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A tasty build tool for Clojure.
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Cake is a tasty build tool for clojure, designed to be as powerful and fun to use as clojure itself. Cake has the following features:

  • persistent JVM, eliminating start-up overhead
  • dependency based task model, making it simple to define your own tasks and extend existing ones
  • large library of built in tasks
  • compatibile with most Leiningen project.clj files
  • cross platform (Linux, OS X, Windows, Commodore 64)
  • enhanced concurrent REPL with command history, paren matching and tab completion

This software is a pre-release, please submit an issue on github if you run into any problems.


There are three ways to get Cake. The simplest method is just to install the gem. If you're new, that's what we recommend.

Using gem

  1. gem install cake

Standalone script

  1. Download the script
  2. Put it somewhere in your path and chmod +x cake to make it executable

Git repository

  1. git clone git://
  2. Symlink bin/cake into your path and make it executable

Getting Started

Cake is compatible with Leiningen project.clj files, so if you already have a project.clj, you're ready to go. Just install Cake and then type cake in your project root for a list of tasks.

If you don't yet have a project.clj file, creating one is simple. Here's an example:

(defproject jiraph "0.2.7"
  :description "Embedded graph db library for Clojure."
  :url ""
  :tasks [protobuf.tasks]
  :dependencies [[clojure "1.2.0"]
                 [clojure-contrib "1.2.0"]
                 [clojure-useful "0.2.1"]
                 [clojure-protobuf "0.3.0"]
                 [tokyocabinet "1.2.3"]])

Default Tasks

Cake provides default tasks for most of the things you probably do on a regular basis.

cake help      ;; Print tasks with documentation. Use 'cake help TASK' for more details.
cake deps      ;; Fetch dependencies and create pom.xml.
cake clean     ;; Remove cake build artifacts.
cake repl      ;; Start an interactive shell with history and tab completion.
cake run       ;; Execute a script in the project jvm.
cake test      ;; Run project tests.
cake autotest  ;; Automatically run tests whenever your project code changes.
cake compile   ;; Compile all clojure and java source files.
cake jar       ;; Build a jar file containing project source and class files.
cake uberjar   ;; Create a standalone jar containing all project dependencies.
cake bin       ;; Create a standalone console executable for your project.
cake install   ;; Install jar to local repository.
cake release   ;; Release project jar to clojars.
cake deploy    ;; Deploy war to a group of servers.
cake upgrde    ;; Upgrade cake to the most current version.
cake eval      ;; Eval the given forms in the project JVM.
cake filter    ;; Thread each stdin line through the given forms, printing the results.
cake war       ;; Create a web archive containing project source and class files.
cake uberwar   ;; Create a web archive containing all project dependencies.
cake swank     ;; Report status of swank server and start it if not running.
cake version   ;; Print the current project name and version.

Cake also provides several system tasks for managing the persistent JVM.

cake start     ;; Start cake jvm processes.
cake stop      ;; Stop cake jvm processes.
cake restart   ;; Restart cake jvm processes.
cake reload    ;; Reload any .clj files that have changed or restart.
cake ps        ;; List running cake jvm processes for all projects.
cake kill      ;; Kill running cake jvm processes. Use -9 to force or --all for all projects.

Default Task Documentation

Custom Tasks

Custom tasks are created using the deftask and defile macros in either project.clj, tasks.clj or within your src directory. Any namespaces within src containing tasks will need to be added to the :tasks vector in project.clj and will be usable by other projects.

Like many build tools, Cake uses a dependency-based programming model. This means that if other tasks your task is dependent on share a dependency, that dependency will only be ran once. For more details, check out Martin Fowler's excellent article on Rake. Here is the example from that article using Cake syntax:

(deftask code-gen
  "This task generates code. It has no dependencies."
  (println "generating code...")

(deftask compile #{code-gen}
  "This task does the compilation. It depends on code-gen."
  (println "compiling...")

(deftask data-load #{code-gen}
  "This task loads the test data. It depends on code-gen."
  (println "loading test data...")

(deftask test #{compile data-load}
  "This task runs the tests. It depends on compile and data-load."
  (println "running tests...")

Dependencies for a task are denoted by a set. For the deftask macro, dependencies are tasks that should be invoked before the task being defined.

File Tasks

The defile macro is used to define file generation tasks. Instead of a symbol, the task is named by a string that is the path to the file relative to the project root. Dependencies of defile tasks are essentially when clauses that say to invoke the file task only if any of the dependencies have changed since the last time the file was generated.

(defile "lib/deps.clj" #{"project.clj"}
  "This task is only ran if project.clj is newer than lib/deps.clj"
  (println "generating lib/deps.clj from project.clj...")

You can also mix file and task dependencies for both macros. Within the dependency set, strings represent file generation tasks and symbols represent regular tasks.

(deftask uberwar #{"web.xml" compile}
  "This appends a condition to the task. `uberwar` will only be ran if web.xml was touched, or compile was ran, since `uberwar` was last invoked.")

TODO: Re-opening task documentation TODO: :when clause documentation

Command-line Arguments

There is no way to pass parameters from one task to another, however, cake does parse all command-line arguments and make them available to all tasks as a var called *opts* which contains a map of keys to vectors of repeated values. Named args begin with --keyname and are mapped to :keyname. Unnamed arguments are mapped to :taskname. Repeated named values can be specified by repeating a key or by using commas in the value. Single and double dashes are both supported though a single dash followed by word characters without internal dashes or an equal sign is assumed to be single character argument flags and are split accordingly.

Here are some example cake commands followed be the corresponding values of *opts*:

cake help compile
{:help ["compile"]}

cake test :unit :functional foo.test.login-controller
{:test [":unit" ":functional" "foo.test.login-controller"]}

cake compile --compile-native=x86,debug --verbose
{:compile-native ["x86", "debug"] :verbose [""]}

cake foo -vD -no-wrap -color=blue,green --style=baroque -color=red
{:style ["baroque"], :color ["blue" "green" "red"], :no-wrap [""], :D [""], :v [""]}

In the first two examples, you can see that unnamed arguments are placed under the task name in the opts map. This means you can pass "unnamed" arguments to a task that is a dependency of the one you are running by adding the task name before the arguments and separating them with commas.

You can also destructure *opts* directly in your task definitions:

(deftask test #{compile}
   "Run the tests specified on the command line."
   {test-names :test [verbose] :verbose}

(deftask foo #{bar}
   "This task takes a bunch of opts."
    {colors :color [no-wrap] :no-wrap [d] :D [v] :v
     {style 0 :or {style "modern"}} :style}

Advanced Techniques

Extending tasks

Cake allows you to add actions, dependencies and even documentation to existing tasks. For example:

(deftask compile #{compile-native}
  "Native C code will be compiled before compiling Clojure and Java code.")

(deftask test
  (println "Running integration tests...")

Actions will be run in the order they are added, so if you extend Cake default tasks, your code will be run after the default code. All dependencies will be run before all actions, but there are no other guarantees about the order dependecies will be run.

Redefining a task

Sometimes you need to redefine a default task completely. In this case, you can use undeftask.

(undeftask release)
(deftask release
  "Release code to production servers."
  (println "Releasing to production...")

You can also use the :exclude option with the :tasks attribute in project.clj to prevent tasks from being defined in the first place.

Manually calling a task

If you have a conditional dependency or need to dynamically execute a task within another task for some other reason, you can use invoke.

(deftask primary
   (println "Executing primary task...")
   (when (:secondary opts)
      (invoke secondary))

(deftask secondary
   (println "Executing secondary task...")

Native Library Dependencies

Cake will automatically extract precompiled native libraries for your os and architecture from dependency jars and put them in lib/native/ and lib/dev/native/. Native libraries must be located in native/<os-name>/<os-arch>/ within the jar.

os-name -> linux | macosx | solaris | windows
os-arch -> x86_64 | x86 | arm | sparc

Cake also adds these directories to java.library.path when starting the JVM. If you want to add additional paths to java.library.path, you can add Java properties called cake.library.path and project.library.path to .cake/config.

Subproject Dependencies

Sometimes one or more of your dependencies are other projects you are working on, and you want to track changes to those projects without having to release them to clojars. To do this, simply add a Java property named subproject.<project-name> with the path to the git checkout to .cake/config, like this:

subproject.clojure-useful   = /Users/justin/projects/useful
subproject.clojure-complete = /Users/justin/projects/complete

Now instead of fetching these projects from clojars, cake deps will run cake jar in each project checkout and copy the resulting jar along with all deps into your main project's lib directory. You still have to run cake deps for subproject changes to show up in your main project, but this is probably best in most cases.

If you really do want changes to clojure source files to show up immediately, you can always add the subproject src directory to your project classpath in .cake/config like this:

project.classpath = /Users/justin/projects/useful/src

A Persistent JVM

If you've used the JVM for much time at all, you know that one of the worst things about it is the incredibly slow start-up time. This is even more apparent when you are running a build tool. Cake solves this problem by using persistent JVMs (one for Cake itself, and one for your project). When you run the cake script, it first makes sure the JVM is running, then it connects using a socket and sends your command. This makes interacting with your Clojure project blazingly fast. This also makes it really easy to open multiple REPL threads that all share a single JVM which is great for testing parallel code.

Cake tries to keep the persistent JVMs running as long as possible by reloading Clojure files that have changed. However, when .java, .class and .jar files change, Cake has to restart the project JVM. If you have existing REPL or Swank connections though, Cake will refuse to close the JVM, printing a warning instead.

Custom JVM Options

If you need custom command-line options for your JVMs, you can use the JAVA_OPTS environment variable for the project JVM and CAKE_JAVA_OPTS for the Cake JVM. You can also specify options for an individual project by adding the Java properties cake.java_opts and project.java_opts to .cake/config. For example:

project.java_opts = -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -Dfoo=bar
cake.java_opts    = -Xms128M -Xmx128M -Dfoo=baz

The global project

If you run cake outside of a project directory, it will use the global project. You can also use the --global option to run any command in the global project, no matter what your current directory is. The global project is automatically created in ~/.cake/project.clj the first time you use it.

So why do you need the global project?

It's useful for experimenting with clojure in a repl. You can add :dependencies to this project if you want to experiment with a new library. And any :dev-dependencies in the global project will be available in every project, though you have to run cake deps --global manually when you change ~/.cake/project.clj. Also, any configuration options in ~/.cake/config and any tasks in ~/.cake/tasks.clj will be available in every project.

For example, you could put subproject delcarations or JVM options in ~/.cake/config and commonly used tasks in ~/.cake/tasks.clj. Suppose you want to always run tests before releasing any project. Just add this line to ~/.cake/tasks.clj:

(deftask release #{test})

Another cool thing the global project enables is writing clojure shell scripts. Just add the following line to the top of a file, make it executable and executing it will run the clojure code in the global project. The file doesn't even have to end in .clj.

#!/usr/bin/env cake

Contributors (in order of appearance)

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