22 Mar 2023

Making an Emacs major mode for Cabal using tree-sitter

A few days ago I posted on r/haskell that I'm attempting to put together a Cabal grammar for tree-sitter. Some things are still missing, but it covers enough to start doing what I initially intended: experiment with writing an alternative Emacs major mode for Cabal.

The documentation for the tree-sitter integration is very nice, and several of the major modes already have tree-sitter variants, called X-ts-mode where X is e.g. python, so putting together the beginning of a major mode wasn't too much work.

Configuring Emacs

First off I had to make sure the parser for Cabal was installed. The snippet for that looks like this1

(use-package treesit
  :straight nil
  :ensure nil
  :commands (treesit-install-language-grammar)
  (setq treesit-language-source-alist
        '((cabal . ("https://gitlab.com/magus/tree-sitter-cabal.git")))))

With that in place the parser is installed using M-x treesit-install-language-grammar and choosing cabal.

After that I removed my configuration for haskell-mode and added the following snippet to get my own major mode into my setup.

(use-package my-cabal-mode
  :straight (:type git
             :repo "git@gitlab.com:magus/my-emacs-pkgs.git"
             :branch "main"
             :files (:defaults "my-cabal-mode/*el")))

The major mode and font-locking

The built-in elisp documentation actually has a section on writing a major mode with tree-sitter, so it was easy to get started. Setting up the font-locking took a bit of trial-and-error, but once I had comments looking the way I wanted it was easy to add to the setup. Oh, and yes, there's a section on font-locking with tree-sitter in the documentation too. At the moment it looks like this

(defvar cabal--treesit-font-lock-setting
   :feature 'comment
   :language 'cabal
   '((comment) @font-lock-comment-face)

   :feature 'cabal-version
   :language 'cabal
   '((cabal_version _) @font-lock-constant-face)

   :feature 'field-name
   :language 'cabal
   '((field_name) @font-lock-keyword-face)

   :feature 'section-name
   :language 'cabal
   '((section_name) @font-lock-variable-name-face))
  "Tree-sitter font-lock settings.")

(define-derived-mode my-cabal-mode fundamental-mode "My Cabal"
  "My mode for Cabal files"

  (when (treesit-ready-p 'cabal)
    (treesit-parser-create 'cabal)
    ;; set up treesit
    (setq-local treesit-font-lock-feature-list
                '((comment field-name section-name)
                  () ()))
    (setq-local treesit-font-lock-settings cabal--treesit-font-lock-setting)

(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.cabal\\'" . my-cabal-mode))


One of the reasons I want to experiment with tree-sitter is to use it for code navigation. My first attempt is to translate haskell-cabal-section-beginning (in haskell-mode, the source) to using tree-sitter. First a convenience function to recognise if a node is a section or not

(defun cabal--node-is-section-p (n)
  "Predicate to check if treesit node N is a Cabal section."
  (member (treesit-node-type n)
          '("benchmark" "common" "executable" "flag" "library" "test_suite")))

That makes it possible to use treesit-parent-until to traverse the nodes until hitting a section node

(defun cabal-goto-beginning-of-section ()
  "Go to the beginning of the current section."
  (when-let* ((node-at-point (treesit-node-at (point)))
              (section-node (treesit-parent-until node-at-point #'cabal--node-is-section-p))
              (start-pos (treesit-node-start section-node)))
    (goto-char start-pos)))

And the companion function, to go to the end of a section is very similar

(defun cabal-goto-end-of-section ()
  "Go to the end of the current section."
  (when-let* ((node-at-point (treesit-node-at (point)))
              (section-node (treesit-parent-until node-at-point #'cabal--node-is-section-p))
              (end-pos (treesit-node-end section-node)))
    (goto-char end-pos)))



I'm using straight.el and use-package in my setup, but hopefully the snippets can easily be converted to other ways of configuring Emacs.

Tags: cabal emacs haskell tree-sitter
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