Idris includes a simple system for building packages from a package description file. These files can be used with the Idris compiler to manage the development process of your Idris programmes and packages.

Package Descriptions

A package description includes the following:

  • A header, consisting of the keyword package followed by the package name. Package names can be any valid Idris identifier. The iPKG format also takes a quoted version that accepts any valid filename.
  • Fields describing package contents, <field> = <value>

At least one field must be the modules field, where the value is a comma separated list of modules. For example, a library test which has two modules foo.idr and bar.idr as source files would be written as follows:

package foo

modules = foo, bar

Other examples of package files can be found in the libs directory of the main Idris repository, and in third-party libraries.


From Idris v0.12 the iPKG format supports additional metadata associated with the package. The added fields are:

  • brief = "<text>", a string literal containing a brief description of the package.
  • version = <text>, a version string to associate with the package.
  • readme = <file>, location of the README file.
  • license = <text>, a string description of the licensing information.
  • author = <text>, the author information.
  • maintainer = <text>, Maintainer information.
  • homepage = <url>, the website associated with the package.
  • sourceloc = <url>, the location of the DVCS where the source can be found.
  • bugtracker = <url>, the location of the project’s bug tracker.

Common Fields

Other common fields which may be present in an ipkg file are:

  • sourcedir = <dir>, which takes the directory (relative to the current directory) which contains the source. Default is the current directory.
  • executable = <output>, which takes the name of the executable file to generate. Executable names can be any valid Idris identifier. the iPKG format also takes a quoted version that accepts any valid filename.
  • main = <module>, which takes the name of the main module, and must be present if the executable field is present.
  • opts = "<idris options>", which allows options to be passed to Idris.
  • pkgs = <pkg name> (',' <pkg name>)+, a comma separated list of package names that the Idris package requires.

Binding to C

In more advanced cases, particularly to support creating bindings to external C libraries, the following options are available:

  • makefile = <file>, which specifies a Makefile, to be built before the Idris modules, for example to support linking with a C library. When building, Idris sets the environment variables IDRIS_INCLUDES (with C include flags) and IDRIS_LDFLAGS (with C linking flags) so they can be used from inside the Makefile.
  • libs = <libs>, which takes a comma separated list of libraries which must be present for the package to be usable.
  • objs = <objs>, which takes a comma separated list of additional files to be installed (object files, headers), perhaps generated by the Makefile.


For testing Idris packages there is a rudimentary testing harness, run in the IO context. The iPKG file is used to specify the functions used for testing. The following option is available:

  • tests = <test functions>, which takes the qualified names of all test functions to be run.


The modules containing the test functions must also be added to the list of modules.


Package files support comments using the standard Idris singleline -- and multiline {- -} format.

Using Package files

Given an Idris package file test.ipkg it can be used with the Idris compiler as follows:

  • idris --build test.ipkg will build all modules in the package
  • idris --install test.ipkg will install the package, making it accessible by other Idris libraries and programs.
  • idris --clean test.ipkg will delete all intermediate code and executable files generated when building.
  • idris --mkdoc test.ipkg will build HTML documentation for your package in the folder test_doc in your project’s root directory.
  • idris --installdoc test.ipkg will install the packages documentation into Idris’ central documentation folder located at idris --docdir.
  • idris --checkpkg test.ipkg will type check all modules in the package only. This differs from build that type checks and generates code.
  • idris --testpkg test.ipkg will compile and run any embedded tests you have specified in the tests parameter.

When building or install packages the commandline flag --warnipkg will audit the project and warn of any potentiable problems.

Once the test package has been installed, the command line option --package test makes it accessible (abbreviated to -p test). For example:

idris -p test Main.idr