My Clojure Scratchpad

When I want to do a quick calculation or perform a few one off commands that are beyond my bash knowledge I normally reach for Python. My work flow is

$ workon scratch
$ ipython
>>> !pip install pkg # if required
>>> import pkg

The reason I still reflexively go for Python is mostly down to start up time (and how easy it is to manage environments using virtualenv and pip). I wanted to see if I could set up something as smooth in Clojure using the newly released Grenchman from Phil Hagelberg.

Speedy start up time

Firstly, environment management in Clojure work very differently to Python so to quickly jump to a folder containing a Leiningen scratch project I figured my best bet is bash. First create a project you plan to use as your scratch pad.

$ lein new scratch

The next thing to tackle is the start up time of the repl. Install grench using the instructions on its homepage and create a ~/.nrepl-port file containing a port number which also needs to be added to the scratch project.clj file. So put


into ~/.nrepl-port and add

:repl-options {:port 17652} 

to the project.clj

Now if you run

$ lein trampoline repl

in one terminal window running

$ grench repl

in another should start a clojure repl immediately.

Package management

Being able to add packages automatically to a virtualenv in iPython is very useful, to emulate this behaviour in a clojure repl we can use leiningen and lein-exec. First add

[lein-exec "0.3.1"]
[leiningen "2.3.3"]]

to the scratch project.clj :dependencies and then run

$ lein deps

to download them. Now, restart the repl you created earlier and run

$ grench repl

again to open a repl. We can now install dependencies and use them from the repl

user=> (use ''[leiningen.exec :only  (deps)])
user=> (deps ''[[digest "1.4.3"]])
{[org.clojure/clojure "1.4.0"] nil, [digest "1.4.3"] #{[org.clojure/clojure "1.4.0"]}}
user=> (require ''digest)
user=> (digest/md5 "deps-on-the-fly")

Tiding it all up

So now that we have the basics in place we need a repl for our scratch project to start up at boot time or login time and import deps at init time. Your final project.clj file should look like the following

	(defproject scratch "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT"
	  :description "FIXME: write description"
	  :url ""
	  :license {:name "Eclipse Public License"
   		        :url ""}
	  :dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.5.1"]
   		             [lein-exec "0.3.1"]
       	             [leiningen "2.3.3"]]
	  :repl-options {:port 17652
   		             :init (use ''[leiningen.exec :only  (deps)])})

How you start a repl automatically will depend on the operating system you use. I use OS X so the easiest way I could find is to create the following Applescript, export it as an app and add it to my login items.

tell application "Terminal"
    do shell script "cd /Users/jonathan/.clojurescratch/scratch && /usr/local/bin/lein trampoline repl :headless"
end tell
Written on November 11, 2013