See also Foreign Function Interface.


GHC Backend

The GHC backend translates Agda programs into GHC Haskell programs.


The backend can be invoked from the command line using the flag --compile:

agda --compile [--compile-dir=<DIR>] [--ghc-flag=<FLAG>]
  [--ghc-strict-data] [--ghc-strict] <FILE>.agda

When the flag --ghc-strict-data is used inductive data and record constructors are compiled to constructors with strict arguments. (This does not apply to certain builtin types—lists, the maybe type, and some types related to reflection—and might not apply to types with COMPILE GHC = data pragmas.)

When the flag --ghc-strict is used the GHC backend generates mostly strict code. Note that functions might not be strict in unused arguments, and that function definitions coming from COMPILE GHC pragmas are not affected. This flag implies --ghc-strict-data, and the exceptions of that flag applies to this flag as well. (Note that this option requires the use of GHC 9 or later.)



The following “Hello, World!” example requires some Built-ins and uses the Foreign Function Interface:

module HelloWorld where

open import Agda.Builtin.IO
open import Agda.Builtin.Unit
open import Agda.Builtin.String

  putStrLn : String  IO {-# FOREIGN GHC import qualified Data.Text.IO as Text #-}
{-# COMPILE GHC putStrLn = Text.putStrLn #-}

main : IO ⊤
main = putStrLn "Hello, World!"

After compiling the example

agda --compile HelloWorld.agda

you can run the HelloWorld program which prints Hello, World!.


Frequent error when compiling: Float requires the ieee754 haskell library. Usually cabal install ieee754 in the command line does the trick.

JavaScript Backend

The JavaScript backend translates Agda code to JavaScript code.


The backend can be invoked from the command line using the flag --js:

agda --js [--js-optimize] [--js-minify] [--compile-dir=<DIR>] <FILE>.agda

The --js-optimize flag makes the generated JavaScript code typically faster and less readable.

The --js-minify flag makes the generated JavaScript code smaller and less readable.

Agda can currently generate either CommonJS (used by NodeJS) flavour modules or AMD (for in-browser usage) flavour modules which can be toggled by --js-cjs (default) and --js-amd flags.


Builtin natural numbers

Builtin natural numbers are represented as arbitrary-precision integers. The builtin functions on natural numbers are compiled to the corresponding arbitrary-precision integer functions.

Note that pattern matching on an Integer is slower than on an unary natural number. Code that does a lot of unary manipulations and doesn’t use builtin arithmetic likely becomes slower due to this optimization. If you find that this is the case, it is recommended to use a different, but isomorphic type to the builtin natural numbers.

Erasable types

A data type is considered erasable if it has a single constructor whose arguments are all erasable types, or functions into erasable types. The compilers will erase

  • calls to functions into erasable types

  • pattern matches on values of erasable type

At the moment the compilers only have enough type information to erase calls of top-level functions that can be seen to return a value of erasable type without looking at the arguments of the call. In other words, a function call will not be erased if it calls a lambda bound variable, or the result is erasable for the given arguments, but not for others.

Typical examples of erasable types are the equality type and the accessibility predicate used for well-founded recursion:

data _≡_ {a} {A : Set a} (x : A) : A  Set a where
  refl : x  x

data Acc {a} {A : Set a} (_<_ : A  A  Set a) (x : A) : Set a where
  acc : ( y  y < x  Acc _<_ y)  Acc _<_ x

The erasure means that equality proofs will (mostly) be erased, and never looked at, and functions defined by well-founded recursion will ignore the accessibility proof.