# Laziness in PureScript

I’ve been learning PureScript for the past few months and really enjoying it. PureScript is a Haskell dervied language that compiles to JavaScript. You can target node for the backend or the browser for frontend code.

One of my favorite features of PureScript is its fantastic interop with JavaScript. This makes the language very pragmatic – though it has a large ecosystem of native packages, anything that’s missing can easily be handled with an existing npm package and interop. PureScript made a big departure from Haskell in order to make this interop more convenient. While Haskell is a lazy language by default, PureScript is strict.

PureScript does have laziness support but you must choose to use it explicitly. In this post, I’ll describe the fundamentals of laziness in PureScript.

# Building Blocks

Laziness in PureScript is build on top of the
purescript-lazy
package. It provides two fundamental tools in the `Data.Lazy`

module – `defer`

and `force`

. Let’s talk about `defer`

first. Here is its signature:

```
defer :: forall a. (Unit -> a) -> Lazy a
```

The `defer`

function is a smart constructor for the `Lazy`

type. In a nutshell,
if you want to create a lazy value, you give `defer`

a function that wraps the
value you want to create. You ignore the argument to the function (a `Unit`

type) and return the value you want to be lazy. Let’s try an example.

```
import Data.Lazy (Lazy, defer)
inc :: Int -> Lazy Int
inc n = defer \_ -> n + 1
```

From the repl, we can call `inc`

to create a lazy incremented integer.

```
> :t inc 1
Lazy Int
> inc 1
(defer \_ -> 2)
> inc 2
(defer \_ -> 3)
```

It’s important to note that when the repl prints out the `Lazy Int`

, it is
actually forcing the computation in order to print the wrapped value. In your
real code, the underlying value won’t be forced until it is required by another
computation or forced manually. You can see from the first line that the return
type of `inc`

is indeed a `Lazy Int`

(the `:t`

statement lets us see the type
of an expression in the repl).

This brings us to the second fundamental function, `force`

. Here is the
signature:

```
force :: forall a. Lazy a -> a
```

We can use `force`

to force the evaluation of a lazy value. Assuming the `inc`

definition above, we can do the following in the repl:

```
> import Prelude
> import Data.Lazy (force)
> :t force $ inc 2
Int
> force $ inc 2
3
```

The `force`

function retrieves the lazy value by applying the wrapper function
to the value `unit`

and returning the result.

# Going Further

The `Lazy`

type offers more than just these building blocks. It is an instance
of many useful type classes, allowing you to easily operate on and compose lazy
values. First off, `Lazy`

is a `Functor`

. This means we can apply regular
functions with lazy values.

Suppose we have our existing `inc`

function that returns a `Lazy Int`

and
another function that operates on `Int`

. We can use `map`

, just like any other
`Functor`

, to operate on the value “inside” of the `Lazy`

type.

```
> import Data.Lazy (defer)
> :t map
forall a b f. Functor f => (a -> b) -> f a -> f b
> :t inc
Int -> Lazy Int
> :t (_ * 10)
Int -> Int
> map (_ * 10) $ inc 1
(defer \_ -> 20)
```

The `<$>`

operator is just an infix alias for `map`

, so we could rewrite this
example as:

```
> (_ * 10) <$> inc 1
(defer \_ -> 20)
```

`Lazy`

is also a `Monad`

. This means we can chain together functions that accept
regular types and return `Lazy`

types. To do this, we use `bind`

or its operator
`>>=`

(or the flipped variant `=<<`

).

```
> :t (>>=)
forall a b m. Bind m => m a -> (a -> m b) -> m b
> inc 2 >>= inc
(defer \_ -> 4)
```

We can also use the do notation, as we can with any other `Monad`

.

```
incAndAdd :: Int -> Int -> Lazy Int
incAndAdd x y = do
x' <- inc x
y' <- inc y
pure $ x' + y'
```

Let’s call it in the repl.

```
> incAndAdd 3 4
(defer \_ -> 9)
```

It’s very important to remember that *all* of these operations and their results
are lazy. No computation will actually happen until something eventually calls
`force`

on a `Lazy`

value.

`Lazy`

has instances for several other interesting type classes, but the last
I’ll mention is `Semigroup`

. If the value you’re lazily wrapping is a
`Semigroup`

, then the lazy value is also a `Semigroup`

(meaning it supports an
append operation). Let’s try it.

```
> import Data.Lazy (defer)
> :t (<>)
forall a. Semigroup a => a -> a -> a
> (defer \_ -> [1,2]) <> (defer \_ -> [3,4])
(defer \_ -> [1,2,3,4])
```

# Lazy Lists

PureScript provides a higher-level abstraction on top of these building blocks
with the `Data.List.Lazy`

module in the `purescript-lists`

package. First, let’s
look at type relevant type constructors.

```
> import Data.List.Lazy (List(..), Step(..))
> :t List
> forall t1. Lazy (Step t1) -> List t1
> :t Nil
> forall t1. Step t1
> :t Cons
> forall t1. t1 -> List t1 -> Step t1
```

A lazy `List`

(from `Data.List.Lazy`

) is constructed with a `Lazy`

`Step`

. A
`Step`

is constructed with either a `Nil`

or a `Cons`

with an element and
another lazy list. We can use these constructors to build a lazy, infinite list
of the fibonacci sequence.

```
import Data.Lazy (defer)
import Data.List.Lazy (List(..), Step(..))
fibs :: List Int
fibs = fibs' 0 1
where
fibs' :: Int -> Int -> List Int
fibs' a b =
List $ defer \_ ->
Cons a $ fibs' b (a + b)
```

To consume a lazy list, we can use standard
Foldable
and
Traversable
functions. If we want to recur over it manually, we can use the provided `step`

function.

```
> import Data.List.Lazy (step)
> :t step
forall a. List a -> Step a
```

The `step`

function takes a lazy list and “forces” the head element, giving us
back a `Step`

. Let’s use this to find the nth number from the fibonacci
sequence.

```
nthFib :: Int -> Maybe Int
nthFib n = nthFib' n $ step fibs
where
nthFib' :: Int -> Step Int -> Maybe Int
nthFib' 0 (Cons h _) = Just h
nthFib' i (Cons _ t) | i > 0 = nthFib' (i - 1) $ step t
nthFib' _ _ = Nothing
```

# More

You can learn more by looking at the documentation for Data.Lazy or Data.List.Lazy.