@hackage justified-containers0.1.1.0

Keyed container types with verified keys.


Standard containers, with keys that carry evidence of their own presence.


Have you ever known that a key could be found in a certain map? Were you tempted to reach for fromJust or error to handle the "impossible" case, when you knew that lookup should give Just v? (and did shifting requirements ever make the impossible become possible after all?)

Data.Map.Justified provides a wrapper around Data.Maps Data.Map.Map that enables you to separate the proof that a key is present from the operations using the key. Once you prove that a key is present, you can use it Maybe-free in any number of other operations -- sometimes even operations on other maps!

None of the functions in this module can cause a run-time error, and very few of the operations return a Maybe value.

See the Data.Map.Justified.Tutorial module for usage examples.

    withMap test_table $ \\table -> do
      case member 1 table of
        Nothing  -> putStrLn "Sorry, I couldnt prove that the key is present."
        Just key -> do
          -- In this do-block, \key\ represents the key 1, but carries type-level
          -- evidence that the key is present. Lookups and updates can now proceed
          -- without the possibility of error.
          putStrLn ("Found key: " ++ show key)
          -- lookup returns a value directly, not a \Maybe\!
          putStrLn ("Value for key: " ++ lookup key table)
          -- If you update an already-mapped value, the set of valid keys does
          -- not change. So the evidence that 'key' could be found in 'table'
          -- is still sufficient to ensure that 'key' can be found in the updated
          -- table as well.
          let table = reinsert key "howdy" table
          putStrLn ("Value for key in updated map: " ++ lookup key table)


Found key: Key 1
Value for key: hello
Value for key in updated map: howdy

Motivation: Data.Map and Maybe values

Suppose you have a key-value mapping using Data.Maps type Data.Map.Map k v. Anybody making use of Data.Map.Map k v to look up or modify a value must take into account the possibility that the given key is not present.

In Data.Map, there are two strategies for dealing with absent keys:

  1. Cause a runtime error (e.g. Data.Maps Data.Map.! when the key is absent)

  2. Return a Maybe value (e.g. Data.Maps Data.Map.lookup)

The first option introduces partial functions, so is not very palatable. But what is wrong with the second option?

To understand the problem with returning a Maybe value, lets ask what the Maybe v in

    lookup :: k -> Map k v -> Maybe v

really does for us. By returning a Maybe v value, lookup key table is saying "Your program must account for the possibility that key cannot be found in table. I will ensure that you account for this possibility by forcing you to handle the Nothing case." In effect, Data.Map is requiring the user to prove they have handled the possibility that a key is absent whenever they use the Data.Map.lookup function.

Laziness (the bad kind)

Every programmer has probably had the experience of knowing, somehow, that a certain key is going to be present in a map. In this case, the Maybe v feels like a burden: I already know that this key is in the map, why should I have to handle the Nothing case?

In this situation, it is tempting to reach for the partial function Data.Maybe.fromJust, or a pattern match like Nothing -> error "The impossible happened!". But as parts of the program are changed over time, you may find the impossible has become possible after all (or perhaps youll see the dreaded and unhelpful *** Exception: Maybe.fromJust: Nothing)

It is tempting to reach for partial functions or "impossible" runtime errors here, because the programmer has proven that the key is a member of the map in some other way. They know that Data.Map.lookup should return a Just v --- but the compiler doesnt know this!

The idea behind Data.Map.Justified is to encode the programmers knowledge that a key is present within the type system, where it can be checked at compile-time. Once a key is known to be present, Data.Map.Justified.lookup will never fail. Your justification removes the Just!

How it works

Evidence that a key can indeed be found in a map is carried by a phantom type parameter ph shared by both the Data.Map.Justified.Map and Data.Map.Justified.Key types. If you are able to get your hands on a value of type Key ph k, then you must have already proven that the key is present in any value of type Map ph k v.

The Key ph k type is simply a newtype wrapper around k, but the phantom type ph allows Key ph k to represent both a key of type k and a proof that the key is present in all maps of type Map ph k v.

There are several ways to prove that a key belongs to a map, but the simplest is to just use Data.Map.Justifieds Data.Map.Justified.member function. In Data.Map, Data.Map.member has the type

    member :: Ord k => k -> Map k v -> Bool

and reports whether or not the key can be found in the map. In Data.Map.Justified, Data.Map.Member has the type

    member :: Ord k => k -> Map ph k v -> Maybe (Key ph k)

Instead of a boolean, Data.Map.Justified.member either says the key is not present (Nothing), or gives back the same key, augmented with evidence that they key is present. This key-plus-evidence can then be used to do any number of Maybe-free operations on the map.

Data.Map.Justified uses the same rank-2 polymorphism trick used in the Control.Monad.ST monad to ensure that the ph phantom type can not be extracted; in effect, the proof that a key is present can't leak to contexts where the proof would no longer be valid.