Gleam is a member of the BEAM family of languages, alongside Erlang, Elixir, and others. As such Gleam packages are distributed on, the package manager for the BEAM ecosystem. Hex provides an excellent experience, but up until now there has been one small problem: discovering Gleam packages.

There are thousands of packages on Hex, and while Gleam projects can use packages written in Erlang or Elixir, most of the time we want to use packages that are either written in Gleam or already have Gleam bindings. Hex does not currently provide a way to search by language, so finding these packages is more difficult than it should be.

To solve this problem we have created the Gleam package index, a website for exploring the Gleam subset of the Hex repository. ✨

Today it provides a list of all the Gleam packages on Hex as well as a text search, and future we could add fancy Gleam specific features such as searching by type information, or language server integration so packages can be discovered directly from your editor.

How does it work?

The package index is a web application written using the gleam_http package. It talks to a PostgreSQL database which it populates with Gleam packages found by crawling the Hex JSON API. All of this is deployed to Fly, who kindly sponsor Gleam’s development.

In gleam_http a web service is a simple function that takes the Request type as an argument and returns the Response type. We want some extra data (a database connection) alongside the request when responding, so we create a Context type that can hold the request and any other data we need.

pub type Context {
  Context(db: pgo.Connection, request: Request(BitString))

/// This function takes a database connection and returns as
/// service function that will response to individual requests
/// by calling `handle_request`.
pub fn make_service(db: pgo.Connection) {
  fn(request) {
    let context = Context(db, request)

The handle_request function calls the appropriate function for the requested path, passing the context along with it. Thanks to Gleam’s pattern matching we don’t need a complex and slow router abstraction, we can use the super fast and familiar case expression, like any other Gleam code.

pub fn handle_request(context: Context) {
  let path = request.path_segments(context.request)
  case path {
    [] -> search(context)
    ["styles.css"] -> stylesheet()
    _ -> redirect(to: "/")

The handler functions are where the logic of responding to requests lives. In the search handler we get the search term (if any) from the request, search the database for appropriate packages, render HTML from the list of packages, and return a response with this HTML to the user.

fn search(context: Context) -> Response(String) {
  // Search in the database for packages
  let term = get_search_parameter(context.request)
  let assert Ok(packages) =, term)

  // Render HTML to show the results
  let html = packages_page(packages, term)

  // Return a response
  |> response.set_header("content-type", "text/html; charset=utf-8")
  |> response.set_body(html)

For rendering HTML we are using Nakai, a package for writing HTML on the server (or anywhere) in a somewhat similar style to Elm or React, giving us fully type checked HTML within Gleam.

fn packages_page(packages: List(Package), term: String) -> String {
  html.Html([], [
      meta([name("viewport"), content("width=device-width, initial-scale=1")]),
      link([rel("stylesheet"), href("/styles.css")]),
      title_text([], "Gleam Packages"),
    // ... etc

Once the service is written we can serve it using Mist, Alex Manning’s pure Gleam web server. Mist is a fantastic demonstration of Gleam’s maturity and what the language is capable of, and in benchmarks it is comfortably faster than Cowboy, the most commonly used Erlang web server.

pub fn main() {
  let assert Ok(key) = os.get_env("HEX_API_KEY")
  let db = index.connect()

  // Start syncing new releases every 60 seconds
  let sync = fn() { sync_new_gleam_releases(key, db) }
  let assert Ok(_) = periodically(sync, waiting: 60 * 1000)

  // Start the web server
  let service = web.make_service(db)
  let assert Ok(_) = mist.run_service(3000, service, max_body_limit: 4_000_000)
  io.println("Started listening on http://localhost:3000 ✨")

  // Put the main process to sleep while the web server handles traffic

Here in the main function we start two actors, one that periodically syncs new releases from the Hex API, and one that runs the web server. I won’t go into detail of the syncing process here, but in short it queries the Hex API for packages ordered by time of last update, and iterates across pages until it has found all the packages that have been updated since the last time it ran.

If you’d like to see more of how this project works the source code is available on GitHub. I hope you enjoy using the package index, and do let us know if you have any ideas or suggestions!

Happy hacking! 💖