October 23, 2022

Make Clojure development tasks simple and consistent

clojure logo - post topic

GNU Make provide a simple and consistent way to run any development task for Clojure & ClojureScript projects (or any other languages).

Wrap any combination of tools (building, linting, formatting, testing) with make targets for a simple command line interface, with automatically tab completion, making any Clojure project really easy to work with. Practicalli also uses make to manage docker images and containers to support Clojure development.

All that is required is a Makefile in the root of the project

GNU Make overview

GNU Make is a language agnostic build automation tool which has been an integral part of building Linux/Unix operating system code and applications for decades, providing a consistent way to configure, compile and deploy code for all projects.

A Makefile defines targets called via the make command. Each target can run one or more commands. Targets can be dependent on other targets, e.g the dist target that builds a project can be dependent on deps & test targets.

GNU Make is available on all Linux/Unix based operating systems (and Windows via chocolatey or nmake).

Practicalli also uses make to configure and build the latest versions of Emacs and other Linux open source software

Defining tasks

Create a Makefile in the root of a project and define a target by typing a suitable name followed by a : character, e.g. test:

Insert a tab on the next line and type a command to be called. Further commands can be added on new lines so long as each line is tab indented.

The repl target prints out an information message and then uses the Clojure CLI with aliases from practicalli/clojure-deps-edn to run a Clojure REPL process with a rich terminal UI (Rebel Readline)

repl:  ## Run Clojure REPL with rich terminal UI (Rebel Readline)
    $(info --------- Run Rebel REPL ---------)
    clojure -M:env/dev:env/test:repl/rebel

Common target naming

Targets used across Practicalli projects follow the make standard targets for users

all , test-ci , deps and dist targets are recommended for use with a CI deployment pipeline and builder stage when using Docker.

  • all calling all targets to prepare the application to be run. e.g. all: deps test-ci dist clean
  • deps download library dependencies (depend on deps.edn file)
  • dist create a distribution tar file for this program or zip deployment package for AWS Lambda
  • lint run lint tools to check code quality - e.g MegaLinter which provides a wide range of tools
  • format-check report format and style issues for a specific programming language
  • format-fix update source code files if there are format and style issues for a specific programming language
  • pre-commit-check run unit tests and code quality targets before considering a Git commit
  • repl run an interactive run-time environment for the programming language
  • test-unit run all unit tests
  • test-ci test running in CI build (optionally focus on integration testing)
  • clean remove files created by any of the commands from other targets (i.e. ensure a clean build each time)

Target dependencies

A Makefile target can depend on either a file name or another target in the Makefile.

The all target typically depends on several Makefile targets to test, compile and package a service. Add the names of the targets this target depends upon

all: deps test-ci dist clean

Add the filename of a file after the name of the target, to depend on if that file has changed. If the file has not changed since make was last run then the task will not run again.

Clojure CLI Example: If the deps target depends on deps.edn and the file has not changed since last run, the deps target will not run again.

deps target - depend on a file

The deps target would use Clojure CLI or Leiningen to download dependencies.

Configuring the deps target to depend on deps.edn or project.clj file, then if the file has not changed the deps will not run again.

A Clojure CLI example depends on the deps.edn file that defines all the library dependencies for the project, tools for testing and packaging the Clojure service. The -P flag is the prepare option, a dry run that only downloads the dependencies for the given tasks.

deps: deps.edn  ## Prepare dependencies for test and dist targets
    $(info --------- Download libraries to test and build the service ---------)
    clojure -P -X:env/test:package/uberjar

:env/test adds libraries to run Kaocha and libraries used to run unit tests. :package/uberjar runs a tool that creates an uberjar.

Clean target - hiding command failure

The clean target should remove files and directories created by the build (compile) process, to ensure a consistent approach to building each time.

On Linux / Unix systems files can be deleted with the rm command using -r for recursively deleting a directory and its contents. -f forces the deleting of files and directories, otherwise a prompt for confirmation of the delete may be shown.

- before a command instructs make to ignore an error code, useful if the files to be deleted did not exist (i.e. the build failed part way through and not all files were created).

# `-` before the command ignores any errors returned
    $(info --------- Clean Clojure classpath cache ---------)
    - rm -rf ./.cpcache

MegaLinter target - simplifying a command

The lint target is an example of how the Makefile simplifies the command line interface.

lint: target is used to call the MegaLinter runner, avoiding the need to remember the common options passed when calling MegaLinter command line tool, mega-linter-runner

The Java flavor of MegaLinter is less than 2Gb image (full MegaLinter image is 8Gb) and contains all the tools for a Clojure project. The flavor can only be set via a command line option, so the make file ensures that option is always used and the full MegaLinter docker image is not downloaded by mistake.

When MegaLinter is configured to generate reports (default), lint-clean: target is used to clean those reports.

# Run MegaLinter with custom configuration
    $(info --------- MegaLinter Runner ---------)
    mega-linter-runner --flavor java --env 'MEGALINTER_CONFIG=.github/linters/mega-linter.yml'

    $(info --------- MegaLinter Clean Reports ---------)
    - rm -rf ./megalinter-reports

Enhancing make output

The info message is used with each target to enhances the readability of the make output, especially when multiple targets and commands are involved, or if commands are generating excessive output to standard out.

    $(info --------- Runner for unit tests ---------)

Makefile showing make all output with info messages to separate the Clojure commands and output

Avoiding file name collisions

Although unlikely, if a filename in the root of a project has the same name as a Makefile target, it can be used instead of running the targets command

.PHONY: defines the names of targets in the Makefile to avoid name clashes

.PHONY: all lint deps test test-ci dist clean

Reference: https://makefiletutorial.com/#phony

Halt on failure

.DELETE_ON_ERROR: halts any further commands if a command returns non-zero exit status. Useful as short-circuit to stop tasks when further work is not valuable, e.g. if tests fail then it may not be valuable to build the Clojure project.

all: deps test-ci dist clean

Reference: https://makefiletutorial.com/#delete_on_error



A Makefile can simplify the command line interface for any task with a Clojure project (or any other language and tooling).

Using the same target names across all projects reduces the cognitive load for driving any project.

Thank you. @practical_li

Tags: makefile clojure clojure-cli make