Writing web applications in Clojure


The project.clj file defines two other dependencies: Hiccup [11] and Enlive [12]. Both are templating libraries, but each takes a different approach.

Listing 3 makes Hiccup available, and app has now changed: The application no longer uses the "Hello, World!" string, but calls the root function, which is defined in the line above. It uses Hiccup to output HTML. An interesting feature of Clojure is that the developer can modify parts of the code without touching the rest of the virtual machine. Because the task of creating HTML code is outsourced to a separate function, the developer can change it and immediately see the effect on the application.

Listing 3



Good Day!

You could change the greeting to "Good day," for example. If the REPL is already in the webapp.core namespace, the defined aliases are available:

webapp.core=> (hiccup/html [:h1 [:em "Good Day"] ", Hiccup!"])
"<h1>Good Day,, Hiccup!</h1>"

The return value looks good – the following code stores the change in src/webapp/core.clj:

(defn root
  (hiccup/html [:h1 [:em "Good Day"] ",Hiccup!"]))

The next input reloads the namespace after saving the file:

webapp.core=> (require 'webapp.core :reload)

The developer does not need to restart the server. The new behavior of the root function should be visible after reloading the page in the browser.

Hiccup uses a typical Clojure-style approach to generating HTML, by mapping the data into simple structures. Because common types such as lists, vectors, maps, and sets have a common programming interface, Hiccup templates can be conveniently processed with the usual Clojure functions.

If you work with web designers who are used to working with HTML, Hiccup is not much fun. For this scenario, you will probably want to use the Enlive templating library instead. A simple template, stored as a file in resources/templates/index.html, is shown in Listing 4.

Listing 4



The new version of src/webapp/core.clj in Listing 5 uses :require to include the Enlive library. The deftemplate function replaces the previous definition of root and applies the template. It takes no arguments and simply pushes Hello, Enlive! into the <h1> HTML element of the template. To make the change effective, simply reload the namespace in REPL and the page in the browser.

Listing 5



If you would like, you can continue these experiments with REPL on your own. To do so, change a little something  – maybe break something – and fix it again. Refer to the useful REPL documentation and source code for information on functions. The clojure.repl/doc and clojure.repl/source commands are used for this, as the sample session in Listing  6 shows.

Listing 6

Documentation and Source Code


A Chat Application

Now that you've taken your first steps with Clojure, I'll move on to a webchat app that uses WebSockets. The sample application consists of only four files. project.clj (Listing 7) contains the known list of dependencies: Clojure itself and three libraries. However, the :main key makes the following webapp.main the main namespace of the application.

Listing 7



The nested map next to :profiles stipulates that Leiningen should compile all namespaces to create Java class files :aot (ahead of time) before executing. These two settings make it possible to export the application as a JAR archive later on.

The webapp.core namespace, as shown in Listing 8, has changed substantially, however. Among the required namespaces (:require) you will now also find the wrap-params function from ring.middleware.params. With its help, the application can access parameters from HTTP requests in the form of a hash.

Listing 8



Even the root template in line 7 is different. It now takes request as its only argument. If the template is invoked, it searches the HTML object tree for the CSS selector #name. After finding this, it sets the appropriate value from the request hash, which has the following structure:

{:params {"name" "<sought after value>"}}

From line 37 onward, the listing defines the app function. This first creates an atom (a container that stores other objects) that comprises an empty set and is bound to the symbol channels. This atom will store references to all connections to the chat room and can only be changed by atomic transactions. Thus, a change is either completed, or Clojure retries.

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