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An introduction to a Leiningen template that creates a very simple project.

Introducing the simple‑layout Leiningen Template

I’ve made a template for Leiningen called simple-layout (my first project on Clojars!). The template creates three files: .gitignore, project.clj and <project-name>.clj.

The project file is extremely minimal and does little more than set the version of Clojure to use as a dependency. At the time of writing, that defaults to 1.10.0 but you can specify the version by passing a template argument.

Here’s how you’d create a project called exercises, set it to use Clojure 1.6.0 and create the files in the directory chapter-05/:

lein new simple-layout exercises --to-dir chapter-05 -- 1.6.0

That’s really all there is to it. The rest of this post explains the thinking behind the template’s development.


As I’ve been working through Clojure for the Brave and True, one aspect that’s been frustrating is creating new projects for the code samples and exercises that accompany each chapter. There are basically two options: create a directory with a deps.edn file or create a project with Leiningen.

The former is simpler and seems like it should be the right way to do it but it comes with frustrating downside. When you launch a REPL from Emacs with Cider, it won’t pick up and start you in a particular namespace (since there’s no project from which to pull this information, this makes sense). You can switch to the namespace within the REPL but if you do that, you’ll lose direct access to clojure.repl functions like doc. You can bring these in, of course, but having to do this each time you launch the REPL is frustrating.

Using Leiningen to create a project with either the default or app template doesn’t have the namespace problem (since Cider will pick up the namespace that’s set in project.clj) but it will create a structure for your code that seems like overkill for these kind of quick coding explorations.

Of course, one thing that’s great about Leiningen is the community around it and while searching on Clojars I came across the flat-layout template by @knjname. This almost did what I wanted but with two limitations:

  1. The template for the <project-file>.clj that it creates includes a main function. That’s not the end of the world but if you don’t need it, it can be frustrating to see it there.

  2. The project.clj file hard codes a particular version of Clojure to use as a dependency. At the time of writing, that’s version 1.6.0. If you want to use a different version, you need to update the project file each time.

The simple-layout template addresses both of these issues. You don’t get anything in your <project-name>.clj file except a namespace declaration and you can always specify the version of Clojure you want by passing a template argument at runtime.

I hope to keep the simple-layout template updated to use the latest version of Clojure version as the default but, at least with the template argument, you’re not dependent on me doing that should things change. ✺