Setting Up Clojure for Mac OS X Leopard

Clojure is a fairly new Lisp-like, functional language that is built on top of the JVM. It features great Java interoperability and is built from the ground up with concurrency in mind.

Below is a brief description of how to get Clojure up an running on Mac OS X Leopard. I also describe a small shell script that invokes Clojure and sets its classpath using a simple, project-specific configuration file.

The first step is to create a Clojure directory in your Library folder that contains the subfolder lib. Do this at your Terminal:

$ mkdir -p ~/Library/Clojure/lib
$ cd ~/Library/Clojure

Getting Clojure

The latest stable version of Clojure can be found here. At the time of writing the latest stable version is the zip file for Clojure release 20090320.

Once you’ve downloaded it, copy clojure.jar to the ~/Library/Clojure directory:

$ cp ~/Downloads/clojure/clojure.jar ~/Library/Clojure/lib/

To make Clojure’s interactive mode easier to you, you should grab the JLine library and install it as well.

First download jline– from the jline project site and then:

$ cp ~/Downloads/jline-0.9.94/jline-0.9.94.jar ~/Library/Clojure/lib/jline.jar

Startup Script

I’ve created a bash script called clj that I put in ~/Library/Clojure and symbolically link to from somewhere in my path.

This script sets up the Clojure classpath and, if it is present, also adds the contents of a .clojure file to the classpath before executing Clojure. It also adds the current directory to the classpath for ease of use.

You can download the script from my GitHub repository. Once you’ve got it, copy it to the Clojure directory and make it executable:

$ cp ~/Downloads/clj ~/Library/Clojure/
$ chmod u+x ~/Library/Clojure/clj

Now you will want to symbolically link to it from a directory in your $PATH Type echo $PATH at the Terminal to see a list of options. I have a directory ~/bin/ where I keep such things.

To make the link use, for example:

$ ln -s ~/Library/Clojure/clj ~/bin/clj

Now I can type clj from any directory and see:

$ clj
user=> (= (* 6 8) 42)

I can also run Clojure programs. For example, suppose I have the following file called test.clj in the current directory:

(println "Hello, world!")

Then, when I run the following, I see:

$ clj test.clj
Hello, world!

Extending the Classpath

If you need any project-specific jar files added to the classpath when running Clojure, this can be done by putting a .clojure file in the same directory you will be running the project from.

For example, suppose I have a program ~/code/cafe/macchiato.clj that requires class from the Java libraries grinder.jar and frother.jar in the ~/code/cafe/lib/ directory.

I can easily create a file .clojure that specifies where Clojure can find these extra libraries:

$ cd ~/code/cafe
$ echo "lib/grinder.jar:lib/frother.jar" > .clojure

Then when I run:

$ clj macchiato.clj

from the ~/code/cafe directory, the earlier clj script will pick up the extra jar files from the .clojure file and add them to the classpath before invoking Clojure.

Installing and Using clojure-contrib

This step is optional. You only need to do it if you wish to use some of the extra, community-contributed Clojure libraries.

This step also requires git which is not a standard part of OS X Leopard but a simple OS X installer is available.

Once you have git installed, you can get the current version of the contributed libraries like so:

$ git clone git://

Now build the jar file using ant and copy it to the Clojure directory:

$ cd clojure-contrib
$ ant -Dclojure.jar=$HOME/Library/Clojure/lib/clojure.jar
$ cp clojure-contrib.jar ~/Library/Clojure/lib/

Now you should be able to use things like Stuart Sierra’s library. For example, suppose I was writing a simple vector library called vec.clj and wanted to put the following tests in test.clj in the same directory:

(ns test 
	(:require vec)
	(:use clojure.contrib.test-is))
(deftest test-cross-product
	(is (= [-3 6 -3] (vec/cross [1 2 3] [4 5 6])))
	(is (= [0 0 1]   (vec/cross [1 0 0] [0 1 0]))))

Then, because the clojure-contrib.jar is on the classpath, I can run and see the following:

$ clj test.clj

Testing test

Ran 1 tests containing 2 assertions.
0 failures, 0 errors.



I use TextMate as my Clojure editor along with the Clojure bundle created by nullstyle.

It’s probably overkill for what I need since that bundle includes a working installation of Clojure (i.e., it doesn’t call the clj I discuss here). I edit in TextMate and then run sessions and scripts from the Terminal. All I’m really taking advantage of is the syntax-highlighting, auto-formatting and the online help (^H).

There are other options around such as Clojure modes for Vim and Emacs but I haven’t tried them.

In Closing

I wrote these notes mainly to document the sometimes frustrating processes of getting a flexible, easy-to-use Clojure environment set up. The “Getting Started” page at the main Clojure site are great for getting a REPL up and running but didn’t help me at all when it came to using other jars and clojure-contrib. Of course, if I’m doing something here that is patently stupid, please let me know in the comments.

I keep a shorter version of these notes with more concise step-by-step instructions at the GitHub repository for this set up.

Hopefully, this short introduction will make it easier for others to get up and running with this great new language.


Mark Reid March 29, 2009 Canberra, Australia
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