String literals in Idris

To facilitate the use of string literals, idris provides three features in addition to plain string literals: multiline strings, raw strings and interpolated strings.

Plain string literals

String literals behave the way you expect from other programming language. Use quotation marks " around the piece of text that you want to use as a string:

"hello world"

As explained in Overloaded literals, string literals can be overloaded to return a type different than string.

Multiline string literals

In some cases you will have to display a large string literal that spans multiple lines. For this you can use multiline string literals, they allow you to span a string across multiple vertical lines, preserving the line returns and the indentation. Additionally they allow you to indent your multiline string with the surrounding code, without breaking the intended format of the string.

To use multiline strings, start with a triple quote """ followed by a line return, then enter your text and close it with another triple quote """ with whitespace on its left. The indentation of the closing triple quote will determine how much whitespace should be cropped from each line of the text.


Multiline strings use triple quotes to enable the automatic cropping of leading whitespace when the multiline block is indented.

welcome : String
welcome = """
    Welcome to Idris 2

    We hope you enjoy your stay
      This line will remain indented with 2 spaces
    This line has no intendation

printing the variable welcome will result in the following text:

Welcome to Idris 2

We hope you enjoy your stay
  This line will remain indented with 2 spaces
This line has no intendation

As you can see, each line has been stripped of its leading 4 space, that is because the closing delimiter was indented with 4 spaces.

In order to use multiline string literals, remember the following:

  • The starting delimited must be followed by a line return
  • The ending delimiter’s intendation level must not exceed the indentation of any line

Raw string literals

It is not uncommon to write string literals that require some amount of escaping. For plain string literals the characters \\ and " must be escaped, for multiline strings the characters """ must be escaped. Raw string literals allow you to dynamically change the required escaped sequence in order to avoid having to escape those very common sets of characters. For this, use #" as starting delimiter and "# as closing delimiter. The number of # symbols can be increased in order to accomodate for edge cases where "# would be a valid symbol. In the following example we are able to match on \{ by using half as many \\ characters as if we didn’t use raw string literals:

myRegex : Regex
myRegex = parseRegex #"\\{"#

If you need to escape characters you still can by using a \\ followed by the same number of # that you used for your string delimiters. In the following example we are using two # characters as our escape sequence and want to print a line return:

This last example could be implemented by combining raw string literals with multiline strings:

Interpolated strings

Concatenating string literals with runtime values happens all the time, but sprinkling our code with lots of " and ++ symbols sometimes hurts legibility which in turn can introduce bugs that are hard to detect for human eyes. Interpolated strings allow to inline the execution of programs that evaluate to strings with a string literals in order to avoid manually writing out the concatenation of those expressions. To use interpolated strings, use \{ to start an interpolation slice in which you can write an idris expression. Close it with }

As you can see in the second line, raw string literals and interpolated strings can be combined. The starting and closing delimiters indicate how many # must be used as escape sequence in the string, since interpolated strings require the first { to be escaped, an interpolated slice in a raw string uses \#{ as starting delimiter.

Additionally multiline strings can also be combined with string interpolation in the way you expect, as shown with Decl. Finally all three features can be combined together in the last example, where a multiline string has a custom escape sequence and includes an interpolated slice.