Write a script in Coq

🐓 March 4, 2015

We will explain how to write scripts in Coq using the library Coq.io with the example of repos2web, a website generator. This generator parses an OPAM repository with Coq packages and generates an HTML page.

There is now a newer OPAM website generator opam-website. See the results on coq.io/opam.

Get started

Install the coq-io-system package with OPAM to enable the system effects. See Use OPAM for Coq to configure OPAM for Coq.

opam repo add coq-released https://coq.inria.fr/opam/released
opam install coq-io-system

Create an empty Coq project by adding the following files in a fresh directory:

  • configure.sh, the configure script:

    coq_makefile -f Make -o Makefile
  • Make, the coq_makefile project file:

    -R src Repos2Web
  • src/Main.v, the main source file:

    Require Import Coq.Lists.List.
    Require Import Io.All.
    Require Import Io.System.All.
    Require Import ListString.All.
    Import ListNotations.
    Import C.Notations.
    (** The main function. *)
    Definition main (argv : list LString.t) : C.t System.effects unit :=
      System.log (LString.s "test").
    (** The extracted program. *)
    Definition repos2web := Extraction.run main.
    Extraction "extraction/repos2web" repos2web.
  • extraction/Makefile, the Makefile for the extracted program:

        ocamlbuild repos2web.native -use-ocamlfind -package io-system
        ocamlbuild -clean

Compile your Coq code to OCaml:


Compile and run the generated OCaml:

cd extraction/

This should print you the message test on the terminal!

Parse the OPAM repository

To write our script we need to understand the basis of how OPAM for Coq repositories are organized (for example in opam-coq-archive). All the packages are in the packages folders. There is one folder per package name, all prefixed by coq- because we are in the Coq namespace. In each package folder, there is one folder per version of the package with three files descr, opam and url to describe the package.


We define the data type of an OPAM repository in src/Model.v. In a first pass, we will generate an element of type Packages.t. This is a list of packages described by a name and a list of versions. In a second pass, we will generate an element of type FullPackages.t, by adding the description of each version and by computing each latest version using the (complex) Debian ordering.

First pass

The first pass is described in src/Main.v in the Basic module. The function list_coq_files lists the files/folders which are starting with the coq- prefix in a given folder:

Definition list_coq_files (folder : LString.t) : C (option (list Name.t)) :=
  let! folders := System.list_files folder in
  match folders with
  | None =>
    do! log (LString.s "The folder " ++ folder ++ LString.s " cannot be listed.") in
    ret None
  | Some folders => ret (Some (Name.of_strings folders))

Let us precise the return type C (option (list Name.t)). We defined C as:

Definition C := C.t System.effects.

for convenience. This means than C is the type of computations doing interactions with the system. We need to use this special type because Coq is a purely functional language: without using the type C, functions cannot do inputs–outputs.

The type C is parametrized by option (list Name.t), the result type of the function. Thus, the result of list_coq_files can be either:

  • None in case of error,
  • some list of names in case of success.

As described in Tutorial: a Hello World in Coq, we use the let! operator to combine computations and the ret operator to return a pure value. We interact with the system by calling the following functions:

  • list_files : LString.t -> C (option (list LString.t)): list the content of a folder
  • log : LString.t -> C unit: print a message on the terminal

The complete list of system functions is available on system API.

We continue by defining more functions and conclude with:

Definition get_packages (repository : LString.t) : C (option Packages.t) :=
  let! names := list_coq_files repository in
  match names with
  | None => ret None
  | Some names => get_packages_of_names repository names

to get the list of packages in a repository folder (or None in case of error).

Second pass

The second pass follows the same structure as the first one. The main trick is the function:

(** Return the latest version, using Debian `dpkg` for comparison. *)
Definition max_version (version1 version2 : Version.t) : C (option Version.t) :=

which uses the dpkg command line tool to compare two versions numbers according to the Debian ordering. If you want to test it, the dpkg tool should be available on most Linux distribution, even on those which are not based on Debian.

Render the HTML

We define the HTML rendering in src/View.v. The last function is:

Definition index (packages : FullPackages.t) : LString.t :=
  header ++ title packages ++ table packages ++ footer.

which pretty-prints a list of packages to HTML. This function is pure (no inputs–outputs), because the return type is not C of something but LString.t. There is nothing special about the pretty-printing, and we generate the page using the Bootstrap CSS framework to get a nice rendering.

The final main function in src/Main.v combines the parsing and the rendering to write the output file in html/index.html:

Definition main (argv : list LString.t) : C unit :=
  match argv with
  | [_; repository] =>
    let repository := repository ++ LString.s "/packages" in
    let! packages := Basic.get_packages repository in
    match packages with
    | None => log (LString.s "The packages cannot be listed.")
    | Some packages =>
      let! full_packages := Full.get_packages repository packages in
      let index_content := View.index full_packages in
      let index_name := LString.s "html/index.html" in
      let! is_success := System.write_file index_name index_content in
      if is_success then
        log (index_name ++ LString.s " generated.")
        log (LString.s "Cannot generate " ++ index_name ++ LString.s ".")
  | _ => log (LString.s "Exactly one argument expected (the repository folder).")

We use the list of command line arguments argv to get the folder in which the OPAM repository is stored. You can add a Coq-ish theme downloading this Bootstrap CSS:

curl -L https://github.com/clarus/coq-red-css/releases/download/coq-blog.1.0.2/style.min.css >html/style.min.css

Next time

We have seen how to write a script in Coq doing file manipulations. Next time we will see how to specify this script and prove it correct, using a reasoning by use cases.

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