A Clojure wrapper for JaCoP, a Java constraint programming engine.
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CloCoP is a Clojure wrapper for JaCoP, which is a Java constraint programming engine. JaCoP stands for JAva COnstraint Programming. Can you guess what CloCoP stands for?

Constraint Programming (or CP) falls into the category of problems that can be checked easily, but not necessarily easy to come up with. This is a common theme behind a lot of problems such as SAT and the Graph Coloring problem.

Here's an example of a Constraint Programming problem (not implemented in any specific CP language):

var X ϵ {1, 2}
var Y ϵ {3, 4}

X + Y = 6

=> X = 2, Y = 4

A CP library will provide a set of constraints you can specify for some integer variables, and try to solve the variables as quickly as possible. In JaCoP's case, the search is essentially a depth-first search with intelligent deduction tactics. (More information on that later.)


Add the following to your dependencies:

[clocop "0.2.0"]

###Sample code

If you're curious, here's some sample code based on the API I have so far.

(use 'clocop.core

; Variable X is between 1 and 2. Variable Y is between 3 and 4.
; We know that X + Y = 6. What are X and Y?
(with-store (store)           ; initialize the variable store
  (let [x (int-var "x" 1 2)
        y (int-var "y" 3 4)]  ; initialize the variables
    (constrain! ($= ($+ x y) 6))   ; specify x + y = 6
    (solve!)))                ; searches for a solution and returns it as a map

=> {"x" 2, "y" 4}

###More sample code

If you'd like to see more sample code, check out the test cases in clocop/test/clocop.

###But what about core.logic?

I'm aware of core.logic, but there are a few ways in which, in my opinion, JaCoP is better than MiniKanren:

  • JaCoP is more "plug-in-able," with an extensive set of customizations to the way that the search operates. There are interfaces for different components of the search, and each have several implementations.
  • I found that with core.logic, I was somewhat limited by the set of available constraints. JaCoP has many different global and FD constraints that seem to more suit my needs for solving challenging problems.
  • As the core.logic people say, JaCoP is anywhere from 10X-100X faster than core.logic at solving Finite Domain problems.

Constraint Programming

Here is a very brief guide to the key components in CP, as well as the implementation of each component in CloCoP.

###The Store

The store has one job and one job only: keep track of all the variables. Constraints, searches, and variables themselves do the hard work of actually solving the problems.

One way to think about it is that it's a box for all the variables, with several constraints attached to that box.

In CloCoP, a store is created with (store). To create variables and constrain constraints, you must wrap those function calls in the following macro:

(with-store <my-store>

so that the variables and constraints know which store you're talking about. ###Variables

Variables can only have integer values. Every variable is assigned a "domain," i.e. a finite set of integers it could possibly be. In JaCoP, initial domains must be assigned to variables at the time of creation.

In CloCoP, a variable is created with (int-var "name" min max).


A constraint can conceptually be as simple as "X = 3", or as complex as "X, Y, and Z are all different".

It has two jobs:

  • check if it is still feasible (e.g. in the X = 3 example, it will check if 3 is in the domain of X)
  • "prune" the domains of the variables in question (e.g. in the X = 3 example, it will remove any values in the domain of X that is not 3).

In CloCoP, all of the constraints are in the clocop.constraints namespace. By convention, all constraints start with a "$", i.e. $= for "=". This is because there would be a lot of overlap between the constraint names and the clojure.core function names.

You can find a complete guide to clocop.constraints at the bottom of the page.

If you want to apply a constraint to the store, use (constrain! ...).

###The Search

The three steps to CP search: Step 1: repeatedly ask the constraints to prune the domains until no further pruning can be done. Step 2: pick a variable V (and a possible value X for V), and branch into two new child searches:

  • one of which with X assigned to V (i.e. V has a domain with one item),
  • and the other with X removed from the domain of V. Step 3: repeat this process on the two child nodes (the assignment node first).

To solve your store, i.e. find a satisfying assignment for all of the variables, simply call (solve!).

Here is a complete list of the optional keyword arguments to solve!:

:solutions will either return one (:one) or all (:all) of the solutions.

:log?, when set to true, will have the search print out a log to the Console about the search.

:minimize takes a variable that the search will attempt to minimize the value of. JaCoP will use a "Branch and Bound" search strategy. It starts by running the search on the provided constraints. Then it will see what the cost variable was assigned to, and then add a constraint saying that the cost variable must be less than that. It'll keep going until adding that extra constraint makes the search infeasible, in which case it will return the last feasible solution.

Note that if you use :minimize as well as specifying :solutions :all, it will return a reversed list of solutions it found along the way, with the final minimized one at the head of the list. (good for debugging)

:timeout takes a number of seconds after which the search will stop (if it hasn't finished already). This option is typically used with a minimization (it returns the best solution so far), but it can also be used for a single solution (it returns nil after the timeout) or multiple solutions (it returns all of the solutions it had found before the timeout).

:pick-var will pick a variable (as described in Step 2). Possible choices:

  • :smallest-domain (default): var with smallest domain
  • :most-constrained-static: var with most constraints assigned to it
  • :most-constrained-dynamic: var with most pending constraints assigned to it
  • :smallest-min: var with smallest value in its domain
  • :largest-domain: var with largest domain size
  • :largest-min: var with largest minimum in its domain
  • :smallest-max: var with smallest maximum in its domain
  • :max-regret: var with biggest difference between min and max
  • (list var var ...): will choose those variables in order (skipping over already-assigned vars). Note that this final option will induce a side effect: only the given variables will appear in the solution assignment(s).

:pick-val will pick a value (as described in Step 2) for the chosen variable. Possible choices:

  • :min (default): minimum value
  • :max: maximum value
  • :middle: selects middle value (and later chooses the left and right values).
  • :random: random
  • [:random N]: random with seed
  • :simple-random: faster than :random but lower quality randomness

CloCoP Constraints

###A note about "arithmetic piping"

Suppose you want to add a constraint "X + Y = Z." In JaCoP, you'd write this:

Constraint c = new XplusYeqZ(X, Y, Z);

That's fine if you're using very small-scale constraints, but it gets complicated when you want to constrain something like "A + (B * C) = D."

IntVar BtimesC = new IntVar(...);
Constraint c1 = new XmulYeqZ(B, C, BtimesC);
Constraint c2 = new XplusYeqZ(A, BtimesC, D);
return c2;

It becomes tiring to have to work from the bottom up when designing the vars and constraints. Here's how you would write the same constraint in CloCoP:

($= ($+ A ($* B C)) D))

which basically expands to the following:

(do (constrain! (XmulYeqZ. B C tempVar1))
    (constrain! (XplusYeqZ. A tempVar1 tempVar2))
    (XeqY. tempVar2 D))

Note that, although the tempVars now exist in the constraint store, they only exist behind the scenes and they will not be included in the final solution map. This is because each tempVar serves merely as a "middle man" to help constrain the relationship between A, B, C, and D.

I call this concept "piping," which lets you create your constraints top-down without the need to create your own temporary variables.

Now, on to the actual constraints...


Note that these aren't actual "constraints" but just piping functions, which take variables as inputs and return a new variable.

  • ($+ x y ...) - sum
  • ($- x ...) - negation or subtraction
  • ($* x y) - multiplication
  • ($pow x y) - exponent
  • ($min ...) - min
  • ($max ...) - max
  • ($abs x) - absolute value
  • ($weighted-sum [x y z ...] [a b c ...]) - given some vars and some constant ints, returns ax + by + cz + ...

NOTE: sometimes you might want to mix constant numbers into your arithmetic statements (like X + 3). However, these piping functions require that you only input variables, but there is one exception:

  • When using $+ on two or three arguments, CloCoP will use the streamlined addition constraints provided in JaCoP, which are suited for small numbers of variables. In this case, you can replace up to one argument with a constant integer. (e.g. ($+ x 1), or ($+ 4 x y))


Takes variables and returns a constraint.

  • ($= x y) - equals
  • ($< x y) - less than
  • ($<= x y) - less than or equal
  • ($> x y) - greater than
  • ($>= x y) - greater than or equal
  • ($!= x y) - not equal


Takes constraints and returns another constraint. Note: logic constraints can only take equality constraints, or other logic constraints. i.e. NOT global constraints.

  • ($and & clauses) - "and" statement; all of the given statements are true
  • ($or & clauses) - "or" statement; at least one of the given statements are true
  • ($not P) - "not / ~P" statement; P is not true.
  • ($if P Q R) - "if/then/else" statement; if P is true, Q is true, otherwise R is true (R is optional)
  • ($cond ...) - behaves like "cond" but made out of $if statements; not a macro
  • ($iff P Q) - "iff/<=>" statement; P is true if and only if Q is true


JaCoP provides quite a few global constraints, which are expressive constraints that implement clever algorithms to prune domains efficiently. I ported a few of them to CloCoP, and when the opportunity presented itself, I made some of them into piping functions.


  • ($all-different & vars) - "all different" statement; none of the vars are equal to any other var.
  • ($binpacking :bin-sizes [...] :item-sizes [...] :item-locations [...]) - packs items into bins. :bin-sizes is a seq of bin sizes (seq of constant integers). :item-sizes is a seq of item sizes (seq of variables). :item-locations is a seq of bin indices corresponding to the items (seq of variables).

Piping functions:

  • ($reify c) - given a constraint, returns a variable that will be 1 if the constraint is true and 0 if the constraint is false. It can only be passed logic or equality constraints.
  • ($nth L i) - given a list of vars (or a list of constants) and a var i, returns another var that will equal L[i].
  • ($occurrences L i) - given a list of vars, and a constant i, returns another var that will equal the amount of times i appears in L.


There are many more JaCoP constraints I haven't ported to CloCoP yet. I plan to add more in the future, but let me know (e.g. in the Issues forum) if you're eager to get a specific constraint on board.

Special thanks to Radoslaw Szymanek (a creator of JaCoP) for permission to put JaCoP on Clojars and create a Clojure spin-off of JaCoP.

This project is under the Eclipse Public License. Contributions welcome!