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Latest commit 57912f8 Nov 19, 2013 @alexcoventry alexcoventry Fix typo


Troncle is a proof-of-concept integration of clojure's tracing tools with emacs, inspired by technomancy's innovative nrepl-discover and a robust (very simple) code-walking/wrapping macro I've developed. is super-handy for exploring how code is executing, but wrapping and unwrapping subforms with (ctt/trace ...) gets tedious. The main idea with troncle is to take most of that tedium away by letting you use emacs to point at the forms you want to wrap and then doing the wrapping for you automatically during compilation.

If this seems like an interesting project to you, please take a look at the roadmap and let me know what you think. If it seems useless or otherwise misguided, please also let me know what you think. :-) All feedback is welcome.


Troncle's goal is to speed up a typical repl debugging workflow. When you hit a bug, you write a test for it. For instance, suppose we have the following simple clojure file.

If we compile this and run the test, it fails:

troncle.tst> (capitalization)

FAIL in (capitalization) (tst.clj:14)
expected: (= "Foo" (capitalize "foo"))
  actual: (not (= "Foo" "foo"))

You can use troncle to quickly select regions of the code and check what values they're returning as you're running the test. In this case, you'd do C-c t E (troncle-set-exec-var), choose capitalization, then choose a region of the capitalize form to instrument for tracing and send it off with C-c t R (troncle-trace-region.) By the way, the var you choose with troncle-set-exec-var needn't be in the same namespace as the code you're interested in tracing, so it is compatible with the usual practice of separating code and tests. You can also set the function to be executed at the repl using troncle.traces/st. Whichever method you use, the function will be called with no arguments on the clojure side when troncle-trace-region is called on the emacs side.

Suppose we run C-c t R with the following region of tst.clj selected:

This results in the following output in the repl:

L:5 C:11 (.toString s)
=> "foo"
L:6 C:12 (count s)
=> 3
L:6 C:9 (< (count s) 2)
=> false

Troncle wraps all evaluable forms in the full macroexpansion of any forms in the region with tracing instrumentation. In this case, for instance, L:5 C:11 (.toString s) => "foo" means that the form (.toString s) starting at line 5, column 11 returned the value "foo".

It all looks like sensible output, so let's try selecting another region:

Part of the output from this is

L:9 C:8 (str (.toUpperCase (subs s 0 1)) (.toLowerCase (subs s 1)))
=> "Foo"
L:8 C:7 (.toLowerCase (str (.toUpperCase (subs s 0 1)) (.toLowerCase (subs s 1))))
=> "foo"

So we've found the bug, a spurious (.toLowerCase).


  1. In emacs, M-x package-install troncle. If you haven't already done so, you will first need to add the marmalade repository by putting the following in your ~/.emacs file and executing it, then installing the clojure-mode and nrepl packages with M-x package-install.

    (require 'package)
    (add-to-list 'package-archives
                  '("marmalade" . ""))
  2. In the project.clj file for the lein project where you want to use troncle, add [troncle "0.1.1-SNAPSHOT"] to your :dependencies vector, and

    :injections [(require 'troncle.emacs)]
    :repl-options {:nrepl-middleware []}

    Also add

You can also add these modifications to your :user map in your ~/.lein/profiles.clj.

  1. M-x nrepl-jack-in in your target project. (Restart the jvm if necessary, to get the nrepl middleware operating.)

  2. Compile the code you want to execute with C-c C-k.

  3. Set the function to be run by troncle using M-x troncle-set-exec-var from emacs or troncle.traces/st in the nrepl buffer. (see Usage for an example.)

  4. Mark the forms you want traced, and hit C-c t R and watch the output in the repl!


Extended functionality

This is a very simple application at the moment, but I think it has a lot of potential. The core functionality is in troncle.macroshka, which is a very robust code-walking scheme. (I've run it over the entire clojure source code.)

These are the directions I'd like to move it in:

  1. Emacs convenience functions for passing "load this file" and "run this test" functions to tronce.traces/st.

  2. Tracing instrumentation for multiple regions within a top-level form.

  3. Filtered tracing: Only report a trace when a given predicate returns true. Predicate can be specified in terms of return values of the forms under consideration.

  4. Save and restore current tracing configuration.

  5. Tracing of bindings to local variables.

  6. Send trace reports to a clojure list, rather than/as well as the repl, so that they can be queried programmatically.

  7. Replay a series of trace reports using emacs overlays (nrepl-discover's overlay facility should make this easy.)

  8. Replace the tracing with source-level step debugging.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Coventry

Distributed under the Eclipse Public License either version 1.0 or (at your option) any later version.