Applicative Validation
Chapter Goals
In this chapter, we will meet an important new abstraction  the applicative functor, described by the Applicative
type class. Don't worry if the name sounds confusing  we will motivate the concept with a practical example  validating form data. This technique allows us to convert code which usually involves a lot of boilerplate checking into a simple, declarative description of our form.
We will also meet another type class, Traversable
, which describes traversable functors, and see how this concept also arises very naturally from solutions to realworld problems.
The example code for this chapter will be a continuation of the address book example from chapter 3. This time, we will extend our address book data types, and write functions to validate values for those types. The understanding is that these functions could be used, for example in a web user interface, to display errors to the user as part of a data entry form.
Project Setup
The source code for this chapter is defined in the files src/Data/AddressBook.purs
and src/Data/AddressBook/Validation.purs
.
The project has a number of dependencies, many of which we have seen before. There are two new dependencies:
control
, which defines functions for abstracting control flow using type classes likeApplicative
.validation
, which defines a functor for applicative validation, the subject of this chapter.
The Data.AddressBook
module defines data types and Show
instances for the types in our project, and the Data.AddressBook.Validation
module contains validation rules for those types.
Generalizing Function Application
To explain the concept of an applicative functor, let's consider the type constructor Maybe
that we met earlier.
The source code for this module defines a function address
which has the following type:
address :: String > String > String > Address
This function is used to construct a value of type Address
from three strings: a street name, a city, and a state.
We can apply this function easily and see the result in PSCi:
> import Data.AddressBook
> address "123 Fake St." "Faketown" "CA"
{ street: "123 Fake St.", city: "Faketown", state: "CA" }
However, suppose we did not necessarily have a street, city, or state, and wanted to use the Maybe
type to indicate a missing value in each of the three cases.
In one case, we might have a missing city. If we try to apply our function directly, we will receive an error from the type checker:
> import Data.Maybe
> address (Just "123 Fake St.") Nothing (Just "CA")
Could not match type
Maybe String
with type
String
Of course, this is an expected type error  address
takes strings as arguments, not values of type Maybe String
.
However, it is reasonable to expect that we should be able to "lift" the address
function to work with optional values described by the Maybe
type. In fact, we can, and the Control.Apply
provides the function lift3
function which does exactly what we need:
> import Control.Apply
> lift3 address (Just "123 Fake St.") Nothing (Just "CA")
Nothing
In this case, the result is Nothing
, because one of the arguments (the city) was missing. If we provide all three arguments using the Just
constructor, then the result will contain a value as well:
> lift3 address (Just "123 Fake St.") (Just "Faketown") (Just "CA")
Just ({ street: "123 Fake St.", city: "Faketown", state: "CA" })
The name of the function lift3
indicates that it can be used to lift functions of 3 arguments. There are similar functions defined in Control.Apply
for functions of other numbers of arguments.
Lifting Arbitrary Functions
So, we can lift functions with small numbers of arguments by using lift2
, lift3
, etc. But how can we generalize this to arbitrary functions?
It is instructive to look at the type of lift3
:
> :type lift3
forall a b c d f. Apply f => (a > b > c > d) > f a > f b > f c > f d
In the Maybe
example above, the type constructor f
is Maybe
, so that lift3
is specialized to the following type:
forall a b c d. (a > b > c > d) > Maybe a > Maybe b > Maybe c > Maybe d
This type says that we can take any function with three arguments, and lift it to give a new function whose argument and result types are wrapped with Maybe
.
Certainly, this is not possible for any type constructor f
, so what is it about the Maybe
type which allowed us to do this? Well, in specializing the type above, we removed a type class constraint on f
from the Apply
type class. Apply
is defined in the Prelude as follows:
class Functor f where
map :: forall a b. (a > b) > f a > f b
class Functor f <= Apply f where
apply :: forall a b. f (a > b) > f a > f b
The Apply
type class is a subclass of Functor
, and defines an additional function apply
. As <$>
was defined as an alias for map
, the Prelude
module defines <*>
as an alias for apply
. As we'll see, these two operators are often used together.
The type of apply
looks a lot like the type of map
. The difference between map
and apply
is that map
takes a function as an argument, whereas the first argument to apply
is wrapped in the type constructor f
. We'll see how this is used soon, but first, let's see how to implement the Apply
type class for the Maybe
type:
instance functorMaybe :: Functor Maybe where
map f (Just a) = Just (f a)
map f Nothing = Nothing
instance applyMaybe :: Apply Maybe where
apply (Just f) (Just x) = Just (f x)
apply _ _ = Nothing
This type class instance says that we can apply an optional function to an optional value, and the result is defined only if both are defined.
Now we'll see how map
and apply
can be used together to lift functions of arbitrary number of arguments.
For functions of one argument, we can just use map
directly.
For functions of two arguments, we have a curried function g
with type a > b > c
, say. This is equivalent to the type a > (b > c)
, so we can apply map
to g
to get a new function of type f a > f (b > c)
for any type constructor f
with a Functor
instance. Partially applying this function to the first lifted argument (of type f a
), we get a new wrapped function of type f (b > c)
. If we also have an Apply
instance for f
, then we can then use apply
to apply the second lifted argument (of type f b
) to get our final value of type f c
.
Putting this all together, we see that if we have values x :: f a
and y :: f b
, then the expression (g <$> x) <*> y
has type f c
(remember, this expression is equivalent to apply (map g x) y
). The precedence rules defined in the Prelude allow us to remove the parentheses: g <$> x <*> y
.
In general, we can use <$>
on the first argument, and <*>
for the remaining arguments, as illustrated here for lift3
:
lift3 :: forall a b c d f
. Apply f
=> (a > b > c > d)
> f a
> f b
> f c
> f d
lift3 f x y z = f <$> x <*> y <*> z
It is left as an exercise for the reader to verify the types involved in this expression.
As an example, we can try lifting the address function over Maybe
, directly using the <$>
and <*>
functions:
> address <$> Just "123 Fake St." <*> Just "Faketown" <*> Just "CA"
Just ({ street: "123 Fake St.", city: "Faketown", state: "CA" })
> address <$> Just "123 Fake St." <*> Nothing <*> Just "CA"
Nothing
Try lifting some other functions of various numbers of arguments over Maybe
in this way.
Alternatively applicative do notation can be used for the same purpose in a way that looks similar to the familiar do notation. Here is lift3
using applicative do notation. Note ado
is used instead of do
, and in
is used on the final line to denote the yielded value:
lift3 :: forall a b c d f
. Apply f
=> (a > b > c > d)
> f a
> f b
> f c
> f d
lift3 f x y z = ado
a < x
b < y
c < z
in f a b c
The Applicative Type Class
There is a related type class called Applicative
, defined as follows:
class Apply f <= Applicative f where
pure :: forall a. a > f a
Applicative
is a subclass of Apply
and defines the pure
function. pure
takes a value and returns a value whose type has been wrapped with the type constructor f
.
Here is the Applicative
instance for Maybe
:
instance applicativeMaybe :: Applicative Maybe where
pure x = Just x
If we think of applicative functors as functors which allow lifting of functions, then pure
can be thought of as lifting functions of zero arguments.
Intuition for Applicative
Functions in PureScript are pure and do not support sideeffects. Applicative functors allow us to work in larger "programming languages" which support some sort of sideeffect encoded by the functor f
.
As an example, the functor Maybe
represents the side effect of possiblymissing values. Some other examples include Either err
, which represents the side effect of possible errors of type err
, and the arrow functor r >
which represents the sideeffect of reading from a global configuration. For now, we'll only consider the Maybe
functor.
If the functor f
represents this larger programming language with effects, then the Apply
and Applicative
instances allow us to lift values and function applications from our smaller programming language (PureScript) into the new language.
pure
lifts pure (sideeffect free) values into the larger language, and for functions, we can use map
and apply
as described above.
This raises a question: if we can use Applicative
to embed PureScript functions and values into this new language, then how is the new language any larger? The answer depends on the functor f
. If we can find expressions of type f a
which cannot be expressed as pure x
for some x
, then that expression represents a term which only exists in the larger language.
When f
is Maybe
, an example is the expression Nothing
: we cannot write Nothing
as pure x
for any x
. Therefore, we can think of PureScript as having been enlarged to include the new term Nothing
, which represents a missing value.
More Effects
Let's see some more examples of lifting functions over different Applicative
functors.
Here is a simple example function defined in PSCi, which joins three names to form a full name:
> import Prelude
> fullName first middle last = last <> ", " <> first <> " " <> middle
> fullName "Phillip" "A" "Freeman"
Freeman, Phillip A
Now suppose that this function forms the implementation of a (very simple!) web service with the three arguments provided as query parameters. We want to make sure that the user provided each of the three parameters, so we might use the Maybe
type to indicate the presence or otherwise absence of a parameter. We can lift fullName
over Maybe
to create an implementation of the web service which checks for missing parameters:
> import Data.Maybe
> fullName <$> Just "Phillip" <*> Just "A" <*> Just "Freeman"
Just ("Freeman, Phillip A")
> fullName <$> Just "Phillip" <*> Nothing <*> Just "Freeman"
Nothing
or with applicative do
> import Data.Maybe
> :paste…
… ado
… f < Just "Phillip"
… m < Just "A"
… l < Just "Freeman"
… in fullName f m l
… ^D
(Just "Freeman, Phillip A")
… ado
… f < Just "Phillip"
… m < Nothing
… l < Just "Freeman"
… in fullName f m l
… ^D
Nothing
Note that the lifted function returns Nothing
if any of the arguments was Nothing
.
This is good, because now we can send an error response back from our web service if the parameters are invalid. However, it would be better if we could indicate which field was incorrect in the response.
Instead of lifting over Maybe
, we can lift over Either String
, which allows us to return an error message. First, let's write an operator to convert optional inputs into computations which can signal an error using Either String
:
> import Data.Either
> :paste
… withError Nothing err = Left err
… withError (Just a) _ = Right a
… ^D
Note: In the Either err
applicative functor, the Left
constructor indicates an error, and the Right
constructor indicates success.
Now we can lift over Either String
, providing an appropriate error message for each parameter:
> :paste
… fullNameEither first middle last =
… fullName <$> (first `withError` "First name was missing")
… <*> (middle `withError` "Middle name was missing")
… <*> (last `withError` "Last name was missing")
… ^D
or with applicative do
> :paste
… fullNameEither first middle last = ado
… f < first `withError` "First name was missing"
… m < middle `withError` "Middle name was missing"
… l < last `withError` "Last name was missing"
… in fullName f m l
… ^D
> :type fullNameEither
Maybe String > Maybe String > Maybe String > Either String String
Now our function takes three optional arguments using Maybe
, and returns either a String
error message or a String
result.
We can try out the function with different inputs:
> fullNameEither (Just "Phillip") (Just "A") (Just "Freeman")
(Right "Freeman, Phillip A")
> fullNameEither (Just "Phillip") Nothing (Just "Freeman")
(Left "Middle name was missing")
> fullNameEither (Just "Phillip") (Just "A") Nothing
(Left "Last name was missing")
In this case, we see the error message corresponding to the first missing field, or a successful result if every field was provided. However, if we are missing multiple inputs, we still only see the first error:
> fullNameEither Nothing Nothing Nothing
(Left "First name was missing")
This might be good enough, but if we want to see a list of all missing fields in the error, then we need something more powerful than Either String
. We will see a solution later in this chapter.
Combining Effects
As an example of working with applicative functors abstractly, this section will show how to write a function which will generically combine sideeffects encoded by an applicative functor f
.
What does this mean? Well, suppose we have a list of wrapped arguments of type f a
for some a
. That is, suppose we have an list of type List (f a)
. Intuitively, this represents a list of computations with sideeffects tracked by f
, each with return type a
. If we could run all of these computations in order, we would obtain a list of results of type List a
. However, we would still have sideeffects tracked by f
. That is, we expect to be able to turn something of type List (f a)
into something of type f (List a)
by "combining" the effects inside the original list.
For any fixed list size n
, there is a function of n
arguments which builds a list of size n
out of those arguments. For example, if n
is 3
, the function is \x y z > x : y : z : Nil
. This function has type a > a > a > List a
. We can use the Applicative
instance for List
to lift this function over f
, to get a function of type f a > f a > f a > f (List a)
. But, since we can do this for any n
, it makes sense that we should be able to perform the same lifting for any list of arguments.
That means that we should be able to write a function
combineList :: forall f a. Applicative f => List (f a) > f (List a)
This function will take a list of arguments, which possibly have sideeffects, and return a single wrapped list, applying the sideeffects of each.
To write this function, we'll consider the length of the list of arguments. If the list is empty, then we do not need to perform any effects, and we can use pure
to simply return an empty list:
combineList Nil = pure Nil
In fact, this is the only thing we can do!
If the list is nonempty, then we have a head element, which is a wrapped argument of type f a
, and a tail of type List (f a)
. We can recursively combine the effects in the tail, giving a result of type f (List a)
. We can then use <$>
and <*>
to lift the Cons
constructor over the head and new tail:
combineList (Cons x xs) = Cons <$> x <*> combineList xs
Again, this was the only sensible implementation, based on the types we were given.
We can test this function in PSCi, using the Maybe
type constructor as an example:
> import Data.List
> import Data.Maybe
> combineList (fromFoldable [Just 1, Just 2, Just 3])
(Just (Cons 1 (Cons 2 (Cons 3 Nil))))
> combineList (fromFoldable [Just 1, Nothing, Just 2])
Nothing
When specialized to Maybe
, our function returns a Just
only if every list element was Just
, otherwise it returns Nothing
. This is consistent with our intuition of working in a larger language supporting optional values  a list of computations which return optional results only has a result itself if every computation contained a result.
But the combineList
function works for any Applicative
! We can use it to combine computations which possibly signal an error using Either err
, or which read from a global configuration using r >
.
We will see the combineList
function again later, when we consider Traversable
functors.
Exercises
 (Medium) Write versions of the numeric operators
+
,
,*
and/
which work with optional arguments (i.e. arguments wrapped inMaybe
) and return a value wrapped inMaybe
. Name these functionsaddMaybe
,subMaybe
,mulMaybe
, anddivMaybe
. Hint: Uselift2
.  (Medium) Extend the above exercise to work with all
Apply
types (not justMaybe
). Name these new functionsaddApply
,subApply
,mulApply
, anddivApply
.  (Difficult) Write a function
combineMaybe
which has typeforall a f. Applicative f => Maybe (f a) > f (Maybe a)
. This function takes an optional computation with sideeffects, and returns a sideeffecting computation which has an optional result.
Applicative Validation
The source code for this chapter defines several data types which might be used in an address book application. The details are omitted here, but the key functions which are exported by the Data.AddressBook
module have the following types:
address :: String > String > String > Address
phoneNumber :: PhoneType > String > PhoneNumber
person :: String > String > Address > Array PhoneNumber > Person
where PhoneType
is defined as an algebraic data type:
data PhoneType = HomePhone  WorkPhone  CellPhone  OtherPhone
These functions can be used to construct a Person
representing an address book entry. For example, the following value is defined in Data.AddressBook
:
examplePerson :: Person
examplePerson =
person "John" "Smith"
(address "123 Fake St." "FakeTown" "CA")
[ phoneNumber HomePhone "5555555555"
, phoneNumber CellPhone "5555550000"
]
Test this value in PSCi (this result has been formatted):
> import Data.AddressBook
> examplePerson
{ firstName: "John"
, lastName: "Smith"
, address:
{ street: "123 Fake St."
, city: "FakeTown"
, state: "CA"
}
, phones:
[ { type: HomePhone
, number: "5555555555"
}
, { type: CellPhone
, number: "5555550000"
}
]
}
We saw in a previous section how we could use the Either String
functor to validate a data structure of type Person
. For example, provided functions to validate the two names in the structure, we might validate the entire data structure as follows:
nonEmpty :: String > Either String Unit
nonEmpty "" = Left "Field cannot be empty"
nonEmpty _ = Right unit
validatePerson :: Person > Either String Person
validatePerson p =
person <$> (nonEmpty p.firstName *> pure p.firstName)
<*> (nonEmpty p.lastName *> pure p.lastName)
<*> pure p.address
<*> pure p.phones
or with applicative do
validatePersonAdo :: Person > Either String Person
validatePersonAdo p = ado
f < nonEmpty p.firstName *> pure p.firstName
l < nonEmpty p.lastName *> pure p.firstName
in person f l p.address p.phones
In the first two lines, we use the nonEmpty
function to validate a nonempty string. nonEmpty
returns an error (indicated with the Left
constructor) if its input is empty, or a successful empty value (unit
) using the Right
constructor otherwise. We use the sequencing operator *>
to indicate that we want to perform two validations, returning the result from the validator on the right. In this case, the validator on the right simply uses pure
to return the input unchanged.
The final lines do not perform any validation but simply provide the address
and phones
fields to the person
function as the remaining arguments.
This function can be seen to work in PSCi, but has a limitation which we have seen before:
> validatePerson $ person "" "" (address "" "" "") []
(Left "Field cannot be empty")
The Either String
applicative functor only provides the first error encountered. Given the input here, we would prefer to see two errors  one for the missing first name, and a second for the missing last name.
There is another applicative functor which is provided by the validation
library. This functor is called V
, and it provides the ability to return errors in any semigroup. For example, we can use V (Array String)
to return an array of String
s as errors, concatenating new errors onto the end of the array.
The Data.AddressBook.Validation
module uses the V (Array String)
applicative functor to validate the data structures in the Data.AddressBook
module.
Here is an example of a validator taken from the Data.AddressBook.Validation
module:
type Errors = Array String
nonEmpty :: String > String > V Errors Unit
nonEmpty field "" = invalid ["Field '" <> field <> "' cannot be empty"]
nonEmpty _ _ = pure unit
lengthIs :: String > Int > String > V Errors Unit
lengthIs field len value  S.length value /= len =
invalid ["Field '" <> field <> "' must have length " <> show len]
lengthIs _ _ _ =
pure unit
validateAddress :: Address > V Errors Address
validateAddress a =
address <$> (nonEmpty "Street" a.street *> pure a.street)
<*> (nonEmpty "City" a.city *> pure a.city)
<*> (lengthIs "State" 2 a.state *> pure a.state)
or with applicative do
validateAddressAdo :: Address > V Errors Address
validateAddressAdo a = ado
street < (nonEmpty "Street" a.street *> pure a.street)
city < (nonEmpty "City" a.city *> pure a.city)
state < (lengthIs "State" 2 a.state *> pure a.state)
in address street city state
validateAddress
validates an Address
structure. It checks that the street
and city
fields are nonempty, and checks that the string in the state
field has length 2.
Notice how the nonEmpty
and lengthIs
validator functions both use the invalid
function provided by the Data.Validation
module to indicate an error. Since we are working in the Array String
semigroup, invalid
takes an array of strings as its argument.
We can try this function in PSCi:
> import Data.AddressBook
> import Data.AddressBook.Validation
> validateAddress $ address "" "" ""
(invalid [ "Field 'Street' cannot be empty"
, "Field 'City' cannot be empty"
, "Field 'State' must have length 2"
])
> validateAddress $ address "" "" "CA"
(invalid [ "Field 'Street' cannot be empty"
, "Field 'City' cannot be empty"
])
This time, we receive an array of all validation errors.
Regular Expression Validators
The validatePhoneNumber
function uses a regular expression to validate the form of its argument. The key is a matches
validation function, which uses a Regex
from the Data.String.Regex
module to validate its input:
matches :: String > R.Regex > String > V Errors Unit
matches _ regex value  R.test regex value =
pure unit
matches field _ _ =
invalid ["Field '" <> field <> "' did not match the required format"]
Again, notice how pure
is used to indicate successful validation, and invalid
is used to signal an array of errors.
validatePhoneNumber
is built from the matches
function in the same way as before:
validatePhoneNumber :: PhoneNumber > V Errors PhoneNumber
validatePhoneNumber pn =
phoneNumber <$> pure pn."type"
<*> (matches "Number" phoneNumberRegex pn.number *> pure pn.number)
or with applicative do
validatePhoneNumberAdo :: PhoneNumber > V Errors PhoneNumber
validatePhoneNumberAdo pn = ado
tpe < pure pn."type"
number < (matches "Number" phoneNumberRegex pn.number *> pure pn.number)
in phoneNumber tpe number
Again, try running this validator against some valid and invalid inputs in PSCi:
> validatePhoneNumber $ phoneNumber HomePhone "5555555555"
pure ({ type: HomePhone, number: "5555555555" })
> validatePhoneNumber $ phoneNumber HomePhone "555.555.5555"
invalid (["Field 'Number' did not match the required format"])
Exercises
 (Easy) Write a regular expression
stateRegex :: Regex
to check that a string only contains two alphabetic characters. Hint: see the source code forphoneNumberRegex
.  (Medium) Write a regular expression
nonEmptyRegex :: Regex
to check that a string is not entirely whitespace. Hint: If you need help developing this regex expression, check out RegExr which has a great cheatsheet and interactive test environment.  (Medium) Write a function
validateAddressImproved
that is similar tovalidateAddress
, but uses the abovestateRegex
to validate thestate
field andnonEmptyRegex
to validate thestreet
andcity
fields. Hint: see the source forvalidatePhoneNumber
for an example of how to usematches
.
Traversable Functors
The remaining validator is validatePerson
, which combines the validators we have seen so far to validate an entire Person
structure:
arrayNonEmpty :: forall a. String > Array a > V Errors Unit
arrayNonEmpty field [] =
invalid ["Field '" <> field <> "' must contain at least one value"]
arrayNonEmpty _ _ =
pure unit
validatePerson :: Person > V Errors Person
validatePerson p =
person <$> (nonEmpty "First Name" p.firstName *> pure p.firstName)
<*> (nonEmpty "Last Name" p.lastName *> pure p.lastName)
<*> validateAddress p.address
<*> (arrayNonEmpty "Phone Numbers" p.phones *>
traverse validatePhoneNumber p.phones)
or with applicative do
validatePersonAdo :: Person > V Errors Person
validatePersonAdo p = ado
firstName < (nonEmpty "First Name" p.firstName *> pure p.firstName)
lastName < (nonEmpty "Last Name" p.lastName *> pure p.lastName)
address < validateAddress p.address
numbers < (arrayNonEmpty "Phone Numbers" p.phones *>
traverse validatePhoneNumber p.phones)
in person firstName lastName address numbers
There is one more interesting function here, which we haven't seen yet  traverse
, which appears in the final line.
traverse
is defined in the Data.Traversable
module, in the Traversable
type class:
class (Functor t, Foldable t) <= Traversable t where
traverse :: forall a b m. Applicative m => (a > m b) > t a > m (t b)
sequence :: forall a m. Applicative m => t (m a) > m (t a)
Traversable
defines the class of traversable functors. The types of its functions might look a little intimidating, but validatePerson
provides a good motivating example.
Every traversable functor is both a Functor
and Foldable
(recall that a foldable functor was a type constructor which supported a fold operation, reducing a structure to a single value). In addition, a traversable functor provides the ability to combine a collection of sideeffects which depend on its structure.
This may sound complicated, but let's simplify things by specializing to the case of arrays. The array type constructor is traversable, which means that there is a function:
traverse :: forall a b m. Applicative m => (a > m b) > Array a > m (Array b)
Intuitively, given any applicative functor m
, and a function which takes a value of type a
and returns a value of type b
(with sideeffects tracked by m
), we can apply the function to each element of an array of type Array a
to obtain a result of type Array b
(with sideeffects tracked by m
).
Still not clear? Let's specialize further to the case where m
is the V Errors
applicative functor above. Now, we have a function of type
traverse :: forall a b. (a > V Errors b) > Array a > V Errors (Array b)
This type signature says that if we have a validation function m
for a type a
, then traverse m
is a validation function for arrays of type Array a
. But that's exactly what we need to be able to validate the phones
field of the Person
data structure! We pass validatePhoneNumber
to traverse
to create a validation function which validates each element successively.
In general, traverse
walks over the elements of a data structure, performing computations with sideeffects and accumulating a result.
The type signature for Traversable
's other function sequence
might look more familiar:
sequence :: forall a m. Applicative m => t (m a) > m (t a)
In fact, the combineList
function that we wrote earlier is just a special case of the sequence
function from the Traversable
type class. Setting t
to be the type constructor List
, we recover the type of the combineList
function:
combineList :: forall f a. Applicative f => List (f a) > f (List a)
Traversable functors capture the idea of traversing a data structure, collecting a set of effectful computations, and combining their effects. In fact, sequence
and traverse
are equally important to the definition of Traversable
 each can be implemented in terms of each other. This is left as an exercise for the interested reader.
The Traversable
instance for lists is given in the Data.List
module. The definition of traverse
is given here:
instance traversableList :: Traversable List where
 traverse :: forall a b m. Applicative m => (a > m b) > List a > m (List b)
traverse _ Nil = pure Nil
traverse f (Cons x xs) = Cons <$> f x <*> traverse f xs
In the case of an empty list, we can simply return an empty list using pure
. If the list is nonempty, we can use the function f
to create a computation of type f b
from the head element. We can also call traverse
recursively on the tail. Finally, we can lift the Cons
constructor over the applicative functor m
to combine the two results.
But there are more examples of traversable functors than just arrays and lists. The Maybe
type constructor we saw earlier also has an instance for Traversable
. We can try it in PSCi:
> import Data.Maybe
> import Data.Traversable
> import Data.AddressBook.Validation
> traverse (nonEmpty "Example") Nothing
pure (Nothing)
> traverse (nonEmpty "Example") (Just "")
invalid (["Field 'Example' cannot be empty"])
> traverse (nonEmpty "Example") (Just "Testing")
pure ((Just unit))
These examples show that traversing the Nothing
value returns Nothing
with no validation, and traversing Just x
uses the validation function to validate x
. That is, traverse
takes a validation function for type a
and returns a validation function for Maybe a
, i.e. a validation function for optional values of type a
.
Other traversable functors include Array
, and Tuple a
and Either a
for any type a
. Generally, most "container" data type constructors have Traversable
instances. As an example, the exercises will include writing a Traversable
instance for a type of binary trees.
Exercises

(Easy) Write
Eq
andShow
instances for the following binary tree data structure:data Tree a = Leaf  Branch (Tree a) a (Tree a)

(Medium) Write a
Traversable
instance forTree a
, which combines sideeffects from lefttoright. Hint: There are some additional instance dependencies that need to be defined forTraversable
. 
(Medium) Write a function
traversePreOrder :: forall a m b. Applicative m => (a > m b) > Tree a > m (Tree b)
that performs a preorder traversal of the tree. This means the order of effect execution is rootleftright, instead of leftrootright as was done for the previous inorder traverse exercise. Hint: No additional instances need to be defined, and you don't need to call any of the the functions defined earlier. Applicative do notation (ado
) is the easiest way to write this function. 
(Medium) Write a function
traversePostOrder
that performs a postorder traversal of the tree where effects are executed leftrightroot. 
(Medium) Create a new version of the
Person
type where thehomeAddress
field is optional (usingMaybe
). Then write a new version ofvalidatePerson
(renamed asvalidatePersonOptionalAddress
) to validate this newPerson
. Hint: Usetraverse
to validate a field of typeMaybe a
. 
(Difficult) Write a function
sequenceUsingTraverse
which behaves likesequence
, but is written in terms oftraverse
. 
(Difficult) Write a function
traverseUsingSequence
which behaves liketraverse
, but is written in terms ofsequence
.
Applicative Functors for Parallelism
In the discussion above, I chose the word "combine" to describe how applicative functors "combine sideeffects". However, in all the examples given, it would be equally valid to say that applicative functors allow us to "sequence" effects. This would be consistent with the intuition that traversable functors provide a sequence
function to combine effects in sequence based on a data structure.
However, in general, applicative functors are more general than this. The applicative functor laws do not impose any ordering on the sideeffects that their computations perform. In fact, it would be valid for an applicative functor to perform its sideeffects in parallel.
For example, the V
validation functor returned an array of errors, but it would work just as well if we picked the Set
semigroup, in which case it would not matter what order we ran the various validators. We could even run them in parallel over the data structure!
As a second example, the parallel
package provides a type class Parallel
which supports parallel computations. Parallel
provides a function parallel
which uses some Applicative
functor to compute the result of its input computation in parallel:
f <$> parallel computation1
<*> parallel computation2
This computation would start computing values asynchronously using computation1
and computation2
. When both results have been computed, they would be combined into a single result using the function f
.
We will see this idea in more detail when we apply applicative functors to the problem of callback hell later in the book.
Applicative functors are a natural way to capture sideeffects which can be combined in parallel.
Conclusion
In this chapter, we covered a lot of new ideas:
 We introduced the concept of an applicative functor which generalizes the idea of function application to type constructors which capture some notion of sideeffect.
 We saw how applicative functors gave a solution to the problem of validating data structures, and how by switching the applicative functor we could change from reporting a single error to reporting all errors across a data structure.
 We met the
Traversable
type class, which encapsulates the idea of a traversable functor, or a container whose elements can be used to combine values with sideeffects.
Applicative functors are an interesting abstraction which provide neat solutions to a number of problems. We will see them a few more times throughout the book. In this case, the validation applicative functor provided a way to write validators in a declarative style, allowing us to define what our validators should validate and not how they should perform that validation. In general, we will see that applicative functors are a useful tool for the design of domain specific languages.
In the next chapter, we will see a related idea, the class of monads, and extend our address book example to run in the browser!