Plugins: Accessing unexported bindings

Simon Peyton Jones simonpj at
Mon Dec 7 10:28:08 UTC 2015

In the mean time, I'm still looking for a solution that doesn't involve exporting such identifiers from modules. As Eric pointed out, that seems to be the only current work-around for the time being.

“Exported” in this context only means “keep alive”. It does not mean exported in the Haskell source code sense. I’ve just added this comment to Var.hs.

So I think it does just what you want.


data ExportFlag   -- See Note [ExportFlag on binders]
  = NotExported   -- ^ Not exported: may be discarded as dead code.
  | Exported      -- ^ Exported: kept alive

{- Note [ExportFlag on binders]
An ExportFlag of "Exported" on a top-level binder says "keep this
binding alive; do not drop it as dead code".  This transititively
keeps alive all the other top-level bindings that this binding refers
to.  This property is persisted all the way down the pipeline, so that
the binding will be compiled all the way to object code, and its
symbols will appear in the linker symbol table.

However, note that this use of "exported" is quite different to the
export list on a Haskell module.  Setting the ExportFlag on an Id does
/not/ mean that if you import the module (in Haskell source code you
will see this Id.  Of course, things that appear in the export list
of the source Haskell module do indeed have their ExportFlag set.
But many other things, such as dictionary functions, are kept alive
by having their ExportFlag set, even though they are not exported
in the source-code sense.

We should probably use a different term for ExportFlag, like

From: ghc-devs [mailto:ghc-devs-bounces at] On Behalf Of Levent Erkok
Sent: 06 December 2015 20:32
To: Eric Seidel <eric at>; omeragacan at; ezyang at
Cc: ghc-devs at
Subject: Re: Plugins: Accessing unexported bindings

Omer, Eric, Ed: Thanks for the comments.

Omer: I think Eric's observation is at play here. We're talking about "dead-code," i.e., a binding that is neither exported, nor used by any binding inside the module. Those seem to be getting dropped by the time user-plugins are run. Unfortunately, this is precisely what one would do with "properties" embedded in code. They serve as documentation perhaps, but are otherwise not needed by any other binding nor it makes sense to export them.

Edward: Can you provide some more info into your solution? Sounds like a chicken-egg issue to me: As a plugin author, I need the bindings to access the Ids, and looks like I need the Ids to access the binders?

A simple solution would be to simply keep all top-level bindings around while the plugin are running, but that obviously can lead to unnecessary work if the code is truly dead. A compromise could be that the annotations can serve as entry points as well: I.e., if there's an annotation on a top-level binder, then it should *not* be considered dead-code at least until after all the plugins are run. That would definitely simplify life. Would that be an acceptable alternative?

In the mean time, I'm still looking for a solution that doesn't involve exporting such identifiers from modules. As Eric pointed out, that seems to be the only current work-around for the time being.



On Sun, Dec 6, 2015 at 11:08 AM, Eric Seidel <eric at<mailto:eric at>> wrote:
GHC should only drop un-exported bindings from the ModGuts if they're
also unused, ie *dead code*.

The only way I know to get around this is to use the bindings somewhere,
or just export them.

On Sat, Dec 5, 2015, at 23:01, Levent Erkok wrote:
> Hello,
> The mg_binds field of the ModGuts seem to only contain the bindings that
> are exported from the module being compiled.
> I guess GHC must be running user-plugins after it drops the bindings that
> are not exported, which makes perfect sense for most use cases. However,
> I'm working on a plugin where the end-programmer embeds "properties" in
> the
> form of functions inside his/her code, which are not necessarily exported
> from the module under consideration.
> Is there a way to access all top-level bindings in a module from a
> plugin,
> even if those bindings are not exported?
> Thanks,
> -Levent.
> _______________________________________________
> ghc-devs mailing list
> ghc-devs at<mailto:ghc-devs at>
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