Idris includes a 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 programs 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>

Packages can describe libraries, executables, or both, and should include a version number. For library packages, one field must be the modules field, where the value is a comma separated list of modules to be installed. For example, a library test which has two modules Foo.idr and Bar.idr as source files would be written as follows:

package test
version = 0.1

modules = Foo, Bar

When installed, this will be in a directory test-0.1. If the version number is missing, it will default to 0.

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


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 = <version number>, a version number, which must be in the form of integers separated by dots (e.g. 1.0, 0.3.0, etc)
  • readme = "<file>", location of the README file.
  • license = "<text>", a string description of the licensing information.
  • authors = "<text>", the author information.
  • maintainers = "<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.


  • sourcedir = "<dir>", the directory to look for Idris source files.
  • builddir = "<dir>", the directory to put the checked modules and the artefacts from the code generator.
  • outputdir = "<dir>", the directory where the code generator should output the executable.

Common Fields

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

  • 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.

    Executables are placed in build/exec by default. The location can be changed by specifying the outputdir field.

  • 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.

  • depends = <pkg description> (',' <pkg description>)+, a comma separated list of package names that the Idris package requires. The pkg_description is the package name, followed by an optional list of version constraints. Version constraints are separated by && and can use operators <, <=, >, >=, ==. For example, the following are valid package descriptions:

    • contrib (no constraints)
    • contrib == 0.3.0 (an exact version constraint)
    • contrib >= 0.3.0 (an inclusive lower bound)
    • contrib >= 0.3.0 && < 0.4 (an inclusive lower bound, and exclusive upper bound)


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:

  • idris2 --build test.ipkg will build all modules in the package
  • idris2 --install test.ipkg will install the package to the global Idris library directory (that is $PREFIX/idris-<version>/), making the modules in its modules field accessible by other Idris libraries and programs. Note that this doesn’t install any executables, just library modules.
  • idris2 --clean test.ipkg will clean the intermediate build files.

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

Where does Idris look for packages?

Packages can be installed globally (under $PREFIX/idris-<version>/ as described above) or locally (under a depends subdirectory in the top level working directory of a project). Packages specified using -p pkgname or with the depends field of a package will then be located as follows:

  • First, Idris looks in depends/pkgname-version, for a package which satsifies the version constraint.
  • If no package is found locally, Idris looks in $PREFIX/idris-<version>/pkgname-version.

In each case, if more than one version satisfies the constraint, it will choose the one with the highest version number.