Getting started in PureScript (Part 1)
But similar to Haskell, I find the learning curve is extremely steep at the beginning. There is a comprehensive and free to read E-Book by Phil Freeman, called “PureScript by Example”, however, I couldn’t find a single useful “getting started” tutorial for this language.
I decided to fill this gap with the following tutorial. It is an adaptation of the 1 hour “Darrrt” code lab for Dart, as it was one of the best introductions to a new programming language I’ve encountered. Let’s get started!
For this project, we’ll use both PureScript and Pulp, a build system for PureScript. If you haven’t installed them yet, you can get them through Node:
To create a new Pulp Project, we’ll create a new folder and run
pulp init in it:
The project structure is pretty much self-explanatory: There is a
src folder for source files, a
test folder for unit tests and
As we’re creating a web app, we’ll also need an HTML file. I’ve put some skeleton files on Github - you might want to download them if you want to follow along. Both
styles.css are simply placed in the project’s root folder.
Examine the skeleton app
With the project initialized and the skeleton files in place, it’s time for the first compilation of our app. To compile our code, run:
--to flag defines the output file.
index.html in your favorite web browser. You should be greeted by the following pirate badge:
Let’s take a look what we’ve got so far: index.html
<!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <meta charset="utf-8"> <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0"> <title>Pirate badge</title> <script async src="main.js"></script> <link rel="stylesheet" href="styles.css"> </head> <body> <h1>Pirate badge</h1> <div class="widgets"> TO DO: Put the UI widgets here. </div> <div class="badge"> <div class="greeting"> Arrr! Me name is </div> <div class="name"> <span id="badgeName"> </span> </div> </div> </body> </html>
Nothing fancy here. We load
main.js in our header (remember
The body of the HTML document should be straight forward as well. We’ve got the red badge itself (
<div class="badge">), an empty widget (
<div class="widgets">) and a heading.
Note that there is an empty
<span id="badgeName">. This is the place where we can put a name on the badge later on.
This is the default PureScript file after you run
pulp init. If you’ve only worked with C-like syntax before, this might look strange at first. But in reality, it’s pretty simple. Let’s dive in.
The file begins with a module header. In this case, our module is
Main, as it provides the
main method, the entry point of our program.
In the following lines, you see a couple of
import statements. It might seem like a lot of imports for a simple “Hello World” program, but it shows the high modularity of the language. The most important module we’re importing is
Prelude. It holds the most basic functions, like numeric addition or multiplication. Yes, they are in their own module - PureScript itself is as minimalistic as possible.
Control.Monad.Eff is a module for side effects. Side effects are a bit complicated if you’ve never heard of impure functions before, so I’ll skip over them for now. Lastly,
Now for the line which scared me the most while diving into functional programming:
main :: forall e. Eff (console :: CONSOLE | e) Unit. This is the type declaration for the main function. It’s similar to
int main() in C++. But in this case, our
main function isn’t of the type
int, it’s of the type
forall e. Eff (console :: CONSOLE | e) Unit.
I know this can be very overwhelming, but please, stay with me. In fact, I’ll make your life a bit easier: Just delete the line! Type declarations are a best practice, but completely optional. With this out of the way, we can also delete line 3 (
import Prelude) and line 4 (
import Control.Monad.Eff). So the following code will still compile to the same, fully operational program as before:
This is not to say that you should ignore type declarations - it’s just easier for newcomers to get a hold of this language this way. After some time working with PureScript, I hope everyone will understand the benefits of the type system and the modularity of this language.
Now for the last part of our code:
This should be quite easy to understand.
main is the name of our function and it’s purpose is to
log "Hello sailor!". The
log function is provided through the
Control.Monad.Eff.Console module we’ve imported earlier in the code.
As for right now, our
main function has only a single instruction (
log). So we could write
main = log "Hello sailor!" and it would still be the same program. But once a function has more than one instruction (so a sequence of instructions), the
do notation comes in handy. This notation basically tells the interpreter to do one instruction after another:
This will execute
action2 and finally
action3. Personally, it was pretty interesting to read about the reasoning behind
do, but, for now, it’s ok just to remember that we need to write
do if our function has more than one instruction.
Now that we are up and running, head over to part 2 to start coding!