6. cabal-install Commands

We now give an in-depth description of all the commands, first describing the arguments and flags that are common to some or all of them.


Allows a “default” cabal.config freeze file to be passed in manually. This file will only be used if one does not exist in the project directory already. Typically, this can be set from the global cabal config file so as to provide a default set of partial constraints to be used by projects, providing a way for users to peg themselves to stable package collections.

--allow-newer[=pkgs], --allow-older[=pkgs]

Selectively relax upper or lower bounds in dependencies without editing the package description respectively.

The following description focuses on upper bounds and the --allow-newer flag, but applies analogously to --allow-older and lower bounds. --allow-newer and --allow-older can be used at the same time.

If you want to install a package A that depends on B >= 1.0 && < 2.0, but you have the version 2.0 of B installed, you can compile A against B 2.0 by using cabal install --allow-newer=B A. This works for the whole package index: if A also depends on C that in turn depends on B < 2.0, C’s dependency on B will be also relaxed.


$ cd foo
$ cabal configure
Resolving dependencies...
cabal: Could not resolve dependencies:
$ cabal configure --allow-newer
Resolving dependencies...
Configuring foo...

Additional examples:

# Relax upper bounds in all dependencies.
$ cabal install --allow-newer foo

# Relax upper bounds only in dependencies on bar, baz and quux.
$ cabal install --allow-newer=bar,baz,quux foo

# Relax the upper bound on bar and force bar==2.1.
$ cabal install --allow-newer=bar --constraint="bar==2.1" foo

It’s also possible to limit the scope of --allow-newer to single packages with the --allow-newer=scope:dep syntax. This means that the dependency on dep will be relaxed only for the package scope.


# Relax upper bound in foo's dependency on base; also relax upper bound in
# every package's dependency on lens.
$ cabal install --allow-newer=foo:base,lens

# Relax upper bounds in foo's dependency on base and bar's dependency
# on time; also relax the upper bound in the dependency on lens specified by
# any package.
$ cabal install --allow-newer=foo:base,lens --allow-newer=bar:time

Finally, one can enable --allow-newer permanently by setting allow-newer: True in the ~/.cabal/config file. Enabling ‘allow-newer’ selectively is also supported in the config file (allow-newer: foo, bar, baz:base).


Specify a soft constraint on versions of a package. The solver will attempt to satisfy these preferences on a “best-effort” basis.


Generate accurate build information for build components.

Information contains meta information, such as component type, compiler type, and Cabal library version used during the build, but also fine grained information, such as dependencies, what modules are part of the component, etc…

On build, a file build-info.json (in the json format) will be written to the root of the build directory.


The format and fields of the generated build information is currently experimental. In the future we might add or remove fields, depending on the needs of other tooling.

    "cabal-lib-version": "<cabal lib version>",
    "compiler": {
        "flavour": "<compiler name>",
        "compiler-id": "<compiler id>",
        "path": "<absolute path of the compiler>"
    "components": [
        "type": "<component type, e.g. lib | bench | exe | flib | test>",
        "name": "<component name>",
        "unit-id": "<unitid>",
        "compiler-args": [
            "<compiler args necessary for compilation>"
        "modules": [
            "<modules in this component>"
        "src-files": [
            "<source files relative to hs-src-dirs>"
        "hs-src-dirs": [
            "<source directories of this component>"
        "src-dir": "<root directory of this component>",
        "cabal-file": "<cabal file location>"




  • cabal-lib-version



  • compiler




  • flavour



  • compiler-id



  • path



  • components







  • type



  • name



  • unit-id



  • compiler-args






  • modules






  • src-files






  • hs-src-dirs






  • src-dir



  • cabal-file




(default) Do not generate detailed build information for built components.

Already generated build-info.json files will be removed since they would be stale otherwise.

6.1. cabal v2-configure

cabal v2-configure takes a set of arguments and writes a cabal.project.local file based on the flags passed to this command. cabal v2-configure FLAGS; cabal v2-build is roughly equivalent to cabal v2-build FLAGS, except that with v2-configure the flags are persisted to all subsequent calls to v2-build.

cabal v2-configure is intended to be a convenient way to write out a cabal.project.local for simple configurations; e.g., cabal v2-configure -w ghc-7.8 would ensure that all subsequent builds with cabal v2-build are performed with the compiler ghc-7.8. For more complex configuration, we recommend writing the cabal.project.local file directly (or placing it in cabal.project!)

cabal v2-configure inherits options from Cabal. semantics:

  • Any flag accepted by ./Setup configure.

  • Any flag accepted by cabal configure beyond ./Setup configure, namely --cabal-lib-version, --constraint, --preference and --solver.

  • Any flag accepted by cabal install beyond ./Setup configure.

  • Any flag accepted by ./Setup haddock.

The options of all of these flags apply only to local packages in a project; this behavior is different than that of cabal install, which applies flags to every package that would be built. The motivation for this is to avoid an innocuous addition to the flags of a package resulting in a rebuild of every package in the store (which might need to happen if a flag actually applied to every transitive dependency). To apply options to an external package, use a package stanza in a cabal.project file.

There are two ways of modifying the cabal.project.local file through cabal v2-configure, either by appending new configurations to it, or by simply overwriting it all. Overwriting is the default behaviour, as such, there’s a flag --enable-append to append the new configurations instead. Since overwriting is rather destructive in nature, a backup system is in place, which moves the old configuration to a cabal.project.local~ file, this feature can also be disabled by using the --disable-backup flag.

6.2. cabal v2-update

cabal v2-update updates the state of the package index. If the project contains multiple remote package repositories it will update the index of all of them (e.g. when using overlays).

Some examples:

$ cabal v2-update                  # update all remote repos
$ cabal v2-update head.hackage     # update only head.hackage

6.3. Target Forms

A cabal command target can take any of the following forms:

  • A package target: package, which specifies that all enabled components of a package to be built. By default, test suites and benchmarks are not enabled, unless they are explicitly requested (e.g., via --enable-tests.)

  • A component target: [package:][ctype:]component, which specifies a specific component (e.g., a library, executable, test suite or benchmark) to be built.

  • All packages: all, which specifies all packages within the project.

  • Components of a particular type: package:ctypes, all:ctypes: which specifies all components of the given type. Where valid ctypes are:

    • libs, libraries,

    • flibs, foreign-libraries,

    • exes, executables,

    • tests,

    • benches, benchmarks.

  • A module target: [package:][ctype:]module, which specifies that the component of which the given module is a part of will be built.

  • A filepath target: [package:][ctype:]filepath, which specifies that the component of which the given filepath is a part of will be built.

  • A script target: path/to/script, which specifies the path to a script file. This is supported by build, repl, run, and clean. Script targets are not part of a package.

6.4. cabal v2-build

cabal v2-build takes a set of targets and builds them. It automatically handles building and installing any dependencies of these targets.

In component targets, package: and ctype: (valid component types are lib, flib, exe, test and bench) can be used to disambiguate when multiple packages define the same component, or the same component name is used in a package (e.g., a package foo defines both an executable and library named foo). We always prefer interpreting a target as a package name rather than as a component name.

Some example targets:

$ cabal v2-build lib:foo-pkg       # build the library named foo-pkg
$ cabal v2-build foo-pkg:foo-tests # build foo-tests in foo-pkg
$ cabal v2-build src/Lib.s         # build the library component to
                                   # which "src/Lib.hs" belongs
$ cabal v2-build app/Main.hs       # build the executable component of
                                   # "app/Main.hs"
$ cabal v2-build Lib               # build the library component to
                                   # which the module "Lib" belongs
$ cabal v2-build path/to/script    # build the script as an executable

Beyond a list of targets, cabal v2-build accepts all the flags that cabal v2-configure takes. Most of these flags are only taken into consideration when building local packages; however, some flags may cause extra store packages to be built (for example, --enable-profiling will automatically make sure profiling libraries for all transitive dependencies are built and installed.)

When building a script, the executable is cached under the cabal directory. See cabal v2-run for more information on scripts.

In addition cabal v2-build accepts these flags:

  • --only-configure: When given we will forego performing a full build and abort after running the configure phase of each target package.

6.5. cabal v2-repl

cabal v2-repl TARGET loads all of the modules of the target into GHCi as interpreted bytecode. In addition to cabal v2-build’s flags, it additionally takes the --repl-options and --repl-no-load flags.

To avoid ghci specific flags from triggering unneeded global rebuilds these flags are now stripped from the internal configuration. As a result --ghc-options will no longer (reliably) work to pass flags to ghci (or other repls). Instead, you should use the new --repl-options flag to specify these options to the invoked repl. (This flag also works on cabal repl and Setup repl on sufficiently new versions of Cabal.)

The repl-no-load flag disables the loading of target modules at startup.

Currently, it is not supported to pass multiple targets to v2-repl (v2-repl will just successively open a separate GHCi session for each target.)

It also provides a way to experiment with libraries without needing to download them manually or to install them globally.

This command opens a REPL with the current default target loaded, and a version of the vector package matching that specification exposed.

$ cabal v2-repl --build-depends "vector >= 0.12 && < 0.13"

Both of these commands do the same thing as the above, but only exposes base, vector, and the vector package’s transitive dependencies even if the user is in a project context.

$ cabal v2-repl --ignore-project --build-depends "vector >= 0.12 && < 0.13"
$ cabal v2-repl --project='' --build-depends "vector >= 0.12 && < 0.13"

This command would add vector, but not (for example) primitive, because it only includes the packages specified on the command line (and base, which cannot be excluded for technical reasons).

$ cabal v2-repl --build-depends vector --no-transitive-deps

v2-repl can open scripts by passing the path to the script as the target.

$ cabal v2-repl path/to/script

The configuration information for the script is cached under the cabal directory and can be pre-built with cabal v2-build path/to/script. See cabal v2-run for more information on scripts.

6.6. cabal v2-run

cabal v2-run [TARGET [ARGS]] runs the executable specified by the target, which can be a component, a package or can be left blank, as long as it can uniquely identify an executable within the project. Tests and benchmarks are also treated as executables.

See the v2-build section for the target syntax.

When TARGET is one of the following:

  • A component target: execute the specified executable, benchmark or test suite

  • A package target:
    1. If the package has exactly one executable component, it will be selected.

    2. If the package has multiple executable components, an error is raised.

    3. If the package has exactly one test or benchmark component, it will be selected.

    4. Otherwise an issue is raised

  • Empty target: Same as package target, implicitly using the package from the current working directory.

Except in the case of the empty target, the strings after it will be passed to the executable as arguments.

If one of the arguments starts with - it will be interpreted as a cabal flag, so if you need to pass flags to the executable you have to separate them with --.

$ cabal v2-run target -- -a -bcd --argument

v2-run also supports running script files that use a certain format. With a script that looks like:

#!/usr/bin/env cabal
{- cabal:
build-depends: base ^>= 4.11
            , shelly ^>= 1.8.1

main :: IO ()
main = do

It can either be executed like any other script, using cabal as an interpreter, or through this command:

$ cabal v2-run path/to/script
$ cabal v2-run path/to/script -- --arg1 # args are passed like this

The executable is cached under the cabal directory, and can be pre-built with cabal v2-build path/to/script and the cache can be removed with cabal v2-clean path/to/script.

A note on targets: Whenever a command takes a script target and it matches the name of another target, the other target is preferred. To load the script instead pass it as an explicit path: ./script

6.7. cabal v2-freeze

cabal v2-freeze writes out a freeze file which records all of the versions and flags that are picked by the solver under the current index and flags. Default name of this file is cabal.project.freeze but in combination with a --project-file=my.project flag (see project-file) the name will be my.project.freeze. A freeze file has the same syntax as cabal.project and looks something like this:

constraints: HTTP ==4000.3.3,
             HTTP +warp-tests -warn-as-error -network23 +network-uri -mtl1 -conduit10,
             QuickCheck ==2.9.1,
             QuickCheck +templatehaskell,
             -- etc...

For end-user executables, it is recommended that you distribute the cabal.project.freeze file in your source repository so that all users see a consistent set of dependencies. For libraries, this is not recommended: users often need to build against different versions of libraries than what you developed against.

6.8. cabal v2-bench

cabal v2-bench [TARGETS] [OPTIONS] runs the specified benchmarks (all the benchmarks in the current package by default), first ensuring they are up to date.

6.9. cabal v2-test

cabal v2-test [TARGETS] [OPTIONS] runs the specified test suites (all the test suites in the current package by default), first ensuring they are up to date.

6.10. cabal v2-haddock

cabal v2-haddock [FLAGS] [TARGET] builds Haddock documentation for the specified packages within the project.

If a target is not a library haddock-benchmarks, haddock-executables, haddock-internal, haddock-tests will be implied as necessary.

6.11. cabal v2-exec

cabal v2-exec [FLAGS] [--] COMMAND [--] [ARGS] runs the specified command using the project’s environment. That is, passing the right flags to compiler invocations and bringing the project’s executables into scope.

6.12. cabal v2-install

cabal v2-install [FLAGS] [TARGETS] builds the specified target packages and symlinks/copies their executables in installdir (usually ~/.cabal/bin).


If not every package has an executable to install, use all:exes rather than all as the target. To overwrite an installation, use --overwrite-policy=always as the default policy is never.

For example this command will build the latest cabal-install and symlink its cabal executable:

$ cabal v2-install cabal-install

In addition, it’s possible to use cabal v2-install to install components of a local project. For example, with an up-to-date Git clone of the Cabal repository, this command will build cabal-install HEAD and symlink the cabal executable:

$ cabal v2-install exe:cabal

Where symlinking is not possible (eg. on some Windows versions) the copy method is used by default. You can specify the install method by using --install-method flag:

$ cabal v2-install exe:cabal --install-method=copy --installdir=$HOME/bin

Note that copied executables are not self-contained, since they might use data-files from the store.

6.12.1. Adding libraries to GHC package environments

It is also possible to “install” libraries using the --lib flag. For example, this command will build the latest Cabal library and install it:

$ cabal v2-install --lib Cabal

This works by managing GHC package environment files. By default, it is writing to the global environment in ~/.ghc/$ARCH-$OS-$GHCVER/environments/default. v2-install provides the --package-env flag to control which of these environments is modified.

This command will modify the environment file in the current directory:

$ cabal v2-install --lib Cabal --package-env .

This command will modify the environment file in the ~/foo directory:

$ cabal v2-install --lib Cabal --package-env foo/

Do note that the results of the previous two commands will be overwritten by the use of other v2-style commands, so it is not recommended to use them inside a project directory.

This command will modify the environment in the local.env file in the current directory:

$ cabal v2-install --lib Cabal --package-env local.env

This command will modify the myenv named global environment:

$ cabal v2-install --lib Cabal --package-env myenv

If you wish to create a named environment file in the current directory where the name does not contain an extension, you must reference it as ./myenv.

You can learn more about how to use these environments in this section of the GHC manual.

6.13. cabal v2-clean

cabal v2-clean [FLAGS] cleans up the temporary files and build artifacts stored in the dist-newstyle folder.

By default, it removes the entire folder, but it can also spare the configuration and caches if the --save-config option is given, in which case it only removes the build artefacts (.hi, .o along with any other temporary files generated by the compiler, along with the build output).

cabal v2-clean [FLAGS] path/to/script cleans up the temporary files and build artifacts for the script, which are stored under the .cabal/script-builds directory.

In addition when clean is invoked it will remove all script build artifacts for which the corresponding script no longer exists.

6.14. cabal v2-sdist

cabal v2-sdist [FLAGS] [TARGETS] takes the crucial files needed to build TARGETS and puts them into an archive format ready for upload to Hackage. These archives are stable and two archives of the same format built from the same source will hash to the same value.

cabal v2-sdist takes the following flags:

  • -l, --list-only: Rather than creating an archive, lists files that would be included. Output is to stdout by default. The file paths are relative to the project’s root directory.

  • -o, --output-directory: Sets the output dir, if a non-default one is desired. The default is dist-newstyle/sdist/. --output-directory - will send output to stdout unless multiple archives are being created.

  • --null-sep: Only used with --list-only. Separates filenames with a NUL byte instead of newlines.

v2-sdist is inherently incompatible with sdist hooks (which were removed in Cabal-3.0), not due to implementation but due to fundamental core invariants (same source code should result in the same tarball, byte for byte) that must be satisfied for it to function correctly in the larger v2-build ecosystem. autogen-modules is able to replace uses of the hooks to add generated modules, along with the custom publishing of Haddock documentation to Hackage.