs unless you hve a specific reason not to. Almost all new Haskell projects are released under Darcs, and this benefits everyone -- a set of common tools increases productivity, and you're more likely to get patches.


  • Tag each release
  • Make sure you also release tarballs, darcs dist can do this automatically


Source can be hosted on (currently you need to email Simon Marlow to do this). Also, itself has some user accounts available. Finally, there is SourceForge and other online/free sites.

Web page

Create a web page documenting your project! An easy way to do this is to add a project specific page to the Haskell wiki

Build system

Use Cabal.

Example Setup

Create a file called Setup.lhs with these contents:

#!/usr/bin/env runhaskell

> import Distribution.Simple
> main = defaultMain

Writing the setup file this way allows it to be executed directly by unix shells.

Example cabal file for Executables

Create the file myproject.cabal following this example:

Name:           MyProject
Version:        0.1
License:        BSD3
Author:         Your Name
Build-Depends:  base
Synopsis:       Example Cabal Executable File

Executable:     myproj
Main-Is:        Main.hs
Other-Modules:  Foo

Example cabal file for Libraries

Create the file myproject.cabal following this example:

Name:           MyProj
Version:        0.1
License:        BSD3
Author:         Your Name
Build-Depends:  base
Synopsis:       Example Cabel Library File
Exposed-Modules: MyProject.Foo


Use Haddock.


Pure code can be tested using QuickCheck or SmallCheck. Impure code with HUnit.

Program structure

Monad transformers are very useful for programming in the large, encapsulating state, and controlling side effects. To learn more about this approach, try Monad Transformers Step by Step.


The best code in the world is meaningless if nobody knows about it:

  • Announce your project releases to! This ensure it will then make it into the Haskell Weekly News. To be doubly sure, you should CC the release to the HWN editor
  • Blog about it, on Planet Haskell
    • Write about it on your blog
    • Then email the Planet Haskell maintainer (ibid on #haskell) the RSS feed url for your blog
  • Add your library or tool to the Libraries and tools page, under the relevant category, so people can find it.