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                      Syntactic Sugar for Monads
                             November 2008

* Contents

COPYING                    -  License under which the present version
                              is released (a copy of one of the 2
LGPL                       -  LGPL compatible of Objective Caml
MIT                        -  Alternate license (upon request)
ChangeLog                  -  Recent changes                    -  Configuration information for findlib
Makefile                   -  GNU make build rules for the extension
                              and the test frame
README                     -  This file                      -  Interface of delimited continuation
cc.mli                     -  Implementation of delimited continuation
                              monad               -  Implementation of exception monad
exception.mli              -  Interface of exception monad                      -  Implementation of I/O-monad
io.mli                     -  Interface of I/O-monad              -  Example of input/output with the
                              I/O-monad                -  Camlp4 syntax extension for Objective
                              Caml versions 3.10 and later    -  Camlp4 syntax extension for Objective
                              Caml version 3.09
pa_monad-custom-tuareg.el  -  Emacs customization for pa_monad     -  Nondeterminism monad (backtracking)
                              coded with ""                 -  Test of delimited continuation monad          -  Test of the exception monad              -  Simple test frame for ""                -  Test of recursive-binding features             -  Thorough test of the syntax extension                   -  Implementation of the unit-test
utest.mli                  -  Interface of the unit-test framework

* Supported Camlp4 Versions

Moving from OCaml version 3.09 to 3.10 the preprocessor, Camlp4, was
massively revamped.  This invalidated most syntax extensions written
for version 3.09 including pa_monad.

The current package includes "" that works with OCaml-3.10
up to 3.11.  For convenience we supply "" that
works with the older OCaml-3.09.  See section "How to... Compile" for
instructions to build with OCaml-3.09.

* What It Does

This Camlp4 parser adds some syntactic sugar to beautify monadic
expressions.  The name of the syntax extension is a bit misleading as
it does not provide any monad nor monadic computation.  The correct
name would have been "pa_perform", but it was discarded because of
lack of specificity.

Example: A simple but realistic example of the use of a list monad
looks like this

          [1; 2; 3]
          (fun a -> bind
                      [3; 4; 5]
                      (fun b -> return (a + b)))

where we assume the appropriate definitions of the functions "bind"
and "return".  With the help of "pa_monad" this can be written as

          a <-- [1; 2; 3];
          b <-- [3; 4; 5];
          return (a + b)

which is much clearer and thus easier to understand and maintain.  By
the way, the expression evaluates to

        [4; 5; 6; 5; 6; 7; 6; 7; 8]

the sum of each pair of values of the input lists.  For more examples
have a look at the examples "" or

** Highlights

- Efficient code: The generated code is as efficient as hand-coded.
- Highly flexible: The "bind" and "failwith" functions can be
  specified in various ways
  (a) Binding with default names:
          perform ...
  (b) Binding with user-defined names:
          perform with my_bind and my_failwith in ...
  (c) One-of-a-kind binding:
          perform with fun a f -> f a and ... in ...
  (d) Module-based binding:
          perform with MyMonad in ...
      or with OCaml's local modules:
          let foo ... =
            let module MyMonad = ... in
            perform with MyMonad in ...

** Known Issues

See the section "Known Issues" in the documentation.

* How to...

** Compile


Note that "pa_monad.cmo" is the only interesting product file.  There
is no "pa_monad.cmx" for OCaml just needs the byte-code version of the
syntax extension.

To compile the old version of pa_monad, using a pre-3.10.0 compiler
and preprocessor say for example

        make OCAMLC=ocamlc-3.09 \
             CAMLP4=camlp4o-3.09 \
             PP-EXT="-pp '\$(CAMLP4) -I . pa_extend.cmo q_MLast.cmo'" \

where OCAMLC and CAMLP4 define the name of your compiler and

** Test

        make test

For OCaml-3.09: Append "test" to the command line given in sub-section

** Generate (HTML) Documentation

        make doc

** Install (with findlib)

        make findlib-install

** Use

Given the compiled extension "pa_monad.cmo" feed the source into the
preprocessor by saying
        ocamlc -pp 'camlp4orf -I . pa_monad.cmo' -c ...
Depending on where the cmo-file lives the include path needs

For OCaml-3.09 use
        ocamlc -pp 'camlp4o -I . pa_monad.cmo' -c ...

After installation, findlib users cast the usual spell
        ocamlfind ocamlc -package monad -c ...

* Emacs - Tuareg Mode

We have included a customization for Tuareg-mode that makes "perform"
a keyword with the correct indentation behavior.  Include it in your
".emacs" to activate it.

* Useful Literature On Monads

Literature on the use of monads in OCaml is sparse at best.  Most of
the following articles are either language independent or use the
Haskell language.  A large bibliography on "Monads and Arrows: Theory
and Applications" can be found at

** Philip Wadler, "Monads for functional programming"

    The use of monads to structure functional programs is described.
    Monads provide a convenient framework for simulating effects found
    in other languages, such as global state, exception handling,
    output, or non-determinism.  Three case studies are looked at in
    detail: how monads ease the modification of a simple evaluator; how
    monads act as the basis of a datatype of arrays subject to
    in-place update; and how monads can be used to build parsers.

** Brian Hurt and Robert Fischer, "Monad Tutorial for Ocaml"

    Brian Hurt and Robert Fischer wrote a comprehensive monad tutorial
    particularly for OCaml programmers.

** Theodore Norvel, "Monads for the Working Haskell Programmer"

    This short tutorial introduces monads to Haskell programmers.

** John Hughes, Magnus Carlsson, "Systematic Design of Monads"

    Many useful monads can be designed in a systematic way, by
    successively adding facilities to a trivial monad.  The
    capabilities that can be added in this way include state,
    exceptions, backtracking, and output.  Here we give a brief
    description of the trivial monad, each kind of extension, and
    sketches of some interesting operations that each monad supports.

** Jeff Newbern, "All About Monads"

    This tutorial aims to explain the concept of a monad and its
    application to functional programming in a way that is easy to
    understand and useful to beginning and intermediate Haskell
    programmers.  Familiarity with the Haskell language is assumed,
    but no prior experience with monads is required.  The tutorial
    covers a lot of material and the later sections require a thorough
    understanding of the earlier material.  Many code examples are
    provided along the way to demonstrate monadic programming.  It is
    not advisable to attempt to absorb all of the material in a single

** Philip Wadler, "Comprehending Monads"

    Category theorists invented monads in the 1960's to concisely
    express certain aspects of universal algebra.  Functional
    programmers invented list comprehensions in the 1970's to
    concisely express certain programs involving lists.  This paper
    shows how list comprehensions may be generalized to an arbitrary
    monad, and how the resulting programming feature can concisely
    express in a pure functional language some programs that
    manipulate state, handle exceptions, parse text, or invoke
    continuations.  A new solution to the old problem of destructive
    array update is also presented.  No knowledge of category theory
    is assumed.

** Simon Peyton Jones, "Tackling the Awkward Squad"

    Functional programming may be beautiful, but to write real
    applications we must grapple with awkward real-world issues:
    input/output, robustness, concurrency, and interfacing to programs
    written in other languages.

    These lecture notes give an overview of the techniques that have
    been developed by the Haskell community to address these problems.
    I introduce various proposed extensions to Haskell along the way,
    and I offer an operational semantics that explains what these
    extensions mean.

** Richard Bird, "Introduction to Functional Programming using Haskell", 2nd ed.

    Chapter 10 of this book is dedicated solely to monads.  They are
    introduced in a very didactic way.  Chapter 11 treats writing
    parsers based on monads.

* Authors

Please report comments or suggestions to the authors.

- Jacques Carette, <carette AT mcmaster DOT ca>
- Lydia E. van Dijk, <lvandijk AT freenet DOT de>
- Oleg Kiselyov, <oleg AT pobox DOT com>


The "pa_monad" extension is free software; you can redistribute it
and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Library General Public
License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
General Public License in the file "LGPL" for more details.


You may also obtain this software under the MIT license upon request
to the authors.  In that case, see "MIT" for the details.

local variables:
mode: outline


Syntactic Sugar for Monads in OCaml







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