idea: tool to suggest adding imports

Edward Z. Yang ezyang at
Fri Mar 18 22:16:07 UTC 2016

Hello John,

In my opinion, the big question is whether or not your Emacs extension
should know how to build your Haskell project.  Without this knowledge,
(1) and (3) are non-starters, since you have to pass the right set of
-package flags to GHC to get the process started.

If you do assume you have this knowledge, then I think writing a
little stub program using the GHC API (the best fit is the recent
frontend plugins feature:
because it will handle command line parsing for you; unfortunately, it
will also limit you to GHC 8 only) is your best bet.


Excerpts from John Williams's message of 2016-03-18 11:27:34 -0700:
> I have an idea for a tool I'd like to implement, and I'm looking for advice
> on the best way to do it.
> Ideally, I want to write an Emacs extension where, if I'm editing Haskell
> code and I try to use a symbol that's not defined or imported, it will try
> to automatically add an appropriate import for the symbol. If instance, if
> I have "import Data.Maybe (isNothing)" in my module, and I try to call
> "isJust", the extension would automatically change the import to "import
> Data.Maybe (isJust, isNothing)".
> The Emacs part is easy, but the Haskell part has me kind of lost. Basically
> I want to figure out how to heuristically resolve a name, using an existing
> set of imports as hints and constraints. The main heuristic I'd like to
> implement is that, if some symbols are imported from a module M, consider
> importing additional symbols from M. A more advanced heuristic might
> suggest that if a symbol is exported from a module M in a visible package
> P, the symbol should be imported from M. Finally, if a symbol is exported
> by a module in the Haskell platform, I'd like to suggest adding the
> relevant package as a dependency in the .cabal and/or stack.yaml file, and
> adding an import for it in the .hs file.
> Here are some implementation options I'm considering:
> 1. Add a ghci command to implement my heuristics directly, since ghc
> already understands modules, packages and import statements.
> 2. Load a modified version of the source file into ghci where imports like
> "import M (...)" are replaced with "import M", and parse the error messages
> about ambiguous symbols.
> 3. Write a separate tool that reads Haskell imports and duplicates ghc and
> cabal's name resolution mechanisms.
> 4. Write a tool that reads Haskell imports and suggests imports from a list
> of commonly imported symbols, ignoring which packages are actually visible.
> Right now the options that look best to me are 2 and 4, because the don't
> require me to understand or duplicate big parts of ghc, but if modifying
> ghc isn't actually that hard, then maybe 1 is the way to go. Option 3 might
> be a good way to go if there are libraries I can use to do the hard work
> for me.
> Any thoughts?

More information about the Glasgow-haskell-users mailing list