Note: the "Backend Foundation" part of the guide is complete. The remaining sections are a

The Complete Guide to Gall: Overview

This guide will give you a full, working knowledge of every aspect of creating Gall modules in Urbit. Over the course
of the guide, we will build up a code review/homework submission app that uses all aspects of Gall and a Landscape

This guide is for anyone with an intermediate knowledge of Hoon (Hoon School 101 should be enough). To write Gall
apps that interact with the frontend, you'll also need some knowledge of Javascript.

Table of Contents

Backend Foundation

Frontend with React

More Backend


What Is Gall?

Gall is a progrfam (OS kernel or "vane") that runs in the background on Urbit's operating system, Arvo.
It manages most of the programs you think of as Urbit's apps.

Platforms, Not Just Applications

Gall's capabilities go well beyond what you normally think of as "standalone applications." Because of
Urbit's design, Gall apps/modules can cleanly interact with
other apps/modules on the local ship or remote ones. They also can call the operating system in ways that are much
more manageable than you may be used to in Unix programming (if you have that background).

Gall modules can, for example:

  • run background chron jobs that periodically check your data
  • coordinate data sources from other Gall apps
  • provide full-blown user experiences with frontend
  • run database resources that back multiple services

Most of the Urbit apps know and love, like Chat and Publish, are Gall applications, but so are the
"background" modules that coordinate your experience, like the group data store and logic.

Gall handles all messages going into your app, and routes all messages going out from your app to the correct

Gall's Responsibilities

  • App Registration: Gall listens for commands to register new user applications and start watching them.
  • Compilation: Gall re-compiles registered apps whenever their source code changes.
  • Upgrades: Gall manages an app's transition from one version to the next, making sure that all old data is
    imported correctly to the new version.
  • Requests between a Gall app and Arvo vanes: Gall provides a layer between all of its registered apps and calls
    out to the Arvo OS, for operations like HTTP requests/responses and file access.
  • Requests between Gall apps themselves: Gall apps on one ship can send each other calls and request data to be
  • Requests between Urbit ships: Gall provides interfaces to handle all the messages that happen when ships send
    messages to each other, or subscribe to resources on each other.

Gall vs Generators

You probably have written generators when learning Hoon. Generators are awesome! However, they have a different
use-case from Gall apps, and it's important to understand when you want each of them.


Generators are used to process data. They take in some simple input, like an argument or the current state of your
ship, and return a value based on that. They're similar to command-line utilities in Unix.


Gall apps are for when you want a longer running service, more like a daemon in aUnix, something that's always
running in the background, waiting for messages. Typical use cases:

  • HTTP handling
  • Work with the OS
  • Long-running application on your ship
  • Hosting a remote service for other ships

A Diagram

Gall Diagram

What Do I Need to Know?

To write Gall programs, you need a decent understanding of Hoon. To write Gall programs that use Landscape, you need
to know Javascript. For the JS part, we'll go over in a lot of detail, so that even if you haven't seen much
React, you'll be able to follow along.

Final Notes

Throughout this guide, I generally use "prose" explanations. When a certain section is very code-heavy
(such as breaking down all pieces of a type), I put the whole thing in a code block and use comments
(::) to explain.

Also, while Gall applications are technically referred to as "agents", I also use the words "app"
and "program" at times. All are equivalent.

Next: Workflow and Environment