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Cabal + Package = Cabbage

The cabbage script bridges the gap between Haskell's cabal tooling and nix.


In a directory with a .cabal file, run cabbage to build Nix expressions for every dependency pinned to a specific set of versions identified by the cabal solver. Next, run nix-shell --command 'sh $setup' to ensure all dependencies are available in the Nix store and are linked into the cabal sandbox in the current development directory (this sandbox will be created for you if one doesn't exist). From this point on, you can cabal configure, etc. as you normally would with cabal sandbox development.

To compile a library from hackage and cache it in the Nix store, run cabbage pandoc (to install, e.g., the pandoc package). This does not link the named package in your Nix environment, but makes the package available for re-use in subsequent builds. If the named package includes executables that you do want to link into your environment, follow the instructions in the last line of output from the cabbage command (i.e. cabbage pandoc).

To set flags for any package involved in a build, create a file cabbage.config in your project's root directory. The file format looks like this,

  PackageName: foo -bar

This will set flag foo to True and flag bar to False for the package PackageName.

NOTE: The cabbage tool will not overwrite a shell.nix if one exists, so, if you want cabbage to generate a fresh default shell.nix, delete the old one first.

See the overview section of the source code for more information.


The Nix packages collection, nixpkgs, is geared towards supporting NixOS. There is, therefore, an emphasis on maintaining a single set of chosen versions of packages that NixOS users can expect will work together. In the Haskell development world, on the other hand, the cabal build system goes to great lengths to support the specification of dependencies with specific versions or version ranges.

A limitation of the support for multiple versions of Haskell packages has been GHC's use of package databases populated by packages identified by names and version numbers. An example problem is that a record of which versions of its dependencies a package was built against is not reflected in the package's name or version number. This leads to situations where upgrading packages for one project breaks packages used for an entirely separate project. Unacceptable!

More recently, cabal has gained support for sandboxes that permit the user to maintain distinct package databases for different projects. These work very well, but have the drawback that they end up requiring the user to recompile common packages again and again because each package must be freshly compiled for each sandbox it is to be used in, no matter if the results of those compilations are all identical.

Cabbage uses the Nix tooling to identify packages not only by their name, version, and source code, but also by the versions of dependencies they are built against. All of the distinct ways of producing a compiled library are kept in the Nix store, but truly redundant recompilations are avoided.

The Name

I wish I could take credit for the name cabbage, but it is entirely due to Shae Erisson (shapr).


A tool for caching cabal builds in a Nix store



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