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purescript-payload on Pursuit

Payload is an HTTP server and client library for PureScript inspired by Rust's Rocket and Haskell's Servant.

The basic idea: write one API spec. Write handlers as functions returning data. Get for free:

  • Request routing
  • Decoding URL parameters, query parameters, and request bodies into typed values
  • Encoding typed values into server responses
  • Client functions for calling the API

It's like OpenAPI/Swagger without the boilerplate and code generation. Unlike OpenAPI, if your handlers or clients don't match your spec the code won't compile, so servers and clients always stay in sync with the spec.

Here is a complete Payload application:

import Prelude
import Effect (Effect)
import Effect.Aff (Aff)
import Payload.Server as Payload
import Payload.Spec (Spec(Spec), GET)

type Message = 
  { id :: Int
  , text :: String }

spec :: Spec {
  getMessages :: GET "/users/<id>/messages?limit=<limit>" {
    params :: { id :: Int },
    query :: { limit :: Int },
    response :: Array Message
spec = Spec

getMessages :: { params :: { id :: Int }, query :: { limit :: Int } } -> Aff (Array Message)
getMessages {params: {id}, query: {limit}} = pure
  [{ id: 1, text: "Hey " <> show id}, { id: 2, text: "Limit " <> show limit }]

handlers = { getMessages }

main :: Effect Unit
main = Payload.launch spec handlers

Visiting http://localhost:3000/users/1/messages?limit=2 returns '[{"text":"Hey 1","id":1},{"text":"Limit 2","id":2}]'.

This library is experimental, in flux, and will likely have breaking API changes.

Table of Contents

Getting Started

Install Payload:

bower install purescript-payload

Then read on for examples and docs.


The above hello world example and more can be found in the examples directory. These examples are built and run as part of the project tests, so they are always working and up to date.

API Documentation

API documentation can be found on Pursuit.



The main idea of Payload is that you write a type-level API spec for an API telling what endpoints the API supports and the types of their request and response parameters, and Payload uses this spec to derive functionality like request routing and encoding/decoding requests on both servers and clients. Payload can be used for writing server libraries or full stack PureScript applications, but it can also be used in front end or client applications for consuming external APIs.

Here is a simple spec for an HTTP API:

spec :: Spec {
  getUser :: GET "/users/<id>" {
    params :: { id :: Int },
    response :: User
spec = Spec

type User =
  { id :: Int
  , name :: String }

GET "/users/<id>" says we have a GET endpoint with a URL parameter named id. The type of id is defined below it as an Int. The endpoint returns a User, with type as defined below.

To run a Payload server that complies with this spec, you simply provide the spec and a record of handlers corresponding to each endpoint defined in the API spec to Payload.launch (or another function in Payload.Server). A server for the above API spec can be run like so:

api = { getUser: getUser }

getUser :: { params :: { id :: Int } } -> Aff User
getUser {params: {id}} = pure { id, name: "whodunnit" }

main = Payload.launch spec api

Payload will helpfully fail to compile if an endpoint was defined in the spec but no corresponding handler was provided when starting the server. A handler is just an asynchronous function taking in a Record of the request parameters defined in the spec: in this case just a params field with the id param of type Int. URL parameters, query parameters, and bodies defined in the spec are automatically decoded into typed values and merged into the fields params, query, and body, respectively, of the handler payload. The returned User value is also automatically encoded to JSON.

You can also use a spec to derive a Payload client for calling the API. See the client docs for more information about Payload clients.

Specs can also be hierarchical:

moviesApiSpec :: Spec {
  guards :: {
     apiKey :: ApiKey,
     sessionId :: SessionId
  routes :: {
    v1 :: Routes "/v1" {
       guards :: Guards ("apiKey" : Nil),
       auth :: Routes "/authentication" {
         token :: Routes "/token" {
           new :: GET "/new" {
             response :: RequestTokenResponse
       movies :: Routes "/movies" {
         latest :: GET "/latest" {
           response :: Movie
         byId :: Routes "/<movieId>" {
           params :: { movieId :: Int },
           get :: GET "/" {
             response :: Movie
           rating :: Routes "/rating" {
             guards :: Guards ("sessionId" : Nil),
             create :: POST "/rating" {
               body :: RatingValue,
               response :: StatusCodeResponse
moviesApiSpec = Spec

Guards and URL paths and parameters specified in parent routes are merged and passed to child route handlers at compile time, so that at run time the handlers will receive those values as part of their incoming request payload.

See the Spec module for the full set of supported spec keywords and the Movies example for a larger example with hierarchical routes.


The route you define in the API spec tells what must be true about a request for the route's handler to be called. Based on your route spec, Payload will automatically validate:

  • Method and path
  • URL parameters
  • Request body
  • Query strings

An endpoint handler will only be called if validations pass, or 404 Not Found will be returned by default.


Supported methods: GET, HEAD, POST, PUT, DELETE (defined in Payload.Spec).

Payload also automatically handles HEAD requests where a GET request is specified by running the handler and stripping the body from the response. This can be overridden by specifying a HEAD endpoint separately.

URL parameters

Payload supports decoding two types of URL parameters: named segments and multi-matches.

Named segments are specified by giving a name in the URL string in the form /foo/<myName>/bar and a corresponding type in the params field of the endpoint spec. The handler will only be called if URL parameters can be decoded as the given type, or 404 Not Found will be returned. Decoded parameters are merged by name into the payload record provided to handlers. For example:

-- Spec:
getMessage :: GET "/users/<id>/messages/<messageId>" {
  params :: { id :: Int, messageId :: String },
  response :: Array Message

-- Handler:
getMessage :: { params :: { id :: Int, messageId :: String } } -> Aff (Array Message)
getMessage { params: { id, limit } } = pure
  [{ id: 1, text: "Hey there"}, { id: 2, text: "Limit " <> show limit }]

Single URL parameter decoding can be extended by implementing the DecodeParam type class.

Multi-matches must appear at the end of a URL and similarly given a type in the params field. The only supported type for multi-matches is List String unless the DecodeSegments class is implemented. Example:

-- Spec:
files :: GET "/<..path>" {
  params :: { path :: List String },
  response :: File

-- Handler:
files :: { params :: { path :: List String} } -> Aff (Either Failure File)
files { params: {path} } = "test" path

Request body

When a request body is specified on an API route, the route will only be called if a request body can be decoded into the specified type via the DecodeBody type class. If decoding fails, a 404 response is returned. Handlers will be called with a payload field named body containing the decoded body.

Body decoding can be specified for custom types or overwritten by writing an instance of DecodeBody.

Example endpoint with body:

-- Spec:
createUser :: POST "/users/new" {
  body :: NewUser,
  response :: User

-- Handler:
createUser :: { body :: User } -> Aff User
createUser { body: user } = pure user

Query strings

Payload supports two different types of query parameters: keys and multi-matches. Here is an example with both:

-- Spec:
search :: GET "/search?a=<a>&b=<b>&<>"
  { query :: { a :: Int, b :: Int, rest :: Object (Array String) }
  , response :: String }

search :: { query :: { a :: Int, b :: Int, rest :: Object (Array String) } }
          -> Aff String
search _ = pure "Search result"

For key matches, the query parameter must be decodable via the DecodeQueryParam type class. Query param decoding can also be extended via this type class.

Optional query parameters can be given by specifying the query key with Maybe. For example:

search :: GET "/search?foo=<foo>"
  { query :: { foo :: Maybe Int }
  , response :: String }

search :: { query :: { foo :: Maybe Int } }
          -> Aff String
search {query: {foo: Just foo}} = pure $ "Got foo: " <> show foo
search {query: {foo: Nothing}} = pure "No foo"

See the server integration test and client integration test for further examples.


A simple Payload handler is just a function that asynchronously returns a value, which is automatically encoded and by default returned with status code 200 OK. Payload supports the following response bodies by default:

  • Empty (empty body)
  • String
  • Stream
  • Array (returns JSON)
  • Record (returns JSON)
  • Json (returns JSON)

JSON is encoded via the purescript-simple-json library. Handlers can also return any other response body that implements EncodeResponse.

Payload validates at compile time that handler responses match the type specified in the API spec. Responses match the spec by either being exactly the type defined in the spec or by being convertable to that type via the ToSpecResponse type class.

What other responses can be converted to spec responses?

Modified status or headers

To modify the status or headers, handlers can return a Response, which is a wrapper around a record with status, headers, and body fields. There are various helpers in the Response module for creating and modifying responses.


To return an error, handlers can return Either error val, where error can be any encodable value. If the encodable value is a Response, it will be returned with the given status and headers, or by default with status 500 Internal Server Error for other error responses. Error responses are not represented in the API spec and do not need to match the spec.

Static files

Static files can be served using the file or directory helpers in the Handlers module. The provided handlers will add appropriate MIME types to responses and protect against directory traversal attacks. See also the example for serving static files.


Payload borrows a concept from the Rust Rocket library called request guards. A request guard is a function that is called before handlers are called that returns an arbitrary value which is passed to the handler function. It can also error or forward, in which case the handler is never called. A typical use case might be to decode and validate an authorization header or cookie.

Guards can be added to an endpoint by listing the guards by name in the API spec as a type-level list, e.g. guards :: Guards ("guard1" : "guard2" : Nil). The listed guards will be called in order before the handler function is called. The value returned by a guard is specified separately at the root of the spec, and the guard functions themselves are passed to the server as a record separate from the server handlers. A guard name specified in a route spec must have a matching guard name in the top-level guards spec, and a corresponding guard must be passed in to the server when it is started, or the code won't compile.

For example, this API spec defines two guards:

spec :: Spec
  { guards ::
    { user :: User
    , adminUser :: AdminUser }
  , routes ::
    { adminIndex :: GET "/admin"
        { guards :: Guards ("adminUser" : Nil)
        , response :: String }
    , userIndex :: GET "/user"
        { guards :: Guards ("user" : Nil)
        , response :: String }
    , unauthenticatedIndex :: GET "/"
        { response :: String }}}
spec = Spec

The /admin endpoint will only be called if an AdminUser can be produced by the guard from the request. Similarly the /user endpoint will only be called if a User can be obtained from the request. This provides a compile-time guarantee that the handlers will only be called with authenticated requests.

The request guard itself is defined as a function:

getAdminUser :: HTTP.Request -> Aff (Either Resp.Failure AdminUser)
getAdminUser req = do
  headers <- Guards.headers req
  case Headers.lookup "Authorization" headers of
    (Just "Token secret") -> pure (Right (AdminUser { id: 1, name: "John Admin" }))
    _ -> pure (Left (Resp.Forward "Not an admin"))

To use guards, the server must be started with startGuarded and given the guard functions as a record:

adminIndex :: { guards :: { adminUser :: AdminUser } } -> Aff String
adminIndex { guards: { adminUser } } = pure "Response"

main = do
  let guards = { adminUser: getAdminUser, user: getUser }
  let handlers = { adminIndex, userIndex, unauthenticatedIndex }
  Payload.launch spec { handlers, guards }

Guards can also be applied on parent routes in a hierarchical API spec. For an example of this see the Movies API Example.


Given an API spec, Payload can automatically derive a type-safe client for calling the API. As Payload servers require an API spec, this means that e.g. full stack Payload applications automatically have client functions for calling the API. But Payload API clients are not limited to Payload applications. Clients can also be created for other external APIs by simply writing an API spec for the parts of the API that the application uses and then deriving a client using Payload.

A client is created by passing the API spec to mkClient or mkGuardedClient. The client is a record mirroring the shape of the server handler record, but with client functions instead of handlers. The client functions accept a record of API parameters identical to the one received by the server handler functions.

main :: Effect Unit
main = launchAff_ do
  let client = mkGuardedClient { baseUrl: "http://localhost:3000" } spec
  existingUser <- client.users.byId.get {params: {id: 1}}
  newUser <- client.adminUsers.create {body: {id: 2, name: "whodunnit"}}
  liftEffect $ log $ "Existing ID: " <> show
  liftEffect $ log $ "New ID: " <> show

Client functions come in two variants, one with the same name as the client field and another with a _ suffix that allows passing in options for e.g. adding headers. For example:

  user1 <- client.users.byId.get {params: {id: 1}}
  let options = Client.defaultOpts { headers = myHeaders }
  user2 <- client.users.byId.get_ options {params: {id: 1}}

The client functions take typed values as parameters, encode them into an HTTP request, and then decode the response into typed response values. If the response has a 2xx status code, it is treated as a successful API response and the client attempts to decode it into the type given in the spec. For other responses the client will return an error containing the full response.

See the Movies example tests for further examples of client API calls and the GitHub API example for an example of calling an external API.

The client library uses the Affjax library under the hood. If you are using the client on Node.js, you will need to install the xhr2 package.


  • Install Node.js.
  • Install project dependencies:
npm install
npx --no-install bower update --force-latest

Build library and run tests:

npm test