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Installation

Installing Figwheel

Figwheel is just a Clojure library and can be used with several different command line tools. This page will show how to include Figwheel as a dependency with both Leiningen and Clojure CLI tools.
There are two parts to installing Figwheel. First, you will install your Clojure tool of choice. Second, you will create a project that explicitly requires Figwheel.

Choosing Leiningen vs. CLI Tools

Let’s address the question of whether one should choose Leiningen or Clojure Tools to work with Figwheel. This is largely a matter of taste at this point as these tools are quite different.

As of the writing of this document Leiningen is still the dominant Clojure dependency/task tool in the Clojure Ecosystem. Most of the tutorials you find online will be using Leiningen. It has been around for quite a while and there are innumerable plugins to assist you with your workflow. It is very stable, it works very well, and has a vast array of plugins to help you get your work done. That being said it Leiningen takes a batteries included view on tooling, it has a lot of features, and it runs through a bunch of logic to prepare a running Clojure environment for you. This complexity requires more investment to understand how and why Leiningen is doing what it is doing.

Clojure CLI Tools takes the opposite approach. It is minimal and it requires you to add functionality with different libraries as you need it. This simplicity gives CLI Tools the immediate advantage of a fast start up time. This simplicity is also means that you can be fairly certain how the Java Environment is created when you run something with CLI Tools, which makes environmental problems easier to understand. The downside of this, is that features that are built into Leiningen need to be added manually as libraries, if they are even available at all. As it is still early for CLI Tools some of these libraries are quite new and not as battle tested.

At the end of the day Figwheel will work absolutely fine with either of these tools, and it is quite likely that you will use it with both of these tools even in one project.

This document is going to prefer CLI Tools because:

On Windows

As of this writing CLI Tools is not available on the Windows Operating System yet. For now, if you are on Windows you will need to use Leiningen.

Install your tool of choice

You will need to install the latest version of Leiningen or CLI Tools.

Install Leiningen

Make sure you have the latest version of Leiningen.

You can check that everything has been installed correctly by running a Clojure REPL. In your terminal application at the shell prompt enter the following:

$ lein repl

You should see a user=> prompt where you can enter Clojure code. Type Control-D to quit out of the Clojure REPL.

Install CLI Tools

First we will want to install the clj and clojure command line tools.

If you are on Mac OSX and you can quickly install the Clojure tools via homebrew.

In the terminal at the shell prompt enter:

$ brew install clojure

If you’ve already installed Clojure, now is a great time to ensure that you have the latest version installed with:

$ brew upgrade clojure

You can check that everything has been installed correctly by running a Clojure REPL. In your terminal application at the shell prompt enter the following:

$ clj

You should see a user=> prompt where you can enter Clojure code. Type Control-C to quit out of the Clojure REPL.

Adding Figwheel as a dependency

You can add com.bhauman/figwheel-main by itself as a dependency to get started. However, you are better off adding Clojure and the latest version of ClojureScript along with Rebel Readline.

Adding org.clojure/clojure as a dependency will help you ensure that you are using the version of Clojure that you want to be using. Figwheel requires Clojure 1.9 at least because it uses spec to validate configuration. CLI Tools adds Clojure 1.9 by default.

Adding org.clojure/clojurescript as a dependency will allow to ensure that you are getting the latest version of ClojureScript not just the base version that Figwheel will work with.

Adding a com.bhauman/rebel-readline-cljs dependency will make the terminal REPL Figwheel launches much more capable. It is optional but highly recommended.

You will likely need to add other dependencies like Sablono, Reagent or Re-frame. However, these are not needed to work with Figwheel.

Many explanations in this document assume that you are currently in the root directory of a project, which is just a directory that contains all the code and other file assets for the program you are working on.

Dependencies with Leiningen

Leiningen requires project.clj file in the root of your project. In your project.clj file you will need to add com.bhauman/figwheel-main as a dependency.

As a concrete example, in the root directory of your project place a project.clj that at least contains the following configuration:

(defproject example-project "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT"
  :dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.9.0"]]
  :profiles 
    {:dev 
      {:dependencies [[org.clojure/clojurescript "1.10.339"]
                      [com.bhauman/figwheel-main "0.1.9"]
                      ;; optional but recommended
                      [com.bhauman/rebel-readline-cljs "0.1.4"]]}})

We added all the dependencies to work with ClojureScript and Figwheel into the :dev profile which is enabled by default when you are working with Leiningen, these dependencies won’t be included when you create an artifact for deployment like a jar or an uberjar.

You can verify this worked by launching a generic figwheel.main ClojureScript REPL.

$ lein trampoline run -m figwheel.main

When using Leiningen with Rebel Readline you will have to use trampoline.

A browser window should pop open and back in the terminal you should see a REPL with a cljs.user=> prompt waiting to evaluate ClojureScript code.

You can quit the REPL by entering :cljs/quit or with Control-D.

Dependencies with CLI Tools

In order to work with Clojure CLI tools you will need a deps.edn file in the root directory of your project.

As an example, in the root directory place a deps.edn file with the following contents:

{:deps {org.clojure/clojure {:mvn/version "1.9.0"}
        org.clojure/clojurescript {:mvn/version "1.10.339"}
        com.bhauman/figwheel-main {:mvn/version "0.1.9"}
        ;; optional but recommended
        com.bhauman/rebel-readline-cljs {:mvn/version "0.1.4"}}}

You can verify this worked by launching a generic figwheel.main ClojureScript REPL.

$ clojure -m figwheel.main

A browser window should pop open and back in the terminal you should see a REPL with a cljs.user=> prompt waiting to evaluate ClojureScript code.

You can quit the REPL by entering :cljs/quit or with Control-D.

Aliases

Both Leiningen and Clojure CLI tools supply ways that you can provide command line options to start your Clojure processes.

Aliases will play a helpful role when working with figwheel.main. You will use them as abbreviations to start build processes, to run tests, and to build a final minimized production build.

Aliases with Leiningen

As we noticed above to get a plain figwheel.main REPL we have to use the following command in the shell:

$ lein trampoline run -m figwheel.main

That’s a bit long considering how often we are going to want to use figwheel.main.

You can create a shorter fig alias for these command line options by configuring an :aliases key like so:

(defproject example-project "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT"
  ...
  :aliases {"fig" ["trampoline" "run" "-m" "figwheel.main"]}
  ...
  )

With that configuration you can now start a Figwheel REPL by invoking:

$ lein fig

One thing that is very important to remember is that if you want to pass additional figwheel CLI options to the lein fig command above you will have to add a -- before the additional arguments.

Let’s display the Figwheel help documentation with the -h (or --help) option:

$ lein fig -- -h

That should display the help documentation while the lein fig -h command will not.

Why am I using using aliases here instead of creating a lein plugin? The first reason I’m not using a plugin here is that Leiningen boots much faster when it doesn’t have to dynamically load/compile plugin code. Another reason is that figwheel.main’s command line options are much more expressive than lein-figwheel’s and lein aliases are better positioned to leverage that expressiveness.

Aliases with CLI tools

Let’s look at how to add aliases with Clojure CLI tools. As an example let’s use the deps.edn configuration we started above and add a way to launch a REPL with figwheel.main.

{:deps {org.clojure/clojure {:mvn/version "1.9.0"}
        org.clojure/clojurescript {:mvn/version "1.10.339"}
        com.bhauman/figwheel-main {:mvn/version "0.1.9"}
        ;; optional but recommended		
        com.bhauman/rebel-readline-cljs {:mvn/version "0.1.4"}}
 :aliases {:fig {:main-opts ["-m" "figwheel.main"]}}}

You can use this alias from the project root directory like so:

$ clj -A:fig

You can also add additional flags as you wish. Let’s look at the help documentation with the -h (or --help) option:

$ clj -A:fig -h

These are brief instructions to help you to start being productive with these Clojure tools. You will benefit greatly by learning more about the tools you are using. Please take time to explore the documentation and features for Leiningen and/or CLI Tools. It will pay off tremendously.

It is also important to note that you can also use Maven and just plain java to work with Figwheel.