Thomas Bach - Software Architect

Setting up Haskell LSP for Emacs on NixOS

Posted on August 26, 2021

I somehow managed to get Haskell Language Server running and play nicely together with Emacs. I’ll briefly explain here what the bits and pieces where I had to put together.

Setup Overview

This will sound more complicated than it actually is. :)

So the basic idea is define your package as a Nix Flake. I’m using the haskell.nix infrastructure by IOHK for this. The flake defines the whole development environment including GHC, all libraries and the Haskell language server. We’ll use direnv to load that environment automatically when entering the project. Finally, we will integrate direnv into Emacs so that it can pick up the right tools, especially Haskell language server.

System setup

This is stuff that needs to go into your configuration.nix:

{ config, pkgs, ... }:
  # Define your own Emacs…
  emacsBuild =
    with (pkgs.emacsPackagesNgGen pkgs.emacs);
    emacsWithPackages (epkgs: (with epkgs.melpaStablePackages;
      [ # Needed to integrate with direnv
        # Editing Haskell
      ]) ++ (with epkgs.melpaPackages; [
        # Stuff which lsp wants
{ # Start up an Emacs service. You can connect to it with emacsclient.
  services.emacs = {
    enable = true;
    package = emacsBuild;
  environment.systemPackages = [
    # Add your own emacs to the system packages
    # Add nix capabilities to direnv. This makes direnv play nicely
    # with flake definitons.

    # Haskell dev tooling, you could also define these in your flake
    # definition.

  # This is needed to integrate `nix-direnv` into `direnv`
  environment.pathsToLink = [
  # See
  nix = {
    package = pkgs.nixFlakes;
    extraOptions =
        # [...]
        experimental-features = nix-command flakes
        keep-outputs = true
        keep-derivations = true
    # You definitely want these. Otherwise you will end up compiling a lot.
    binaryCaches = [ "" ];
    binaryCachePublicKeys = [ "" ];

Init your first Project

Fine, we basically have everything we need on our system now. Create new project by creating a directory and calling cabal init --interactive in it. (I usually work with cabal, but haskell.nix also plays nicely with stack.)

After that create a flake.nix alongside your .cabal file basically using this template. Now call nix shell inside this directory. This will take some time while nix is pulling GHC and compiling tools. Make yourself a coffee, maybe two. The first time you are using this ensure that nix doesn’t start compiling GHC. If that’s the case you did not set up the binaryCaches correctly.

If this works you should be able to call haskell-language-server tailored to your projects GHC version. Nice!

Integrate Direnv

This is as easy as generating a file .envrc alongside your flake.nix containing:

use flake;

After creating this file direnv will ask you to whitelist this project using direnv allow. Do it and nix will start again to produce heat on your CPU. Note that this will only take some time on the first run. Nix caches the results and all subsequent environment loads will be finished in less than a second.

Set up Emacs

This is the snippet defining my Emacs setup:

(defun tbd-cfg-haskell ()
  (add-hook 'haskell-literate-mode-hook #'lsp-deferred)
  (add-hook 'haskell-mode-hook #'lsp-deferred)
  (add-hook 'haskell-mode-hook
            (lambda ()
              (define-key haskell-mode-map (kbd "C-c C-d") 'haskell-compile)
              (when (and (bound-and-true-p haskell-indentation-mode)
                         (fboundp 'haskell-indentation-mode))
                (haskell-indentation-mode 0))
              (setq haskell-compiler-type 'cabal)
              (setq haskell-process-type 'cabal)
              (setq haskell-stylish-on-save 't)
              (setq lsp-haskell-server-path "haskell-language-server"
                    lsp-haskell-formatting-provider "stylish-haskell")
              (lsp-treemacs-sync-mode 1))))

;; […]

You probably don’t want all of that. But things work smoothly for me with these settings and I’m too lazy to tear them apart to see which ones will provide the bare minimum. If you have enabled services.emacs.enable as me above, then don’t forget to execute systemctl --user restart emacs after altering the config file.

Spin up your Emacs and visit one of the Haskell source files in your project. If lsp doesn’t start automatically, do M-x lsp and import the project for the first time.

Eventually Emacs/direnv won’t notice changes you did to the cabal file. Use M-x direnv-update-environment and eventually M-x lsp-workspace-restart to get back on track then.