Purescript Series Now Available!

Last week we wrapped up our series on Purescript. At some point, we’ll come back to frontend web and tackle it from a more Haskell-centric perspective. But for now, we’ve added our our Purescript series as another permanent feature on our advanced page. You can take a look at that as well as our series on Elm. As a reminder, here’s the structure of that series:

  1. Part 1 covers the basics of Purescript. We see how to install it and how to solve simple problems.
  2. In part 2, we dig into some of the more complicated aspects of Purescript. We compare it to Haskell when it comes to elements like monads and typeclasses.
  3. In part 3, we get into the actual web usage of Purescript. We explore the basics of constructing a UI with the Halogen library. We also see how to architect our application to pass information around.
  4. We wrap up the series in part 4. In this part, we learn how to send web requests from our application. We also look at how to use routes to navigate between different pages.

Remember we also have plenty of resources for writing backend Haskell code! You can read our Haskell Web Series for some in-depth tutorials. You can also check out our Production Checklist for a slew of libraries for many different tasks!

And for any beginners out there, we have lots of material for you as well! Read our Liftoff Series and download our Beginners Checklist. They’ll teach you the basics of Haskell from the ground up!

Purescript IV: Routing and Navigation!


Welcome to the conclusion of our series on Purescript! We've spent a lot of time now learning to use functional languages for frontend web. Last Week we saw how to build a basic UI with Purescript. We made a simple counter and then a todo list application, as we did with Elm. This week, we'll explore two more crucial pieces of functionality. We'll see how to send web requests and how to provide different routes for our application.

There are two resources you can look at if you want more details on how this code works. First, you can look at our Github repository. You can also explore the Halogen Github repository. Take a look at the driver-routing and effects-ajax example.

Web Requests

For almost any web application, you're going to need to retrieve some data from a backend server. We'll use the purescript-affjax library to make requests from our Halogen components. The process is going to be a little simpler than it was with Elm.

In Elm, we had to hook web requests into our architecture using the concept of commands. But Purescript's syntax uses monads by nature. This makes it easier to work effects into our eval function.

In this first part of the article, we're going to build a simple web UI that will be able to send a couple requests. As with all our Halogen components, let's start by defining our state, message, and query types:

type State =
  { getResponse :: String
  , postInfo :: String

initialState :: State
initialState = 
  { getResponse: "Nothing Yet"
  , postInfo: ""

data Query a =
  SendGet a |
  SendPost a |
  UpdatedPostInfo String a

data Message = ReceivedFromPost String

We'll store two pieces of information in the state. First, we'll store a "response" we get from calling a get request, which we'll initialize to a default string. Then we'll store a string that the user will enter in a text field. We'll send this string through a post request. We'll make query constructors for each of the requests we'll send. Then, our message type will allow us to update our application with the result of the post request.

We'll initialize our component as we usually do, except with one difference. In previous situations, we used an unnamed m monad for our component stack. This time, we'll specify the Aff monad, enabling our asynchronous messages. This monad also gets applied to our eval function.

webSender :: H.Component HH.HTML Query Unit Message Aff
webSender = H.component
  { initialState: const initialState
  , render
  , eval
  , receiver: const Nothing

render :: State -> H.ComponentHTML Query

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff

Our UI will have four elements. We'll have a p field storing the response from our get request, as well as a button for triggering that request. Then we'll have an input field where the user can enter a string. There will also be a button to send that string in a post request. These all follow the patterns we saw in part 3 of this series, so we won't dwell on the specifics:

render :: State -> H.ComponentHTML Query
render st = HH.div [] [progressText, getButton, inputText, postButton]
    progressText = HH.p [] [HH.text st.getResponse]
    getButton = HH.button
      [ HP.title "Send Get", HE.onClick (HE.input_ SendGet) ]
      [ HH.text "Send Get" ]
    inputText = HH.input
      [ HP.type_ HP.InputText
      , HP.placeholder "Form Data"
      , HP.value st.postInfo
      , HE.onValueChange (HE.input UpdatedPostInfo)
    postButton =  HH.button
      [ HP.title "Send Post", HE.onClick (HE.input_ SendPost) ]
      [ HH.text "Send Post" ]

Our eval function will assess each of the different queries we can receive, as always. When updating the post request info (the text field), we update our state with the new value.

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff
eval = case _ of
  SendGet next -> ...
  SendPost next -> ...
  UpdatedPostInfo newInfo next -> do
    st <- H.get
    H.put (st { postInfo = newInfo })
    pure next

Now let's specify our get request. The get function from the Affjax library takes two parameters. First we need a "deserializer", which tells us how to convert the response into some desired type. We'll imagine we're getting a String back from the server, so we'll use the string deserializer. The our second parameter is the URL. This will be a localhost address. We call liftAff to get this Aff call into our component monad.

import Affjax as AX
import Affjax.ResponseFormat as AXR

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff
eval = case _ of
  SendGet next -> do
    response <-  H.liftAff $ AX.get AXR.string "http://localhost:8081/api/hello"
  SendPost next -> ...
  UpdatedPostInfo newInfo next -> ...

The response contains a lot of information, including things like the status code. But our main concern is the response body. This is an Either value giving us a success or error value. In either case, we'll put a reasonable value into our state, and call the next action!

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff
eval = case _ of
  SendGet next -> do
    response <-  H.liftAff $ AX.get AXR.string "http://localhost:8081/api/hello"
    st <- H.get
    case response.body of
      Right success -> H.put (st { getResponse = success })
      Left _ -> H.put (st { getResponse = "Error!" })
    pure next
  SendPost next -> ...
  UpdatedPostInfo newInfo next -> ...

Then we can go to our UI, click the button, and it will update the field with an appropriate value!

Post Requests

Sending a post request will be similar. The main change is that we'll need to create a body for our post request. We'll do this using the "Argonaut" library for Purescript. The fromString function gives us a JSON object. We wrap this into a RequestBody with the json function:

import Affjax.RequestBody as AXRB
import Data.Argonaut.Core as JSON


eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff
eval = case _ of
  SendGet next -> ...
  SendPost next -> do
    st <- H.get
    let body = AXRB.json (JSON.fromString st.postInfo)
  UpdatedPostInfo newInfo next -> ...

Aside from adding this body parameter, the post function works as the get function does. We'll break the response body into Right and Left cases to determine the result. Instead of updating our state, we'll send a message about the result.

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message Aff
eval = case _ of
  SendGet next -> ...
  SendPost next -> do
    st <- H.get
    let body = AXRB.json (JSON.fromString st.postInfo)
    response <- H.liftAff $ AXR.string "http://localhost:8081/api/post" body
    case response.body of
      Right success -> H.raise (ReceivedFromPost success)
      Left _ -> H.raise (ReceivedFromPost "There was an error!")
    pure next
  UpdatedPostInfo newInfo next -> ...

And that's the basics of web requests!

Routing Basics

Now let's change gears and consider how we can navigate among different pages. For the sake of example, let's say we've got 4 different types of pages in our app.

  1. A home page
  2. A login page
  3. A user profile page
  4. A page for each article

Each user profile will have an integer user ID attached to it. Each article will have a string identifier attached to it as well as a user ID for the author. Here's a traditional router representation of this:


With the Purescript Routing library, our first step is to represent our set of routes with a data type. Each route will represent a page on our site, so we'll call our type Page. Here's how we do that:

data Page =
  HomePage |
  LoginPage |
  ProfilePage Int |
  ArticlePage Int String

By using a data structure, we'll be able to ensure two things. First, all the routes in our application have some means of handling them. If we're missing a case, the compiler will let us know. Second, we'll ensure that our application logic cannot route the user to an unknown page. We will need to use one of the routes within our data structure.

Building a Parser

That said, the user could still enter any URL they want in the address bar. So we have to know how to parse URLs into our different pages. For this, we have to build a parser on our route type. This will have the type Match Page. This will follow an applicative parsing structure. For more background on this, check out this article from our parsing series!

But even if you've never seen this kind of parsing before, the patterns aren't too hard. The first thing to know is that the lit function (meaning literal) matches a string path component. So we feed it the string element we want, and it will match our route.

For our home page route, we'll want to first match the URL component "home".

import Routing.Match (Match, lit, int, str)

matchHome = lit "home"

But this will actually give us a Match that outputs a String. We want to ignore the string we parsed, and give a constructor of our Page type. Here's what that looks like:

matchHome :: Match Page
matchHome = HomePage <$ lit "home"

The <$ data-preserve-html-node="true" operator tells us we want to perform a functor wrap. Except we want to ignore the resulting value from the second part. This gives our first match!

The login page will have a very similar matcher:

matchLogin :: Match Page
matchLogin = LoginPage <$ lit "login"

But then for the profile page, we'll actually want to use the result from one of our matchers! We want to use int to read the integer out of the URL component and plug it into our data structure. For this, we need the applicative operator <*>. Except once again, we'll have a string part that we ignore, so we'll actually use *>. Here's what it looks like:

matchProfile :: Match Page
matchProfile = ProfilePage <$> (lit "profile" *> int)

Now for our final matcher, we'll keep using these same ideas! We'll use the full applicative operator <*> since we want both the user ID and the article ID.

matchArticle :: Match Page
matchArticle = ArticlePage <$>
  (lit "blog" *> lit "articles" *> int) <*> string

Now we combine our different matchers into a router by using the <|> operator from Alternative:

router :: Match Page
router = matchHome <|> matchLogin <|> matchProfile <|> matchArticle

And we're done! Notice how similar Purescript and Haskell are in this situation! Pretty much all the code from this section could work in Haskell. (As long as we used the corresponding libraries).

Incorporating Our Router

Now to use this routing mechanism, we're going to need to set up our application in a special way. It will have one single parent component and several child components. We will make it so that our application can listen to changes in the URL. We'll use our router to match those changes to our URL scheme. Our parent component will, as always, respond to queries. We won't go through the details of our child components. You can take a look at src/NavComponents.purs in our Github repo for details there.

We'll use some special mechanisms to send a query on each route change event. Then our parent component will handle updating the view. An important thing to know is that all the child components have the same query and message type. We won't use these much in this article, but these are how you would customize app-wide behavior.

type ChildState = Int
data ChildQuery a = ChildQuery a
data ChildMessage = ChildMessage

Each child component will have a link to the "next page" in the sequence. This way, we can show how these links work once we render it. We'll need access to these component definitions in our parent module:

homeComponent :: forall m.
  H.Component HH.HTML ChildQuery Unit ChildMessage m

loginComponent :: forall m.
  H.Component HH.HTML ChildQuery Unit ChildMessage m

profileComponent :: forall m. Int ->
  H.Component HH.HTML ChildQuery Unit ChildMessage m

articleComponent :: forall m. Int -> String ->
  H.Component HH.HTML ChildQuery Unit ChildMessage m

The Parent Component

Now let's start our by making a simple query type for our parent element. We'll have one query for changing the page, and one for processing messages from our children.

data ParentQuery a =
  ChangePage Page a |
  HandleAppAction Message a

The parent's state will include the current page. It could also include some secondary elements like the ID of the logged in user, if we wanted.

type ParentState = { currentPage :: Page }

Now we'll need slot designations for the "child" element of our page. Depending on the state of our application, our child element will be a different component. This is how we'll represent the different pages of our application.

data SlotId = HomeSlot | LoginSlot | ProfileSlot | ArticleSlot

Our eval and render functions should be pretty straightforward. When we evaluate the "change page" query, we'll update our state. Then we won't do anything when processing a ChildMessage:

eval :: forall m. ParentQuery ~>
  H.ParentDSL ParentState ParentQuery ChildQuery SlotId Void m
eval = case _ of
  ChangePage pg next -> do
    H.put {currentPage: pg}
    pure next
  HandleAppAction _ next -> do
    pure next

For our render function, we first need a couple helpers. The first goes from the page to the slot ID. The second gives a mapping from our page data structure to the proper component.

slotForPage :: Page -> SlotId
slotForPage HomePage = HomeSlot
slotForPage LoginPage = LoginSlot
slotForPage (ProfilePage _) = ProfileSlot
slotForPage (ArticlePage _ _) = ArticleSlot

componentForPage :: forall m. Page ->
  H.Component HH.HTML ChildQuery Unit Message m
componentForPage HomePage = homeComponent
componentForPage LoginPage = loginComponent
componentForPage (ProfilePage uid) = profileComponent uid
componentForPage (ArticlePage uid aid) = articleComponent uid aid

Now we can construct our render function. We'll access the page from our state, and then create an appropriate slot for it:

render :: forall m. ParentState ->
  H.ParentHTML ParentQuery ChildQuery SlotId m
render st = HH.div_
  [ HH.slot sl comp unit (HE.input HandleAppAction)
    sl = slotForPage st.currentPage
    comp = componentForPage st.currentPage

Adding Routing

Now to actually apply the routing in our application, we'll update our Main module. This process will be a little complicated. There are a lot of different libraries involved in reading event changes. We won't dwell too much on the details, but here's the high level overview.

Every time the user changes the URL or clicks a link, this produces a HashChangeEvent. We want to create our own Producer that will listen for these events so we can send them to our application. Here's what that looks like:

import Control.Coroutine as CR
import Control.Coroutine.Aff as CRA
import Web.HTML (window) as DOM
import Web.HTML.Event.HashChangeEvent as HCE
import Web.HTML.Event.HashChangeEvent.EventTypes as HCET

hashChangeProducer :: CR.Producer HCE.HashChangeEvent Aff Unit
hashChangeProducer = CRA.produce \emitter -> do
  listener <- DOM.eventListener
    (traverse_ (CRA.emit emitter) <<< HCE.fromEvent)
  liftEffect $
      >>= Window.toEventTarget
      >>> DOM.addEventListener HCET.hashchange listener false

Now we want our application to consume these events. So we'll set up a Consumer function. It consumes the hash change events and passes them to our UI, as we'll see:

  :: (forall a. ParentQuery a -> Aff a)
  -> CR.Consumer HCE.HashChangeEvent Aff Unit
hashChangeConsumer query = CR.consumer \event -> do
  let hash = Str.drop 1 $ Str.dropWhile (_ /= '#') $ HCE.newURL event
      result = match router hash
      newPage = case result of
                  Left _ -> HomePage
                  Right page -> page
  void $ liftAff $ query $ H.action (ChangePage newPage)
  pure Nothing

There are a couple things to notice. We drop the hash up until the # to get the relevant part of our URL. Then we pass it to our router for processing. Finally, we pass an appropriate ChangePage action to our UI.

How do we do this? Well, the first argument of this consumer function (query) is actually another function. This function takes in our ParentQuery and produces an Aff event. We can access this function as a result of the runUI function.

So our final step is to run our UI. Then we run a separate process that will chain the producer and consumer together:

main :: Effect Unit
main = HA.runHalogenAff do
  body <- HA.awaitBody
  io <- runUI parentComponent unit body
  CR.runProcess (hashChangeProducer CR.$$ hashChangeConsumer io.query)

We pass the io.query property of our application UI to the consumer, so our UI can react to the events. And now our application will respond to URL changes!


This wraps up our series on Purescript! Between this and our Elm Series , you should have a good idea on how to use functional languages to write a web UI. As a reminder, you can see more details on running Purescript code on our Github Repository. The README will walk you through the basic steps of getting this code setup.

You can also take a look at some of our other resources on web development using Haskell! Read our Haskell Web Series to see how to write a backend for your application. You can also download our Production Checklist to learn about more libraries you can use.

Purescript III: Making a Web Page with Purescript and React!


Last week we continued learning the basic elements of Purescript. We examined how typeclasses and monads work and the slight differences from Haskell. Now it's finally time to use Purescript for its main purpose: frontend web development. We'll accomplish this using the Halogen framework, built on React.js.

In this article, we'll learn about the basic concepts of Halogen/React. We'll build a couple simple components to show how these work. Next week, we'll conclude our look at Purescript by making a more complete application. We'll see how to handle routing and sending web requests.

If you're building a frontend, you'll also need a backend at some point. Check out our Haskell Web Series to learn how to do that in Haskell!

Also, getting Purescript to work can be tricky business! Take a look at our Github repository for some more setup instructions!

Halogen Crash Course

The Halogen framework uses React.js under the hood, and the code applies similar ideas. If you don't do a lot of web development, you might not be too familiar with the details of React. Luckily, there are a few simple principles we'll apply that will remind us of Elm!

With Halogen, our UI consists of different "components". A component is a UI element that maintains its own state and properties. It also responds to queries, and sends messages. For any component, we'll start by defining a a state type, a query type, and a message type.

data CState = …

data CQuery = …

data CMessage = ...

Our component receives queries from within itself or from other components. It can then send messages to other components, provided they have queries to handle them. With these types in place, we'll use the component function to define a component with 3 main elements. As a note, we'll be maintaining these import prefixes throughout the article.

import Halogen as H
import Halogen.HTML as HH
import Halogen.Events as HE
import Halogen.Properties as HP

myComponent :: forall m.
  H.Component HH.HTML CQuery Unit CMessage m
myComponent = H.component
  { initialState: …
  , render: …
  , eval: …
  , receiver: const Nothing


    render ::
      CState ->
      H.ComponentHTML CQuery

    eval ::
      CQuery ~>
      H.ComponentDSL CState CQuery CMessage m

The initialState is self explanatory. The render function will be a lot like our view function from Elm. It takes a state and returns HTML components that can send queries. The eval function acts like our update function in Elm. Its type signature looks a little strange. But it takes queries as inputs and can update our state using State monad function. It can also emit messages to send to other components.

Building a Counter

For our first example of a component, we'll make a simple counter. We'll have an increment button, a decrement button and a display of the current count. Our state will be a simple integer. Our queries will involve events from incrementing and decrementing. We'll also send a message each time we update our number.

type State = Int

data Query a =
  Increment a |
  Decrement a

data Message = Updated Int

Notice we have an extra parameter on our query type. This represents the "next" action that will happen in our UI. We'll see how this works when we write our eval function. But first, let's write out our render function. It has three different HTML elements: two buttons and a p label. We'll stick them in a div element.

render :: State -> H.ComponentHTML Query
render state =
  let incButton = HH.button 
                    [ HP.title "Inc"
                    , HE.onClick (HE.input_ Increment)
                    [ HH.text "Inc" ]
      decButton = HH.button
                    [ HP.title "Dec"
                    , HE.onClick (HE.input_ Decrement)
                    [ HH.text "Dec" ]
      pElement  = HH.p [] [HH.text (show state)]
  in  HH.div [] [incButton, decButton, pElement]

Each of our elements takes two list parameters. The first list includes properties as well as event handlers. Notice our buttons send query messages on their click events using the input_ function. Then the second list is "child" HTML elements, including the inner text of a button.

Now, to write our eval function, we use a case statement. This might seem a little weird, but all we're doing is breaking it down into our query cases:

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message m
eval = case _ of
      Increment next -> ...
      Decrement next -> ...

Within each case, we can use State monad-like functions to manipulate our state. Our cases are identical except for the sign. We'll also use the raise function to send an update message. Nothing listens for that message right now, but it illustrates the concept.

eval :: Query ~> H.ComponentDSL State Query Message m
eval = case _ of
      Increment next -> do
        state <- H.get
        let nextState = state + 1
        H.put nextState
        H.raise $ Updated nextState
        pure next
      Decrement next -> do
        state <- H.get
        let nextState = state - 1
        H.put nextState
        H.raise $ Updated nextState
        pure next

As a last note, we would use const 0 as the initialState in our component function.

Installing Our Component

Now to display this component in our UI, we write a short Main module like so. We get our body element with awaitBody and then use runUI to install our counter component.

module Main where

import Prelude
import Effect (Effect)
import Halogen.Aff as HA
import Halogen.VDom.Driver (runUI)
import Counter (counter)

main :: Effect Unit
main = HA.runHalogenAff do
  body <- HA.awaitBody
  runUI counter unit body

And our counter component will now work! (See Github for more details on you could run this code).

Building Our Todo List

Now that we've got the basics down, let's see how to write a more complicated set of components. We'll write a Todo list like we had in the Elm series. To start, let's make a Todo wrapper type and derive some instances for it:

newtype Todo = Todo
  { todoName :: String }

derive instance eqTodo :: Eq Todo
derive instance ordTodo :: Ord Todo

Our first component will be the entry form, where the user can add a new task. This form will use the text input string as its state. It will respond to queries for updating the name as well as pressing the "Add" button. When we create a new Todo, we'll send a message for that.

type AddTodoFormState = String

data AddTodoFormMessage = NewTodo Todo

data AddTodoFormQuery a = 
  AddedTodo a |
  UpdatedName String a

When we render this component, we'll have two main pieces. First, we need the text field to input the name. Then, there's the button to add the task. Each of these has an event attached to it sending the relevant query. In the case of updating the name, notice we use input instead of input_. This allows us to send the text field's value as an argument of the UpdatedName query. Otherwise, the properties are pretty straightforward translations of HTML properties you might see.

render ::
  AddTodoFormState ->
  H.ComponentHTML AddTodoFormQuery
render currentName =
  let nameInput = HH.input
                    [ HP.type_ HP.InputText
                    , HP.placeholder "Task Name"
                    , HP.value currentName
                    , HE.onValueChange (HE.input UpdatedName)
      addButton = HH.button
                    [ HP.title "Add Task"
                    , HP.disabled (length currentName == 0)
                    , HE.onClick (HE.input_ AddedTodo)
                    [ HH.text "Add Task" ]
  in  HH.div [] [nameInput, addButton]

Evaluating our queries is pretty simple. When updating the name, all we do is update the state and trigger the next action. When we add a new Todo item, we save the empty string as the state and raise our message. In the next part, we'll see how our list will respond to this message.

eval ::
  AddTodoFormQuery ~>
    AddTodoFormState AddTodoFormQuery AddTodoFormMessage m
eval = case _ of
  AddedTodo next -> do
    currentName <- H.get
    H.put ""
    H.raise $ NewTodo (Todo {todoName: currentName})
    pure next
  UpdatedName newName next -> do
    H.put newName
    pure next

And of course, we tie this all up by using the component function:

addTodoForm :: forall m.
  H.Component HH.HTML AddTodoFormQuery Unit AddTodoFormMessage m
addTodoForm = H.component
  { initialState: const ""
  , render
  , eval
  , receiver: const Nothing

Finishing the List

Now to complete our todo list, we'll need another component to store the tasks themselves. As always, let's start with our basic types. We won't bother with a message type since this component won't send any messages. We'll use Void when assigning the message type in a type signature:

type TodoListState = Array Todo

data TodoListQuery a =
  FinishedTodo Todo a |
  HandleNewTask AddTodoFormMessage a

Our state is our list of tasks. Our query type is a little more complicated. The HandleNewTask query will receive the new task messages from our form. We'll see how we make this connection below.

We'll also add a type alias for AddTodoFormSlot. Halogen uses a "slot ID" to distinguish between child elements. We only have one child element though, so we'll use a string.

type AddTodoFormSlot = String

We'll consider this component a "parent" of our "add task" form. This means the types will look a little different. We'll be making something of type ParentHTML. The type signature will include references to its own query type, the query type of its child, and the slot ID type. We'll still use most of the same functions though.

render ::
  TodoListState ->
  H.ParentHTML TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery AddTodoFormSlot m

eval ::
  TodoListQuery ~>
  H.ParentDSL TodoListState TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery 
    AddTodoFormSlot Void m

To render our elements, we'll have two sub-components. First, we'll want to be able to render an individual Todo within our list. We'll give it a p label for the name and a button that completes the task:

renderTask ::
  Todo ->
  H.ParentHTML TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery AddTodoFormSlot m
renderTask (Todo t) = HH.div_ 
  [ HH.p [] [HH.text t.todoName]
  , HH.button
      [ HE.onClick (HE.input_ (FinishedTodo (Todo t)))]
      [HH.text "Finish"]

Now we need some HTML for the form slot itself. This is straightforward. We'll use the slot function and provide a string for the ID. We'll specify the component we have from the last part. Then we'll attach the HandleNewTask query to this component. The allows our list component to receive the new-task messages from the form.

formSlot ::
  H.ParentHTML TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery AddTodoFormSlot m
formSlot = HH.slot
  "Add Todo Form"
  (HE.input HandleNewTask)

Now we combine these elements in our render function:

render ::
  TodoListState ->
  H.ParentHTML TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery AddTodoFormSlot m
render todos =
  let taskList = HH.ul_ (map renderTask todos)
  in  HH.div_ [taskList, formSlot]

Writing our eval is now a simple matter of using a few array functions to update the list. When we get a new task, we add it to our list. When we finish a task, we remove it from the list.

eval ::
  TodoListQuery ~>
  H.ParentDSL TodoListState TodoListQuery AddTodoFormQuery 
    AddTodoFormSlot Void m
eval = case _ of
  FinishedTodo todo next -> do
    currentTasks <- H.get
    H.put (filter  (_ /= todo) currentTasks)
    pure next
  HandleNewTask (NewTodo todo) next -> do
    currentTasks <- H.get
    H.put (currentTasks `snoc` todo)
    pure next

And that's it! We're done! Again, take a look at the Github repo for some more instructions on how you can run and interact with this code.


This wraps up our look at building simple UI's with Purescript. Next week we'll conclude our Purescript series. We'll look at some of the broader elements of building a web app. We'll see some basic routing as well as how to send requests to a backend server.

Elm is another great functional language you can use for Web UIs. To learn more about it, check out our recently concluded Elm Series!

Purescript II: Typeclasses and Monads


Last week, we started our exploration of Purescript. Purescript seeks to bring some of the awesomeness of Haskell to the world of web development. Its syntax looks a lot like Haskell's, but it compiles to Javascript. This makes it very easy to use for web applications. And it doesn't just look like Haskell. It uses many of the important features of the language, such as a strong system and functional purity.

If you need to brush up on the basics of Purescript, make sure to check out that first article again. This week, we're going to explore a couple other areas where Purescript is a little different. We'll see how Purescript handles type-classes, and we'll also look at monadic code. We'll also take a quick look at some other small details with operators. Next week, we'll look at how we can use Purescript to write some front-end code.

For another perspective on functional web development, check out our Haskell Web Series. You can also download our Production Checklist for some more ideas! You can also take a gander at our Elm Series for another frontend language!

Type Classes

The idea of type classes remains pretty consistent from Haskell to Purescript. But there are still a few gotchas. Let's remember our Triple type from last week.

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int

Let's write a simple Eq instance for it. To start with, instances in Purescript must have names. So we'll assign the name tripleEq to our instance:

instance tripleEq :: Eq Triple where
  eq (Triple t1) (Triple t2) = t1 == t2

Once again, we only unwrap the one field for our type. This corresponds to the record, rather than the individual fields. We can, in fact, compare the records with each other. The name we provide helps Purescript to generate Javascript that is more readable. Take note: naming our instances does NOT allow us to have multiple instances for the same type and class. We'll get a compile error if we try to create another instance like:

instance otherTripleEq :: Eq Triple where

There's another small change when using an explicit import for classes. We have to use the class keyword in the import list:

import Data.Eq (class Eq)

You might hope we could derive the Eq typeclass for our Triple type, and we can. Since our instance needs a name though, the normal Haskell syntax doesn't work. The following will fail:

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int
  } deriving (Eq)

For simple typeclasses though, we CAN use standalone deriving. This allows us to provide a name to the instance:

derive instance eqTriple :: Eq Triple

As a last note, Purescript does not allow orphan instances. An orphan instance is where you define a typeclass instance in a different file from both the type definition and the class definition. You can get away with these in Haskell, though GHC will warn you about it. But Purescript is less forgiving. The way to work around this issue is to define a newtype wrapper around your type. Then you can define the instance on that wrapper.


In part 1, we looked at a small snippet of monadic code. It looked like:

main :: Effect Unit
main = do
  log ("The answer is " <> show answer)

If we're trying to draw a comparison to Haskell, it seems as though Effect is a comparable monad to IO. And it sort've is. But it's a little more complicated than that. In Purescript, we can use Effect to represent "native" effects. Before we get into exact what this means and how we do it, let's first consider "non-native" effects.

A non-native effect is one of those monads like Maybe or List that can stand on its own. In fact, we have an example of the List monad in part 1 of this series. Here's what Maybe might look like.

maybeFunc :: Int -> Maybe Int

mightFail :: Int -> Maybe Int
mightFail x = do
  y <- maybeFunc x
  z <- maybeFunc y
  maybeFunc z

Native effects use the Effect monad. These include a lot of things we'd traditionally associate with IO in Haskell. For instance, random number generation and console output use the Effect monad:

randomInt :: Int -> Int -> Effect Int

log :: String -> Effect Unit

But there are also other "native effects" related to web development. The most important of these is anything that writes to the DOM in our Javascript application. Next week, we'll use the purescript-react library to create a basic web page. Most of its main functions are in the Effect monad. Again, we can imagine that this kind of effect would use IO in Haskell. So if you want to think of Purescript's Effect as an analogue for IO, that's a decent starting point.

What's interesting is that Purescript used to be more based on the system of free monads. Each different type of native effect would build on top of previous effects. The cool part about this is the way Purescript uses its own record syntax to track the effects in play. You can read more about how this can work in chapter 8 of the Purescript Book. However, we won't need it for our examples. We can just stick with Effect.

Besides free monads, Purescript also has the purescript-transformers library. If you're more familiar with Haskell, this might be a better starting spot. It allows you to use the MTL style approach that's more common in Haskell than free monads.

Special Operators

It's worth noting a couple other small differences. Some rules about operators are a little different between Haskell and Purescript. Since Purescript uses the period operator . for record access, it no longer refers to function composition. Instead, we would use the <<< operator:

odds :: List Int -> List Int
odds myList = filter (not <<< isEven) myList
    isEven :: Int -> Boolean
    isEven x = mod x 2 == 0

Also, we cannot define operators in an infix way. We must first define a normal name for them. The following will NOT work:

(=%=) :: Int -> Int -> Int
(=%=) a b = 2 * a - b

Instead, we need to define a name like addTwiceAndSubtract. Then we can tell Purescript to apply it as an infix operator:

addTwiceAndSubtract :: Int -> Int -> Int
addTwiceAndSubtract a b = 2 * a - b

infixrl 6 addTwiceAndSubtract as =%=

Finally, using operators as partial functions looks a little different. This works in Haskell but not Purescript:

doubleAll :: List Int -> List Int
doubleAll myList = map (* 2) myList

Instead, we want syntax like this:

doubleAll :: List Int -> List Int
doubleAll myList = map (_ * 2) myList


This wraps up our look at the key differences between Haskell and Purescript. Now that we understand typeclasses and monads, it's time to dive into what Purescript is best at. Come back next week, and we'll look at how we can write real frontend code with Purescript!

For some more ideas on using Haskell for some cool functionality, download our Production Checklist! For another look at function frontend development, check out our recent Elm Series!

Getting Started with Purescript!


Our Haskell Web Series covers a lot of cool libraries you can use when making a web app. But one thing we haven't covered on this blog yet is using Haskell for front-end web development. There are a number libraries and frameworks out there. Yesod and Snap come to mind. Another option is Reflex FRP, which uses GHCJS under the hood.

But for this new series I've decided to take a different approach. For the next few weeks, we're going to be exploring the Purescript language. Purescript is a bit of a meld between Haskell and Javascript. Its syntax is like Haskell's, and it incorporates many elements of functional purity. But it compiles to Javascript and thus has some features that seem more at home in that language.

This week, we'll start out by exploring the basics of Purescript. We'll see some of the main similarities and differences between it and Haskell. We'll culminate this series by making a web front-end with Purescript. We'll connect this front-end to Haskell code on the back-end.

Purescript is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using functional languages in product! Check out our Production Checklist for some awesome Haskell libraries!

Getting Started

Since Purescript is its own language, we'll need some new tools. You can follow the instructions on the Purescript website, but here are the main points.

  1. Install Node.js and NPM, the Node.js package manager
  2. Run npm install -g purescript
  3. Run npm install -g pulp bower
  4. Create your project directory and run pulp init.
  5. You can then build and test code with pulp build and pulp test.
  6. You can also use PSCI as a console, similar to GHCI.

First, we need NPM. Purescript is its own language, but we want to compile it to Javascript we can use in the browser, so we need Node.js. Then we'll globally install the Purescript libraries. We'll also install pulp and bower. Pulp will be our build tool like Cabal.

Bower is a package repository like Hackage. To get extra libraries into our program, you would use the bower command. For instance, we need purescript-integers for our solution later in the article. To get this, run the command:

bower install --save purescript-integers

A Simple Example

Once you're set up, it's time to start dabbling with the language. While Purescript compiles to Javascript, the language itself actually looks a lot more like Haskell! We'll examine this by comparison. Suppose we want to find the all pythagorean triples whose sum is less than 100. Here's how we can write this solution in Haskell:

sourceList :: [Int]
sourceList = [1..100]

allTriples :: [(Int, Int, Int)]
allTriples =
  [(a, b, c) | a <- sourceList, b <- sourceList, c <- sourceList]

isPythagorean :: (Int, Int, Int) -> Bool
isPythagorean (a, b, c) = a ^ 2 + b ^ 2 == c ^ 2

isSmallEnough :: (Int, Int, Int) -> Bool
isSmallEnough (a, b, c) = a + b + c < 100

finalAnswer :: [(Int, Int, Int)]
finalAnswer = filter 
  (\t -> isPythagorean t && isSmallEnough t)

Let's make a module in Purescript that will allow us to solve this same problem. We'll start by writing a module Pythagoras.purs. Here's the code we would write to match up with the Haskell above. We'll examine the specifics piece-by-piece below.

module Pythagoras where

import Data.List (List, range, filter)
import Data.Int (pow)
import Prelude

sourceList :: List Int
sourceList = range 1 100

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int

allTriples :: List Triple
allTriples = do
  a <- sourceList
  b <- sourceList
  c <- sourceList
  pure $ Triple {a: a, b: b, c: c}

isPythagorean :: Triple -> Boolean
isPythagorean (Triple triple) =
  (pow triple.a 2) + (pow triple.b 2) == (pow triple.c 2)

isSmallEnough :: Triple -> Boolean
isSmallEnough (Triple triple) =
  (triple.a) + (triple.b) + (triple.c) < 100

finalAnswer :: List Triple
finalAnswer = filter
  (\triple -> isPythagorean triple && isSmallEnough triple) 

For the most part, things are very similar! We still have expressions. These expressions have type signatures. We use a lot of similar elements like lists and filters. On the whole, Purescript looks a lot more like Haskell than Javascript. But there are some key differences. Let's explore those, starting with the higher level concepts.


One difference you can't see in code syntax is that Purescript is NOT lazily evaluated. Javascript is an eager language by nature. So it is much easier to compile to JS by starting with an eager language in the first place.

But now let's consider some of the differences we can see from the code. For starters, we have to import more things. Purescript does not import a Prelude by default. You must always explicitly bring it in. We also need imports for basic list functionality.

And speaking of lists, Purescript lacks a lot of the syntactic sugar Haskell has. For instance, we need to use List Int rather than [Int]. We can't use .. to create a range, but instead resort to the range function.

We also cannot use list comprehensions. Instead, to generate our original list of triples, we use the list monad. As with lists, we have to use the term Unit instead of ():

-- Comparable to main :: IO ()
main :: Effect Unit
main = do
  log "Hello World!"

Next week, we'll discuss the distinction between Effect in Purescript and monadic constructs like IO in Haskell.

One annoyance is that polymorphic type signatures are more complicated. Whereas in Haskell, we have no issue creating a type signature [a] -> Int, this will fail in Purescript. Instead, we must always use the forall keyword:

myListFunction :: forall a. List a -> Int

Another thing that doesn't come up in this example is the Number type. We can use Int in Purescript as in Haskell. But aside from that the only important numeric type is Number. This type can also represent floating point values. Both of these get translated into the number type in Javascript.

Purescript Data Types

But now let's get into one of the more glaring differences between our examples. In Purescript, we need to make a separate Triple type, rather than using a simple 3-tuple. Let's look at the reasons for this by considering data types in general.

If we want, we can make Purescript data types in the same way we would in Haskell. So we could make a data type to represent a Pythagorean triple:

data Triple = Triple a b c

This works fine in Purescript. But, it forces us to use pattern matching every time we want to pull an individual value out of this element. We can fix this in Haskell by using record syntax to give ourselves accessor functions:

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int

This syntax still works in Purescript, but it means something different. In Purescript a record is its own type, like a generic Javascript object. For instance, we could do this as a type synonym and not a full data type:

type Triple = { a :: Int, b :: Int, c :: Int}

oneTriple :: Triple
oneTriple = { a: 5, b: 12, c: 13}

Then, instead of using the field names like functions, we use "dot-syntax" like in Javascript. Here's what that looks like with our type synonym definition:

type Triple = { a :: Int, b :: Int, c :: Int}

oneTriple :: Triple
oneTriple = { a: 5, b: 12, c: 13}

sumAB :: Triple -> Int
sumAB triple = triple.a + triple.b

Here's where it gets confusing though. If we use a full data type with record syntax, Purescript no longer treats this as an item with 3 fields. Instead, we would have a data type that has one field, and that field is a record. So we would need to unwrap the record using pattern matching before using the accessor functions.

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int

oneTriple :: Triple
oneTriple = Triple { a: 5, b: 12, c: 13}

sumAB :: Triple -> Int
sumAB (Triple triple) = triple.a + triple.b

-- This is wrong!
sumAB :: Triple -> Int
sumAB triple = triple.a + triple.b

That's a pretty major gotcha. The compiler error you get from making this mistake is a bit confusing, so be careful!

Pythagoras in Purescript

With this understanding, the Purescript code above should make some more sense. But we'll go through it one more time and point out the little details.

To start out, let's make our source list. We don't have the range syntactic sugar, but we can still use the range function:

import Data.List (List, range, filter)

data Triple = Triple
  { a :: Int
  , b :: Int
  , c :: Int

sourceList :: List Int
sourceList = range 1 100

We don't have list comprehensions. But we can instead use do-syntax with lists instead to get the same effect. Note that to use do-syntax in Purescript we have to import Prelude. In particular, we need the bind function for that to work. So let's generate all the possible triples now.

import Prelude


allTriples :: List Triple
allTriples = do
  a <- sourceList
  b <- sourceList
  c <- sourceList
  pure $ Triple {a: a, b: b, c: c}

Notice also we use pure instead of return. Now let's write our filtering functions. These will use the record pattern matching and accessing mentioned above.

isPythagorean :: Triple -> Boolean
isPythagorean (Triple triple) = 
  (pow triple.a 2) + (pow triple.b 2) == (pow triple.c 2)

isSmallEnough :: Triple -> Boolean
isSmallEnough (Triple triple) =
  (triple.a) + (triple.b) + (triple.c) < 100

Finally, we can combine it all with filter in much the same way we did in Haskell:

finalAnswer :: List Triple
finalAnswer = filter 
  (\triple -> isPythagorean triple && isSmallEnough triple)

And now our solution will work!


This week we started our exploration of Purescript. Syntactically, Purescript is a very near cousin of Haskell. But there are a few key differences we highlighted here about the nature of the language.

Next week, we'll look at some other important differences in the type system. We'll see how Purescript handles type-classes and monads. After that, we'll see how we can use Purescript to build a web front-end with some of the security of a solid type system.

Download our Production Checklist for some more cool ideas of libraries you can use!

Elm IV: Navigation!


Last week, we learned a few more complexities about how Elm works. We examined how to bridge Elm types and Haskell types using the elm-bridge library. We also saw a couple basic ways to incorporate effects into our Elm application. We saw how to use a random generator and how to send HTTP requests.

These forced us to stretch our idea of what our program was doing. Our original Todo application only controlled a static page with the sandbox function. But this new program used element to introduce effects into our program structure.

But there's still another level for us to get to. Pretty much any web app will need many pages, and we haven't seen what navigation looks like in Elm. To conclude this series, let's see how we incorporate different pages. We'll need to introduce a couple more components into our application for this.

Simple Navigation

Now you might be thinking navigation should be simple. After all, we can use normal HTML elements on our page, including the a element for links. So we'd set up different HTML files in our project and use routes to dictate which page to visit. Before Elm 0.19, this was all you would do.

But this approach has some key performance weaknesses. Clicking a link will always lead to a page refresh which can be disrupting for the user. This approach will also lead us to do a lot of redundant loading of our library code. Each new page will have to reload the generated Javascript for Data.String, for example. The latest version of Elm has a new solution for this that fits within the Elm architecture.

An Application

In our previous articles, we described our whole application using the element function. But now it's time to evolve from that definition. The application function provides us the tools we need to build something bigger. Let's start by looking at its type signature (see the appendix at the bottom for imports):

application :
  { init : flags -> Url -> Key -> (model, Cmd msg)
  , view : model -> Document msg
  , update : msg -> model -> (model, Cmd msg)
  , subscriptions : model -> Sub msg
  , onUrlRequest : UrlRequest -> msg
  , onUrlChange : Url -> msg
  - > Program flags model msg

There are a couple new fields to this application function. But we can start by looking at the changes to what we already know. Our init function now takes a couple extra parameters, the Url and the Key. Getting a Url when our app launches means we can display different content depending on what page our users visit first. The Key is a special navigation tool we get when our app starts that helps us in routing. We need it for sending our own navigation commands.

Our view and update functions haven't really changed their types. All that's new is the view produces Document instead of only Html. A Document is a wrapper that lets us add a title to our web page, nothing scary. The subscriptions field has the same type (and we'll still ignore it for the most part).

This brings us to the new fields, onUrlRequest and onUrlChange. These intercept events that can change the page URL. We use onUrlChange to update our page when a user changes the URL at the top bar. Then we use onUrlRequest to deal with a links the user clicks on the page.

Basic Setup

Let's see how all these work by building a small dummy application. We'll have three pages, arbitrarily titled "Contents", "Intro", and "Conclusion". Our content will just be a few links allowing us to navigate back and forth. Let's start off with a few simple types. For our program state, we store the URL so we can configure the page we're on. We also store the navigation key because we need it to push changes to the page. Then for our messages, we'll have constructors for URL requests and changes:

type AppState = AppState
  { url: Url
  , navKey : Key

type AppMessage =
  NoUpdate |
  ClickedLink UrlRequest |
  UrlChanged Url

When we initialize this application, we'll pass the URL and Key through to our state. We'll always start the user at the contents page. We cause a transition with the pushUrl command, which requires we use the navigation key.

appInit : () -> Url -> Key -> (AppState, Cmd AppMessage)
appInit _ url key =
  let st = AppState {url = url, navKey = key}
  in (st, pushUrl key "/contents")

Updating the URL

Now we can start filling in our application. We've got message types corresponding to the URL requests and changes, so it's easy to fill those in.

main : Program () AppState AppMessage
main = Browser.application
  { init : appInit
  , view = appView
  , update = appUpdate
  , subscriptions = appSubscriptions
  , onUrlRequest = ClickedLink -- Use the message!
  , onUrlChanged = UrlChanged

Our subscriptions, once again, will be Sub.none. So we're now down to filling in our update and view functions.

The first real business of our update function is to handle link clicks. For this, we have to break the UrlRequest down into its Internal and External cases:

appUpdate : AppMessage -> AppState -> (AppState, Cmd AppMessage)
appUpdate msg (AppState s) = case msg of
  NoUpdate -> (AppState s, Cmd.none)
  ClickedLink urlRequest -> case urlRequest of
    Internal url -> …
    External href -> ...

Internal requests go to pages within our application. External requests go to other sites. We have to use different commands for each of these. As we saw in the initialization, we use pushUrl for internal requests. Then external requests will use the load function from our navigation library.

appUpdate : AppMessage -> AppState -> (AppState, Cmd AppMessage)
appUpdate msg (AppState s) = case msg of
  NoUpdate -> (AppState s, Cmd.none)
  ClickedLink urlRequest -> case urlRequest of
    Internal url -> (AppState s, pushUrl s.navKey (toString url))
    External href -> (AppState s, load href)

Once the URL has changed, we'll have another message. The only thing we need to do with this one is update our internal state of the URL.

appUpdate : AppMessage -> AppState -> (AppState, Cmd AppMessage)
appUpdate msg (AppState s) = case msg of
  NoUpdate -> (AppState s, Cmd.none)
  ClickedLink urlRequest -> …
  UrlChanged url -> (AppState {s | url = url}, Cmd.None)

Rounding out the View

Now our application's internal logic is all set up. All that's left is the view! First let's write a couple helper functions. The first of these will parse our URL into a page so we know where we are. The second will create a link element in our page:

type Page =
  Contents |
  Intro |
  Conclusion |

parseUrlToPage : Url -> Page
parseUrlToPage url =
  let urlString = toString url
  in if contains "/contents" urlString
       then Contents
       else if contains "/intro" urlString
         then Intro
         else if contains "/conclusion" urlString
           then Conclusion
           else Other

link : String -> Html AppMessage
link path = a [href path] [text path]

Finally let's fill in a view function by applying these:

appView : AppState -> Document AppMessage
appView (AppState st) =
  let body = case parseUrlToPage st.url of
               Contents -> div [] 
                 [ link "/intro", br [] [], link "/conclusion" ]
               Intro -> div [] 
                 [ link "/contents", br [] [], link "/conclusion" ]
               Conclusion -> div [] 
                 [ link "/intro", br [] [], link "/contents" ]
               Other -> div [] [ text "The page doesn't exist!" ]
  in  Document "Navigation Example App" [body]

And now we can navigate back and forth among these pages with the links!


In this last part of our series, we completed the development of our Elm skills. We learned how to use an application to achieve the full power of a web app and navigate between different pages. There's plenty more depth we can get into with designing an Elm application. For instance, how do you structure your message types across your different pages? What kind of state do you use to manage your user's experience. We'll explore these another time.

We're not done with functional frontend yet though! We've got another series coming up that'll teach you the basics of Purescript. So stay tuned for that!

And you'll also want to make sure your backend skills are up to snuff as well! Read our Haskell Web Series for more details on that! You can also download our Production Checklist!

Appendix: Imports

import Browser exposing (application, UrlRequest(..), Document)
import Browser.Navigation exposing (Key, load, pushUrl)
import Html exposing (button, div, text, a, Html, br)
import Html.Attributes exposing (href)
import Html.Events exposing (onClick)
import String exposing (contains)
import Url exposing (Url, toString)

Elm III: Adding Effects


Last week we dug deeper into using Elm. We saw how to build a more complicated web page forming a Todo list application. We learned about the Elm architecture and saw how we could use a couple simple functions to build our page. We laid the groundwork for bringing effects into our system, but didn't use any of these.

This week, we'll add some useful pieces to our Elm skill set. We'll see how to include more effects in our system, specifically randomness and HTTP requests.

To learn more about constructing a backend for your system, you should read up on our Haskell Web Series. It'll teach you things like connecting to a database and making an HTTP server.

Incorporating Effects

Last week, we explored using the element expression to build our application. Unlike sandbox, this allowed us to add commands, which enable side effects. But we didn't use any of commands. Let's examine a couple different effects we can use in our application.

One simple effect we can cause is to get a random number. It might not be obvious from the code we have so far, but we can't actually do it in our Todo application at the moment! Our update function is pure! This means it doesn't have access to IO. What it can do is send commands as part of its output. Commands can trigger messages, and incorporate effects along the way.

Making a Random Task

We're going to add a button to our application. This button will generate a random task name and add it to our list. To start with, we'll add a new message type to process:

type TodoListMessage =
  AddedTodo Todo |
  FinishedTodo Todo |
  UpdatedNewTodo (Maybe Todo) |

Now here's the HTML element that will send the new message. We can add it to the list of elements in our view:

randomTaskButton : Html TodoListMessage
randomTaskButton = button [onClick AddRandomTodo] [text "Random"]

Now we need to add our new message to our update function. We need a case for it:

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  AddRandomTodo ->
    (TodoListState { todoList = todoList, newTodo = newTodo}, …)

So for the first time, we're going to fill in the Cmd element! To generate randomness, we need the generate function from the Random module.

generate : (a -> msg) -> Generator a -> Cmd msg

We need two arguments to use this. The second argument is a random generator on a particular type a. The first argument then is a function from this type to our message. In our case, we'll want to generate a String. We'll use some functionality from the package elm-community/random-extra. See Random.String and Random.Char for details. Our strings will be 10 letters long and use only lowercase.

genString : Generator String
genString = string 10 lowerCaseLatin

Now we can easily convert this to a new message. We generate the string, and then add it as a Todo:

addTaskMsg : String -> TodoListMessage
addTaskMsg name = AddedTodo (Todo {todoName = name})

Now we can plug these into our update function, and we have our functioning random command!

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  AddRandomTodo ->
    (..., generate addTaskMsg genString)

Now clicking the random button will make a random task and add it to our list!

Sending an HTTP Request

A more complicated effect we can add is to send an HTTP request. We'll be using the Http library from Elm. Whenever we complete a task, we'll send a request to some endpoint that contains the task's name within its body.

We'll hook into our current action for FinishedTodo. Currently, this returns the None command along with its update. We'll make it send a command that will trigger a post request. This post request will, in turn, hook into another message type we'll make for handling the response.

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  (FinishedTodo doneTodo) ->
    (..., postFinishedTodo doneTodo)
  ReceivedFinishedResponse -> ...

postFinishedTodo : Todo -> Cmd TodoListMessage
postFinishedTodo = ...

We create HTTP commands using the send function. It takes two parameters:

send : (Result Error a -> msg) -> Request a -> Cmd Msg

The first of these is a function interpreting the server response and giving us a new message to send. The second is a request expecting a result of some type a. Let's plot out our code skeleton a little more for these parameters. We'll imagine we're getting back a String for our response, but it doesn't matter. We'll send the same message regardless:

postFinishedTodo : Todo -> Cmd TodoListMessage
postFinishedTodo todo = send interpretResponse (postRequest todo)

interpretResponse : Result Error String -> TodoListMessage
interpretResposne _ = ReceivedFinishedResponse

postRequest : Todo -> Request String
postRequest = ...

Now all we need is to create our post request using the post function:

post : String -> Body -> Decoder a -> Request a

Now we've got three more parameters to fill in. The first of these is the URL we're sending the request to. The second is our body. The third is a decoder for the response. Our decoder will be Json.Decode.string, a library function. We'll imagine we are running a local server for the URL.

postRequest : Todo -> Request String
postRequest todo = post "localhost:8081/api/finish" … Json.Decode.string

All we need to do now is encode the Todo in the post request body. This is straightforward. We'll use Json.Encode.object, which takes a list of tuples. Then we'll use the string encoder on the todo name.

jsonEncTodo : Todo -> Value
jsonEncTodo (Todo todo) = Json.Encode.object
  [ ("todoName", Json.encode.string todo.todoName) ]

Now all we have to do is use this encoder together with the jsonBody function. And then we're done!

postRequest : Todo -> Request String
postRequest todo = post
  (jsonBody (jsonEncTodo todo))

As a reminder, most of the types and helper functions from this last part come from the HTTP Library for Elm. We could then further process the response in our interpretResponse function. If we get an error, we could send a different message. Either way, we can ultimately do more updates in our update function.


This concludes part 3 of our series on Elm! We took a look at a few nifty ways to add extra effects to our Elm projects. We saw how to introduce randomness into our Elm project, and then how to send HTTP requests. Next week, we'll explore navigation, a vital part of any web application. We'll see how the Elm architecture supports a multi-page application. Then we'll see how to move between the different pages efficiently, without needing to reload every bit of our Elm code each time.

Now that you know how to write a functional frontend, you should learn more about the backend! Read our Haskell Web Series for some tutorials on how to do this. You can also download our Production Checklist for some more ideas!

Elm II: Making a Todo List!


Last week we learned about the basics of Elm. Elm is a functional language you can use for front-end web development. Its syntax is very close to Haskell. Though as we explored, it lacks a few key language features.

This week, we're going to make a simple Todo List application to show a bit more about how Elm works. We'll see how to apply the basics we learned, and take things a bit further.

But a front-end isn't much use without a back-end! Take a look at our Haskell Web Series to learn some cool libraries for a Haskell back-end!

Todo Types

Before we get started, let's define our types. We'll have a basic Todo type, with a string for its name. We'll also make a type for the state of our form. This includes a list of our items as well as a "Todo in Progress", containing the text in the form:

module Types exposing
  ( Todo(..)
  , TodoListState(..)
  , TodoListMessage(..)

type Todo = Todo 
  { todoName : String }

type TodoListState = TodoListState
  { todoList : List Todo
  , newTodo : Maybe Todo

We also want to define a message type. These are the messages we'll send from our view to update our model.

type TodoListMessage =
  AddedTodo Todo |
  FinishedTodo Todo |
  UpdatedNewTodo (Maybe Todo)

Elm's Architecture

Now let's review how Elm's architecture works. Last week we described our program using the sandbox function. This simple function takes three inputs. It took an initial state (we were using a basic Int), an update function, and a view function. The update function took a Message and our existing model and returned the updated model. The view function took our model and rendered it in HTML. The resulting type of the view was Html Message. You should read this type as, "rendered HTML that can send messages of type Message". The resulting type of this expression is a Program, parameterized by our model and message type.

sandbox :
  { init : model
  , update : msg -> model -> model
  , view : model -> Html msg
  -> Program () model msg

A sandbox program though doesn't allow us to communicate with the outside world very much! In other words, there's no IO, except for rendering the DOM! So there a few more advanced functions we can use to create a Program. For a normal application, you'll want to use the application function seen here. For the single page example we'll do this week, we can pretty much get away with sandbox. But we'll show how to use the element function instead to get at least some effects into our system. The element function looks a lot like sandbox, with a few changes:

element :
  { init : flags -> (model, Cmd msg)
  , view : model -> Html msg
  , update : msg -> model -> (model, Cmd msg)
  , subscriptions : model -> Sub msg
  -> Program flags model msg

Once again, we have functions for init, view, and update. But a couple signatures are a little different. Our init function now takes program flags. We won't use these. But they allow you to embed your Elm project within a larger Javascript project. The flags are information passed from Javascript into your Elm program.

Using init also produces both a model and a Cmd element. This would allow us to run "commands" when initializing our application. You can think of these commands as side effects, and they can also produce our message type.

Another change we see is that the update function can also produce commands as well as the new model. Finally, we have this last element subscriptions. This allows us to subscribe to outside events like clock ticks and HTTP requests. We'll see more of this next week. For now, let's lay out the skeleton of our application and get all the type signatures down. (See the appendix for an imports list).

main : Program () TodoListState TodoListMessage
main = Browser.element 
  { init = todoInit
  , update = todoUpdate
  , view = todoView
  , subscriptions = todoSubscriptions

todoInit : () -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)

todoView : TodoListState -> Html TodoListMessage

todoSubscriptions : TodoListState -> Sub TodoListMessage

Initializing our program is easy enough. We'll ignore the flags and return a state that has no tasks and Nothing for the task in progress. We'll return Cmd.none, indicating that initializing our state has no effects. We'll also fill in Sub.none for the subscriptions.

todoInit : () -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoInit _ = 
  let st = TodoListState { todoList = [], newTodo = Nothing }
  in (st, Cmd.none)

todoSubscriptions : TodoListState -> Sub TodoListMessage
todoSubscriptions _ = Sub.none

Filling in the View

Now for our view, we'll take our basic model components and turn them into HTML. When we have a list of Todo elements, we'll display them in an ordered list. We'll have a list item for each of them. This item will state the name of the item and give a "Done" button. Clicking the button allows us to send a message for finishing that Todo:

todoItem : Todo -> Html TodoListMessage
todoItem (Todo todo) = li [] 
  [ text todo.todoName
  , button [onClick (FinishedTodo (Todo todo))] [text "Done"]

Now let's put together the input form for adding a Todo. First, we'll determine what value is in the input and whether to disable the done button. Then we'll define a function for turning the input string into a new Todo item. This will send the message for changing the new Todo.

todoForm : Maybe Todo -> Html TodoListMessage
todoForm maybeTodo = 
  let (value_, isEnabled_) = case maybeTodo of
                              Nothing -> ("", False)
                              Just (Todo t) -> (t.todoName, True)
      changeTodo newString = case newString of
                               "" -> UpdatedNewTodo Nothing
                               s -> UpdatedNewTodo (Just (Todo { todoName = s }))
  in ...

Now, we'll make the HTML for the form. The input element itself will tie into our onChange function that will update our state. The "Add" button will send the message for adding the new Todo.

todoForm : Maybe Todo -> Html TodoListMessage
todoForm maybeTodo = 
  let (value_, isEnabled_) = ...
      changeTodo newString = ...
  in div []
       [ input [value value_, onInput changeTodo] []
       , button [disabled (not isEnabled_), onClick (AddedTodo (Todo {todoName = value_}))] 
          [text "Add"]

We can then pull together all our view code in the view function. We have our list of Todos, and then add the form.

todoView : TodoListState -> Html TodoListMessage
todoView (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo }) = div []
  [ ol [] ( todoItem todoList)
  , todoForm newTodo

Updating the Model

The last thing we need is to write out our update function. All this does is process a message and update the state accordingly. We need three cases:

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  (AddedTodo newTodo_) -> ...
  (FinishedTodo doneTodo) -> ...
  (UpdatedNewTodo newTodo_) -> ...

And each of these cases is pretty straightforward. For adding a Todo, we'll append it at the front of our list:

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  (AddedTodo newTodo_) ->
    let st = TodoListState { todoList = newTodo_ :: todoList
                           , newTodo = Nothing
  (FinishedTodo doneTodo) -> ...
  (UpdatedNewTodo newTodo_) -> ...

When we've finished a Todo, we'll remove it from our list by filtering on the name being equal.

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  (AddedTodo newTodo_) -> ...
  (FinishedTodo doneTodo) ->
    let st = TodoListState { todoList = List.filter (todosNotEqual doneTodo) todoList
                           , newTodo = newTodo
    in (st, Cmd.none)
  (UpdatedNewTodo newTodo_) -> ..

todosNotEqual : Todo -> Todo -> Bool
todosNotEqual (Todo t1) (Todo t2) = t1.todoName /= t2.todoName

And updating the new todo is the easiest of all! All we need to do is replace it in the state.

todoUpdate : TodoListMessage -> TodoListState -> (TodoListState, Cmd TodoListMessage)
todoUpdate msg (TodoListState { todoList, newTodo}) = case msg of
  (AddedTodo newTodo_) -> ...
  (FinishedTodo doneTodo) -> ...
  (UpdatedNewTodo newTodo_) -> ..
    (TodoListState { todoList = todoList, newTodo = newTodo_ }, Cmd.none)

And with that we're done! We have a rudimentary program for our Todo list.


This wraps up our basic Todo application! There are still a few more things we should learn moving on from Elm. Next week, we'll see how to implement some important types of effects any site will need. We'll see an intro to Elm's effect system, and use it to send HTTP requests.

For some more ideas on building cool products in Haskell, take a look at our Production Checklist. It goes over some libraries for many topics, including databases and parsing!

Appendix: Imports

import Browser
import Html exposing (Html, button, div, text, ol, li, input)
import Html.Attributes exposing (value, disabled)
import Html.Events exposing (onClick, onInput)

Elm: Functional Frontend!


Our Haskell Web Series covers a lot of cool libraries you can use when making a web app. But one thing we haven't covered yet on this blog is using Haskell for front-end web development. There are many libraries and frameworks out there. Yesod and Snap come to mind. Another option is Reflex FRP which uses GHCJS under the hood.

But for this new series I've decided to take a different approach. For the next few weeks we're going to be looking at Elm!

I love Elm for a few reasons. Elm builds on my strong belief that we can take the principles of functional programming and put them to practical use. The language is no-nonsense and the documentation is quite good. Elm has a few syntactic quirks . It also lacks a few key Haskell features. And yet, we can still do a lot with it.

This week we'll look at basic installation, differences, and usage. Next week, we'll compose a simple Todo application in Elm. This will give us a feel for how we architect our Elm applications. We'll wrap up by exploring how to add more effects to our app, and how to integrate Elm types with Haskell.

Front-end is, of course, only part of the story. To learn more about using Haskell for backend web, check out our Haskell Web Series! You can also download our Production Checklist for more ideas!

Basic Setup

As with any language, there will be some setup involved in getting Elm onto our machine for the first time. For Windows and Mac, you can run the installer program provided here. There are separate instructions for Linux, but they're straightforward enough. You fetch the binary, tar it, and move to your bin.

Once we have the elm executable installed, we can get going. When you've used enough package management programs, the process gets easier to understand. The elm command has a few fundamental things in common with stack and npm.

First, we can run elm init to create a new project. This will make a src folder for us as well as an elm.json file. This JSON file is comparable to a .cabal file or package.json for Node.js. It's where we'll specify all our different package dependencies. The default version of this will provide most of your basic web packages. Then we'll make our .elm source files in /src.

Running a Basic Page

Elm development looks different from most normal Javascript systems I've worked with. While we're writing our code, we don't need to specify a specific entry point to our application. Every file we make is a potential web page we can view. So here's how we can start off with the simplest possible application:

import Browser
import HTML exposing (Html, div, text)

type Message = Message

main : Program () Int Message
main =
  Browser.sandbox { init = 0, update = update, view = view }

update : Message -> Int -> Int
update _ x = x

view : Int -> Html Message
view _ = div [] [text "Hello World!"]

Elm uses a model/view/controller system. We define our program in the main function. Our Program type has three parameters. The first relates to flags we can pass to our program. We'll ignore those for now. The second is the model type for our program. We'll start with a simple integer. Then the final type is a message. Our view will cause updates by sending messages of this type. The sandbox function means our program is simple, and has no side effects. Aside from passing an initial state, we also pass an update function and a view function.

The update function allows us to take a new message and change our model if necessary. Then the view is a function that takes our model and determines the HTML components. You can read the type of view as "an HTML component that sends messages of type Message.

We can run the elm-reactor command and point our browser at localhost:8000. This takes us to a dashboard where we can examine any file we want. We'll only want to look at the ones with a main function. Then we'll see our simple page with the div on the screen. (It strangely spins if we select a pure library file).

As per the Elm tutorial we can make this more interesting by using the Int in our model. We'll change our Message type so that it can either represent an Increment or a Decrement. Then our update function will change the model based on the message.

type Message = Increment | Decrement

update : Message -> Int -> Int
update msg model = case msg of
  Increment -> model + 1
  Decrement -> model - 1

view : Int -> Html Message
view model = div [] [String.fromInt model]

As a last change, we'll add + and - buttons to our interface. These will allow us to send the Increment and Decrement messages to our type.

view model = div []
  [ button [onClick Decrement] [text "-"]
  , div [] [ text (String.fromInt model) ]
  , button [onClick Increment] [text "+"]

Now we have an interface where we can press each button and the number on the screen will change! That's our basic application!

The Make Command

The elm reactor command builds up a dummy interface for us to use and examine our pages. But our ultimate goal is to make it so we can generate HTML and Javascript from our elm code. We would then export these assets so our back-end could serve them as resources. We can do this with the elm make command. Here's a sample:

elm make Main.elm --output=main.html

We'll want to use scripting to pull all these elements together and dump them in an assets folder. We'll get some experience with this in a couple weeks when we put together a full Elm + Haskell project.

Differences From Haskell

There are a few syntactic gotchas when comparing Elm to Haskell. We won't cover them all, but here are the basics.

We can already see that import and module syntax is a little different. We use the exposing keyword in an import definition to pick out specific expressions we want from that module.

import HTML exposing (Html, div, text)

import Types exposing (Message(..))

When we define our own module, we will also use the exposing keyword in place of where in the module definition:

module Types exposing

type Message = Increment | Decrement

We can also see that Elm uses type where we would use data in Haskell. If we want a type synonym, Elm offers the type alias combination:

type alias Count = Int

As you can see from the type operators above, Elm reverses the : operator and ::. A single colon refers to a type signature. Double colons refer to list appending:

myNumber : Int
myNumber = 5

myList : [Int]
myList = 5 :: [2, 3]

Elm is also missing some of the nicer syntax elements of Haskell. For instance, Elm lacks pattern matching on functions and guards. Elm also does not have where clauses. Only case and let statements exist. And instead of the . operator for function composition, you would use <<. data-preserve-html-node="true" Here are a few examples of these points:

isBigNumber : Int -> Bool
isBigNumber x = let forComparison = 5 in x > forComparison

findSmallNumbers : List Int -> List Int
findSmallNumbers numbers = List.filter (not << isBigNumber) numbers

As a last note in this section, Elm is strictly evaluated. Elm compiles to Javascript so it can run in browsers. And it's much easier to generate sensible Javascript with a strict language.

Elm Records

Another key difference with Elm is how record syntax works. It Elm, a "record" is a specific type. These simulation Javascript objects. In this example, we define a type synonym for a record. While we don't have pattern matching in general, we can use pattern matching on records:

type alias Point2D =
  { x: Float
  , y: Float

sumOfPoint : Point2D -> Float
sumOfPoint {x, y} = x + y

To make our code feel more like Javascript, we can use the . operator to access records in different ways. We can either use the Javascript like syntax, or use the period and our field name as a normal function.

point1 : Point2D
point1 = {x = 5.0, y = 6.0}

p1x : Float
p1x = point1.x

p1y : Float
p1y = .y point1

We can also update particular fields of records with ease. This approach scales well to many fields:

newPoint : Point2D
newPoint = { point1 | y = 3.0 }

Typeclasses and Monads

The more controversial differences between Haskell and Elm lie with these two concepts. Elm does not have typeclasses. For a Haskell veteran such as myself, this is a big restriction. Because of this, Elm also lacks do syntax. Remember that do syntax relies upon the idea that the Monad typeclass exists.

There is a reason for these omissions though. The Elm creator wrote an interesting article about it.

His main point is that (unlike me), most Elm users are coming from Javascript rather than Haskell. They tend not to have much background with functional programming and related concepts. So it's not as big a priority for Elm to capture these constructs. So what alternatives are available?

Well when it comes to typeclasses, each type has to come up with its own definition for a function. Let's take the simple example of map. In Haskell, we have the fmap function. It allows us to apply a function over a container, without knowing what the container is:

fmap :: (Functor f) => (a -> b) -> f a -> f b

We can apply this same function whether we have a list or a dictionary. In Elm though, each library has its own map function. So we have to qualify the usage of it:

import List
import Dict

double : List Int -> List Int
double l = (* 2) l

doubleDict : Dict String Int -> Dict String Int
doubleDict d = (* 2) d

Instead of monads, Elm uses a function called andThen. This acts a lot like Haskell's >>= operator. We see this pattern more often in object oriented languages like Java. As an example from the documentation, we can see how this works with Maybe.

toInt : String -> Maybe Int

toValidMonth : Int -> Maybe Int
toValidMonth month =
    if month >= 1 && month <= 12
        then Just month
        else Nothing

toMonth : String -> Maybe Int
toMonth rawString =
    toInt rawString `andThen` toValidMonth

So Elm doesn't give us quite as much functional power as we have in Haskell. That said, Elm is a front-end language first. It expresses how to display our data and how we bring components together. If we need complex functional elements, we can use Haskell and put that on the back-end.


We'll stop there for now. Next week we'll expand our understanding of Elm by writing a more complicated program. We'll write a simple Todo list application and see Elm's architecture in action.

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