I'm dealing with data that stores its state as a String, treating the string like a stack. I also have to combine that with error handling.

To that end, I'm using the type StateT String Maybe a. I have a function to pop and to push a Char from and to the string:

pop :: StateT String Maybe Char
pop = do
    x:xs <- get
    put xs
    return x

push :: Char -> StateT String Maybe ()
push x = do
    xs <- get
    put (x:xs)
    return ()

I wrote a function to repeatedly pop from the string while the characters being popped fulfilled a condition. It behaves as follows:

> runStateT (popWhile (<'a')) "HELLO world"
Just ("HELLO ","world")

> runStateT (popWhile (>'a')) "HELLO world"
Just ("","HELLO world")

My implementation is the following:

popWhile :: (Char -> Bool) -> StateT String Maybe [Char]
popWhile f = do
    s <- get
    if null s
        then return []
        else popAgain

        popAgain = do
            x <- pop
            if f x
                then liftM (x:) (popWhile f)
                else push x >> return []

But that seems pretty bulky, and has two if then else's in it. Is there a better way to write this function?


1 Answer 1


You can simplify the code by using span:

span :: (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> ([a], [a])

span, applied to a predicate p and a list xs, returns a tuple where first element is longest prefix (possibly empty) of xs of elements that satisfy p and second element is the remainder of the list

popWhile :: (Char -> Bool) -> StateT String Maybe String
popWhile p = do
    s <- get
    let (xs, ys) = span p s
    put ys
    return xs

Thanks to @bisserlis for the suggestion to use state

popWhile = state . span
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, this is exactly what I was looking for, thanks! I'm still pretty beginner when it comes to monads in Haskell, so I've a lot to learn about writing functions like this. In that sense, this is a super helpful answer, so I'll be giving this the Green Tick of Doom. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthew
    Jan 25, 2015 at 5:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Matthew glad I could help :) Hoogle is a very useful resource for finding functions like span. \$\endgroup\$
    – mjolka
    Jan 25, 2015 at 5:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I've been using that lately, particularly to deal with Maybes. The trick with this though is that I need to use get and put directly and then jump into regular list functions; that wasn't obvious to me until now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthew
    Jan 25, 2015 at 5:07
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Use state :: (s -> (a, s)) -> m a to clean things up even further. I.E., pop = state uncons push = state (:) and popWhile p = state (span p). \$\endgroup\$
    – bisserlis
    Jan 25, 2015 at 6:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @bisserlis that's a great suggestion, thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – mjolka
    Jan 25, 2015 at 6:39

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