Installing the library

Created on 2023-03-03.
Last modified on 2024-03-12.


Quick setup

To work or experiment with the agda-unimath library on your machine, you will need to have agda version 2.6.4 installed, and a suitable editor such as Emacs or Visual Studio Code. The following instructions will help you on your way right away:

  1. Getting a copy of the library
  2. Installing Agda
  3. Setting up your editor

Setup for contributors

In order to contribute to the agda-unimath library you will additionally need:

  1. git
  2. make
  3. python version 3.8 or newer
  4. The python libraries pre-commit, pybtex, requests and tomli. Those can be installed by running
    python3 -m pip install -r scripts/requirements.txt
  5. rust version 1.68 or newer
  6. mdbook version 4.34 or newer, along with the catppuccin, katex, linkcheck, and pagetoc plugins. These can be installed by running the command
    make install-website-dev

All of these can also be installed in one go by using nix. In the section Creating a setup for contributors we will walk you through the steps of preparing your environment for contributing to the library with and without nix.

Additionally, we added a Troubleshooting section at the end of this guide. If you experience any issues during the setup process, don't hesitate to reach out to us on the Univalent Agda discord server. Our community is here to help and ensure you have a smooth experience.

Getting a copy of the library

The way you install the library on your machine might depend on the way you plan to use it. If you plan to contribute to the library, then we suggest first creating a fork of the library, and then cloning your fork. If you don't intend to contribute the library, then you don't need to create your own fork, and you can proceed directly to clone the library.

Creating a fork of the library

If your plan is to submit a contribution, or to do a project that eventually could lead to a contribution to the library, then it is best to begin by creating a fork of the library on GitHub:

  1. Navigate to the library's GitHub page at
  2. In the upper-right corner of the page, click the "Fork" button.
  3. Select your GitHub account to create the fork under.

Cloning your fork of the library

After you have your own fork of the library, you can clone it to your machine with git using the following command in your terminal:

git clone --depth 1[YourUsername]/agda-unimath.git

Replace [YourUsername] with your actual GitHub username. This command will clone a shallow copy of the library, i.e., a copy of the library without its entire git history, which is a version of the library that is under 20MB in size.

If you prefer to clone the library with its history, simply omit --depth 1 in the above command.

Cloning the library directly

If you don't intend to contribute to the library, but still want to have a local copy of it on your machine, you can clone it directly with

git clone --depth 1

This is not our first recommendation, however, because if you later decide to use this clone for contributions, you will need some proficiency in using git to adjust the remote addresses of your clone.

Creating a branch within your clone of the library

Once you've cloned the library, we highly recommend you to preserve the master branch in its original state and up to date with the official agda-unimath repository. This means you should avoid making changes directly to the master branch.

Instead, whenever you're about to start a new piece of work (be it a new feature, bug fix, or any other modifications), create a new branch from master. This way, you can keep track of different lines of work, isolate them from each other, and prevent potential conflicts.

Here's a basic example of how you can create a new branch:

git checkout -b my-feature

This command creates a new branch named my-feature and automatically checks it out, meaning your 'working directory' will switch to this branch.

By maintaining the master branch untouched, you ensure a clean, up-to-date base that is aligned with the original library you forked from. This makes it easier to pull in updates from the original repository and merge them into your working branches when necessary.

Installing Agda

The agda-unimath library is built and verified with Agda 2.6.4, and we provide two methods for installation: with or without the package manager Nix. Nix streamlines the installation of Agda and its dependencies, providing a consistent and reproducible environment for the library across different systems.

Without Nix

To install Agda 2.6.4 without Nix, follow the installation guide provided on the Agda documentation page.

With Nix

The library comes with a development shell described in the flake.nix file. To activate the shell, open a terminal in the directory where you cloned the library, and run:

nix develop

Once you've activated the shell, launch your editor from within it by running code or emacs. This ensures your editor recognizes the Agda installation.

Tutorials for Agda

If you're new to Agda, there are several resources available to help you learn the basics and become proficient in using the language. We recommend starting with the list of tutorials provided on the Agda documentation page.

Editor setup

We recommend either Emacs or Visual Studio Code (VSCode) as your editor when working with the agda-unimath library. Both editors offer support for Agda development, and the choice between them is largely a matter of personal preference. Below, you'll find setup instructions for each editor to help you configure your preferred environment.


Agda mode using Nix

If you installed Agda using Nix, add the following snippet to your .emacs file to use the correct agda2-mode provided by the development environment:

(when (executable-find "agda-mode")
  (load-file (let ((coding-system-for-read 'utf-8))
               (shell-command-to-string "agda-mode locate"))))

This is a modified version of the usual agda2-mode setup provided by Agda, except it checks if Agda is available, so that it doesn't cause errors when opening Emacs outside the project.

Literate Agda files

The agda-unimath library is written in literate markdown Agda. Add the following line to your .emacs file to enable Emacs to handle literate Agda files with the extension:

(setq auto-mode-alist (cons '("\\$" . agda2-mode) auto-mode-alist))

Special symbols

The agda-unimath library employs two notations for the identity type: Martin-Löf's original notation Id and an infix notation _=_. The infix notation's equals sign is not the standard one, but rather the full width equals sign. Observe that the full width equals sign is slightly wider, and is highlighted in blue just like all the other defined constructions in Agda. To type the full width equals sign in Agda's Emacs Mode, you need to add it to your Agda input method as follows:

  • Type M-x customize-variable and press enter.
  • Type agda-input-user-translations and press enter.
  • Press the INS key
  • Type the regular equals sign = in the Key sequence field.
  • Press the INS key
  • Type the full width equals sign in the translations field.
  • Click the Apply and save button.

After completing these steps, you can type \= in order to obtain the full width equals sign . While you're at it, you can also add the key sequence yo to obtain the Japanese symbol for the Yoneda embedding.

80-character limit

The agda-unimath library maintains an 80-character limit on the length of most lines in the source code (see CODINGSTYLE for a list of exceptions). This limit is to improve readability, both in your programming environment and on our website. To display a vertical ruler marking the 80th column in Emacs, add:

(add-hook 'prog-mode-hook #'display-fill-column-indicator-mode)

to your .emacs file.


The agda-unimath library comes with a predefined VSCode workspace. Open the folder main repository folder in VSCode, and it should automatically recognize the workspace and apply the appropriate settings.


A collection of recommended extensions is included with the workspace to streamline your experience while working with the library. These extensions should be automatically suggested to you when you open the repository in VSCode.

Agda mode

One essential extension for interacting with Agda is agda-mode. After installing this extension, you'll be able to verify files by opening them and using the C-c C-l command. For a full list of commands, see the extension's reference page.

Special characters

The VSCode workspace adds snippets for inserting special symbols like and , since there's currently no way to add these to Agda's input mode in VSCode.

To insert these symbols in the editor, follow these steps:

  1. Begin typing one of the activation sequences listed below.
  2. When the symbol appears as a greyed-out character in your editor, press TAB to insert it.
  • : Type Id
  • : Type yoneda
  • : Type diagonal or lifting

These snippets are defined in .vscode/agda.code-snippets.


For your convenience, the VSCode workspace configures several automatic formatting functions. These functions continuously correct minor formatting mistakes, ensuring a smoother coding experience.

Note on the library's use of Unicode characters

This library relies heavily on Unicode characters, so it's important to use a font family with comprehensive Unicode support in your editor. For instance, the library utilizes the middle dot · and the bullet operator . In some fonts, these two symbols appear identical. If you find it difficult to distinguish between these symbols in your editor, we recommend switching to a different font.

After the setup

Congratulations! With Agda installed and your editor expertly configured, you're now ready to dive into the library.

Verifying the library

To verify a file and its prerequisites with Agda, simply open and load it. If you want to compile the entire library, you can run make check from the repository's main folder. This requires the GNU Make tool to be installed. The command generates the file, which imports and verifies all files in the library.

Creating a setup for contributors

We welcome and appreciate contributions from the community. If you're interested in contributing to the agda-unimath library, you can follow the instructions below to ensure a smooth setup and workflow. Also, please make sure to follow our coding style and design principles.

Pre-commit hooks and Python dependencies

The agda-unimath library includes pre-commit hooks that enforce basic formatting rules. These will inform you of some rule violations in your commits, and for most violations they will also automatically apply the required changes.

To utilize these hooks, if you did not install your environment using Nix, you will need to install the pre-commit tool and the hooks' Python dependencies. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the Python package manager pip.

First, make sure that you have the latest version of Python and pip installed on your computer; the hooks require Python 3.8 or newer. Then run the following command from the repository's main folder:

python3 -m pip install -r scripts/requirements.txt

Note that Python keeps the installed dependencies separate for different Python versions, so if you update Python, you need to re-run the above command.

Now, before you submit a Pull Request (PR) next time, you can run pre-commit by staging your changes and executing the command make pre-commit from the repository's main folder.

Keep in mind that pre-commit is also a part of the Continuous Integration (CI), so any PR that violates the enforced conventions will be automatically blocked from merging.

Building and viewing the website locally

The build process for the website uses the Rust language's package manager cargo. To install Rust and cargo, follow their installation guide. After installation, proceed with the following steps to build and view the website locally:

  1. Install website dependencies: We've provided a make target that installs the website dependencies for you. In your terminal, run:

    make install-website-dev

    You only need to run this command once, unless the website's dependencies change.

  2. Build the website: Once the dependencies are installed, you can build the website by running the following command:

    make website
  3. View the website locally: After building the website, you can start the web server by running:

    make serve-website

    This may take a moment, but the website will be opened in your browser automatically if it succeeds.

You've now successfully set up the local environment for the website! As you make changes to the website's source files, you can repeat steps 2 and 3 to view the updates locally before pushing the changes to the repository.


If you encounter any issues during the installation process, don't hesitate to reach out to us on the Univalent Agda discord server. Our community is here to help and ensure you have a smooth experience.

I have installed make pre-commit on my Debian-based system, but the pre-commit command isn't recognized. What should I do?

This issue can arise if the pre-commit executable gets placed in the ~/.local/bin directory, which might not be in your system's PATH.

To resolve this:

  1. Check the ~/.local/bin directory: Use the command ls ~/.local/bin | grep pre-commit to see if the executable is present.

  2. Update your PATH:

    • If you're using the bash terminal, open your .bashrc file with a text editor like nano:

      nano ~/.bashrc
    • Add the following line to the end of the file:

      export PATH=$PATH:~/.local/bin
    • Save the file and close the editor.

  3. Reload your .bashrc:

    • Run the following command to apply the changes:

      source ~/.bashrc

Now, try running the pre-commit command again. It should be recognized.

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