Getting Started

First, install lens.

$ cabal install lens

Then, start up ghci

$ ghci
GHCi, version 7.4.2:  :? for help
Loading package ghc-prim ... linking ... done.
Loading package integer-gmp ... linking ... done.
Loading package base ... linking ... done.

and import Control.Lens.

ghci> import Control.Lens

Now, you can read from lenses

ghci> ("hello","world")^._2

and you can write to lenses.

ghci> set _2 42 ("hello","world")

Composing lenses for reading (or writing) goes in the order an imperative programmer would expect, and just uses (.) from the Prelude.

ghci> ("hello",("world","!!!"))^._2._1
ghci> set (_2._1) 42 ("hello",("world","!!!"))

You can make a Getter out of a pure functions with to.

ghci> "hello"^.to length

A Getter works like a Lens, except you can only read from it, not write.

You can easily compose a Getter with a Lens just using (.). No explicit coercion is necessary.

ghci> ("hello",("world","!!!"))^ length

As we saw above, you can write to lenses and these writes can change the type of the container. (.~) is an infix alias for set.

ghci> _1 .~ "hello" $ ((),"world")

It can be used in conjunction with (&) for a more familiar von Neumann style assignment syntax:

ghci> ((), "world") & _1 .~ "hello"

Conversely view, can be used as a prefix alias for (^.).

ghci> view _2 (10,20)

Lens comes “Batteries Included” with many lenses for manipulating common data types, such as Maps:

ghci> import Data.Map as Map
ghci> Map.fromList [("hello","there")] ^.at "hello"
Just "there"

You can insert

ghci> Map.fromList [("hello","there")] & at "hello" ?~ "world"
fromList [("hello","world")]

and delete with this lens

ghci> Map.fromList [("hello","there")] & at "hello" .~ Nothing
fromList []

You can let the library automatically derive lenses for fields of your data type

{-# LANGUAGE TemplateHaskell #-}
data Foo a = Foo { _bar :: Int, _baz :: Int, _quux :: a }
makeLenses ''Foo

This will automatically generate the following lenses:

bar, baz :: Simple Lens (Foo a) Int
quux :: Lens (Foo a) (Foo b) a b

A Lens takes 4 parameters because it can change the types of the whole when you change the type of the part.

Often you won’t need this flexibility, a Simple Lens takes 2 parameters, and can be used directly as a Lens.

Just like how we can write a Getter that can only be used for retrieving information, we can write a Setter which can only be used for updates. Like using fmap on a Functor updating a Setter can modify multiple targets!

The canonical example of a setter is ‘mapped’:

mapped :: Functor f => Setter (f a) (f b) a b

over is then analogous to fmap, but parameterized on the Setter.

ghci> fmap succ [1,2,3]
ghci> over mapped succ [1,2,3]

The benefit is that you can use any Lens as a Setter, and the composition of setters with other setters or lenses using (.) yields a Setter.

ghci> over (mapped._2) succ [(1,2),(3,4)]

(%~) is an infix alias for ‘over’, and the precedence lets you avoid swimming in parentheses:

ghci> ([(42, "hello")],"world") & _1.mapped._2.mapped %~ succ
([(42, "ifmmp")],"world")

There are a number of combinators that resemble the +=, *=, etc. operators from C/C++ for working with the monad transformers.

There are +~, *~, etc. analogues to those combinators that work functionally, returning the modified version of the structure.

ghci> (1,2) & both *~ 2

There are combinators for manipulating the current state in a state monad as well

fresh :: MonadState Int m => m Int
fresh = id <+= 1

Anything you know how to do with a Foldable container, you can do with a Fold

ghci> :m + Data.Char Data.Text.Lens
ghci> allOf (folded.text) isLower ["hello"^.packed, "goodbye"^.packed]

There are actually a large number of variations on the concept of a Lens provided by the library, in particular a Traversal generalizes traverse from Data.Traversable.

You can also use this for generic programming. Combinators are included that are based on Neil Mitchell’s uniplate, but which have been generalized to work on or as lenses, folds, and traversals.

ghci> :m + Data.Data.Lens
ghci> anyOf biplate (=="world") ("hello",(),[(2::Int,"world")])

As alluded to above, anything you know how to do with a Traversable you can do with a Traversal.

ghci> mapMOf (traverse._2) (\xs -> length xs <$ putStrLn xs) [(42,"hello"),(56,"world")]

Moreover, many of the lenses supplied are actually isomorphisms, that means you can use them directly as a lens or getter:

ghci> let hello = "hello"^.packed
ghci> :t hello
hello :: Text

but you can also flip them around and use them as a lens the other way with from!

ghci> hello^.from length

You can automatically derive isomorphisms for your own newtypes with makeIso. e.g.

newtype Neither a b = Neither { _nor :: Either a b } deriving (Show)
makeIso ''Neither

will automatically derive

neither :: Iso (Neither a b) (Neither c d) (Either a b) (Either c d)
nor :: Iso (Either a b) (Either c d) (Neither a b) (Neither c d)

such that

from neither = nor
from nor = neither
neither.nor = id
nor.neither = id

Field Guide

Lens Hierarchy

Carrying On

There is also a fully operational, but simple game of Pong in the examples/ folder.

There are also a couple of hundred examples distributed throughout the haddock documentation.

There is also a video, covering the derivation and basic use of lenses.