A Setup.hs helper for doctests running

Version on this page:1.0.4
LTS Haskell 22.28:1.0.10
Stackage Nightly 2024-07-13:1.0.10
Latest on Hackage:1.0.10

See all snapshots cabal-doctest appears in

BSD-3-Clause licensed and maintained by Oleg Grenrus
This version can be pinned in stack with:cabal-doctest-1.0.4@sha256:ba59b63e84d3d3f89bbd68eb0a41a298413d35095e59dc8e1d7d9763af2fca64,1357

Module documentation for 1.0.4


Hackage Build Status

A Setup.hs helper for running doctests.

Simple example

For most use cases—a .cabal file with a single library containing doctests—adapting the simple example located here will be sufficient. (Note that this example requires Cabal-1.24 or later, but you can relax this bound safely, although running doctests won’t be supported on versions of Cabal older than 1.24.)

To use this library in your Setup.hs, you should specify a custom-setup section in your .cabal file. For example:

   base >= 4 && <5,
   cabal-doctest >= 1 && <1.1

/Note:/ Cabal dependency is needed because of Cabal/GH-4288 bug.

You’ll also need to specify build-type: Custom at the top of the .cabal file. Now put this into your Setup.hs file:

module Main where

import Distribution.Extra.Doctest (defaultMainWithDoctests)

main :: IO ()
main = defaultMainWithDoctests "doctests"

When you build your project, this Setup will generate a Build_doctests module. To use it in a testsuite, simply do this:

module Main where

import Build_doctests (flags, pkgs, module_sources)
import Data.Foldable (traverse_)
import Test.DocTest (doctest)

main :: IO ()
main = do
    traverse_ putStrLn args -- optionally print arguments
    doctest args
    args = flags ++ pkgs ++ module_sources

Example with multiple .cabal components

cabal-doctest also supports more exotic use cases where a .cabal file contains more components with doctests than just the main library, including:

  • Doctests in executables
  • Doctests in Internal libraries (if using Cabal-2.0 or later)

Unlike the simple example shown above, these examples involve named components. You don’t need to change the Setup.hs script to support this use case. However, in this scenario Build_doctests will generate extra copies of the flags, pkgs, and module_sources values for each additional named component.

Simplest approach is to use x-doctest-components field, for example

x-doctest-components: lib lib:internal exe:example

In that case, the testdrive is general:

module Main where

import Build_doctests (Component (..), components)
import Data.Foldable (for_)
import Test.DocTest (doctest)

main :: IO ()
main = for_ components $ \(Component name flags pkgs sources) -> do
    print name
    putStrLn "----------------------------------------"
    let args = flags ++ pkgs ++ sources
    for_ args putStrLn
    doctest args

There’s also a more explicit approach: if you have an executable named foo, then separate values named flags_exe_foo, pkgs_exe_foo, and module_sources_exe_foo will be generated in Build_doctests. If the name has hyphens in it (e.g., my-exe), then cabal-doctest will convert those hyphens to underscores (e.g., you’d get flags_my_exe, pkgs_my_exe, and module_sources_my_exe). Internal library bar values will have a _lib_bar suffix.

An example testsuite driver for this use case might look like this:

module Main where

import Build_doctests
       (flags,            pkgs,            module_sources,
        flags_exe_my_exe, pkgs_exe_my_exe, module_sources_exe_my_exe)
import Data.Foldable (traverse_)
import Test.DocTest

main :: IO ()
main = do
    -- doctests for library
    traverse_ putStrLn libArgs
    doctest libArgs

    -- doctests for executable
    traverse_ putStrLn exeArgs
    doctest exeArgs
    libArgs = flags            ++ pkgs            ++ module_sources
    exeArgs = flags_exe_my_exe ++ pkgs_exe_my_exe ++ module_sources_exe_my_exe

See this example for more details.

Additional configuration

The cabal-doctest based Setup.hs supports few extensions fields in pkg.cabal files to customise the doctest runner behaviour, without customising the default doctest.hs.

test-suite doctests:
  if impl(ghc >= 8.0)
    x-doctest-options: -fdiagnostics-color=never
  x-doctest-source-dirs: test
  x-doctest-modules: Servant.Utils.LinksSpec

  • x-doctest-options Additional arguments passed into doctest command.
  • x-doctest-modules Additional modules to doctest. May be useful if you have doctest in test or executables (i.e not default library complonent).
  • x-doctest-src-dirs Additional source directories to look for the modules.


  • Recent versions of Cabal (for instance, 2.0) can choose to build a package’s doctest test suite before the library. However, in order for cabal-doctest to work correctly, the library must be built first, as doctest relies on the presence of generated files that are only created when the library is built. See #19.

    A hacky workaround for this problem is to depend on the library itself in a doctests test suite. See the simple example’s .cabal file for a demonstration. (This assumes that the test suite has the ability to read build artifacts from the library, a separate build component. In practice, this assumption holds, which is why this library works at all.)

  • custom-setup section is supported starting from cabal-install-1.24. For older cabal-install's you have to install custom setup dependencies manually.

  • stack respects custom-setup starting from version 1.3.3. Before that you have to use explicit-setup-deps setting in your stack.yaml. (stack/GH-2094)

  • There is an issue in the Cabal issue tracker about adding cabal doctest command. After that command is implemented, this library will be deprecated.

  • You can use x-doctest-options field in test-suite doctests to pass additional flags to the doctest.

  • For build-type: Configure packages, you can use defaultMainAutoconfWithDoctests function to make custom Setup.hs script.

  • If you use the default . in hs-source-dirs, then running doctests might fail with weird errors (ambigious module errors). Workaround is to move sources under src/ or some non-top-level directory.

  • extensions: field isn’t supported. Upgrade your .cabal file to use at least cabal-version: >= 1.10 and use default-extensions or other-extensions.

  • If you use QuickCheck properties (prop>) in your doctests, the test-suite doctest should depend on QuickCheck and template-haskell. This is a little HACK: These dependencies aren’t needed to build the doctests test-suite executable. However, as we let Cabal resolve dependencies, we can pass the resolved (and installed!) package identifiers to to the doctest command. This way, QuickCheck and template-haskell are available to doctest, otherwise you’ll get errors like:

    Variable not in scope:
        :: [Char]
           -> template-haskell-


    Variable not in scope:
        :: Language.Haskell.TH.Syntax.Name -> Language.Haskell.TH.Lib.ExpQ


Copyright 2017 Oleg Grenrus.

Available under the BSD 3-clause license.


1.0.4 – 2017-12-05

  • Add support for doctests in executables and (with Cabal-2.0 or later) internal libraries. Refer to the README for more details.

1.0.3 – 2017-11-02

  • Add an explicit Prelude import to Build_doctests

1.0.2 – 2017-05-16

  • Add defaultMainAutoconfWithDoctests and addDoctestsUserHook.

  • Add support for .hsc and other preprocessed files (#8)

  • Add support for x-doctest-source-dirs and x-doctest-modules.

1.0.1 – 2017-05-05

  • Add support for x-doctest-options cabal-file field

  • Proper support for GHC-8.2.1 & Cabal-

  • Add support to default-extensions in library.

1 – 2017-01-31

  • First version. Released on an unsuspecting world.