This guide covers building a simple web-application using common Clojure libraries. When you're done working through it, you'll have a little webapp that displays some (x, y) locations from a database, letting you add more locations as well.

It's assumed that you're already somewhat familiar with Clojure. If not, see the Getting Started and Introduction guides.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (including images & stylesheets). The source is available on Github.

This guide uses Clojure 1.5, as well as current versions of the component libraries noted below.

Conceptual Overview of Components

We'll use four major components (briefly described below) for our little webapp:

  • Ring
  • Compojure
  • Hiccup
  • H2


Ring (at clojars) is a foundational Clojure web application library. It:

  • sets things up such that an http request comes into your webapp as a regular Clojure hashmap, and likewise makes it so that you can return a response as a hashmap.
  • provides a spec describing exactly what those request and response maps should look like.
  • brings along a web server (Jetty) and connects your webapp to it.

For this tutorial, we won't actually need to deal with these maps by-hand, as you'll soon see.

For more info, see:


If we were using only Ring, we'd have to write one single function to take that incoming request map and then delegate to various functions depending upon which page was requested. Compojure (at clojars) provides some handy features to take care of this for us such that we can associate url paths with corresponding functions, all in one place.

For more info, see:


Hiccup (at clojars) provides a quick and easy way to generate html. It converts regular Clojure data structures right into html. For example,

[:p "Hello, " [:i "doctor"] " Jones."]


<p>Hello, <i>doctor</i> Jones.</p>

but it also does two extra handy bits of magic:

  • it provides some CSS-like shortcuts for specifying id and class, and

  • it automatically unpacks seqs for you, for example:

    [:p '("a" "b" "c")]
    ;; expands to (and so, is the same as if you wrote)
    [:p "a" "b" "c"]

For more info, see:


H2 is a small and fast Java SQL database that could be embedded in your application or run in server mode. Uses single file for storage, but also could be run as in-memory DB.

Another similar Java-based embedded DB that could be used in your application is Apache Derby.

Create and set up your project

Create your new webapp project like so:

lein new compojure my-webapp
cd my-webapp

Add the following extra dependencies to your project.clj's :dependencies vector:

[hiccup "1.0.5"]
[org.clojure/java.jdbc "0.6.0"]
[com.h2database/h2 "1.4.193"]

(You might also remove the -SNAPSHOT from the project's version string.)

Add some styling

mkdir -p resources/public/css
touch resources/public/css/styles.css

and put into that file something like:

body {
    background-color: Cornsilk;

#header-links {
    background-color: BurlyWood;
    padding: 10px;

h1 {
    color: CornflowerBlue;

Set up your database

A file with DB would be automatically created when you connect to it for the first time, so all necessary DB preparations could be done programmatically using the REPL (with help of

lein repl

Execute the following code to create a new my-webapp.h2.db database file in db subdirectory of your project, create a table we'll use for our webapp, and add one record to start us off with:

(require '[ :as jdbc])
(jdbc/with-db-connection [conn {:dbtype "h2" :dbname "./my-webapp"}]

  (jdbc/db-do-commands conn
    (jdbc/create-table-ddl :locations
      [[:id "bigint primary key auto_increment"]
       [:x "integer"]
       [:y "integer"]]))

  (jdbc/insert! conn :locations
    {:x 8 :y 9}))

and hit ctrl-d to exit.

For more about how to use the database functions, see the Using java.jdbc on this site.

Set up your routes

In the default src/my_webapp/handler.clj file you're provided, we specify our webapp's routes inside the defroutes macro. That is, we assign a function to handle each of the url paths we'd like to support, and then at the end provide a "not found" page for any other url paths.

Make your handler.clj file look like this:

(ns my-webapp.handler
  (:require [my-webapp.views :as views] ; add this require
            [compojure.core :refer :all]
            [compojure.route :as route]
            [ring.middleware.defaults :refer [wrap-defaults site-defaults]]))

(defroutes app-routes ; replace the generated app-routes with this
  (GET "/"
  (GET "/add-location"
  (POST "/add-location"
        {params :params}
        (views/add-location-results-page params))
  (GET "/location/:loc-id"
       (views/location-page loc-id))
  (GET "/all-locations"
  (route/resources "/")
  (route/not-found "Not Found"))

(def app
  (wrap-defaults app-routes site-defaults))

Each of those expressions in defroutes like (GET ...) or (POST ...) are so-called "routes". They each evaluate to a function that takes a ring request hashmap and returns a response hashmap. Your views/foo function's job is to return that response hashmap, but note that Compojure is kind enough to make a suitable response map out of any html you return.

So, all you actually need to do now is write your views functions to return some html.

Incidentally, note the special destructuring that Compojure does for you in each of those routes. It can pull out url query (and body) parameters, as well as pieces of the url path requested, and hand them to your views functions. Read more about that at Compojure destructuring.

Create your Views

Create a src/my_webapp/views.clj file and make it look like:

(ns my-webapp.views
  (:require [my-webapp.db :as db]
            [clojure.string :as str]
            [ :as page]
            [ring.util.anti-forgery :as util]))

(defn gen-page-head
   [:title (str "Locations: " title)]
   (page/include-css "/css/styles.css")])

(def header-links
   "[ "
   [:a {:href "/"} "Home"]
   " | "
   [:a {:href "/add-location"} "Add a Location"]
   " | "
   [:a {:href "/all-locations"} "View All Locations"]
   " ]"])

(defn home-page
   (gen-page-head "Home")
   [:h1 "Home"]
   [:p "Webapp to store and display some 2D (x,y) locations."]))

(defn add-location-page
   (gen-page-head "Add a Location")
   [:h1 "Add a Location"]
   [:form {:action "/add-location" :method "POST"}
    (util/anti-forgery-field) ; prevents cross-site scripting attacks
    [:p "x value: " [:input {:type "text" :name "x"}]]
    [:p "y value: " [:input {:type "text" :name "y"}]]
    [:p [:input {:type "submit" :value "submit location"}]]]))

(defn add-location-results-page
  [{:keys [x y]}]
  (let [id (db/add-location-to-db x y)]
     (gen-page-head "Added a Location")
     [:h1 "Added a Location"]
     [:p "Added [" x ", " y "] (id: " id ") to the db. "
      [:a {:href (str "/location/" id)} "See for yourself"]

(defn location-page
  (let [{x :x y :y} (db/get-xy loc-id)]
     (gen-page-head (str "Location " loc-id))
     [:h1 "A Single Location"]
     [:p "id: " loc-id]
     [:p "x: " x]
     [:p "y: " y])))

(defn all-locations-page
  (let [all-locs (db/get-all-locations)]
     (gen-page-head "All Locations in the db")
     [:h1 "All Locations"]
      [:tr [:th "id"] [:th "x"] [:th "y"]]
      (for [loc all-locs]
        [:tr [:td (:id loc)] [:td (:x loc)] [:td (:y loc)]])])))

Here we've implemented each function used in handler.clj.

Again, note that each of the functions with names ending in "-page" (the ones being called in handler.clj) is returning just a plain string consisting of html markup. In handler.clj's defroutes, Compojure is helpfully taking care of placing that into a response hashmap for us.

Rather than clog up this file with database-related calls, we've put them all into their own db.clj file (described next).

Create some db access functions

Create a src/my_webapp/db.clj file and make it look like:

(ns my-webapp.db
  (:require [ :as jdbc]))

(def db-spec {:dbtype "h2" :dbname "./my-webapp"})

(defn add-location-to-db
  [x y]
  (let [results (jdbc/insert! db-spec :locations {:x x :y y})]
    (assert (= (count results) 1))
    (first (vals (first results)))))

(defn get-xy
  (let [results (jdbc/query db-spec
                            ["select x, y from locations where id = ?" loc-id])]
    (assert (= (count results) 1))
    (first results)))

(defn get-all-locations
  (jdbc/query db-spec "select id, x, y from locations"))

Note that jdbc/query returns a seq of maps. Each map entry's key is a column name (as a Clojure keyword), and its value is the value for that column.

You'll also notice that we used a plain string in get-all-locations, rather than putting it in a vector. java.jdbc allows us to omit the vector wrapping when we have a simple SQL query with no parameters.

Of course, you can try out all these calls yourself in the REPL, if you like:

~/temp/my-webapp$ lein repl
user=> (require 'my-webapp.db)
user=> (ns my-webapp.db)
my-webapp.db=> (jdbc/query db-spec
          #_=>     "select x, y from locations where id = 1")
({:y 9, :x 8})

Run your webapp during development

You can run your webapp via lein:

lein ring server

It should start up and also open a browser window for you pointed at http://localhost:3000. You should be able to stop the webapp by hitting ctrl-c.

If you don't want it to automatically open a browser window, run it like so:

lein ring server-headless

Deploy your webapp

To make your webapp suitable for deployment, make the following changes:

Changes in project.clj

In your project.clj file:

  • add to :dependencies (the version should generally match compojures version):

    [ring/ring-jetty-adapter "1.5.1"] ; e.g., for compojure version 1.5.1
  • and also add :main my-webapp.handler

Changes in handler.clj

In src/my_webapp/handler.clj:

  • in your ns macro:
    • add [ring.adapter.jetty :as jetty] to the :require, and
    • add (:gen-class) to the end

The ns form should now look like this:

(ns my-webapp.handler
  (:require [my-webapp.views :as views]
            [compojure.core :refer :all]
            [compojure.route :as route]
            [ring.adapter.jetty :as jetty] ; add this require
            [ring.middleware.defaults :refer [wrap-defaults site-defaults]])
  (:gen-class)) ; and add this gen-class
  • and at the bottom, add the following -main function:

    (defn -main
      [& [port]]
      (let [port (Integer. (or port
                               (System/getenv "PORT")
        (jetty/run-jetty #'app {:port  port
                                :join? false})))

Build and Run it

Now create an uberjar of your webapp:

lein uberjar

And now you can run it directly:

java -jar target/my-webapp-0.1.0-standalone.jar 8080

(or on whatever port number you wish). If you run the JAR file from another folder, remember to copy the file to that folder!

NOTE: if you did not remove "-SNAPSHOT" from the project's version string when you first edited project.clj, then the JAR file will have -SNAPSHOT in its name.

See Also

  • To get a head start with a more "batteries-included" project template, see Luminus.


John Gabriele (original author)

Ivan Kryvoruchko

Sean Corfield