Skip to main content

Start Exploring OCaml

Last Updated: 27, July 2020 at 09:35:49

Welcome to Explore OCaml! Explore OCaml is a centralised source for workflows in OCaml categorised by user, tools and libraries with rich linking to external sources of information. It aims to provide all users with the recommended way to be productive in getting something done in OCaml. Check the about page for more information on Explore OCaml and the opam page if you are unfamiliar with the OCaml Package Manager. Otherwise, choose the user that best matches you and explore the workflows.


Below are three lists: archetypical users, meet the tools and community libraries. All workflows have one or more users in mind with most using a tool from the OCaml Platform. The community libraries are popular projects which have become standard for certain workflows.

To get started with workflows, open the user that best describes you and start exploring!

Learning the Language 📚

Beginner: If you are just getting started on learning the OCaml language, there are several resources to get you going. The beginner workflows will get you familiar with where you can find answers to common questions, find interactive playgrounds, and hook into possibly familiar learning mechanisms such as Jupyter notebooks.

Teachers: If you are teaching OCaml to a class, then you will need to support the installation of the tools on a variety of platforms, and hook into grading systems. The teaching workflows will cover that, and also link to projects that exist to support your efforts.

Developing in OCaml 🧠

Application Developer: If you have found an OCaml application that you want to work on and extend, then read on about the Application Developer workflows. This will get you started with a build environment and all the dependencies you need to build the application within a modern IDE.

Library Author: If you want to break up your application into reusable chunks, then you will create OCaml libraries. As a Library Author, you will learn how to partition your source code into multiple libraries, to write unit tests and documentation, to apply auto-formatting, and eventually publish them publicly to the central opam repository.

Distributing OCaml code 🌏

End User: If you are an End User that simply wants to install an OCaml application as fast as possible on your platform, read on about how to do that. Beyond the standard opam client, there are also several domain-specific ones that may be more useful to you, such as the opam2nix binary distributor or the esy client that supports npm-like description files.

Distribution Manager: If you are maintaining OCaml on a particular operating system, you will be juggling the various quirks of OCaml applications and libraries with hundreds of other programming languages and build systems. The Distribution Manager workflows collect tools that operate over the opam repository metadata and provide mechanisms to programmatically translate them to your own distribution.

The OCaml Platform 🔨

The OCaml Platform is a collection of tools that allow programmers to be productive in the OCaml language. It has been an iterative process of refinement as new tools are added and older tools are updated. Different tools accomplish different workflows and are used at different points of a project's life. You can see how the platform progress in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

There is no requirement to use all of the tools. You can mix and match different combinations to suit the needs of your project and the workflows you want to accomplish.

Meet the tools

Community libraries are recommendations for additional tools and libraries to help create your OCaml projects. Whilst not part of the platform, many of them have become common use and an understanding of how they work can help you form good decisions for your own project.

Community Libraries

Notes & Misc.

Understanding how these tools came to be requires and understanding of how the OCaml Ecosystem has evolved. This includes tools like ocamlbuild, ocamlfind and jbuild. Many sources of documentation and tutorials still reference some of these out-dated tools and some of the modern platform tools directly use them.

OCaml Ecosystem History

The OCaml Platform is an idealised, one-stop-shop for all things OCaml. But it too has evolved over time and changed direction.

OCaml Platform