Running the Tool

Opt-in statistics programme: if you opt-in for statistics collection (off by default), then every run of Apalache will submit anonymized statistics to See the details in TLA+ Anonymized Execution Statistics.

Apalache supports several modes of execution. You can run it with the --help option, to see the complete list of modes and their invocation commands:

$ apalache-mc --help

The most important commands are as follows:

  • parse reads a TLA+ specification with the SANY parser and flattens it by instantiating all modules. It terminates successfully, if there are no parse errors. The input specification to parse may be given in standard TLA+ format, or in the JSON serialization format, while the outputs are produced in both formats.

  • typecheck performs all of the operations of parse and additionally runs the type checker Snowcat to infer the types of all expressions in the parsed specification. It terminates successfully, if there are no type errors.

  • simulate performs all of the operations of typecheck and additionally runs the model checker in simulation mode, which randomly picks a sequence of actions and checks the invariants for the subset of all executions which only admit actions in the selected order. It terminates successfully, if there are no invariant violations. This command usually checks randomized symbolic runs much faster than the check command.

  • check performs all of the operations of typecheck and then runs the model checker in bounded model checking mode, which checks invariants for all executions, the length of which does not exceed the value specified by the --length parameter. It terminates successfully, if there are no invariant violations.

  • test performs all of the operations of check in a mode that is designed to test a single action.

1. Model checker and simulator command-line parameters

1.1. Model checker command-line parameters

The model checker can be run as follows:

$ apalache-mc check [--config=filename] [--init=Init] [--cinit=ConstInit] \
    [--next=Next] [--inv=Inv1,...,Invn] [--length=10] \
    [--temporal=TemporalProp1,...,TemporalPropn] \
    [--algo=(incremental|offline)] \
    [--discard-disabled] [--no-deadlock] \
    [--tuning-options-file=filename] [--tuning-options=key1=val1:...:keyn=valn] \
    [--smt-encoding=(oopsla19|arrays)] \
    [--out-dir=./path/to/dir] \
    [--write-intermediate=(true|false)] \
    [--config-file=./path/to/file] \
    [--profiling=false] \
    [--output-traces=false] \

The arguments are as follows:

  • General parameters:

    • --config specifies the TLC configuration file
    • --init specifies the initialization predicate, Init by default
    • --next specifies the transition predicate, Next by default
    • --cinit specifies the constant initialization predicate, optional
    • --inv specifies the invariants to check, as a comma separated list, optional
    • --length specifies the maximal number of Next steps, 10 by default
    • --temporal specifies the temporal properties to check, as a comma separated list, optional
  • Advanced parameters:

    • --algo lets you to choose the search algorithm: incremental is using the incremental SMT solver, offline is using the non-incremental (offline) SMT solver
    • --smt-encoding lets you choose how the SMT instances are encoded: oopsla19 (default) uses QF_UFNIA, and arrays (experimental) and funArrays (experimental) use SMT arrays with extensionality. This parameter can also be set via the SMT_ENCODING environment variable. See the alternative SMT encoding using arrays for details.
    • --discard-disabled does a pre-check on transitions and discard the disabled ones at every step. If you know that many transitions are always enabled, set it to false. Sometimes, this pre-check may be slower than checking the invariant. Default: true.
    • --max-error <n> instructs the search to stop after n errors, see Enumeration of counterexamples. Default: 1.
    • --view <name> sets the state view to <name>, see Enumeration of counterexamples.
    • --no-deadlock disables deadlock-checking, when --discard-disabled=false is on. When --discard-disabled=true, deadlocks are found in any case.
    • --tuning-options-file specifies a properties file that stores options for fine tuning
    • --tuning-options can pass and/or override these fine tuning options on the command line
    • --out-dir set location for outputting any generated logs or artifacts, ./_apalache-out by default
    • --write-intermediate if true, then additional output is generated. See Detailed output. false by default
    • --run-dir=DIRECTORY write all outputs directly into the specified DIRECTORY
    • --config-file a file to use for loading configuration parameters. This will prevent Apalache from looking for any local .apalache.cfg file.
    • --profiling (Bool): This flag governs the creation of profile-rules.txt used in profiling. The file is only created if profiling is set to True. Setting profiling to False is incompatible with the --smtprof flag. The default is False.
    • --output-traces: save an example trace for each symbolic run, default: false

Options passed with --tuning-options have priority over options passed with --tuning-options-file.

If an initialization predicate, transition predicate, or invariant is specified both in the configuration file, and on the command line, the command line parameters take precedence over those in the configuration file.

In case conflicting arguments are passed for the same parameter, the following precedence order is followed:

  1. Command-line value
  2. Environment variable value
  3. Configuration file value

1.2. Simulator command-line parameters

The simulator can be run as follows:

$ apalache-mc simulate
    [all-checker-options] [--max-run=NUM] <myspec>.tla

The arguments are as follows:

  • Special parameters:

    • --max-run=NUM: but produce up to NUM simulation runs (unless --max-error errors have been found), default: 100

1.3. Supplying JVM arguments

You can supply JVM argument to be used when running Apalache by setting the environment variable JVM_ARGS. For example, to change the JVM heap size from the default (4096m) to 1G invoke Apalache as follows:

JVM_ARGS="-Xmx1G" apalache-mc <args>

If you are running Apalache via docker directly (instead of using the script in $APALACHE_HOME/script/, you'll also need to expose the environment variable to the docker container:

$ JVM_ARGS="-Xmx1G" docker run -e JVM_ARGS --rm -v <your-spec-directory>:/var/apalache <args>

To track memory usage with: jcmd <pid> VM.native_memory summary, you can set


1.4. Bounded model checking

By default, Apalache performs bounded model checking, that is, it encodes a symbolic execution of length k and a violation of a state invariant in SMT:

/\ Init[v_0/v]
/\ Next[v_0/v, v_1/v'] /\ Next[v_1/v, v_2/v'] /\ ... /\ Next[v_{k-1}/v, v_k/v']
/\ ~Inv[v_0/v] \/ ~Inv[v_1/v] \/ ... \/ ~Inv[v_k/v]

Here an expression Inv[v_i/v] means that the state variables v are replaced with their copies v_i for the state i. Likewise, Next[v_i/v,v_{i+1}/v'] means that the state variables v are replaced with their copies v_i for the state i, whereas the state variables v' are replaced with their copies v_{i+1} for the state i+1.

Bounded model checking is an incomplete technique. If Apalache finds a bug in this symbolic execution (by querying z3), then it reports a counterexample. Otherwise, it reports that no bug was found up to the given length. If a bug needs a long execution to get revealed, bounded model checking may miss it!

1.5. Checking an inductive invariant

To check executions of arbitrary lengths, one usually finds a formula that satisfies the two following properties:

/\ Init => TypeOK /\ IndInv
/\ TypeOK /\ IndInv /\ Next => TypeOK' /\ IndInv'

In normal words: (1) The initial states satisfy the constraint TypeOK /\ IndInv, and (2) whenever the specification makes a step when starting in a state that satisfies TypeOK /\ IndInv, it ends up in a state that again satisfies TypeOK /\ IndInv.

Note that we usually check IndInv in conjunction with TypeOK, as we have to constrain the variable values. In the y2k example, our inductive invariant is actually constraing the variables. In fact, such an inductive invariant is usually called TypeOK.

To check an inductive invariant IndInv in Apalache, you run two commands that check the above two formulas:

  • IndInit: Check that the initial states satisfy IndInv:

    $ apalache-mc check --init=Init --inv=IndInv --length=0 <myspec>.tla
  • IndNext: Check that Next does not drive us outside of IndInv:

    $ apalache-mc check --init=IndInv --inv=IndInv --length=1 <myspec>.tla

Usually, you look for an inductive invariant to check a safety predicate. For example, if you have found an inductive invariant IndInv and want to check a safety predicate Safety, you have to run Apalache once again:

  • IndProp: Check that all states captured with IndInv satisfy the predicate Safety:

    $ apalache-mc check --init=IndInv --inv=Safety --length=0 <myspec>.tla

It may happen that your inductive invariant IndInv is too weak and it violates Safety. In this case, you would have to add additional constraints to IndInv. Then you would have to check the queries IndInit, IndNext, and IndProp again.

2. Examples

2.1. Checking safety up to 20 steps

$ cd test/tla
$ apalache-mc check --length=20 --inv=Safety y2k_override.tla

This command checks, whether Safety can be violated in 20 specification steps. If Safety is not violated, your spec might still have a bug that requires a computation longer than 20 steps to manifest.

2.2. Checking an inductive invariant:

$ cd test/tla
$ apalache-mc check --length=0 --init=Init --inv=Inv y2k_override.tla
$ apalache-mc check --length=1 --init=Inv  --inv=Inv y2k_override.tla

The first call to apalache checks, whether the initial states satisfy the invariant. The second call to apalache checks, whether a single specification step satisfies the invariant, when starting in a state that satisfies the invariant. ( That is why these invariants are called inductive.)

2.3. Using a constant initializer:

$ cd test/tla
apalache-mc check --cinit=ConstInit --length=20 --inv=Safety y2k_cinit.tla

This command checks, whether Safety can be violated in 20 specification steps. The constants are initialized with the predicate ConstInit, defined in y2k_cinit.tla as:

ConstInit == BIRTH_YEAR \in 0..99 /\ LICENSE_AGE \in 10..99

In this case, Apalache finds a safety violation, e.g., for BIRTH_YEAR=89 and LICENSE_AGE=10. A complete counterexample is printed in counterexample.tla.

The final lines in the file clearly indicate the state that violates the invariant:

State14 ==
/\ BIRTH_YEAR = 89
/\ hasLicense = TRUE
/\ year = 0

(* The following formula holds true in the last state and violates the invariant *)

InvariantViolation == hasLicense /\ year - BIRTH_YEAR < LICENSE_AGE

3. Module lookup

Apalache uses the SANY parser, which is the standard parser of TLC and the TLA+ Toolbox. By default, SANY is looking for modules (in this order) in

  1. The current working directory.
  2. The directory containing the main TLA+ file passed on the CLI.
  3. A small Apalache standard library (bundled from $APALACHE_HOME/src/tla).
  4. The Java package tla2sany.StandardModules (usually provided by the tla2tools.jar that is included in the Java classpath).

Note: To let TLA+ Toolbox and TLC know about the Apalache modules, include $APALACHE_HOME/src/tla in the lookup directories, as explained by Markus Kuppe for the TLA+ Community Modules.

4. Detailed output

The location for detailed output is determined by the value of the out-dir parameter, which specifies the path to a directory into which all Apalache runs write their outputs (see configuration instructions).

Each run will produce a unique subdirectory inside its "namespace", derived from the file name of the specification, using the following convention yyyy-MM-ddTHH-mm-ss_<UNIQUEID>.

For an example, consider using the default location of the run-dir for a run of Apalache on a spec named test.tla. This will create a directory structuring matching following pattern:

└── test.tla
    └── 2021-11-05T22-54-55_810261790529975561

The default value for the out-dir is the _apalache-out directory in the current working directly. The subdirectory test.tla is derived from the name of the spec on which the tool was run, and the run-specific subdirectory 2021-11-05T22-54-55_810261790529975561 gives a unique location to write the all the outputs produced by the run.

The tool only writes important messages on stdout, but a detailed log can be found in the detailed.log in the run-specific subdirectory.

The directory also includes a file run.txt, reporting the command line arguments used during the run.

Additionally, if the parameter write-intermediate is set to true (see configuration instructions) each pass of the model checker produces intermediate TLA+ files in the run-specific subdirectory:

  • File out-parser.tla is produced as a result of parsing and importing into the intermediate representation, Apalache TLA IR.
  • File out-config.tla is produced as a result of substituting CONSTANTS, as described in Setting up specification parameters.
  • File out-inline.tla is produced as a result of inlining operator definitions and LET-IN definitions.
  • File out-priming.tla is produced as a result of replacing constants and variables in ConstInit and Init with their primed versions.
  • File out-vcgen.tla is produced as a result of extracting verification conditions, e.g., invariants to check.
  • File out-prepro.tla is produced as a result of running all preprocessing steps.
  • File out-transition.tla is produced as a result of finding assignments and symbolic transitions.
  • File out-opt.tla is produced as a result of expression optimizations.
  • File out-analysis.tla is produced as a result of analysis, e.g., marking Skolemizable expressions and expressions to be expanded.

5. Parsing and pretty-printing

If you'd like to check that your TLA+ specification is syntactically correct, without running the model checker, you can run the following command:

$ apalache-mc parse <myspec>.tla

In this case, Apalache performs the following steps:

  1. It parses the specification with SANY.

  2. It translates SANY semantic nodes into Apalache IR .

  3. If the --write-intermediate flag is given, it pretty-prints the IR into the output directory (see Detailed output).

You can also write output to a specified location by using the --output flag. E.g.,

$ apalache-mc parse --output=result.json <myspec>.tla

will write the IR to the file result.json.

reads a TLA+ specification with the SANY parser and flattens it by