Optimize package size

Haskell package derivations created by haskell-flake are shipped with symlinks to other store paths, like $out/lib, $out/nix-support and $out/share/doc. In addition, enabling profiling or haddock can increase the size of these packages. If your Haskell application is end-user software, you will want to strip all but the executables. This can be achieved using justStaticExecutables:

  # Inside perSystem
  packages.default = pkgs.haskell.lib.justStaticExecutables self'.packages.foo;

Removing unnecessary Nix dependencies

There can be cases where justStaticExecutables doesn’t work. In such cases, you can manually remove references to the store paths that you don’t want to ship. Let’s say you have a haskell project foo that is dependendent on bar and bar relies on data-files in its cabal (which data-files can be, for instance, js or html files). Considering you are using cabal-install < the final executable of foo will have a reference to bar and bar will depend on ghc, thus increasing the overal size of the docker image.

But how do you arrive at this point in the first place? i.e how do you pin point the exact store paths that are causing the increase in size? These are the rough steps that you can follow, if you are packaging it as part of a docker image:

  • Build and scan the docker image for store paths that are taking up the most space:

    nix build .#dockerImage
    docker load -i < result
    docker run --rm -it <name:tag> sh -c 'du -sh /nix/store/*' | sort -h | tail
  • After the scan you will notice that bar will be present and its quite obvious it shouldn’t be present because all of that will be packaged in the executable of foo.

  • It might not be obvious to you that bar is causing the increase in size. In such cases you can use nix why-depends to find out why ghc is present in the docker image:

    nix why-depends /nix/store/...-foo /nix/store/...-ghc-x.x.x
  • Now that you know that bar is causing the increase in size, let’s wrap the executable of foo removing references to bar:

      # Inside `haskellProjects`
      haskellProjects.default = 
          # Forked from: https://github.com/srid/emanote/blob/24c7e5e29a91ec201a48fad1ac028a123b82a402/flake.nix#L52-L62
          # We shouldn't need this after https://github.com/haskell/cabal/pull/8534
          removeReferencesTo = disallowedReferences: drv:
            drv.overrideAttrs (old: rec {
              inherit disallowedReferences;
              # Ditch data dependencies that are not needed at runtime.
              # cf. https://github.com/NixOS/nixpkgs/pull/204675
              # cf. https://srid.ca/remove-references-to
              postInstall = (old.postInstall or "") + ''
                ${lib.concatStrings (map (e: "echo Removing reference to: ${e}\n") disallowedReferences)}
                ${lib.concatStrings (map (e: "remove-references-to -t ${e} $out/bin/*\n") disallowedReferences)}
          # ...
          settings = {
            foo = {self, super, ... }: {
              justStaticExecutables = true;
              removeReferencesTo = [
          # ...
  • Voila! Now you have a docker image that is much smaller than before.

Links to this page