ADR 12: Commit to data types in cardano-api

Date: 2022-10-03


koslambrou <>




Since the genesis of the plutus-apps repository, the components have been historically using the types in the plutus-ledger-api package (which is now part of the plutus repository) in the off-chain part of a Plutus application.

This was desirable in order to start designing a way to build Plutus applications before the cardano-ledger actually supported the Alonzo-era features. Of course, this resulted in the unintended consequence that we used TxInfo types (types that are designed to be used in Plutus scripts) in off-chain code. This wouldn’t have been a problem if there was a 1:1 relationship between on-chain and off-chain types. However, that presumption is wrong.

Let’s take the example of the TxOut representation of plutus-ledger-api for PlutusV2.

data TxOut = TxOut {
  txOutReferenceScript :: Maybe ScriptHash

As we can see, the TxOut can optionally store the ScriptHash of the referenced script. However, that is not the adequate representation of a TxOut in a transaction given the cardano-ledger specification. The off-chain TxOut should instead be:

data TxOut = TxOut {
  txOutReferenceScript :: Maybe Script

where the reference script field can store that actual script, not just the hash.

This proved that we need to start moving away from plutus-ledger-api types in the off-chain part of Plutus applications, especially in components like the emulator and the chain indexer.


  • We will create a cardano-api-extended cabal project, which will contain features and utilities on top of the cardano-api package. A similar idea has emerged with hydra-cardano-api. This package will contain:

    • type synonyms for working with the latest era

    • a simplified and working transaction balancing function (mainly the Ledger.Fee.makeAutoBalancedTransaction in plutus-apps)

    • validation rules (most of what’s in the current Ledger.Validation)

    The cardano-api-extended package will re-export the modules from the hydra-cardano-api package which contain type synonyms for working with the latest era.

  • We will remove our data type representation of a Cardano transaction (Ledger.Tx.Internal.Tx in plutus-ledger) and fully commit to Cardano.Api.Tx.Tx era (or Cardano.Api.Tx.TxLatestEra) in the codebase.

  • We will replace any use of plutus-ledger-api types by cardano-api and cardano-api-extended types whenever we work with the off-chain part of Plutus applications. For instance, the plutus-contract emulator and types in the Plutus.Contract.Request module of plutus-contract will be updated to use cardano-api types. However, the data types in Ledger.Constraints.TxConstraints will continue to use plutus-ledger-api types because the constraints are used to generate both Plutus scripts and transactions. Therefore, there should be no breaking change on the API for writing Plutus applications.

  • We will improve cardano-api through cardano-api-extended and regularly push changes upstream when possible.

  • We will restructure the Ledger.Tx.CardanoApi module in plutus-ledger and move functions in cardano-api-extended.

  • We will enhance the plutus-contract emulator by being able to balance and submit cardano-api transactions.

  • We will modify the plutus-contract emulator to fully use the cardano-ledger transaction validation rules, and we will remove our custom validation rules (module Ledger.Index in plutus-ledger).


The cardano-api package is expected to be the supported entry point for clients to interact with Cardano chain in Haskell in the foreseeable future. Therefore, we should extensively use this package and upstream changes as much as possible so that users not using the packages in plutus-apps can still have a good experience writing Plutus applications using cardano-api.

The main arguments for creating the cardano-api-extended package instead of using hydra-cardano-api directly are:

  • faster iterative development for extending cardano-api

  • existing plans to upstream the hydra-cardano-api in cardano-api


Define our own data types for off-chain use

This is currently what the plutus-apps repository is partially doing. The main problem is that this requires significant maintenance work, especially when the cardano-ledger specification changes between eras.


  • This decision should not impact the user-facing API of our libraries. All the changes should be internal. Changes to the public-facing API should be part of a separate ADR.

  • Any orphan instances that we currently have in plutus-ledger will need to be moved to cardano-api-extended.

  • The Marconi-related packages will need to work with cardano-api types instead of plutus-ledger-api types, as Marconi is a full off-chain component. This implies removing the plutus-ledger dependency that we currently have in marconi.