ghc-mod for tooling

The Haskell Refactorer (HaRe) makes use of ghc-mod to provide the low-level interface to the Haskell source code being refactored.

This has a number of advantages

  • it isolates HaRe from having to have a lot of fiddly code to deal with the mechanics of having an environment to load a project

  • ghc-mod is a widely used tool, and so is kept up to date with all the changes in the surrounding ecosystem. For example, the recent Cabal changes, and providing support for stack

  • ghc-mod can detect the specific environment it is running in, and make sure the correct GHC options are used when loading a particular source module for processing. This includes stack vs Cabal vs single file. It keeps track of the specific GHC options for a given module as defined in the Cabal target specification. If a cabal/stack configuration step has not been done since anything changed in the config, it will be done automatically to generate the component mappings and GHC options for each.

  • ghc-mod target loading automatically sets flags appropriately if template haskell, quasi quotes or pattern synonyms are used.

  • ghc-mod is able to decouple the version of GHC/Cabal used in the tooling from the one being used in the project being processed by the tooling. To do this decoupling, it makes use of the cabal-helper library to manage the appropriate version of Cabal for the specific project.

I think of ghc-mod as the Haskell tooling BIOS.

How to use ghc-mod in this role

The ghc-mod source code itself is a bewildering array of custom Monads, all being used to make sure the backward compatibility works, performance is adequate for IDE usage, and so on. This makes it difficult to see which parts to use for tooling.

The key to it all is that the GhcModState manages both the GHC session and the mapping from Cabal targets to source components, and the GHC options to use for each target.

data GhcModState = GhcModState {
      gmGhcSession   :: !(Maybe GmGhcSession)
    , gmComponents   :: !(Map ChComponentName (GmComponent 'GMCResolved (Set ModulePath)))
    , gmCompilerMode :: !CompilerMode
    , gmCaches       :: !GhcModCaches
    , gmMMappedFiles :: !FileMappingMap

The only part a tool-writer needs to care about is that there is a GHC session in the ghc-mod state, and that loading a target file sets up this session with the correct GHC options, regardless of the underlying project configuration.

GhcModT is defined as a state transformer wrapped around various other monad transformers that are not important here.

type GhcModT m = GmT (GmOutT m)

newtype GmT m a = GmT {
      unGmT :: StateT GhcModState
                 (ErrorT GhcModError
                   (JournalT GhcModLog
                     (ReaderT GhcModEnv m) ) ) a
    } deriving ( Functor
               , Applicative
               , Alternative
               , Monad
               , MonadPlus
               , MTL.MonadIO
               , GHC.MonadIO
               , MonadError GhcModError

This allows a tool writer to simply use GhcModT in their monad stack, as in HaRe, where the GM qualifier is used on ghc-mod imports

newtype RefactGhc a = RefactGhc
    { unRefactGhc :: GM.GhcModT (StateT RefactState IO) a
    } deriving ( Functor
               , Applicative
               , Alternative
               , Monad
               , MonadPlus
               , MonadIO
               , GM.GmEnv
               , GM.GmOut
               , GM.MonadIO
               , ExceptionMonad

The instances which cannot be automatically derived are

instance GM.GmOut (StateT RefactState IO) where

instance GM.MonadIO (StateT RefactState IO) where
  liftIO = liftIO

instance MonadState RefactState RefactGhc where
    get   = RefactGhc (lift $ lift get)
    put s = RefactGhc (lift $ lift (put s))

Note that GM.GmOut is required to be defined, but is never used in HaRe so the instance methods are not implemented.

In order to use the GHC API in HaRe the appropriate instances need to be defined, which simply route down into ghc-mod

instance GHC.GhcMonad RefactGhc where
  getSession     = RefactGhc $ GM.unGmlT GM.gmlGetSession
  setSession env = RefactGhc $ GM.unGmlT (GM.gmlSetSession env)

instance GHC.HasDynFlags RefactGhc where
  getDynFlags = GHC.hsc_dflags <$> GHC.getSession

Setting up a target session

With this setup the setTargetSession function will use all the ghc-mod machinery to make sure that the right version of cabal is available if needed, the project is configured using it (or stack is used for the equivalent), the appropriate options are set in the GHC session and the target is loaded by GHC.

setTargetSession :: FilePath -> RefactGhc ()
setTargetSession targetFile = RefactGhc $ GM.runGmlT' [Left targetFile] setDynFlags (return ())

setDynFlags :: GHC.DynFlags -> GHC.Ghc GHC.DynFlags
setDynFlags df = return (GHC.gopt_set df GHC.Opt_KeepRawTokenStream)

In the HaRe case the DynFlags need to be tweaked to ensure that the parser does not discard comments in the API Annotations, hence setDynFlags.


The GHC API can now be used freely in the HaRe monad, with the session configured precisely for the specific target file being processed.

If a different target file is required, calling setTargetSession is all that is needed to ensure the correct session is available.

ghc-mod caches the sessions, as well as the cabal/stack configuration information so this is not an expensive call unless something has to actually change.


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