User guide

stack is a modern, cross-platform build tool for Haskell code.

This guide takes a new stack user through the typical workflows. This guide will not teach Haskell or involve much code, and it requires no prior experience with the Haskell packaging system or other build tools.

Stack’s functions

stack handles the management of your toolchain (including GHC — the Glasgow Haskell Compiler — and, for Windows users, MSYS), building and registering libraries, building build tool dependencies, and more. While it can use existing tools on your system, stack has the capacity to be your one-stop shop for all Haskell tooling you need. This guide will follow that stack-centric approach.

What makes stack special?

The primary stack design point is reproducible builds. If you run stack build today, you should get the same result running stack build tomorrow. There are some cases that can break that rule (changes in your operating system configuration, for example), but, overall, stack follows this design philosophy closely. To make this a simple process, stack uses curated package sets called snapshots.

stack has also been designed from the ground up to be user friendly, with an intuitive, discoverable command line interface. For many users, simply downloading stack and reading stack --help will be enough to get up and running. This guide provides a more gradual tour for users who prefer that learning style.

To build your project, stack uses a stack.yaml file in the root directory of your project as a sort of blueprint. That file contains a reference, called a resolver, to the snapshot which your package will be built against.

Finally, stack is isolated: it will not make changes outside of specific stack directories. stack-built files generally go in either the stack root directory (default ~/.stack) or ./.stack-work directories local to each project. The stack root directory holds packages belonging to snapshots and any stack-installed versions of GHC. Stack will not tamper with any system version of GHC or interfere with packages installed by cabal or any other build tools.

NOTE In this guide, we’ll use commands as run on a GNU/Linux system (specifically Ubuntu 14.04, 64-bit) and share output from that. Output on other systems — or with different versions of stack — will be slightly different, but all commands work cross-platform, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Downloading and Installation

The documentation dedicated to downloading stack has the most up-to-date information for a variety of operating systems, including multiple GNU/Linux flavors. Instead of repeating that content here, please go check out that page and come back here when you can successfully run stack --version. The rest of this session will demonstrate the installation procedure on a vanilla Ubuntu 14.04 machine.

# Starting with a *really* bare machine
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ sudo apt-get install wget
# Demonstrate that stack really isn't available
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack
-bash: stack: command not found
# Get the signing key for the package repo
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ echo 'deb stable main'|sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/fpco.list
deb stable main
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install stack -y
# downloading...
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack --version
Version, Git revision 908b04205e6f436d4a5f420b1c6c646ed2b804d7

With stack now up and running, you’re good to go. Though not required, we recommend setting your PATH environment variable to include $HOME/.local/bin:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ echo 'export PATH=$HOME/.local/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.bashrc

Hello World Example

With stack installed, let’s create a new project from a template and walk through the most common stack commands.

stack new

We’ll start off with the stack new command to create a new project. We’ll call our project helloworld, and we’ll use the new-template project template:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack new helloworld new-template

For this first stack command, there’s quite a bit of initial setup it needs to do (such as downloading the list of packages available upstream), so you’ll see a lot of output. Though your exact results may vary, below is an example of the sort of output you will see. Over the course of this guide a lot of the content will begin to make more sense:

Downloading template "new-template" to create project "helloworld" in helloworld/ ...
Using the following authorship configuration:
author-name: Example Author Name
Copy these to /home/michael/.stack/config.yaml and edit to use different values.
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/helloworld/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/helloworld/helloworld.cabal

Downloaded lts-3.2 build plan.
Caching build plan
Fetched package index.
Populated index cache.
Checking against build plan lts-3.2
Selected resolver: lts-3.2
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/helloworld/stack.yaml

We now have a project in the helloworld directory!

stack setup

Instead of assuming you want stack to download and install GHC for you, it asks you to do this as a separate command: setup. If we don’t run stack setup now, we’ll later see a message that we are missing the right GHC version.

Let’s run stack setup:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack setup
Downloaded ghc-7.10.2.
Installed GHC.
stack will use a locally installed GHC
For more information on paths, see 'stack path' and 'stack exec env'
To use this GHC and packages outside of a project, consider using:
stack ghc, stack ghci, stack runghc, or stack exec

It doesn’t come through in the output here, but you’ll get intermediate download percentage statistics while the download is occurring. This command may take some time, depending on download speeds.

NOTE: GHC will be installed to your global stack root directory, so calling ghc on the command line won’t work. See the stack exec, stack ghc, and stack runghc commands below for more information.

stack build

Next, we’ll run the most important stack command: stack build.

NOTE: If you forgot to run stack setup in the previous step you’ll get an error:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ cd helloworld/
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
No GHC found, expected version 7.10.2 (x86_64) (based on resolver setting in /home/michael/helloworld/stack.yaml).
Try running stack setup

stack needs GHC in order to build your project, and stack setup must be run to check whether GHC is available (and install it if not).

Having run stack setup successfully, stack build should build our project:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
helloworld- configure
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build
Preprocessing library helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Lib              ( src/Lib.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
In-place registering helloworld-
Preprocessing executable 'helloworld-exe' for helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Main             ( app/Main.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
Linking .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ...
helloworld- install
Installing library in
Installing executable(s) in
Registering helloworld-

stack exec

Looking closely at the output of the previous command, you can see that it built both a library called “helloworld” and an executable called “helloworld-exe”. We’ll explain more in the next section, but, for now, just notice that the executables are installed in our project’s ./stack-work directory.

Now, Let’s use stack exec to run our executable (which just outputs the string “someFunc”):

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack exec helloworld-exe

stack exec works by providing the same reproducible environment that was used to build your project to the command that you are running. Thus, it knew where to find helloworld-exe even though it is hidden in the ./stack-work directory.

stack test

Finally, like all good software, helloworld actually has a test suite. Let’s run it with stack test:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack test
NOTE: the test command is functionally equivalent to 'build --test'
helloworld- configure (test)
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build (test)
Preprocessing library helloworld-
In-place registering helloworld-
Preprocessing test suite 'helloworld-test' for helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Main             ( test/Spec.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
Linking .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ...
helloworld- test (suite: helloworld-test)
Test suite not yet implemented

Reading the output, you’ll see that stack first builds the test suite and then automatically runs it for us. For both the build and test command, already built components are not built again. You can see this by running stack build and stack test a second time:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack test
NOTE: the test command is functionally equivalent to 'build --test'
helloworld- test (suite: helloworld-test)
Test suite not yet implemented

Inner Workings of stack

In this subsection, we’ll dissect the helloworld example in more detail.

Files in helloworld

Before studying stack more, let’s understand our project a bit better.

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ find * -type f

The app/Main.hs, src/Lib.hs, and test/Spec.hs files are all Haskell source files that compose the actual functionality of our project (we won’t dwell on them here). The LICENSE file has no impact on the build, but is there for informational/legal purposes only. The files of interest here are Setup.hs, helloworld.cabal, and stack.yaml.

The Setup.hs file is a component of the Cabal build system which stack uses. It’s technically not needed by stack, but it is still considered good practice in the Haskell world to include it. The file we’re using is straight boilerplate:

import Distribution.Simple
main = defaultMain

Next, let’s look at our stack.yaml file, which gives our project-level settings:

flags: {}
- '.'
extra-deps: []
resolver: lts-3.2

If you’re familiar with YAML, you may recognize that the flags and extra-deps keys have empty values. We’ll see more interesting usages for these fields later. Let’s focus on the other two fields. packages tells stack which local packages to build. In our simple example, we have only a single package in our project, located in the same directory, so '.' suffices. However, stack has powerful support for multi-package projects, which we’ll elaborate on as this guide progresses.

The final field is resolver. This tells stack how to build your package: which GHC version to use, versions of package dependencies, and so on. Our value here says to use LTS Haskell version 3.2, which implies GHC 7.10.2 (which is why stack setup installs that version of GHC). There are a number of values you can use for resolver, which we’ll cover later.

The final file of import is helloworld.cabal. stack is built on top of the Cabal build system. In Cabal, we have individual packages, each of which contains a single .cabal file. The .cabal file can define 1 or more components: a library, executables, test suites, and benchmarks. It also specifies additional information such as library dependencies, default language pragmas, and so on.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the bare minimum necessary to understand how to modify a .cabal file. has the definitive reference for the .cabal file format.

The setup command

As we saw above, the setup command installed GHC for us. Just for kicks, let’s run setup a second time:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack setup
stack will use a locally installed GHC
For more information on paths, see 'stack path' and 'stack exec env'
To use this GHC and packages outside of a project, consider using:
stack ghc, stack ghci, stack runghc, or stack exec

Thankfully, the command is smart enough to know not to perform an installation twice. setup will either use the first GHC it finds on your PATH, or a locally installed version. As the command output above indicates, you can use stack path for quite a bit of path information (which we’ll play with more later). For now, we’ll just look at where GHC is installed:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack exec which ghc

As you can see from that path (and as emphasized earlier), the installation is placed to not interfere with any other GHC installation, whether system-wide or even different GHC versions installed by stack.

The build command

The build command is the heart and soul of stack. It is the engine that powers building your code, testing it, getting dependencies, and more. Quite a bit of the remainder of this guide will cover more advanced build functions and features, such as building test and Haddocks at the same time, or constantly rebuilding blocking on file changes.

On a philosophical note: Running the build command twice with the same options and arguments should generally be a no-op (besides things like rerunning test suites), and should, in general, produce a reproducible result between different runs.

Adding dependencies

Let’s say we decide to modify our helloworld source a bit to use a new library, perhaps the ubiquitous text package. For example:

{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings #-}
module Lib
    ( someFunc
    ) where

import qualified Data.Text.IO as T

someFunc :: IO ()
someFunc = T.putStrLn "someFunc"

When we try to build this, things don’t go as expected:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
helloworld- unregistering (local file changes)
helloworld- configure
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build
Preprocessing library helloworld-

    Could not find module `Data.Text.IO'
    Use -v to see a list of the files searched for.

--  While building package helloworld- using:
      /home/michael/.stack/programs/x86_64-linux/ghc-7.10.2/bin/runhaskell -package=Cabal- -clear-package-db -global-package-db -package-db=/home/michael/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/lts-3.2/7.10.2/pkgdb/ /tmp/stack5846/Setup.hs --builddir=.stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- build exe:helloworld-exe --ghc-options -hpcdir .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- -ddump-hi -ddump-to-file
    Process exited with code: ExitFailure 1

Notice that it says “Could not find module.” This means that the package containing the module in question is not available. To tell stack to use text, you need to add it to your .cabal file — specifically in your build-depends section, like this:

  hs-source-dirs:      src
  exposed-modules:     Lib
  build-depends:       base >= 4.7 && < 5
                       -- This next line is the new one
                     , text
  default-language:    Haskell2010

Now if we rerun stack build, we should get a successful result:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
text- download
text- configure
text- build
text- install
helloworld- configure
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build
Preprocessing library helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Lib              ( src/Lib.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
In-place registering helloworld-
Preprocessing executable 'helloworld-exe' for helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Main             ( app/Main.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ) [Lib changed]
Linking .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ...
helloworld- install
Installing library in
Installing executable(s) in
Registering helloworld-
Completed all 2 actions.

This output means that the text package was downloaded, configured, built, and locally installed. Once that was done, we moved on to building our local package (helloworld). At no point did we need to ask stack to build dependencies — it does so automatically.


Let’s try a more off-the-beaten-track package: the joke acme-missiles package. Our source code is simple:

module Lib
    ( someFunc
    ) where

import Acme.Missiles

someFunc :: IO ()
someFunc = launchMissiles

In this case, we can add acme-missiles to the .cabal file, but we get a new type of error message from stack build:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
While constructing the BuildPlan the following exceptions were encountered:

--  While attempting to add dependency,
    Could not find package acme-missiles in known packages

--  Failure when adding dependencies:
      acme-missiles: needed (-any), latest is 0.3, but not present in build plan
    needed for package: helloworld-

Recommended action: try adding the following to your extra-deps in /home/michael/helloworld/stack.yaml
- acme-missiles-0.3

You may also want to try the 'stack solver' command

It says acme-missiles is “not present in build plan.” This brings us to the next major topic in using stack.

Curated package sets

Remember above when stack new selected the lts-3.2 resolver for us? That defined our build plan and available packages. When we tried using the text package, it just worked, because it was part of the lts-3.2 package set. But acme-missiles is not part of that package set, so building failed.

To add this new dependency, we’ll use the extra-deps field in stack.yaml to define extra dependencies not present in the resolver. With that change, our stack.yaml looks like:

flags: {}
- '.'
- acme-missiles-0.3 # not in lts-3.2
resolver: lts-3.2

Now stack build will succeed.

With that out of the way, let’s dig a little bit more into these package sets, also known as snapshots. We mentioned lts-3.2, and you can get quite a bit of information about it at, including:

  • The appropriate resolver value (resolver: lts-3.2, as we used above)
  • The GHC version used
  • A full list of all packages available in this snapshot
  • The ability to perform a Hoogle search on the packages in this snapshot
  • A list of all modules in a snapshot, which an be useful when trying to determine which package to add to your .cabal file

You can also see a list of all available snapshots. You’ll notice two flavors: LTS (for “Long Term Support”) and Nightly. You can read more about them on the LTS Haskell Github page. If you’re not sure which to use, start with LTS Haskell (which stack will lean towards by default as well).

Resolvers and changing your compiler version

Let’s explore package sets a bit further. Instead of lts-3.2, let’s change our stack.yaml file to use nightly-2015-08-26. Rerunning stack build will produce:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build
Downloaded nightly-2015-08-26 build plan.
Caching build plan
stm-2.4.4: configure
stm-2.4.4: build
stm-2.4.4: install
acme-missiles-0.3: configure
acme-missiles-0.3: build
acme-missiles-0.3: install
helloworld- configure
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build
Preprocessing library helloworld-
In-place registering helloworld-
Preprocessing executable 'helloworld-exe' for helloworld-
Linking .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ...
helloworld- install
Installing library in
Installing executable(s) in
Registering helloworld-
Completed all 3 actions.

We can also change resolvers on the command line, which can be useful in a Continuous Integration (CI) setting, like on Travis. For example:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack --resolver lts-3.1 build
Downloaded lts-3.1 build plan.
Caching build plan
stm-2.4.4: configure
# Rest is the same, no point copying it

When passed on the command line, you also get some additional “short-cut” versions of resolvers: --resolver nightly will use the newest Nightly resolver available, --resolver lts will use the newest LTS, and --resolver lts-2 will use the newest LTS in the 2.X series. The reason these are only available on the command line and not in your stack.yaml file is that using them:

  1. Will slow down your build (since stack then needs to download information on the latest available LTS each time it builds)
  2. Produces unreliable results (since a build run today may proceed differently tomorrow because of changes outside of your control)

Changing GHC versions

Finally, let’s try using an older LTS snapshot. We’ll use the newest 2.X snapshot:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack --resolver lts-2 build
Selected resolver: lts-2.22
Downloaded lts-2.22 build plan.
Caching build plan
No GHC found, expected version 7.8.4 (x86_64) (based on resolver setting in /home/michael/helloworld/stack.yaml). Try running stack setup

This fails, because GHC 7.8.4 (which lts-2.22 uses) is not available on our system. So, we see that different LTS versions (2 vs 3 in this case) use different GHC versions. Now, how do we get the right GHC version after changing the LTS version? One answer is to use stack setup like we did above, this time with the --resolver lts-2 option. However, there’s another method worth mentioning: the --install-ghc flag.

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack --resolver lts-2 --install-ghc build
Selected resolver: lts-2.22
Downloaded ghc-7.8.4.
Installed GHC.
stm-2.4.4: configure
# Mostly same as before, nothing interesting to see

What’s nice about --install-ghc is:

  1. You don’t need to have an extra step in your build script
  2. It only requires downloading the information on latest snapshots once

As mentioned above, the default behavior of stack is to not install new versions of GHC automatically. We want to avoid surprising users with large downloads/installs. The --install-ghc flag simply changes that default behavior.

Other resolver values

We’ve mentioned nightly-YYYY-MM-DD and lts-X.Y values for the resolver. There are actually other options available, and the list will grow over time. At the time of writing:

  • ghc-X.Y.Z, for requiring a specific GHC version but no additional packages
  • Experimental GHCJS support
  • Experimental custom snapshot support

The most up-to-date information can always be found in the stack.yaml documentation.

Existing projects

Alright, enough playing around with simple projects. Let’s take an open source package and try to build it. We’ll be ambitious and use yackage, a local package server using Yesod. To get the code, we’ll use the stack unpack command:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack unpack yackage-0.8.0
yackage-0.8.0: download
Unpacked yackage-0.8.0 to /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ cd yackage-0.8.0/

This new directory does not have a stack.yaml file, so we need to make one first. We could do it by hand, but let’s be lazy instead with the stack init command:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack init
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/yackage.cabal

Checking against build plan lts-3.2
Selected resolver: lts-3.2
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ cat stack.yaml
    upload: true
- '.'
extra-deps: []
resolver: lts-3.2

stack init does quite a few things for you behind the scenes:

  • Creates a list of snapshots that would be good candidates.
    • The basic algorithm here is to prefer options in this order:
      • Snapshots for which you’ve already built some packages (to increase sharing of binary package databases, as we’ll discuss later)
      • Recent snapshots
      • LTS
    • These preferences can be tweaked with command line flags (see stack init --help).
  • Finds all of the .cabal files in your current directory and subdirectories (unless you use --ignore-subdirs) and determines the packages and versions they require
  • Finds a combination of snapshot and package flags that allows everything to compile

Assuming it finds a match, it will write your stack.yaml file, and everything will work. Given that LTS Haskell and Stackage Nightly have ~1400 of the most common Haskell packages, this will often be enough. However, let’s simulate a failure by adding acme-missiles to our build-depends and re-initing:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack init --force
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/yackage.cabal

Checking against build plan lts-3.2

* Build plan did not match your requirements:
    acme-missiles not found
    - yackage requires -any

Checking against build plan lts-3.1

* Build plan did not match your requirements:
    acme-missiles not found
    - yackage requires -any

Checking against build plan nightly-2015-08-26

* Build plan did not match your requirements:
    acme-missiles not found
    - yackage requires -any

Checking against build plan lts-2.22

* Build plan did not match your requirements:
    acme-missiles not found
    - yackage requires -any

    warp version found
    - yackage requires >=3.1

There was no snapshot found that matched the package bounds in your .cabal files.
Please choose one of the following commands to get started.

    stack init --resolver lts-3.2
    stack init --resolver lts-3.1
    stack init --resolver nightly-2015-08-26
    stack init --resolver lts-2.22

You'll then need to add some extra-deps. See the
[stack.yaml documentation](yaml_configuration.html#extra-deps).

You can also try falling back to a dependency solver with:

    stack init --solver

stack has tested four different snapshots, and in every case discovered that acme-missiles is not available. Also, when testing lts-2.22, it found that the warp version provided was too old for yackage. So, what do we do?

The recommended approach is: pick a resolver, and fix the problem. Again, following the advice mentioned above, default to LTS if you don’t have a preference. In this case, the newest LTS listed is lts-3.2. Let’s pick that. stack has told us the correct command to do this. We’ll just remove our old stack.yaml first and then run it:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ rm stack.yaml
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack init --resolver lts-3.2
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/yackage.cabal

Checking against build plan lts-3.2

* Build plan did not match your requirements:
    acme-missiles not found
    - yackage requires -any

Selected resolver: lts-3.2
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml

As you may guess, stack build will now fail due to the missing acme-missiles. Toward the end of the error message, it says the familiar:

Recommended action: try adding the following to your extra-deps in /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
- acme-missiles-0.3

If you’re following along at home, try making the necessary stack.yaml modification to get things building.

Alternative solution: dependency solving

There’s another solution to consider for missing dependencies. At the end of the previous error message, it said:

You may also want to try the 'stack solver' command

This approach uses a full-blown dependency solver to look at all upstream package versions available and compare them to your snapshot selection and version ranges in your .cabal file. In order to use this feature, you’ll need the cabal executable available. Let’s build that with:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack build cabal-install
random-1.1: download
mtl-2.2.1: download
network- download
old-locale- download
random-1.1: configure
random-1.1: build
# ...
cabal-install- download
cabal-install- configure
cabal-install- build
cabal-install- install
Completed all 10 actions.

Now we can use stack solver:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack solver
This command is not guaranteed to give you a perfect build plan
It's possible that even with the changes generated below, you will still need to do some manual tweaking
Asking cabal to calculate a build plan, please wait
- acme-missiles-0.3

And if we’re exceptionally lazy, we can ask stack to modify our stack.yaml file for us:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack solver --modify-stack-yaml
This command is not guaranteed to give you a perfect build plan
It's possible that even with the changes generated below, you will still need to do some manual tweaking
Asking cabal to calculate a build plan, please wait
- acme-missiles-0.3
Updated /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml

With that change, stack build will now run.

NOTE: You should probably back up your stack.yaml before doing this, such as committing to Git/Mercurial/Darcs.

There’s one final approach to mention: skipping the snapshot entirely and just using dependency solving. You can do this with the --solver flag to init. This is not a commonly used workflow with stack, as you end up with a large number of extra-deps and no guarantee that the packages will compile together. For those interested, however, the option is available. You need to make sure you have both the ghc and cabal commands on your PATH. An easy way to do this is to use the stack exec command:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/yackage-0.8.0$ stack exec -- stack init --solver --force
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/yackage.cabal

Asking cabal to calculate a build plan, please wait
Selected resolver: ghc-7.10
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/yackage-0.8.0/stack.yaml

Different databases

Time to take a short break from hands-on examples and discuss a little architecture. stack has the concept of multiple databases. A database consists of a GHC package database (which contains the compiled version of a library), executables, and a few other things as well. To give you an idea:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ ls .stack-work/install/x86_64-linux/lts-3.2/7.10.2/
bin  doc  flag-cache  lib  pkgdb

Databases in stack are layered. For example, the database listing we just gave is called a local database. That is layered on top of a snapshot database, which contains the libraries and executables specified in the snapshot itself. Finally, GHC itself ships with a number of libraries and executables, which forms the global database. To get a quick idea of this, we can look at the output of the stack exec ghc-pkg list command in our helloworld project:


Notice that acme-missiles ends up in the local database. Anything which is not installed from a snapshot ends up in the local database. This includes: your own code, extra-deps, and in some cases even snapshot packages, if you modify them in some way. The reason we have this structure is that:

  • it lets multiple projects reuse the same binary builds of many snapshot packages,
  • but doesn’t allow different projects to “contaminate” each other by putting non-standard content into the shared snapshot database

Typically, the process by which a snapshot package is marked as modified is referred to as “promoting to an extra-dep,” meaning we treat it just like a package in the extra-deps section. This happens for a variety of reasons, including:

  • changing the version of the snapshot package
  • changing build flags
  • one of the packages that the package depends on has been promoted to an extra-dep

As you probably guessed, there are multiple snapshot databases available, e.g.:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ ls ~/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/
lts-2.22  lts-3.1  lts-3.2  nightly-2015-08-26

These databases don’t get layered on top of each other; they are each used separately.

In reality, you’ll rarely — if ever — interact directly with these databases, but it’s good to have a basic understanding of how they work so you can understand why rebuilding may occur at different points.

The build synonyms

Let’s look at a subset of the stack --help output:

build    Build the package(s) in this directory/configuration
install  Shortcut for 'build --copy-bins'
test     Shortcut for 'build --test'
bench    Shortcut for 'build --bench'
haddock  Shortcut for 'build --haddock'

Note that four of these commands are just synonyms for the build command. They are provided for convenience for common cases (e.g., stack test instead of stack build --test) and so that commonly expected commands just work.

What’s so special about these commands being synonyms? It allows us to make much more composable command lines. For example, we can have a command that builds executables, generates Haddock documentation (Haskell API-level docs), and builds and runs your test suites, with:

stack build --haddock --test

You can even get more inventive as you learn about other flags. For example, take the following:

stack build --pedantic --haddock --test --exec "echo Yay, it succeeded" --file-watch

This will:

  • turn on all warnings and errors
  • build your library and executables
  • generate Haddocks
  • build and run your test suite
  • run the command echo Yay, it succeeded when that completes
  • after building, watch for changes in the files used to build the project, and kick off a new build when done

install and copy-bins

It’s worth calling out the behavior of the install command and --copy-bins option, since this has confused a number of users (especially when compared to behavior of other tools like cabal-install). The install command does precisely one thing in addition to the build command: it copies any generated executables to the local bin path. You may recognize the default value for that path:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack path --local-bin-path

That’s why the download page recommends adding that directory to your PATH environment variable. This feature is convenient, because now you can simply run executable-name in your shell instead of having to run stack exec executable-name from inside your project directory.

Since it’s such a point of confusion, let me list a number of things stack does not do specially for the install command:

  • stack will always build any necessary dependencies for your code. The install command is not necessary to trigger this behavior. If you just want to build a project, run stack build.
  • stack will not track which files it’s copied to your local bin path nor provide a way to automatically delete them. There are many great tools out there for managing installation of binaries, and stack does not attempt to replace those.
  • stack will not necessarily be creating a relocatable executable. If your executables hard-codes paths, copying the executable will not change those hard-coded paths.
    • At the time of writing, there’s no way to change those kinds of paths with stack, but see issue #848 about –prefix for future plans.

That’s really all there is to the install command: for the simplicity of what it does, it occupies a much larger mental space than is warranted.

Targets, locals, and extra-deps

We haven’t discussed this too much yet, but, in addition to having a number of synonyms and taking a number of options on the command line, the build command also takes many arguments. These are parsed in different ways, and can be used to achieve a high level of flexibility in telling stack exactly what you want to build.

We’re not going to cover the full generality of these arguments here; instead, there’s documentation covering the full build command syntax. Here, we’ll just point out a few different types of arguments:

  • You can specify a package name, e.g. stack build vector.
    • This will attempt to build the vector package, whether it’s a local package, in your extra-deps, in your snapshot, or just available upstream. If it’s just available upstream but not included in your locals, extra-deps, or snapshot, the newest version is automatically promoted to an extra-dep.
  • You can also give a package identifier, which is a package name plus version, e.g. stack build yesod-bin-1.4.14.
    • This is almost identical to specifying a package name, except it will (1) choose the given version instead of latest, and (2) error out if the given version conflicts with the version of a local package.
  • The most flexibility comes from specifying individual components, e.g. stack build helloworld:test:helloworld-test says “build the test suite component named helloworld-test from the helloworld package.”
    • In addition to this long form, you can also shorten it by skipping what type of component it is, e.g. stack build helloworld:helloworld-test, or even skip the package name entirely, e.g. stack build :helloworld-test.
  • Finally, you can specify individual directories to build to trigger building of any local packages included in those directories or subdirectories.

When you give no specific arguments on the command line (e.g., stack build), it’s the same as specifying the names of all of your local packages. If you just want to build the package for the directory you’re currently in, you can use stack build ..

Components, –test, and –bench

Here’s one final important yet subtle point. Consider our helloworld package: it has a library component, an executable helloworld-exe, and a test suite helloworld-test. When you run stack build helloworld, how does it know which ones to build? By default, it will build the library (if any) and all of the executables but ignore the test suites and benchmarks.

This is where the --test and --bench flags come into play. If you use them, those components will also be included. So stack build --test helloworld will end up including the helloworld-test component as well.

You can bypass this implicit adding of components by being much more explicit, and stating the components directly. For example, the following will not build the helloworld-exe executable:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack clean
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/helloworld$ stack build :helloworld-test
helloworld- configure (test)
Configuring helloworld-
helloworld- build (test)
Preprocessing library helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Lib              ( src/Lib.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
In-place registering helloworld-
Preprocessing test suite 'helloworld-test' for helloworld-
[1 of 1] Compiling Main             ( test/Spec.hs, .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- )
Linking .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal- ...
helloworld- test (suite: helloworld-test)
Test suite not yet implemented

We first cleaned our project to clear old results so we know exactly what stack is trying to do. Notice that it builds the helloworld-test test suite, and the helloworld library (since it’s used by the test suite), but it does not build the helloworld-exe executable.

And now the final point: the last line shows that our command also runs the test suite it just built. This may surprise some people who would expect tests to only be run when using stack test, but this design decision is what allows the stack build command to be as composable as it is (as described previously). The same rule applies to benchmarks. To spell it out completely:

  • The –test and –bench flags simply state which components of a package should be built, if no explicit set of components is given
  • The default behavior for any test suite or benchmark component which has been built is to also run it

You can use the --no-run-tests and --no-run-benchmarks (from stack- and on) flags to disable running of these components. You can also use --no-rerun-tests to prevent running a test suite which has already passed and has not changed.

NOTE: stack doesn’t build or run test suites and benchmarks for non-local packages. This is done so that running a command like stack test doesn’t need to run 200 test suites!

Multi-package projects

Until now, everything we’ve done with stack has used a single-package project. However, stack’s power truly shines when you’re working on multi-package projects. All the functionality you’d expect to work just does: dependencies between packages are detected and respected, dependencies of all packages are just as one cohesive whole, and if anything fails to build, the build commands exits appropriately.

Let’s demonstrate this with the wai-app-static and yackage packages:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ mkdir multi
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ cd multi/
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/multi$ stack unpack wai-app-static-3.1.1 yackage-0.8.0
wai-app-static-3.1.1: download
Unpacked wai-app-static-3.1.1 to /home/michael/multi/wai-app-static-3.1.1/
Unpacked yackage-0.8.0 to /home/michael/multi/yackage-0.8.0/
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/multi$ stack init
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/multi/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/multi/yackage-0.8.0/yackage.cabal
- /home/michael/multi/wai-app-static-3.1.1/wai-app-static.cabal

Checking against build plan lts-3.2
Selected resolver: lts-3.2
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/multi/stack.yaml
michael@d30748af6d3d:~/multi$ stack build --haddock --test
# Goes off to build a whole bunch of packages

If you look at the stack.yaml, you’ll see exactly what you’d expect:

    upload: true
    print: false
- yackage-0.8.0/
- wai-app-static-3.1.1/
extra-deps: []
resolver: lts-3.2

Notice that multiple directories are listed in the packages key.

In addition to local directories, you can also refer to packages available in a Git repository or in a tarball over HTTP/HTTPS. This can be useful for using a modified version of a dependency that hasn’t yet been released upstream. This is a slightly more advanced usage that we won’t go into detail with here, but it’s covered in the stack.yaml documentation.

Flags and GHC options

There are two common ways to alter how a package will install: with Cabal flags and with GHC options.

Cabal flag management

In the stack.yaml file above, you can see that stack init has detected that — for the yackage package — the upload flag can be set to true, and for wai-app-static, the print flag to false (it’s chosen those values because they’re the default flag values, and their dependencies are compatible with the snapshot we’re using.) To change a flag setting, we can use the command line --flag option:

stack build --flag yackage:-upload

This means: when compiling the yackage package, turn off the upload flag (thus the -). Unlike other tools, stack is explicit about which package’s flag you want to change. It does this for two reasons:

  1. There’s no global meaning for Cabal flags, and therefore two packages can use the same flag name for completely different things.
  2. By following this approach, we can avoid unnecessarily recompiling snapshot packages that happen to use a flag that we’re using.

You can also change flag values on the command line for extra-dep and snapshot packages. If you do this, that package will automatically be promoted to an extra-dep, since the build plan is different than what the plan snapshot definition would entail.

GHC options

GHC options follow a similar logic as in managing Cabal flags, with a few nuances to adjust for common use cases. Let’s consider:

stack build --ghc-options="-Wall -Werror"

This will set the -Wall -Werror options for all local targets. Note that this will not affect extra-dep and snapshot packages at all. This design provides us with reproducible and fast builds.

(By the way: the above GHC options have a special convenience flag: --pedantic.)

There’s one extra nuance about command line GHC options: Since they only apply to local targets, if you change your local targets, they will no longer apply to other packages. Let’s play around with an example from the wai repository, which includes the wai and warp packages, the latter depending on the former. If we run:

stack build --ghc-options=-O0 wai

It will build all of the dependencies of wai, and then build wai with all optimizations disabled. Now let’s add in warp as well:

stack build --ghc-options=-O0 wai warp

This builds the additional dependencies for warp, and then builds warp with optimizations disabled. Importantly: it does not rebuild wai, since wai’s configuration has not been altered. Now the surprising case:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/wai$ stack build --ghc-options=-O0 warp
wai- unregistering (flags changed from ["--ghc-options","-O0"] to [])
warp-3.1.3-a91c7c3108f63376877cb3cd5dbe8a7a: unregistering (missing dependencies: wai)
wai- configure

You may expect this to be a no-op: neither wai nor warp has changed. However, stack will instead recompile wai with optimizations enabled again, and then rebuild warp (with optimizations disabled) against this newly built wai. The reason: reproducible builds. If we’d never built wai or warp before, trying to build warp would necessitate building all of its dependencies, and it would do so with default GHC options (optimizations enabled). This dependency would include wai. So when we run:

stack build --ghc-options=-O0 warp

We want its behavior to be unaffected by any previous build steps we took. While this specific corner case does catch people by surprise, the overall goal of reproducible builds is- in the stack maintainers’ views- worth the confusion.

Final point: if you have GHC options that you’ll be regularly passing to your packages, you can add them to your stack.yaml file (starting with stack- See the documentation section on ghc-options for more information.


NOTE: That’s it, the heavy content of this guide is done! Everything from here on out is simple explanations of commands. Congratulations!

Generally, you don’t need to worry about where stack stores various files. But some people like to know this stuff. That’s when the stack path command is useful.

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/wai$ stack path
global-stack-root: /home/michael/.stack
project-root: /home/michael/wai
config-location: /home/michael/wai/stack.yaml
bin-path: /home/michael/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4/bin:/home/michael/.stack/programs/x86_64-linux/ghc-7.8.4/bin:/home/michael/.stack/programs/x86_64-linux/ghc-7.10.2/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin
ghc-paths: /home/michael/.stack/programs/x86_64-linux
local-bin-path: /home/michael/.local/bin
snapshot-pkg-db: /home/michael/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4/pkgdb
local-pkg-db: /home/michael/wai/.stack-work/install/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4/pkgdb
snapshot-install-root: /home/michael/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4
local-install-root: /home/michael/wai/.stack-work/install/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4
snapshot-doc-root: /home/michael/.stack/snapshots/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4/doc
local-doc-root: /home/michael/wai/.stack-work/install/x86_64-linux/lts-2.17/7.8.4/doc
dist-dir: .stack-work/dist/x86_64-linux/Cabal-

In addition, stack path accepts command line arguments to state which of these keys you’re interested in, which can be convenient for scripting. As a simple example, let’s find out which versions of GHC are installed locally:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~/wai$ ls $(stack path --ghc-paths)/*.installed

(Yes, that command requires a *nix shell, and likely won’t run on Windows.)

While we’re talking about paths, to wipe our stack install completely, here’s what needs to be removed:

  1. The stack executable itself
  2. The stack root, e.g. $HOME/.stack on non-Windows systems.
    • See stack path --global-stack-root
    • On Windows, you will also need to delete stack path --ghc-paths
  3. Any local .stack-work directories inside a project


We’ve already used stack exec used multiple times in this guide. As you’ve likely already guessed, it allows you to run executables, but with a slightly modified environment. In particular: stack exec looks for executables on stack’s bin paths, and sets a few additional environment variables (like GHC_PACKAGE_PATH, which tells GHC which package databases to use).

If you want to see exactly what the modified environment looks like, try:

stack exec env

The only issue is how to distinguish flags to be passed to stack versus those for the underlying program. Thanks to the optparse-applicative library, stack follows the Unix convention of -- to separate these, e.g.:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack exec --package stm -- echo I installed the stm package via --package stm
Run from outside a project, using implicit global project config
Using latest snapshot resolver: lts-3.2
Writing global (non-project-specific) config file to: /home/michael/.stack/global/stack.yaml
Note: You can change the snapshot via the resolver field there.
I installed the stm package via --package stm

Flags worth mentioning:

  • --package foo can be used to force a package to be installed before running the given command.
  • --no-ghc-package-path can be used to stop the GHC_PACKAGE_PATH environment variable from being set. Some tools — notably cabal-install — do not behave well with that variable set.

ghci (the repl)

GHCi is the interactive GHC environment, a.k.a. the REPL. You could access it with:

stack exec ghci

But that won’t load up locally written modules for access. For that, use the stack ghci command. To then load modules from your project, use the :m command (for “module”) followed by the module name.


You’ll sometimes want to just compile (or run) a single Haskell source file, instead of creating an entire Cabal package for it. You can use stack exec ghc or stack exec runghc for that. As simple helpers, we also provide the stack ghc and stack runghc commands, for these common cases.

script interpreter

stack also offers a very useful feature for running files: a script interpreter. For too long have Haskellers felt shackled to bash or Python because it’s just too hard to create reusable source-only Haskell scripts. stack attempts to solve that.

You can use stack <file name> to execute a Haskell source file or specify stack as the interpreter using a shebang line on a Unix like operating systems. Additional stack options can be specified using a special Haskell comment in the source file to specify dependencies and automatically install them before running the file.

An example will be easiest to understand:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ cat turtle.hs
#!/usr/bin/env stack
-- stack --resolver lts-3.2 --install-ghc runghc --package turtle
{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings #-}
import Turtle
main = echo "Hello World!"
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ chmod +x turtle.hs
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ ./turtle.hs
Run from outside a project, using implicit global project config
Using resolver: lts-3.2 specified on command line
hashable- configure
# installs some more dependencies
Completed all 22 actions.
Hello World!
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ ./turtle.hs
Run from outside a project, using implicit global project config
Using resolver: lts-3.2 specified on command line
Hello World!

The first run can take a while (as it has to download GHC if necessary and build dependencies), but subsequent runs are able to reuse everything already built, and are therefore quite fast.

The first line in the source file is the usual “shebang” to use stack as a script interpreter. The second line, is a Haskell comment providing additional options to stack (due to the common limitation of the “shebang” line only being allowed a single argument). In this case, the options tell stack to use the lts-3.2 resolver, automatically install GHC if it is not already installed, and ensure the turtle package is available.

If you’re on Windows: you can run stack turtle.hs instead of ./turtle.hs. The shebang line is not required in that case.

Specifying interpreter options

The stack interpreter options comment must specify a single valid stack command line, starting with stack as the command followed by the stack options to use for executing this file. The comment must always be on the line immediately following the shebang line when the shebang line is present otherwise it must be the first line in the file. The comment must always start in the first column of the line.

When many options are needed a block style comment may be more convenient to split the command on multiple lines for better readability. Here is an example of a multi line block comment:

  #!/usr/bin/env stack
  {- stack
    --resolver lts-3.2
    --package turtle

Finding project configs, and the implicit global

Whenever you run something with stack, it needs a stack.yaml project file. The algorithm stack uses to find this is:

  1. Check for a --stack-yaml option on the command line
  2. Check for a STACK_YAML environment variable
  3. Check the current directory and all ancestor directories for a stack.yaml

The first two provide a convenient method for using an alternate configuration. For example: stack build --stack-yaml stack-7.8.yaml can be used by your CI system to check your code against GHC 7.8. Setting the STACK_YAML environment variable can be convenient if you’re going to be running commands like stack ghc in other directories, but you want to use the configuration you defined in a specific project.

If stack does not find a stack.yaml in any of the three specified locations, the implicit global logic kicks in. You’ve probably noticed that phrase a few times in the output from commands above. Implicit global is essentially a hack to allow stack to be useful in a non-project setting. When no implicit global config file exists, stack creates one for you with the latest LTS snapshot as the resolver. This allows you to do things like:

  • compile individual files easily with stack ghc
  • build executables without starting a project, e.g. stack install pandoc

Keep in mind that there’s nothing magical about this implicit global configuration. It has no impact on projects at all. Every package you install with it is put into isolated databases just like everywhere else. The only magic is that it’s the catch-all project whenever you’re running stack somewhere else.

stack.yaml vs .cabal files

Now that we’ve covered a lot of stack use cases, this quick summary of stack.yaml vs .cabal files will hopefully make sense and be a good reminder for future uses of stack:

  • A project can have multiple packages.
  • Each project has a stack.yaml.
  • Each package has a .cabal file.
  • The .cabal file specifies which packages are dependencies.
  • The stack.yaml file specifies which packages are available to be used.
  • .cabal specifies the components, modules, and build flags provided by a package
  • stack.yaml can override the flag settings for individual packages
  • stack.yaml specifies which packages to include

Comparison to other tools

stack is not the only tool around for building Haskell code. stack came into existence due to limitations with some of the existing tools. If you’re unaffected by those limitations and are happily building Haskell code, you may not need stack. If you’re suffering from some of the common problems in other tools, give stack a try instead.

If you’re a new user who has no experience with other tools, we recommend going with stack. The defaults match modern best practices in Haskell development, and there are less corner cases you need to be aware of. You can develop Haskell code with other tools, but you probably want to spend your time writing code, not convincing a tool to do what you want.

Before jumping into the differences, let me clarify an important similarity:

Same package format. stack, cabal-install, and presumably all other tools share the same underlying Cabal package format, consisting of a .cabal file, modules, etc. This is a Good Thing: we can share the same set of upstream libraries, and collaboratively work on the same project with stack, cabal-install, and NixOS. In that sense, we’re sharing the same ecosystem.

Now the differences:

  • Curation vs dependency solving as a default.
    • stack defaults to using curation (Stackage snapshots, LTS Haskell, Nightly, etc) as a default instead of defaulting to dependency solving, as cabal-install does. This is just a default: as described above, stack can use dependency solving if desired, and cabal-install can use curation. However, most users will stick to the defaults. The stack team firmly believes that the majority of users want to simply ignore dependency resolution nightmares and get a valid build plan from day 1, which is why we’ve made this selection of default behavior.
  • Reproducible.
    • stack goes to great lengths to ensure that stack build today does the same thing tomorrow. cabal-install does not: build plans can be affected by the presence of preinstalled packages, and running cabal update can cause a previously successful build to fail. With stack, changing the build plan is always an explicit decision.
  • Automatically building dependencies.
    • In cabal-install, you need to use cabal install to trigger dependency building. This is somewhat necessary due to the previous point, since building dependencies can, in some cases, break existing installed packages. So for example, in stack, stack test does the same job as cabal install --run-tests, though the latter additionally performs an installation that you may not want. The closer command equivalent is cabal install --enable-tests --only-dependencies && cabal configure --enable-tests && cabal build && cabal test (newer versions of cabal-install may make this command shorter).
  • Isolated by default.
    • This has been a pain point for new stack users. In cabal, the default behavior is a non-isolated build where working on two projects can cause the user package database to become corrupted. The cabal solution to this is sandboxes. stack, however, provides this behavior by default via its databases. In other words: when you use stack, there’s no need for sandboxes, everything is (essentially) sandboxed by default.

Other tools for comparison (including active and historical)

  • cabal-dev (deprecated in favor of cabal-install)
  • cabal-meta inspired a lot of the multi-package functionality of stack. If you’re still using cabal-install, cabal-meta is relevant. For stack work, the feature set is fully subsumed by stack.
  • cabal-src is mostly irrelevant in the presence of both stack and cabal sandboxes, both of which make it easier to add additional package sources easily. The mega-sdist executable that ships with cabal-src is, however, still relevant. Its functionality may some day be folded into stack
  • stackage-cli was an initial attempt to make cabal-install work more easily with curated snapshots, but due to a slight impedance mismatch between cabal.config constraints and snapshots, it did not work as well as hoped. It is deprecated in favor of stack.

More resources

There are lots of resources available for learning more about stack:

Fun features

This is just a quick collection of fun and useful feature stack supports.


We started off using the new command to create a project. stack provides multiple templates to start a new project from:

michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack templates
michael@d30748af6d3d:~$ stack new my-yesod-project yesod-simple
Downloading template "yesod-simple" to create project "my-yesod-project" in my-yesod-project/ ...
Using the following authorship configuration:
author-name: Example Author Name
Copy these to /home/michael/.stack/config.yaml and edit to use different values.
Writing default config file to: /home/michael/my-yesod-project/stack.yaml
Basing on cabal files:
- /home/michael/my-yesod-project/my-yesod-project.cabal

Checking against build plan lts-3.2
Selected resolver: lts-3.2
Wrote project config to: /home/michael/my-yesod-project/stack.yaml

To add more templates, see the stack-templates repository.


stack has a work-in-progress suite of editor integrations, to do things like getting type information in Emacs. For more information, see stack-ide.

Visualizing dependencies

If you’d like to get some insight into the dependency tree of your packages, you can use the stack dot command and Graphviz. More information is available in the Dependency visualization documentation.

Travis with caching

Many people use Travis CI to test out a project for every Git push. We have a document devoted to Travis. However, for most people, the following example will be sufficient to get started:

# Use new container infrastructure to enable caching
sudo: false

# Choose a lightweight base image; we provide our own build tools.
language: c

# GHC depends on GMP. You can add other dependencies here as well.
    - libgmp-dev

# The different configurations we want to test. You could also do things like
# change flags or use --stack-yaml to point to a different file.
- ARGS=""
- ARGS="--resolver lts-2"
- ARGS="--resolver lts-3"
- ARGS="--resolver lts"
- ARGS="--resolver nightly"

# Download and unpack the stack executable
- mkdir -p ~/.local/bin
- export PATH=$HOME/.local/bin:$PATH
- travis_retry curl -L | tar xz --wildcards --strip-components=1 -C ~/.local/bin '*/stack'

# This line does all of the work: installs GHC if necessary, build the library,
# executables, and test suites, and runs the test suites. --no-terminal works
# around some quirks in Travis's terminal implementation.
script: stack $ARGS --no-terminal --install-ghc test --haddock

# Caching so the next build will be fast too.
  - $HOME/.stack

Not only will this build and test your project against multiple GHC versions and snapshots, but it will cache your snapshot built packages, meaning that subsequent builds will be much faster.

Once Travis whitelists the stack .deb files, we’ll be able to simply include stack in the addons section, and automatically use the newest version of stack, avoiding that complicated before_install section This is being tracked in the apt-source-whitelist and apt-package-whitelist issue trackers.

In case you’re wondering: we need --no-terminal because stack does some fancy sticky display on smart terminals to give nicer status and progress messages, and the terminal detection is broken on Travis.

Shell auto-completion

Love tab-completion of commands? You’re not alone. If you’re on bash, just run the following (or add it to .bashrc):

eval "$(stack --bash-completion-script stack)"

For more information and other shells, see the Shell auto-completion wiki page


stack provides two built-in Docker integrations. Firstly, you can build your code inside a Docker image, which means:

  • even more reproducibility to your builds, since you and the rest of your team will always have the same system libraries
  • the Docker images ship with entire precompiled snapshots. That means you have a large initial download, but much faster builds

For more information, see the Docker-integration documentation.

stack can also generate Docker images for you containing your built executables. This feature is great for automating deployments from CI. This feature is not yet well-documented, but the basics are to add a section like the following to stack.yaml:

  # YOU NEED A `container` YAML SECTION FOR `stack image container`
    base: "fpco/ubuntu-with-libgmp:14.04"
    name: "fpco/hello-world"
      man/: /usr/local/share/man/
      - stack

and then run stack image container and then docker images to list the images.


stack provides an integration with Nix, providing you with the same two benefits as the first Docker integration discussed above:

  • more reproducible builds, since fixed versions of any system libraries and commands required to build the project are automatically built using Nix and managed locally per-project. These system packages never conflict with any existing versions of these libraries on your system. That they are managed locally to the project means that you don’t need to alter your system in any way to build any odd project pulled from the Internet.
  • implicit sharing of system packages between projects, so you don’t have more copies on-disk than you need to.

Both Docker and Nix are methods to isolate builds and thereby make them more reproducible. They just differ in the means of achieving this isolation. Nix provides slightly weaker isolation guarantees than Docker, but is more lightweight and more portable (Linux and OS X mainly, but also Windows). For more on Nix, its command-line interface and its package description language, read the Nix manual. But keep in mind that the point of stack’s support is to obviate the need to write any Nix code in the common case or even to learn how to use the Nix tools (they’re called under the hood).

For more information, see the Nix-integration documentation.

Power user commands

The following commands are a little more powerful, and won’t be needed by all users. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • stack update will download the most recent set of packages from your package indices (e.g. Hackage). Generally, stack runs this for you automatically when necessary, but it can be useful to do this manually sometimes (e.g., before running stack solver, to guarantee you have the most recent upstream packages available).
  • stack unpack is a command we’ve already used quite a bit for examples, but most users won’t use it regularly. It does what you’d expect: downloads a tarball and unpacks it.
  • stack sdist generates an uploading tarball containing your package code
  • stack upload uploads an sdist to Hackage. In the future, it will also perform automatic GPG signing of your packages for additional security, when configured.
    • --sign provides a way to GPG sign your package & submit the result to for storage in the sig-archive git repo. (Signatures will be used later to verify package integrity.)
  • stack upgrade will build a new version of stack from source.
    • --git is a convenient way to get the most recent version from master for those testing and living on the bleeding edge.
  • stack setup --upgrade-cabal can install a newer version of the Cabal library, used for performing actual builds. You shouldn’t generally do this, since new Cabal versions may introduce incompatibilities with package sets, but it can be useful if you’re trying to test a specific bugfix.
  • stack list-dependencies lists all of the packages and versions used for a project
  • stack sig subcommand can help you with GPG signing & verification
    • sign will sign an sdist tarball and submit the signature to for storage in the sig-archive git repo. (Signatures will be used later to verify package integrity.)


The following command installs with profiling enabled:

stack install --enable-executable-profiling --enable-library-profiling --ghc-options="-rtsopts"

This command will allow you to use various tools to profile the time, allocation, heap, and more of a program. The -prof GHC option is unnecessary and will result in a warning. Additional compilation options can be added to --ghc-options if needed. To see a general overview of the time and allocation of a program called main compiled with the above command, you can run

./main +RTS -p

to generate a file containing the requested profiling information. For more commands and uses, see the official GHC chapter on profiling, the Haskell wiki, and the chapter on profiling in Real World Haskell.