Plugin scaffolding for nixpkgs
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This repository provides an overlay which adds support for running Haskell plugins via nix.

There are three new elements to the nixpkgs API.

  1. A new function haskell.lib.addPlugin which adds a plugin to a package.
  2. A new attribute haskell.plugins which is parameterised by a Haskell package set and contains a set of plugins.
  3. A new with* function, haskellPackages.withPlugin which takes a function expecting two arguments, the first being a set of plugins for that package set and the second being a list of packages for that package set. The result of the function should be a Haskell package.


See example.nix:

  plugin-overlay-git = builtins.fetchGit
   { url =;}  ;
  plugin-overlay = import "${plugin-overlay-git}/overlay.nix";
  nixpkgs = import <nixpkgs> { overlays = [plugin-overlay]; };

  hl = nixpkgs.haskell.lib;
  hp = nixpkgs.haskellPackages;
  (hp.withPlugin(plugs: ps: hl.addPlugin plugs.dump-core ps.either)).DumpCore

The plugin set

The haskell.plugins attribute is a set of plugins parameterised by a normal Haskell package set. It is designed in this manner so the same plugin definitions can be used with different compilers.

dump-core = { ... };
graphmod-plugin = { ... };

Each attribute is a different plugin which we might want to use with our program.

A plugin

A plugin is a Haskell package which provides the plugin with four additional attributes which describe how to run it. For example, here is the definition for the dump-core plugin.

dump-core = { pluginPackage = hp.dump-core ;
              pluginName = "DumpCore";
              pluginOpts = (out-path: [out-path]);
              pluginDepends = [];
              finalPhase = _: ""; } ;

pluginPackage : The Haskell package which provides the plugin.

pluginName : The module name where the plugin is defined.

pluginOpts : Additional options to pass to the plugin. The path where it places its output is passed as an argument.

pluginDepends : Any additional system dependencies the plugin needs for the finalPhase.

finalPhase : An action to run in the postBuild phase, after the plugin has run. The output directory is passed as an argument.

In most cases, pluginDepends and finalPhase can be omitted (they then take these default values) but they are useful for when a plugin emits information as it compiles each module which is then summarised at the end.

An example of this architecture is the graphmod-plugin. As each module is compiled, the import information is serialised. Then, at the end we read all the serialised files and create a dot graph of the module import structure. Here is how we specify the final phase of the plugin:

graphmod = { pluginPackage = hp.graphmod-plugin;
             pluginName = "GraphMod";
             pluginOpts = (out-path: ["${out-path}/output"]);
             pluginDepends = [ nixpkgs.graphviz ];
             finalPhase = out-path: ''
                graphmod-plugin --indir ${out-path}/output > ${out-path}/
                cat ${out-path}/ | tred | dot -Tpdf > ${out-path}/modules.pdf
              ''; } ;

The first three fields are standard, however we now populate the final two arguments as well. We firstly add a dependency on graphviz which we will use to render the module graph and then specify the invocations needed to firstly summarise and then render the information.

In this architecture, the plugin package provides a library interface which exposes the plugin and an executable which is invoked to collect the information output by the plugin. This is what the call to graphmod-plugin achieves.


We also provide the withPlugin attribute which supplies both the plugins and packages already applied to a specific package set. The reason for this is that a plugin and a package must be both compiled by the same compiler. Thus, unrestricted usage of addPlugin can lead to confusing errors if the plugin and package are compiled with different compilers. The withPlugin attribute ensures that the versions align correctly.

core-either =
    (plugins: packages: addPlugin plugins.dump-core packages.either)

How can I use it?

This infrastructure is provided as an overlay. Install the overlay as you would normally, one suggested method can be see in the example.nix file.

  plugin-overlay-git = builtins.fetchGit
    { url =;}  ;
  plugin-overlay = import "${plugin-overlay-git}/overlay.nix";
  nixpkgs = import <nixpkgs> { overlays = [plugin-overlay]; };
in ...

Using NUR

The overlay is also distributed using NUR. Here is an example of how to use it:

overlay = (import <nixpkgs> {}).nur.repos.mpickering.overlays.haskell-plugins;
nixpkgs = import <nixpkgs> { overlays = [ overlay ]; };