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Large addition to usage instructions in README

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@stuartsierra stuartsierra authored
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@@ -1,18 +1,18 @@
-Tools for managing namespaces in Clojure. It can parse `ns`
-declarations from source files, extract their dependencies, build a
-graph of inter-namespace dependencies within a project, update that
-graph as files change, and reload files in the correct order.
+Tools for managing namespaces in Clojure. Parse `ns` declarations from
+source files, extract their dependencies, build a graph of namespace
+dependencies within a project, update that graph as files change, and
+reload files in the correct order.
Releases and Dependency Information
-*Current master branch is an unstable work-in-progress*
+*Current master branch is unstable*
-[Latest stable release is 0.1.3](
+* [Latest stable release is 0.1.3](
* [All Released Versions](
@@ -46,18 +46,203 @@ Releases and Dependency Information
-* Do not store the dependency tracker in a namespace which gets reloaded.
+[API Documentation](
+tools.namespace consists of several parts:
+**** A parser for namespace declarations
+in Clojure source files. Given a stream of characters from a Clojure
+source file, it can find the `ns` declaration and parse the `:require`
+and `:use` clauses to find the names of other namespaces that file
+depends on. This is all syntactic analysis: it does not
+evaluate any code.
+**** Utilities to search for Clojure
+namespaces on the filesystem, in directories or JAR files. Combined
+with [java.classpath](, it
+can search for namespaces on the Java classpath. This namespace
+contains most of the functions in version
+**** Utilities to load and reload code
+ based on the namespace dependency graph. This takes some explaining,
+ see below. c.t.n.repl is built out of smaller parts:
+* c.t.n.dependency - generic dependency graph data structure
+* c.t.n.track - namespace dependency tracker
+* c.t.n.file - file-reader extension to tracker
+* c.t.n.dir - directory-scanner extension to tracker
+* c.t.n.reload - namespace-reloading extension to tracker
+You can recombine these parts in other ways, but c.t.n.repl is the
+main public entry-point to their functionality.
+Reloading Code: Motivation
+c.t.n.repl is a smarter way to reload code.
+The traditional way to reload Clojure code without restarting the JVM
+is `(require ... :reload)` or `:reload-all` or an editor/IDE feature
+that does the same thing. This has several problems:
+* If you modify two namespaces which depend on each other, you must
+ remember to reload them in the correct order to avoid compilation
+ errors.
+* If you remove definitions from a source file and then reload it,
+ those definitions are still available in memory. If other code
+ depends on those definitions, it will continue to work but will
+ break the next time you restart the JVM.
+* If the reloaded namespace contains `defmulti`, you must also reload
+ all of the associated `defmethod` expressions.
+* If the reloaded namespace contains macros, you must also reload any
+ namespaces which use those macros.
+* If the reloaded namespace contains `defprotocol`, you must also
+ reload any records or types implementing that protocol and create
+ new instances.
+* If the running program contains functions which close over values in
+ the reloaded namespace, those closed-over values are not updated.
+ (This is common in web applications which construct the web "stack"
+ as a composition of functions.)
+In short, the only safe way to reload Clojure code is to restart the
+JVM. A large application can take 20 seconds or more just to compile.
+I wrote tools.namespace to help speed up this development cycle.
+Reloading Code: Usage
+Using c.t.n.repl is easy:
+ user=> (use '[ :only (refresh)])
+ user=> (refresh)
+The `refresh` function will scan all the directories on the classpath
+for Clojure source files, read their `ns` declarations, build a graph
+of their dependencies, and load them in dependency order. (You can
+change the directories it scans with `set-refresh-dirs`.)
+Later on, after you have changed and saved a few files in your editor,
+run it again:
+ user=> (refresh)
+Based on file modification timestamps and the graph of dependencies,
+the `refresh` function will reload *only* the namespaces that have
+changed, in dependency order. But first, it will *unload* the
+namespaces that changed to clear out any old definitions.
+This is subtle, and quite unlike `(require ... :reload)`. Calling
+`refresh` will /blow away your old code/. Sometimes this is helpful:
+it can catch trivial mistakes like deleting a function that another
+piece of code depends on. But sometimes it hurts when you have
+built-up application state stored in a Var that got deleted by
-* If you reload the REPL's current namespace, call `in-ns` after reloading.
+This brings us to the next section:
+Reloading Code: Preparing Your Application
+Being able to safely destroy and reload namespaces without breaking
+your application requires some discipline and careful design. It won't
+"just work" on any Clojure project.
+### No Global State
+The first rule for making your application reload-safe is **no global
+state**. That means you should never do this:
+ (def state-of-world (ref {}))
+ (def window-handle (atom nil))
+When you store a mutable reference in a global Var, you have
+effectively created a mutable global variable. This is generally
+considered a bad idea in *every* programming paradigm. (Using
+`alter-var-root` signals the same problem.)
+You can't avoid mutable state: that's one of the principles behind
+Clojure's mutable reference types. But you *can* avoid making it
+global. Instead of storing your state in global Vars, store it
+/locally/ in an object that represents the running state of your
+application. Then provide a constructor function to initialize that
+ (defn create-application []
+ {:state-of-world (ref {})
+ :window-handle (atom nil)})
+You can choose what representation works best for your application:
+map, vector, record, or even just a single Ref by itself.
+### Managed Lifecycle
+The second rule for making your application reload-safe is having a
+consistent way to **start and stop the entire system**. I like to do
+this with a protocol implemented by each major component in the
+ (defprotocol Lifecycle
+ (start [component])
+ (stop [component]))
+But smaller applications can probably get away with a simple pair of
+The point is that you need a convenient way to destroy all the
+built-up state of your application and then *recreate it from
+scratch*. The "stop" function should stop any running processes,
+release all external resources, and zero-out any internal state. The
+"start" function should create internal state, acquire resources, and
+start processes.
+It might take a few tries to get it right, but once you have a working
+start/stop you can have a workflow like this:
+1. Start up a REPL.
+2. Load the app:
+ user=> (use '[ :only (refresh)])
+ user=> (refresh)
+ user=> (def my-app (create-application))
+ user=> (start my-app)
+3. Test it out.
+4. Modify some source files.
+5. Restart:
+ user=> (stop my-app)
+ user=> (refresh)
+ user=> (def my-app (create-application))
+ user=> (start my-app)
+After that, you've got a squeaky-clean new instance of your app
+running, in a fraction of the time it takes to restart the JVM.
-* Beware code which has references to old definitions.
+Beware code which has references to old definitions.
+If you create your own instance of the dependency tracker, do not
+store it in a namespace which gets reloaded.
-Warnings for Protocols
+### Warnings for Protocols
When reloading namespaces which contain protocols, be careful that you
do not leave any old instances of records or types implementing those
@@ -94,11 +279,13 @@ That's because `my-foo` is an **instance** of the **old** version of
JVM is concerned, the old `IFoo` and the new `IFoo` are completely
different classes.
+To avoid this problem, always create new instances of records after a
-## License
+## Copyright and License
-Copyright Stuart Sierra
+Copyright © 2012 Stuart Sierra
-Licensed under the EPL. (See the file epl.html.)
+Licensed under the [Eclipse Public License Version 1.0](
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