New Clojure project quickstart

Clojure beginners sometimes struggle with setting up a new Clojure deps.edn project compared to setting up a lein project. This is one of the reasons I've built neil. But not only for beginners, I've been using neil myself a ton too, to add common features to existing deps.edn projects. You may think that neil is a pun on lein. Of course it is. But the name is also an hommage to Neil Peart, one of the greatest progressive rock drummers to have ever lived.

The intent of this post is to give you a starting point from where you can figure out things further. This post isn't going to explain any details of how deps.edn and related tooling works. For that I'm going to refer you to here.

Let's install neil which is available for brew, scoop (Windows), nix, Clojure JVM or can easily be installed manually. Unless you use clojure JVM, neil runs with babashka for fast startup time.

If you've already installed babashka (perhaps indirectly by installing neil) but didn't yet install the clojure CLI or have problems doing so, then you can run bb clojure instead of clojure for launching Clojure. Instead of clj, on linux/macOS you'll want to use rlwrap bb clojure. If you are on Windows and struggle with the official clojure Powershell-based installation, bb clojure may come in handy too.


To start a new Clojure project, run neil new --name myproject. This produces a myproject directory with a very basic project layout based on the deps-new scratch template. Now we are are going to incrementally add some functionality to this project. If you like to skip most of these steps, you can start from the more fully featured app template with neil new app --name myproject.

Adding library

Let's decide that we're going to need a library to deal with files. Let's search for one:

$ neil dep search "file system"
:lib fs/fs :version 1.3.3 :description "File system utilities for clojure"
:lib me.raynes/fs :version 1.4.6 :description "File system utilities for clojure"
:lib babashka/fs :version 0.1.6 :description "Babashka file system utilities."

Let's go with the babashka/fs library:

$ neil dep add :lib babashka/fs :version 0.1.6

Now the library is added to deps.edn and we can use it in our project:

$ clj
Clojure 1.11.0
user=> (require '[babashka.fs :as fs])


Let's start by adding a test runner. Type: neil add test. After doing this, you will be able to run:

clojure -M:test

We don't have any tests in this project, so let's add one by adding a file:


(ns myproject.core-test
  (:require [clojure.test :as t :refer [deftest is testing]]))

(deftest failing-test
  (testing "TODO: fix test"
    (is (= 3 4))))

Now run clojure -M:test again:

$ clojure -M:test

Running tests in #{"test"}

Testing myproject.core-test

FAIL in (failing-test) (core_test.clj:6)
TODO: fix test
expected: (= 3 4)
  actual: (not (= 3 4))

Ran 1 tests containing 1 assertions.
1 failures, 0 errors.

The test runner we added is the Cognitect Labs test-runner so check out the README of that project if you need to know more.

Update 2022-08-06: neil now comes with a new subcommand: test, so you can replace clojure -M:test with neil test. Also when you've created a project with neil new, neil add test will generate one default test for you.



neil add nrepl

to add a :nrepl alias to your project. Now you can run clj -M:nrepl to get a console REPL, but also a running nREPL server that you can connect to from your editor. Note that many editors also support jack-in and if you prefer to use that, you won't need this.


What's the equivalent of lein uberjar in the deps.edn world? You're going to need To create a build.clj file (the program that is going to build your uberjar), run:

neil add build

Since the default build.clj file is going to assume your project is under git version control, let's initialize a git repo first:

git init
git add deps.edn src test
git commit -m "initial commit"

Before creating the uberjar, we have to add :gen-class to src/scratch.clj:

(ns scratch

and we add :main 'scratch in the call to b/uber:

(b/uber {:class-dir class-dir
         :uber-file uber-file
         :basis basis
         :main 'scratch})

Now let's compile the uberjar:

clojure -T:build uber

And then let's run it:

$ java -jar target/lib1-1.2.1-standalone.jar 1 2 3
-main with (1 2 3)

Babashka tasks

If you have difficulty remembering the above invocations, you can write a bb.edn with some tasks:


 {:requires ([babashka.fs :as fs])

  test {:doc "Run tests"
        :task (apply clojure "-M:test" *command-line-args*)}

  nrepl {:doc "Start REPL"
         :task (if (fs/windows?)
                 (clojure "-M:nrepl")
                 (shell "rlwrap bb clojure -M:nrepl"))}

  uber {:doc "Build uberjar"
        :task (clojure "-T:build uber")}}}

The clojure function is built into babashka and is a drop-in replacement for the clojure CLI which does not require any installation. With

(apply ... *command-line-args*)

we send any args you pass to a task invocation to clojure. So to run a specific test, you can write:

bb test -v myproject.core-test/failing-test

If you prefer to use the installed clojure CLI, you can do this by using:

(apply shell "clojure" ... *command-line-args*)

Now whenever you forget what to do in the current project, run bb tasks:

$ bb tasks
The following tasks are available:

test  Run tests
nrepl Start REPL
uber  Build uberjar

Hope this helps!

Published: 2022-08-02

Tagged: clojure neil