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These instructions are aimed at readers of Real World OCaml, though much of what you find here will be useful for anyone who wants to get a good working OCaml installation.
At the highest level, here's what you need to do:
- Get OPAM installed
- Build OCaml 4.01 or later using OPAM
- With OPAM, install the key libraries that you need to work through the examples in the book
- Install Utop, a modern interactive toplevel with command history, tab completion, and defaults that are tuned to work with the examples in Real World OCaml,
- Set up your editing environment.
- Optionally install merlin, a tool for providing IDE-like functionality like auto-completion, as well as ocp-indent, a source code indenter. Both work with emacs and vim, and can be adapted to other editors.
Note that Windows is not currently supported by the examples in Real World OCaml or by OPAM, although it is being worked on. Until that's ready, we recommend using a virtual machine running Debian Linux on your local machine.
Let's get started.
The easiest way to install OPAM is through your OS's package manager. In most cases, installing OPAM will also trigger the installation of OCaml. The version installed isn't important, since we can use OPAM itself to install other versions of the compiler.
Here are platform-specific instructions.
Mac OS X
If you don't already have a package manager set up, try installing homebrew. You can find information on installing homebrew here. make sure you have the latest XCode (and Command Line Tools for XCode) installed from the App Store first.
You can then install OPAM using brew.
$ brew install opam
(NB: If you're using Mountain Lion or lower, you may need to use
brew install opam --without-aspcud, instead)
Another popular package manager on Mac OS X is MacPorts, which also has an OPAM package.
$ sudo port install opam
Ubuntu has have a PPA (Personal Package Archive) that you can use for installing OPAM as a binary package.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:avsm/ppa $ sudo apt-get update $ sudo apt-get install curl build-essential m4 ocaml opam
Without using PPA
If you don't want to use the PPA, Ubuntu 14.04 and later come with somewhat recent versions of OCaml and OPAM. (As of 16 Oct 2015, Ubuntu has OCaml 4.01.0, released 12 Sep 2013.)
$ sudo apt-get install m4 ocaml-native-compilers camlp4-extra opam
Debian 8 "jessie" and later has recent enough versions of OCaml (4.01.0+) and OPAM (1.2.0+).
$ sudo apt-get update $ sudo apt-get install m4 ocaml-native-compilers camlp4-extra opam
OPAM is available from the AUR (Arch User Repository). You can
install OPAM using
$ pacaur -S opam
Or directly using
$ sudo pacman -S base-devel git ### Install aur/gringo $ sudo pacman -S bison re2c scons $ git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/gringo.git $ cd gringo && makepkg $ sudo pacman -U gringo-<version>.pkg.tar.xz ### Install aur/clasp $ cd ../ && git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/clasp.git $ cd clasp && makepkg $ sudo pacman -U clasp-<version>.pkg.tar.xz ### Install aur/aspcud $ cd ../ && git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/aspcud.git $ cd aspcud && makepkg $ sudo pacman -U aspcud-<version>.pkg.tar.xz ### Install aur/opam $ cd ../ && git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/opam.git $ cd opam && makepkg $ sudo pacman -U opam-<version>.pkg.tar.xz
Building from source
On platforms not listed above, you'll need to install OPAM from source, and to do that you'll need OCaml installed first. Some platforms, including Fedora Linux, have OCaml packages that you can install but not OPAM packages. You can build OPAM on OCaml version 3.12.1 or later.
To install OCaml from source, you'll first need a C compiler,
The following is enough to get OCaml installed on most platforms.
$ curl -OL https://github.com/ocaml/ocaml/archive/4.01.tar.gz $ tar -zxvf 4.01.tar.gz $ cd ocaml-4.01 $ ./configure $ make world world.opt $ sudo make install
If you have problems with any of the above, read the
INSTALL file in
the tar file.
Installing OCaml locally
The installation step described above requires administrator
privileges. You can also install it in your home directory by passing
prefix option to the configuration script:
$ ./configure -prefix $HOME/my-ocaml
Once the installation is completed into this custom location, you will
need to add
$HOME/my-ocaml/bin to your
PATH, normally by editing
~/.profile. You shouldn't really do this unless you
have special reasons, so try to install binary packages before trying
a source installation.
If the binary packages aren't available for your system, you'll need to install the latest OPAM release from source. You can follow the online quick install guide.
The entire OPAM package database is held in the
.opam directory in
your home directory, including compiler installations. On Linux and
Mac OS X, this will be the
~/.opam directory, which means you don't
need administrative privileges to configure it. If you run into
problems configuring OPAM, just delete the whole
and start over.
Let's begin by initialising the OPAM package database. This will ask you a few interactive questions at the end. It's safe to answer yes to these unless you want to manually control the configuration steps yourself as an advanced user.
$ opam init <...> =-=-=-= Configuring OPAM =-=-=-= Do you want to update your configuration to use OPAM ? [Y/n] y [1/4] Do you want to update your shell configuration file ? [default: ~/.profile] y [2/4] Do you want to update your ~/.ocamlinit ? [Y/n] y [3/4] Do you want to install the auto-complete scripts ? [Y/n] y [4/4] Do you want to install the `opam-switch-eval` script ? [Y/n] y User configuration: ~/.ocamlinit is already up-to-date. ~/.profile is already up-to-date. Gloabal configuration: Updating <root>/opam-init/init.sh auto-completion : [true] opam-switch-eval: [true] Updating <root>/opam-init/init.zsh auto-completion : [true] opam-switch-eval: [true] Updating <root>/opam-init/init.csh auto-completion : [true] opam-switch-eval: [true]
You only need to run this command once, and it will create the
~/.opam directory and sync with the latest package list from the
online OPAM database.
init command finishes, you'll see some instructions about
environment variables. OPAM never installs files into your system
directories (which would require administrator privileges). Instead,
it puts them into your home directory by default, and can output a set
of shell commands which configures your shell with the right
variables so that packages will just work.
If you choose not to follow the OPAM instructions to add itself to your shell profile, you can still configure it on-the-fly in your current shell with just one command.
$ eval `opam config env`
This evaluates the results of running
opam config env in your
current shell and sets the variables so that subsequent commands will
use them. This only works with your current shell and it can only
be automated for future shells by adding the line to your login
scripts. On Mac OS X you should typically use
~/.bashrc on most Linux setups.
OPAM isn't unusual in this approach; the SSH
ssh-agent also works
similarly, so if you're having any problems just hunt around in your
configuration scripts to see how that's being invoked.
If you answered
yes to the auto-complete scripts question during
opam init, this should have all been set up for you. You can verify
this worked by seeing if the
variable is set. You can do this in
bash as follows.
$ printenv OCAML_TOPLEVEL_PATH /Users/myusername/.opam/4.01.0/lib/toplevel
The next step is to make sure we have the right compiler version installed.
$ opam switch system C system System compiler (4.00.1) -- -- 3.11.2 Official 3.11.2 release -- -- 3.12.1 Official 3.12.1 release -- -- 4.00.0 Official 4.00.0 release -- -- 4.00.1 Official 4.00.1 release -- -- 4.01.0 Official 4.01.0 release
If, as in this case, your system compiler is older than
should install a more up to date version of the compiler, as shown
$ opam switch 4.01.0 $ eval `opam config env`
switch itself will take around ten or fifteen minutes on a
modern machine, and will download and install the OCaml compiler
~/.opam directory). You can install multiple compilers
at once, and switching between them once they're installed is fast.
The new compiler and all libraries associated with it will be
Finally, we're ready to install the libraries and tools we'll need for
the book. The most important ones are
core, which provides the
standard library that all the examples in the book are based on, and
utop, which is the interactive toplevel that you can use for working
through the examples.
$ opam install core utop
This will take about five or ten minutes to build, and will install the requested packages along with a bunch of dependencies. But there are other libraries that will be useful as you go through the book that you might as well install now.
$ opam install \ async yojson core_extended core_bench \ cohttp async_graphics cryptokit menhir
If some of the above don't work, don't worry too much. Most of them
come up in only a few places in the book. (There are some known
problems right now: in particular,
core_extended doesn't install
cleanly on recent versions of OS X, due to an issue with the
library it depends on. That is expected to be resolved soon.)
Note that if you've installed
utop and can't launch it from the
shell, make sure you've run
eval `opam config env` in this
shell. In general, you should just get this set up as part of
your shell init scripts, as described earlier.
Setting up and using
When you first run
utop, you'll find yourself at an interactive
prompt with a bar at the bottom of the screen. The bottom bar
dynamically updates as you write text, and contains the possible names
of modules or variables that are valid at that point in the phrase you
are entering. You can press the
<tab> key to complete the phrase
with the first choice.
~/.ocamlinit file in your home directory initializes
common libraries and syntax extensions so you don't need to type them
in every time. Given that you have Core installed, you should update
ocamlinit to load Core every time you start
utop, by adding
the following lines.
#use "topfind";; #thread;; #camlp4o;; #require "core.top";; #require "core.syntax";;
utop only you could get away with just the last two lines, but
you need the whole thing if you want the traditional
to work too.
opam will have already added some lines to the file.
Also, notice that
# is used to mark a toplevel directive, not a
If you want to use Core as your primary standard library, then you
should open the
Core.Std module by default, which you can do by
appending the following to the end of your
When you run
utop with these initialization rules, it should start
up with Core opened and ready to use. If you don't open
default, then you must remember to open it before running any of the
interactive examples in the book.
These instructions have been tested on emacs 24.2 and should work for that version and newer. There are some reports of problems with earlier emacsen.
tuareg is the most commonly used mode for editing OCaml code in
emacs. You can download it
here. You should
download it and untar it into some subdirectory of your home
Once you've done that, you can add the following rather lengthy
snippet to your
;; -- common-lisp compatibility if not added earlier in your .emacs (require 'cl) ;; -- Tuareg mode ----------------------------------------- ;; Add Tuareg to your search path (add-to-list 'load-path ;; Change the path below to be wherever you've put your tuareg installation. (expand-file-name "~/lib/elisp/tuareg")) (require 'tuareg) (setq auto-mode-alist (append '(("\\.ml[ily]?$" . tuareg-mode)) auto-mode-alist)) ;; -- Tweaks for OS X ------------------------------------- ;; Tweak for problem on OS X where Emacs.app doesn't run the right ;; init scripts when invoking a sub-shell (cond ((eq window-system 'ns) ; macosx ;; Invoke login shells, so that .profile or .bash_profile is read (setq shell-command-switch "-lc"))) ;; -- opam and utop setup -------------------------------- ;; Setup environment variables using opam (dolist (var (car (read-from-string (shell-command-to-string "opam config env --sexp")))) (setenv (car var) (cadr var))) ;; Update the emacs path (setq exec-path (split-string (getenv "PATH") path-separator)) ;; Update the emacs load path (push (concat (getenv "OCAML_TOPLEVEL_PATH") "/../../share/emacs/site-lisp") load-path) ;; Automatically load utop.el (autoload 'utop "utop" "Toplevel for OCaml" t) (autoload 'utop-minor-mode "utop" "Minor mode for utop" t) (add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'utop-minor-mode)
Once this successfully loads in Emacs, you can run
utop by doing
M-x utop in Emacs. You can also use commands like
to evaluate your current buffer in
Ctrl-c Ctrl-e to just
evaluate a single expression.
There are more detailed instructions at the utop homepage.
Using Emacs24 packages
As an alternative to the setup above, here is a simplified OCaml setup using MELPA packages.
(require 'package) (add-to-list 'package-archives '("melpa" . "http://melpa.milkbox.net/packages/") t)
M-x package-install and install
Then add the rest of the configuration to
(add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'tuareg-imenu-set-imenu) (setq auto-mode-alist (append '(("\\.ml[ily]?$" . tuareg-mode) ("\\.topml$" . tuareg-mode)) auto-mode-alist)) (autoload 'utop-setup-ocaml-buffer "utop" "Toplevel for OCaml" t) (add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'utop-setup-ocaml-buffer) (add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'merlin-mode) (setq merlin-use-auto-complete-mode t) (setq merlin-error-after-save nil)
Vim users can use the built-in style, and ocaml-annot may also be useful. For a more richly-featured setup, see the section on Merlin below.
Eclipse is a popular IDE usually used for Java development. The OCaml Development Tools (ODT) project provides equivalent IDE features for editing and compiling OCaml code, such as automatic compilation and name completion. Installation instructions can be found here
There are lots of other editors, and many of them come with built-in OCaml modes. These includes TextMate and Sublime Text for the Mac, and countless others.
There are a number of tools that are compatible with multiple editors
that can help you work more effectively with OCaml. Two of the best
ocp-indent, which we'll describe below. Note that
these are very much optional. You might want to get started with the
book before getting back to setting these up.
Merlin provides a number of advanced IDE-like features, including:
- context-sensitive auto-completion
- interactive type-querying (i.e., you can ask it, "what is the type of this expression")
- error reporting -- it will highlight parts of your code that don't compile as you go.
You can install merlin with OPAM:
$ opam install merlin
Then you will need to add configuration for your editor. The following examples assume Merlin has been installed through OPAM as above.
A summary follows -- for more complete information, see Merlin's Emacs documentation.
;; -- merlin setup --------------------------------------- (setq opam-share (substring (shell-command-to-string "opam config var share") 0 -1)) (add-to-list 'load-path (concat opam-share "/emacs/site-lisp")) (require 'merlin) ;; Enable Merlin for ML buffers (add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'merlin-mode) ;; So you can do it on a mac, where `C-<up>` and `C-<down>` are used ;; by spaces. (define-key merlin-mode-map (kbd "C-c <up>") 'merlin-type-enclosing-go-up) (define-key merlin-mode-map (kbd "C-c <down>") 'merlin-type-enclosing-go-down) (set-face-background 'merlin-type-face "#88FF44") ;; -- enable auto-complete ------------------------------- ;; Not required, but useful along with merlin-mode (require 'auto-complete) (add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook 'auto-complete-mode)
Here are some of the more useful key commands that merlin provides:
merlin-type-enclosing: show you the type of the current expression.
C-<down>can then be used to look at the types of enclosing expressions, or drill down to smaller ones.
C-c <TAB>: if you have auto-complete set up, this gives you a list of possible auto-completions, along with their types. You can use
C-sto search within that list.
C-c C-l: to go to the definition of the value under your cursor.
C-c r: to restart merlin if it gets confused
A summary follows -- for more complete information, see Merlin's Vim
:h merlin.txt after installing.
" Your vimrc filetype plugin indent on syntax enable " Vim needs to be built with Python scripting support, and must be " able to find Merlin's executable on PATH. if executable('ocamlmerlin') && has('python') let s:ocamlmerlin = substitute(system('opam config var share'), '\n$', '', '''') . "/ocamlmerlin" execute "set rtp+=".s:ocamlmerlin."/vim" execute "set rtp+=".s:ocamlmerlin."/vimbufsync" endif
As a one-time step after installation, index the documentation in Vim's help system:
:execute "helptags " . substitute(system('opam config var share'), '\n$', '', '''') . "/merlin/vim/doc"
Some highlights of the functionality this enables:
- Autocompletion with Vim's omnicomplete system:
- Quick type checking with keybindings -- the defaults use
LocalLeader, which is normally backslash (
\) by default:
\t: type of expression under the cursor (also works with a visual selection).
\p: expand/contract the expression(s) to type check.
:Locate [identifier]: go to the definition of given identifier or the one under the cursor.
:Reload: if Merlin gets confused following build changes like new packages.
:GotoDotMerlin: edit the
.merlinproject configuration (see below).
The plugin can integrate with some other popular Vim plugins such as
Syntastic and neocomplcache -- see
:help merlin.txt for pointers.
Tell Merlin about your project layout
Regardless of which editor you use, you need to tell Merlin a bit
about the build environment you're working with in order for it to
work properly. This is done by creating a
.merlin file. If you're
building applications based on Core and Async using the
script (which is built on top of
ocamlbuild), then the following is
a good starting point.
S . B _build PKG core PKG async PKG core_extended EXT nonrec
See the Merlin README for complete details of the file format.
ocp-indent is a source-code indenter which includes a command-line
tool, library and integration with emacs and vi. It does a better job
than most editor modes, including tuareg, and has the advantage that
it can be used as a command-line tool and be integrated into multiple
editors, so you get consistent indentation across tools.
You can install it with
$ opam install ocp-indent
After installing through OPAM, simply load the file as follows to override tuareg-mode's indentation:
(setq opam-share (substring (shell-command-to-string "opam config var share") 0 -1)) (require 'ocp-indent)
After installing through OPAM, simply add this
autocmd to your Vim
" Your vimrc autocmd FileType ocaml source substitute(system('opam config var share'), '\n$', '', '''') . "/typerex/ocp-indent/ocp-indent.vim"