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Using ECL (Embeddable Common-Lisp) on SDF


What is ECL?

ECL stands for Embeddable Common-Lisp and is a free open source ANSI Common-Lisp implementation. Its distinguishing attributes are maintaining a small-footprint, and being embeddable with existing C/C++ applications. ECL is LGPL licensed and hosted at ecls.sourceforge.net.

ECL-11.1.1 is currently available to MetaARPA members on most SDF hosts.


There are currently two Common-Lisp implementations available on SDF; ECL and CLISP. Both are largely compliant with the ANSI Common-Lisp standard. Each supports various object systems, debugging, bytecode compiling, unicode, sockets, streams, etc. CLISP comes with built-in readline support; ECL doesn't, though it can be added; see the ASDF section. In addition to being smaller and faster than CLISP, ECL can be embedded in C/C++ programs, allow embedded C/C++ code in Lisp programs, and produce stand-alone ELF executables. ECL is also very well documented.

ECL Basics

By default ECL starts up in interactive mode. Log into SDF host miku and type 'ecl'; you should see something like below:

ECL (Embeddable Common-Lisp) 11.1.1
Copyright (C) 1984 Taiichi Yuasa and Masami Hagiya
Copyright (C) 1993 Giuseppe Attardi
Copyright (C) 2000 Juan J. Garcia-Ripoll
ECL is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it
under certain conditions; see file 'Copyright' for details.
Type :h for Help.
Top level.

The default ECL prompt is ">". Enter Common-Lisp commands in the usual way:

> (+ 1 2 3)

> (* 4 5)

> (format t "hello SDF~&")
hello SDF

In-line help is available ; type :h for options. The debugger can be entered using (break) ; once entered typed :h to see options. To exit the ECL interactive session type :exit .

ECL one-liners

To use ECL as a script executor (ie. CGI) the -shell and/or -eval options can be used. The -norc is often a good addition so as to avoid unnecessary loading of modules, etc.

ex: hello.lsp

% echo '(format t "~&Hello SDF~&")' > hello.lsp

% ecl -norc -script hello.lsp
Hello SDF

It's also possible to use ECL to execute simple Common-Lisp one-liners at the command line (note that princ is needed for screen output):

% ecl -norc -shell /dev/null -eval "(princ (* 1 2 3))"

A nicer way to accomplish the same is to create a small shell script:

# lispit - executes a lisp expression and dumps it to stdout


if [ "$#" -eq 0 ]; then
        echo "lispit - executes a lisp expression"
        echo "  usage: lispit '(lisp_expression)'"
        echo ""
        exit 1

ecl -norc -shell /dev/null -eval "(princ ${LSP_EXPR} )"
echo ""
exit 0

Example run:

% lispit '(mapcar (lambda (x) (expt x 2)) `(1 2 3 4 5))'
(1 4 9 16 25)

ASDF / enabling readline

ASDF (Another System Definition Facility) is an extensible build facility for Common-Lisp software. ECL comes with ASDF bundled in, however on SDF, users must setup their own ASDF repository under their $HOME directory.

The following outlines the process, using the ecl-readline module (adds GNU readline support to ECL) as example:

1) Create the user-level ASDF repository:

% mkdir -p $HOME/LISP/ASDF

2) Create the ASDF config directory and config file*:

% cd $HOME
% mkdir -p .config/common-lisp/source-registry.conf.d
% vi .config/common-lisp/source-registry.conf.d/asdf.conf

# ../asdf.conf
;;additional directory for ASDF to search (no recursion):
(:directory "/LISP/ASDF/")

*note: you can call the conf file anything you want.

3) Download ecl-readline module and copy select files to $HOME/LISP/ASDF:

% cd /tmp
% snarf http://www.common-lisp.net/project/ecl-readline/releases/ecl-readline-0.4.1.tar.gz
% tar xzf ecl-readline-0.4.1.tar.gz
% cd ecl-readline-0.4.1/
% cp ecl-*.* $HOME/LISP/ASDF/

4) Create the ECL startup file:

# $HOME/.eclrc
(require 'asdf)
(asdf:operate 'asdf:load-op 'ecl-readline)

The next time you startup ECL it will compile the ecl-readline module and launch an interactive session. With ecl-readline enabled the default ECL prompt is "CL-USER[n]>" and you should then be able to use Emacs-style command editing and history recall. If you don't like the provided prompt you can change it by editing the ecl-readline.lisp file.


Additional modifications can be made to the ECL startup file, such as user-defined functions and tweaks to various modules. Below is a more nuanced example which reduces the verbosity at startup, modifies ecl-readline's history file location, and adds an external SHELL function similar to that found in CLISP:

# $HOME/.eclrc
(require 'asdf)
(setf ASDF:*ASDF-VERBOSE* nil) ; quiets ASDF output some
(setf *load-verbose* nil)       ; quiets the LOAD process some
(asdf:operate 'asdf:load-op 'ecl-readline)
(ecl-readline::enable :history-file "/var/tmp/.ecl-history")
;; customizations

;; GNU clisp-like SHELL cmd
(defun shell (&optional (shell_cmd "$SHELL"))
"Args: (&optional shell_cmd)
SHELL calls the EXT:SYSTEM function. Executes SHELL_CMD if given, otherwise
User sub-shell is spawned. SHELL_CMD be string or symbol, 256 characters max."
   (ext:system shell_cmd))


$Id: ecl_tutorial.html,v 1.4 2011/12/12 18:10:28 jgw Exp $

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