tagged-exception-core- Reflect exceptions using phantom types.

Copyright(c) 2009-2015, Peter Trško
PortabilityCPP, NoImplicitPrelude; depends on non-portable modules
Safe HaskellSafe







This library provides interface that is similar to base's Control.Exception module. It introduces Throws monad transformer that uses phantom type to tag code that may raise exception. Intention is to make exceptions explicit and to enforce exception handling.

This approach is based on commonly used techniques:

Why use this?

Exceptions are one of the fastest and most scalable ways of handling failures and errors. One of the downsides of exceptions, as defined in Haskell, is that they aren't visible in type signatures. This is in direct contrast to, in example, Maybe or ExceptT.

This library tries to get rid of this issue by making exceptions visible. On the other hand it makes things little more complicated, but fortunatelly not too much.

Some of the benefits of this approach are listed bellow.

Unification of exception handling

Raising and handling exception becomes the same for all MonadThrow and MonadCatch instances. This includes code that uses exceptions in IO monad and ErrorT style error handling. All that can be easily modified to use API defined by this library.

For ilustration there is a great summary of various ways of error handling in Haskell:

Posts mentioned above show that any unification or framework for transforming one error handling technique to another are very benefitial in practice.

Avoiding fail

Sometimes Monad(fail) is used to generalize exception handling. While it provides a generalized interface it also introduces controversy that surrounds fail.

This library allows usege of similar approach without using fail and with explicitly visible exception.

Instead of function like:

    :: Monad m
    => Container Key Value
    -> Key
    -> m Value

this library allows to write:

    :: MonadThrow m
    => Container Key Value
    -> Key
    -> Throws LookupFailure m Value

where LookupFailure is instance of Exception class. While in some ways it's similar to using ExceptT, it has all the flexibility of extensible-exceptions for arbitrary MonadThrow instance.

One of the consequences of this approach is that exceptions are now explicit part of the API.


This package is trying to keep dependencies at minimum. Here is list of current dependencies:

  • base
  • exceptions: Provides MonadThrow, MonadCatch and MonadMask type classes.
  • extensible-exceptions for 4 >= base < 4.2
  • transformers >= 0.2 && < 0.5: De facto current standard for monad transformers. Included in newer versions of HaskellPlatform.
  • mmorph >= 1.0.0 && < 1.1: Monad morphism utilities. Currently not in HaskellPlatform.

Naming conventions

Names of basic functions are the same as those in Control.Exception module, but differ in type signature. They operate on tagged code and are therefore limited to operate only on exceptions specified by the phantom type.

Exception, to above rule, is throw function which does not throw exception from pure code, as does throw from Control.Exception module, but from monadic code. So, it is more equivalent to throwIO.

<function> vs. <function>'

Functions with prime at the end of their name aren't restricted by the phantom type, while those without it are. Functions with prime can therefore operate on arbitrary exceptions. Use such functions when operating on exceptions that are different from exception specified by a phantom type, i.e. hidden ones.


    :: (Exception e, MonadCatch m)
    => Throws e m a -> (e -> m a) -> m a

    :: (Exception e, MonadCatch m)
    => m a -> (e -> m a) -> m a

In case of IO monad, primed functions behave as those from Control.Exception module with the same name, but without prime of course.

lift<n>T vs. liftT<n>

The lift<n>T are basicaly saying lift <n> times (e.g. lift2T = liftT . liftT) while liftT<n> says lift one time but operate on function with arity <n>. This was choosen to be consistent with liftM, liftM2, liftA, liftA2, etc.


Example of reflecting reised exception in type:

{-# LANGUAGE DeriveDataTypeable #-}

import Control.Exception (Exception)

import Control.Monad.TaggedException (Throws)
import qualified Control.Monad.TaggedException as E (liftT, throw)
import Data.Typeable (Typeable)

data NotReady = NotReady String
    deriving (Show, Typeable)
        -- Both required by Exception class

instance Exception NotReady

myFunction :: Input -> Throws NotReady IO Output
myFunction input = do

    -- ... some stuff ...

    -- isReady :: Input -> IO Bool
    ready <- E.liftT $ isReady input
    unless ready
        . E.throw $ NotReady "Resource of myFunction is not ready."

    -- ... some other stuff ...

Caller of this function is forced to catch/handle this exception or reflect it in it's type too.

See Control.Monad.TaggedException.Core and Control.Monad.TaggedException.Hidden for more examples.


When using older base library function catch clashes with Prelude(catch), so either import with hidden Prelude(catch):

import Prelude hiding (catch)
import Control.Monad.TaggedException

or use import like:

import Control.Monad.TaggedException as E

and then use E.catch, in later case you can also use qualified import:

import qualified Control.Monad.TaggedException as E

It is recomended to use explicit import list or, as mentioned before, qualified import. See also Import modules properly on Haskell Wiki.

Classes MonadCatch, MonadThrow and MonadMask aren't reexported. To use them in your type signatures you'll need to import them from exceptions package:

import Control.Monad.Catch (MonadCatch, MonadMask, MonadThrow)

Same goes for Exception class which is provided by base (or by extensible-exceptions for older bases):

import Control.Exception (Exception)

API documentation

Library core

Basic library interface. Main idea behind it is to provide very stable API that can be imported directly from Control.Monad.TaggedException.Core module or as part of this one.

Among others it provides:

  • Throws newtype that is used for tagging monadic code with exception type.
  • A lot of combinators for tagged monadic code. In example "liftT :: (Exception e, MonadThrow m) => m a -> Throws e m a" lifts monadic code in to tagged monadic code.
  • Functions defined on top of MonadThrow and MonadCatch, like throw, catch and handle.

Hidden exceptions

Support for hidden/uncaught exceptions. The ideas behind hiding thrown exception is:

  1. Be compatible with extensible-exceptions (Control.Exception), in sense that all current IO code doesn't reflect raised exceptions in it's type. All standard exceptions, exported by Control.Exception module, are instances of HiddenException.
  2. Programs, and their code, are multilayered things. Sometimes exceptions aren't ment to be caught in certain layers. See also Error vs. Exception on Haskell Wiki.

See Control.Monad.TaggedException.Hidden for examples.

Asynchronous exceptions and bracket family of functions

These functions are exported as part of Control.Monad.TaggedException.Core module, there is also module Control.Monad.TaggedException.Utilities, which reexports only functions that make use of MonadMask type class.

Some related work

There is already more then one package that introduces similar interfaces and also many others that are dealing with the same problem domain. Just to list some: