brittany Hackage version Stackage version Build Status

haskell source code formatter

Output sample

(see more examples and comparisons)

This project’s goals roughly are to:

  • Always retain the semantics of the source being transformed;
  • Be idempotent;
  • Support the full GHC-haskell syntax including syntactic extensions (but excluding -XCPP which is too hard);
  • Retain newlines and comments unmodified;
  • Be clever about using the available horizontal space while not overflowing the column maximum unless it cannot be avoided;
  • Be clever about aligning things horizontally (this can be turned off completely however);
  • Have linear complexity in the size of the input.

In theory, the core algorithm inside brittany reaches these goals. It is rather clever about making use of horizontal space while still being linear in the size of the input (although the constant factor is not small). See these examples of clever layouting.

But brittany is not finished yet, and there are some open issues that yet require fixing:

  • only the module header (imports/exports), type-signatures and function/value bindings are processed; other module elements (data-decls, classes, instances, etc.) are not transformed in any way; this extends to e.g. bindings inside class instance definitions - they won’t be touched (yet).
  • By using ghc-exactprint as the parser, brittany supports full GHC including extensions, but some of the less common syntactic elements (even of 2010 haskell) are not handled.
  • There are some known issues regarding handling of in-source comments. There are cases where comments are not copied to the output (this will be detected and the user will get an error); there are other cases where comments are moved slightly; there are also cases where comments result in wonky newline insertion (although this should be a purely aesthetic issue.)

Try without Installing

You can paste haskell code over here to test how it gets formatted by brittany. (Rg. privacy: the server does log the size of the input, but not the full input/output of requests.)

Other usage notes

  • Supports GHC versions 8.0, 8.2, 8.4, 8.6.
  • included in stackage with lts>=10.0 (or nightlies dating to >=2017-11-15)
  • config (file) documentation is lacking.
  • some config values can not be configured via commandline yet.
  • uses/creates user config file in ~/.config/brittany/config.yaml; also reads (the first) brittany.yaml found in current or parent directories.


  • via stack

    stack install brittany # --resolver lts-10.0

    If you use an lts that includes brittany this should just work; otherwise you may want to clone the repo and try again (there are several stack.yamls included).

  • via nix:

    nix build -f release.nix     # or 'nix-build -f release.nix'
    nix-env -i ./result
  • via cabal

    Due to constant changes to the cabal UI, I have given up on making sure these instructions work before releases. Please do not expect these instructions to be up-to-date; they may produce incomprehensible error messages, they may be broken otherwise, they may work now but break with the next cabal release. Thanks for your understanding, and feel free to open issues for any problems you encounter. – lennart

    If you are using cabal-3.0, using cabal install brittany --installdir=$HOME/.cabal/bin might work. Keep in mind that cabal merely puts a symlink to the “store” into the installdir, so you have to re-install if you ever clean your store. On cabal-2.4, try cabal v2-install brittany. On cabal-2.2 or earlier you might be succesful using cabal new-build exe:brittany; cp `find dist-newstyle/ -name brittany -type f | xargs -x ls -t | head -n1` $HOME/.cabal/bin/. Alternatively, you can also use the v1-approach with sandboxes as cabal v1-sandbox init; cabal v1-install brittany --bindir=$HOME/.cabal/bin.

    (TODO: These instructions are more confusing than helpful. I am inclined to just remove them.)

  • on ArchLinux via the brittany AUR package using aura:

    aura -A brittany

Editor Integration

Sublime text

In this gist I have described a haskell setup that includes a shortcut to run brittany formatting.


This extension connects commandline brittany to VSCode formatting API. Thanks to @MaxGabriel.


haskell-ide-engine includes a brittany plugin that directly uses the brittany library. Relevant for any editors that properly support the language-server-protocol.

Neovim / Vim 8

The Neoformat plugin comes with support for brittany built in.


Atom Beautify supports brittany as a formatter for Haskell. Since the default formatter is set to hindent, you will need to change this setting to brittany, after installing the extension.


format-all support brittany as the default formatter for Haskell.


  • Default mode of operation: Transform a single module, from stdin to stdout. Can pass one or multiple files as input, and there is a flag to override them in place instead of using stdout (since So:

    brittany                           # stdin -> stdout
    brittany mysource.hs               # ./mysource.hs -> stdout
    brittany --write-mode=inplace *.hs # apply formatting to all ./*.hs inplace
  • For stdin/stdout usage it makes sense to enable certain syntactic extensions by default, i.e. to add something like this to your ~/.config/brittany/config.yaml (execute brittany once to create default):

      - -XLambdaCase
      - -XMultiWayIf
      - -XGADTs
      - -XPatternGuards
      - -XViewPatterns
      - -XRecursiveDo
      - -XTupleSections
      - -XExplicitForAll
      - -XImplicitParams
      - -XQuasiQuotes
      - -XTemplateHaskell
      - -XBangPatterns

Feature Requests, Contribution, Documentation

For a long time this project has had a single maintainer, and as a consequence there have been some mildly large delays for reacting to feature requests and even PRs.

Sorry about that.

The good news is that this project is getting sponsored by PRODA LTD, and two previous contributors, Evan Borden and Taylor Fausak, have agreed on helping with organisational aspects. Thanks!

Still, this project has a long queue of very sensible feature requests, so it may take some time until new ones get our attention. But with the help of the co-maintainers, at least the reaction-times on PRs and the frequency of releases should improve significantly.

If you are interested in making your own contributions, there is a good amount of high-level documentation at

the documentation index


Copyright (C) 2016-2019 Lennart Spitzner
Copyright (C) 2019 PRODA LTD

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3, as published by the Free Software Foundation.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Affero General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Affero General Public License along with this program. If not, see


Revision history for brittany – December 2019

  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix layouting regression of record update for many/large fields
    • Fix whitespace regression on ExplicitForall notation (foo :: forall a . Show a => a -> a, note the double space) introduced in 0.12. (#264)
    • Fix roundtripping of type equality constraint f :: ((~) a b) => a -> b (#267)
  • One experimental feature addition: Turning brace notation semicolons into newlines when formatting (see #270) – September 2019

  • Support ghc-8.8
  • Support for OverloadedLabels extension (thanks to Evan Rutledge Borden @eborden)
  • Support for Implicit Params extension (thanks to pepe iborra @pepeiborra)
  • Add flag --no-user-config to enable only using manually passed config
  • Disable the performance test suite by default to prevent spurious failures on certain CI setups. The github/travis brittany CI still has all tests enabled. See the brittany-test-perf flag in the cabal file.
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix one wandering-comment bug for let-in expressions
    • Fix invalid result for prefix operator pattern matches
    • Fix lambda expression with laziness/strictness annotation
    • Fix parenthesis handling for infix pattern matches with 3+ arguments
  • Changes to layouting behaviour:
    • For pattern matching and data/instance definitions, the usage of parenthesis is now “normalized”, i.e. superfluous parens are removed by brittany. – June 2019

  • Support for ghc-8.6 (basic support, not necessarily all new syntactic extensions)
  • Support -XExplicitNamespaces and -XPatternSynonyms
  • Allow a –dry-run sort of operation via flag “-c/–check-mode” (thanks to Doug Beardsley @mightybyte)
  • Include file name in errors about unsupported syntax nodes (thanks to @5outh)
  • Partially implement layouting class instances: Layouts children, but falls back on ghc-exactprint for the instance head (thanks to Rupert Horlick @ruhatch)
  • Implement layouting for type synonyms (thanks to Rupert Horlick @ruhatch)
  • Support -XMagicHash, -XUnboxedTuples (thanks to Sergey Vinokurov @sergv)
  • Support -XQuasiQuotes (no formatting applied to the splices; they are simply retained without causing the dreaded “Unknown construct: HsSpliceE{}”)
    • lconfig_allowHangingQuasiQuotes controls whether multi-line QuasiQuotes are allowed to start at the end of the current line, or whether they are always placed in new lines.
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix rare-case alignment bug with IndentPolicyMultiple (#144)
    • Make inline layout config apply to module header (#151)
    • Fix unaligned import-hiding layout (#150)
    • Fix idempotence violation for comments around if-then-else (#167)
    • Fix comments having an effect on far-away parent node’s layout (#159)
    • Fix imports of type operators (“symbolic data types”) (thanks to Phil Hazelden @ChickenProp)
    • Work around GHC and cabal-install misfeature “.ghc.environment files” that could break brittany in unexpected and hard-to-understand ways
    • Stop removing empty lines before where keyword in a couple of cases
    • Fix functions with mixing prefix/infix style causing error (#234)
  • Changes to layout:
    • Align usage of spaces for record update vs record construction (#126)
    • More indentation to import-hiding-paragraph (follow-up to #150 fix)
    • Record construction and update now are layouted in the same way (thanks to Evan Rutledge Borden @eborden)
    • Stop allowing single-line layout when there are comments between arguments (#214) (thanks to @matt-noonan)
  • Various build-instructions and editor integrations – May 2018

  • Support for ghc-8.4

  • Implement inline-config e.g. “– brittany –indent=4”

    respects the following comment forms as input:

    source comment                       affected target
    "-- brittany CONFIG"                 whole module
    "-- brittany-next-binding CONFIG"    next binding
    "-- brittany-disable-next-binding"   next binding
    "-- brittany @ myExampleFunc CONFIG" `myExampleFunc`

    multiline-comments are supported too, although the specification must still be a single line. E.g.

    “{- brittany –columns 50 -}”

    CONFIG is either:

    1. one or more flags in the form of what brittany accepts on the commandline, e.g. “–columns 50”, or
    2. one or more specifications in the form of what brittany accepts in its config files for the layouting config (a one-line yaml document), e.g. “{ lconfig_cols: 50 }”
  • Implement IndentPolicyMultiple (thanks to Bryan Richter @chreekat) Restrict indentation amounts to n * indentAmount

  • Implement --obfuscate that replaces non-keyword identifiers with random names

  • Do not write files unless there are changes (don’t update modtime) (--write-mode=inplace) (#93)

  • Bugfixes:

    • Fix empty function constraints (() => IO ()) (#133)
    • Fix overflowing columns caused by aligning with surrounding lines for certain complex cases
    • Implement hacky workaround for type instances (-XTypeFamilies) (#89)
  • Layouting changes:

    • On default settings, allow single-line module header module MyModule where when no exports
    • Fix one case of non-optimal layouting for if-then-else
    • Allow same-line let binding inside do-notation with IndentPolicyLeft/Multiple and indentAmount>=4 – March 2018

  • Implement module/exports/imports layouting (thanks to sniperrifle2004)
  • Expose config paths/parsing functions (thanks to Alexey Raga)
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix layouting of NOINLINE pragma
    • Fix ticked type operator (e.g. ':-) losing tick (#125)
    • Fix alignment issue with cases involving operators (#65)
    • Fix comments in tuples being dropped (#37)
    • Fix comment placements with let-in (#110)
  • Layouting changes:
    • Align arguments only if it is the same function being called (#128)
    • Do not use single-line layout when infix operator expression contains comments (#111)
  • New layouting config items:
    • lconfig_importColumn/--import-col: column for import items
    • lconfig_importAsColumn/--import-as-col: column for the “as” name of a module
    • lconfig_reformatModulePreamble: controls module/export/import layouting (default True)
    • lconfig_allowSingleLineExportList: permit one-line module header, e.g. module Main (main) (default False) – February 2018

  • Support TupleSections (thanks to Matthew Piziak)
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix Shebang handling with stdin input (#92)
    • Fix bug that effectively deleted strict/lazy matches (BangPatterns) (#116)
    • Fix infix operator whitespace bug (#101, #114)
    • Fix help command output and its layouting (#103)
    • Fix crash when config dir does not exist yet (#115)
  • Layouting changes:
    • no space after opening non-tuple parenthesis even for multi-line case
    • use spaces around infix operators (applies to sections and in pattern matches)
    • Let-in is layouted more flexibly in fewer lines, if possible (thanks to Evan Borden) – December 2017

  • Change default global config path (use XDG spec) Existing config should still be respected, so this should not break compatibility

  • Support per-project config

  • ! Slight rework of the commandline interface:

    • Support multiple inputs and outputs
    • Support inplace-transformation for multiple files via --write-mode=inplace
  • Implement IndentPolicyLeft - the indentation mode that never adds more than the base indentation for nested parts (no hanging indentation)

    (thanks to Evan Borden)

  • Fix bug that manifested in bad output for (top-level) template haskell splices

  • Extension support:

    • RecordWildCards
    • RecursiveDo (was only partially supported previously)
  • Layouting Bugfixes:

    • Properly reproduce parentheses around kind signatures
    • Fix issue around promoted lists (example good: '[ 'True] bad: '['True])
    • Trim text from exactprint used as workaround for unknown nodes (unsupported extension workaround)
  • Layouting changes

    • Insert spaces around operator in sections – September 2017

  • Support for ghc-8.2.1
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fix quadratic performance issue
    • Fix special “where” indentation with indentAmount /= 2
    • Fix negative literals in patterns
    • Support type applications
  • Accept -h for --help and improve help layouting (via butcher-
  • Add continuous integration via travis (cabal, cabal-new, stack) (brittle due compilation time limit)
  • Reduce compilation memory usage a bit – August 2017

  • Add library interface, to be used by haskell-ide-engine.
  • Publish to hackage. – May 2017

  • Document the high-level design of the program
  • Improve layouting for many different cases, too many to list here. Brittany still does only reformat top-level type signatures and bindings.
  • Publish all dependencies on hackage; ghc-exactprint adaptions got merged upstream as well.
  • Reduce the aggressiveness of horizontal alignment; this is configurable via the lconfig_alignmentLimit and lconfig_alignmentBreakOnMultiline values (config file only for now).
  • (!) Breaking change to the config file format: The keys previously contained underscore (e.g. _econf_Werror) but do not anymore (econf_Werror). Add config version; also
  • Move config value conf_errorHandling.econf_CPPMode to conf_preprocessor.ppconf_CPPMode.
  • Cope with unhandled syntactical constructs more gracefully by falling back on the ghc-exactprint output; Brittany simply won’t touch certain subexpressions instead of aborting. This is further configurable via the econf_omit_output_valid_check config value.
  • Due to improvements to the butcher library: Accept --key=value on commandline (only --key value was supported previously).
  • Improve testsuite setup: The tests.blt file contains many different testcases that allow quick addition - feel free to report bugs directly by making PRs with additions to that file.
  • Release under the terms of the AGPLv3 – 2016-09-06

  • Support stack
  • Fix –ghc-options handling
  • Add commandline param to allow shortcut brittany Foo.hs meaning brittany -i Foo.hs – 2016-09-04

  • First official alpha release
  • Fix commandline flag parsing
  • Implement/Improve horizontal aligning
  • Various minor fixes and layouting improvements – 2016-08-12

  • Add check that output is syntactically valid
  • (!) Change config format, breaking previous configs
  • Various layouting additions/imporements
  • Various minor fixes – 2016-08-08

  • Support –ghc-options
  • Support user and local config files: Local config file is not mandatory anymore. – 2016-08-06

  • Make comment handling a bit more clever
  • Various layouting additions/imporements – 2016-08-04

  • Various layouting additions/imporements – 2016-07-30

  • Basic and partial implementation for expression/decl/statement/pattern layouting
  • Prevent exponential behaviour using manual stablenames – 2016-06-05

  • First working code for type signature layouting