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Making Your First Program with Quil

Now that you know a bit about how to write Clojure code, let's look at how to create a standalone application.

In order to do that, you'll first create a project. You'll learn how to organize your project with namespaces. You'll also learn how to specify your project's dependencies. Finally, you'll learn how to build your project to create the standalone application.

Create a Project

Up until now you've been experimenting in a REPL. Unfortunately, all the work you do in a REPL is lost when you close the REPL. You can think of a project as a permanent home for your code. You'll be using a tool called "Leiningen" to help you create and manage your project. To create a new project, run this command:

lein new quil drawing

This should create a directory structure that looks like this:

├── project.clj
└── src
    └── drawing
        └── core.clj

There's nothing inherently special or Clojure-y about this project skeleton. It's just a convention used by Leiningen. You'll be using Leiningen to build and run Clojure apps, and Leiningen expects your app to be laid out this way. Here's the function of each part of the skeleton:

  • project.clj is a configuration file for Leiningen. It helps Leiningen answer questions like, "What dependencies does this project have?" and "When this Clojure program runs, what function should get executed first?"
  • src/drawing/core.clj is where the Clojure code goes

This uses a Clojure library, Quil, that creates drawings called sketches.

Now let's go ahead and actually run the Quil sketch. Open up Nightcode and Import - find the drawing folder and click. Open the file src/drawing/core.clj

On the bottom of the right side:

  1. click Run with REPL
  2. click Reload File

Run with REPL may take a while to startup. Once you see the prompt, user=>, on the bottom window, you can click Reload.

A window will pop up and a circle bouncing, hitting walls within.

You may close the pop up-ed window by clicking a close (X) icon on the top left.

Modify Project

Let's create another Quil sketch. In Nightcode, select drawing on the left side of directory tree. click New File on the top of right side window.

Create a new file

Enter lines.clj as the name.


As your programs get more complex, you'll need to organize them. You organize your Clojure code by placing related functions and data in separate files. Clojure expects each file to correspond to a namespace, so you must declare a namespace at the top of each file.

Until now, you haven't really had to care about namespaces. Namespaces allow you to define new functions and data structures without worrying about whether the name you'd like is already taken. For example, you could create a function named println within the custom namespace my-special-namespace, and it would not interfere with Clojure's built-in println function. You can use the fully-qualified name my-special-namespace/println to distinguish your function from the built-in println.

Create a namespace in the file src/drawing/lines.clj. Open it, and type the following:

(ns drawing.lines)

This line establishes that everything you define in this file will be stored within the drawing.lines namespace.

Before going forward, click Save on the top menu bar.


The final part of working with projects is managing their dependencies. Dependencies are just code libraries that others have written which you can incorporate in your own project.

To add a dependency, open project.clj. You should see a section which reads

:dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.8.0"]
               [quil "2.4.0"]])

This is where our dependencies are listed. All the dependencies we need for this project are already included.

In order to use these libraries, we have to require them in our own project. In src/drawing/lines.clj, edit the ns statement you typed before:

(ns drawing.lines
   (:require [quil.core :as q]))

This gives us access to the library we will need to make our project.

There are a couple of things going on here. First, the :require in ns tells Clojure to load other namespaces. The :as part of :require creates an alias for a namespace, letting you refer to its definitions without having to type out the entire namespace. For example, you can use q/fill instead of quil.core/fill.

Before going forward, don't forget to save the file. Click Save on the top menu bar when you change the code.

Your first real program

Drawing with Quil

Quil is a Clojure library that provides the powers of Processing, a tool that allows you to create drawings and animations. We will use the functions of Quil to create some of our own drawings.

We will define our own functions, like so...

(defn draw []
   ; Do some things

... that call functions that Quil provides, like so...

   ; Call the quil background function
   (q/background 240)

Put it together:

(defn draw []
   ; Call the quil background function
   (q/background 240)

In order to create a drawing (or sketch in Quil lingo) with Quil, you have to define the setup, draw, and sketch functions. setup is where you set the stage for your drawing. draw happens repeatedly, so that is where the action of your drawing happens. sketch is the stage itself. Let's define these functions together, and you will see what they do.

In Nightcode, in the lines.clj file, add the following after the closing parenthesis of the ns statement from before.

(defn setup []

  (q/frame-rate 30)

  (q/color-mode :rgb)

  (q/stroke 255 0 0))

This is the setup function that sets the stage for the drawing. First, we call quil's frame-rate function to say that the drawing should be redrawn 30 times per second. We put q/ in front to say that this is frame-rate from quil. Look up at the ns statement. Since it says :as q, we can use q as a short hand for quil, and library-name/function-name is the way you call a function from a library.

Second, we set the color mode to RGB.

Third, we set the color of the lines we will draw with stroke. The code 255 0 0 represents red. You can look up RGB codes for other colors if you would like to try something else.

In Nightcode, in the lines.clj file, add the following after the closing parenthesis of the setup function.

(defn draw []

  (q/line 0 0 (q/mouse-x) (q/mouse-y))

  (q/line 200 0 (q/mouse-x) (q/mouse-y))

  (q/line 0 200 (q/mouse-x) (q/mouse-y))

  (q/line 200 200 (q/mouse-x) (q/mouse-y)))

Here we call the quil line function four times. We also call two functions repeatedly as the arguments to the line function: mouse-x and mouse-y. These get the current position (x and y coordinates on a 2d plane) of the mouse. The line function takes four arguments - two sets of x, y coordinates. The first x and y are the starting position of the line. The second x and y are the ending position of the line. So we start each of these lines at a fixed position, then end them wherever the mouse is when the sketch is drawn.

(q/defsketch hello-lines

  :title "You can see lines"

  :size [500 500]

  :setup setup

  :draw draw

  :features [:keep-on-top])

This is our sketch. You can set attributes of the sketch such as the title and size. You also tell it what are the names of the setup and draw functions. These have to match exactly the function names we used above. The last line is to make our drawing app window keep on top of everything else.

Now click - Run with REPL - Reload File - which evaluates the file. Your drawing should appear.

If not, try - Save file - Stop - Run with REPL - Reload File.

Exercise: Rainbow lines

Update your drawing so that:

  • the lines are a different color
  • the title is different
  • the lines start at a different place

Bonus: Make each of the four lines a different color.

Bonus #2: Change the color of the lines based on the mouse position.

Hint: You can browse the Quil API for ideas and function definitions.

Hint: You may think this helpful: the Quil Cheatsheet to see selected APIs for ClojureBridge curriculum.