generic-random- Generic random generators

Safe HaskellNone



Generic implementations of QuickCheck's arbitrary.


Define your type.

data Tree a = Leaf a | Node (Tree a) (Tree a)
  deriving Generic

Pick an arbitrary implementation, specifying the required distribution of data constructors.

instance Arbitrary a => Arbitrary (Tree a) where
  arbitrary = genericArbitrary (9 % 8 % ())

arbitrary :: Gen (Tree a) picks a Leaf with probability 9/17, or a Node with probability 8/17, and recursively fills their fields with arbitrary.

For Tree, genericArbitrary produces code equivalent to the following:

genericArbitrary :: Arbitrary a => Weights (Tree a) -> Gen (Tree a)
genericArbitrary (x % y % ()) =
    [ (x, Leaf <$> arbitrary)
    , (y, Node <$> arbitrary <*> arbitrary)

Distribution of constructors

The distribution of constructors can be specified as a special list of weights in the same order as the data type definition. This assigns to each constructor a probability proportional to its weight; in other words, p_C = weight_C / sumOfWeights.

The list of weights is built up with the (%) operator as a cons, and using the unit () as the empty list, in the order corresponding to the data type definition. The uniform distribution can be obtained with uniform.

Uniform distribution

You can specify the uniform distribution (all weights equal) with uniform. (genericArbitraryU is available as a shorthand for genericArbitrary uniform.)

Note that for many recursive types, a uniform distribution tends to produce big or even infinite values.

Typed weights

GHC 8.0.1 and above only (base ≥ 4.9).

The weights actually have type W "ConstructorName" (just a newtype around Int), so that you can annotate a weight with its corresponding constructor, and it will be checked that you got the order right.

This will type-check.

((x :: W "Leaf") % (y :: W "Node") % ()) :: Weights (Tree a)
( x              % (y :: W "Node") % ()) :: Weights (Tree a)

This will not.

((x :: W "Node") % y % ()) :: Weights (Tree a)
-- Requires an order of constructors different from the definition of the Tree type.

( x              % y % z % ()) :: Weights (Tree a)
-- Doesn't have the right number of weights.

Ensuring termination

As mentioned earlier, one must be careful with recursive types to avoid producing extremely large values. The alternative generator genericArbitraryRec decreases the size parameter at every call to keep values at reasonable sizes, to be used together with withBaseCase.

For example, we may provide a base case consisting of only Leaf:

instance Arbitrary a => Arbitrary (Tree a) where
  arbitrary = genericArbitraryRec (1 % 2 % ())
    `withBaseCase` (Leaf <$> arbitrary)

That is equivalent to the following definition. Note the resize modifier.

arbitrary :: Arbitrary a => Gen (Tree a)
arbitrary = sized $ \n ->
  -- "if" condition from withBaseCase
  if n == 0 then
    Leaf <$> arbitrary
    -- genericArbitraryRec
      [ (1, resize (max 0 (n - 1)) (Leaf <$> arbitrary))
      , (2, resize (n `div` 2)     (Node <$> arbitrary <*> arbitrary))

The resizing strategy is as follows: the size parameter of Gen is divided among the fields of the chosen constructor, or decreases by one if the constructor is unary. withBaseCase defG baseG is equal to defG as long as the size parameter is nonzero, and it becomes baseG once the size reaches zero. This combination generally ensures that the number of constructors remains close to the initial size parameter passed to Gen.

Automatic base case discovery

In some situations, generic-random can also construct base cases automatically. This works best with fully concrete types (no type parameters).

{-# LANGUAGE FlexibleInstances #-}

instance Arbitrary (Tree ()) where
  arbitrary = genericArbitrary' (1 % 2 % ())

The above instance will infer the value Leaf () as a base case.

To discover values of type Tree a, we must inspect the type argument a, thus we incur some extra constraints if we want polymorphism. It is preferrable to apply the type class BaseCase to the instance head (Tree a) as follows, as it doesn't reduce to something worth seeing.

{-# LANGUAGE FlexibleContexts, UndecidableInstances #-}

instance (Arbitrary a, BaseCase (Tree a))
  => Arbitrary (Tree a) where
  arbitrary = genericArbitrary' (1 % 2 % ())

The BaseCase type class finds values of minimal depth, where the depth of a constructor is defined as 1 + max(0, depths of fields), e.g., Leaf () has depth 2.

Note about lists

The Arbitrary instance for lists can be problematic for this way of implementing recursive sized generators, because they make a lot of recursive calls to arbitrary without decreasing the size parameter. Hence, as a default, genericArbitraryRec also detects fields which are lists to replace arbitrary with a different generator that divides the size parameter by the length of the list before generating each eleement. This uses the customizable mechanism shown in the next section.

If you really want to use arbitrary for lists in the derived instances, substitute genericArbitraryRec with genericArbitraryRecG ().

arbitrary = genericArbitraryRecG ()
  `withBaseCase` baseGen

Some combinators are available for further tweaking: listOf', listOf1', vectorOf'.

Custom generators for some fields

Sometimes, a few fields may need custom generators instead of arbitrary. For example, imagine here that String is meant to represent alphanumerical strings only, and that IDs are meant to be nonnegative, whereas balances can have any sign.

data User = User {
  userName :: String,
  userId :: Int,
  userBalance :: Int
  } deriving Generic
  • Arbitrary String may generate any unicode character, alphanumeric or not;
  • Arbitrary Int may generate negative values;
  • using newtype wrappers or passing generators explicitly to properties may be impractical (the maintenance overhead can be high because the types are big or change often).

Using generic-random, we can declare a (heterogeneous) list of generators to be used when generating certain fields (remember to end lists with ()).

customGens :: FieldGen "userId" Int :+ Gen String :+ ()
customGens =
  (FieldGen . getNonNegative <$> arbitrary) :+
  (listOf (elements (filter isAlphaNum [minBound .. maxBound]))) :+

Now we use the genericArbitraryG combinator and other G-suffixed variants that accept those explicit generators.

  • All String fields will use the provided generator of alphanumeric strings;
  • the field "userId" of type Int will use the generator of nonnegative integers;
  • everything else defaults to arbitrary.
instance Arbitrary User where
  arbitrary = genericArbitrarySingleG customGens

The custom generator modifiers that can occur in the list are:

  • Gen: a generator for a specific type;
  • FieldGen: a generator for a field name and type;
  • Gen1: a generator for containers, parameterized by a generator for individual elements;
  • Gen1_: a generator for unary type constructors that are not containers.

Suggestions to add more modifiers or otherwise improve this tutorial are welcome! The issue tracker is this way.