Up and Running

To use CIDER, you’ll need to connect it to a running nREPL server that is associated with your program. Most Clojure developers use standard build tooling such as Leiningen, Boot, or Gradle, and CIDER can automatically work with those tools to get you up and running quickly. But those tools are not required; CIDER can connect to an nREPL server that is already started and is managed separately.

CIDER will automatically work with Leiningen 2.9.0+ or Boot 2.8.3+. Older versions are not supported.

There are two ways to connect CIDER to an nREPL server:

  1. CIDER can launch an nREPL server for your project from Emacs.

  2. You can connect CIDER to an already-running nREPL server, managed separately.

The following sections describe each of these methods.

Launch an nREPL Server From Emacs

If you have a Clojure project in your file system and want CIDER to launch an nREPL session for it, simply visit a file that belongs to the project, and type M-x cider-jack-in RET.[1] CIDER will start an nREPL server and automatically connect to it.

In Clojure(Script) buffers the command cider-jack-in is bound to C-c C-x (C-)j (C-)j.

The process of jacking-in is pretty simple:

  • CIDER shells out and runs a command like lein repl :headless.

  • CIDER waits for the nREPL server to start. CIDER figures out this by parsing the output from the command and waiting for a line like nREPL server started on port 53005 on host localhost - nrepl://localhost:53005 to appear there.

  • CIDER extracts the port of the nREPL from the preceding message.

  • It connects to the running nREPL server.

You can see the exact command that cider-jack-in invoked in your minibuffer, while waiting for nREPL to start. You can also find this command in Emacs’s *Messages* buffer.

Auto-Injecting Dependencies

While CIDER’s core functionality requires nothing more than an nREPL server, there are many advanced features that depend on the presence of additional nREPL middleware. In the early versions of CIDER (up to CIDER 0.11) users had to add those dependencies themselves, which was a painful and error-prone process. Fortunately today that’s handled auto-magically when you’re using cider-jack-in.

If your project uses lein, boot or tools.deps (deps.edn), CIDER will automatically inject all the necessary nREPL dependencies (e.g. cider-nrepl or piggieback) when it starts the server. The injection process is extremely simple - CIDER simply passes the extra dependencies and nREPL configuration to your build tool in the command in runs to start the nREPL server. Here’s how this looks for tools.deps:

$ clojure -Sdeps '{:deps {nrepl {:mvn/version "0.6.0"} cider/cider-nrepl {:mvn/version "0.22.0-SNAPSHOT"}}}' -m nrepl.cmdline --middleware '["cider.nrepl/cider-middleware"]'
If you don’t want cider-jack-in to inject dependencies automatically, set cider-inject-dependencies-at-jack-in to nil. Note that you’ll have to setup the dependencies yourself (see nREPL Middleware Setup), just as in CIDER 0.10 and older.

Normally cider-jack-in would inject only cider-nrepl and cider-jack-in-cljs would add piggieback as well. The injection mechanism is configurable and you can easily add more libraries there. Some CIDER extensions would use this mechanism to auto-inject their own dependencies.

CIDER would also inject the most recent version of nREPL that it supports. This is a simple trick to override the version of nREPL bundled with your build tool, so you can gain access to the newest nREPL features. Generally that’s one aspect of CIDER’s inner workings that end-users will rarely have to think about.

CIDER can also inject a Clojure dependency into your project, which is useful, for example, if your project defaults to an older version of Clojure than that supported by the CIDER middleware. Set cider-jack-in-auto-inject-clojure appropriately to enable this.

CIDER does not currently support dependency auto-injection for Gradle projects. Unfortunately there’s no way to pass extra dependencies to Gradle via its command-line interface.

Jacking-in without a Project

If you try to run cider-jack-in outside a project directory, CIDER will warn you and ask you to confirm whether you really want to do this; more often than not, this is an accident. If you decide to proceed, CIDER will invoke the command configured in cider-jack-in-default. Prior to CIDER 0.17, this defaulted to lein but was subsequently switched to clj, Clojure’s basic startup command.

You can set cider-allow-jack-in-without-project to t if you’d like to disable the warning displayed when jacking-in outside a project.

Customizing the Jack-in Command Behaviour

You can use C-u M-x cider-jack-in RET to specify the exact command that cider-jack-in would run. This option is very useful is you want to specify a something like a lein or deps.edn profile.

Alternatively you can C-u C-u M-x cider-jack-in RET, which is a variation of the previous command. This command will first prompt you for the project you want to launch cider-jack-in in, which is pretty handy if you’re in some other directory currently. This option is also useful if your project contains some combination of project.clj, build.boot and deps.edn and you want to launch a REPL for one or the other.

The examples use only cider-jack-in, but this behaviour is consistent for all cider-jack-in-* commands.

You can further customize the command line CIDER uses for cider-jack-in by modifying the following string options:

  • cider-lein-global-options, cider-boot-global-options, cider-clojure-cli-global-options, cider-gradle-global-options: these are passed to the command directly, in first position (e.g., -o to lein enables offline mode).

  • cider-lein-parameters, cider-boot-parameters, cider-clojure-cli-parameters, cider-gradle-parameters: these are usually task names and their parameters (e.g., dev for launching boot’s dev task instead of the standard repl -s wait).

Connect to a Running nREPL Server

If you have an nREPL server already running, CIDER can connect to it. For instance, if you have a Leiningen-based project, go to your project’s directory in a terminal session and type:

$ lein repl :headless

This will start the project’s nREPL server.

If your project uses boot, do this instead:

$ boot repl -s wait (or whatever task launches a repl)

It is also possible for plain clj, although the command is somewhat longer:

$ clj -Sdeps '{:deps {cider/cider-nrepl {:mvn/version "0.21.1"}}}' -m nrepl.cmdline --middleware "[cider.nrepl/cider-middleware]"

Alternatively, you can start nREPL either manually or using the facilities provided by your project’s build tool (Gradle, Maven, etc).

After you get your nREPL server running, go back to Emacs and connect to it: M-x cider-connect RET. CIDER will prompt you for the host and port information, which should have been printed when the previous commands started the nREPL server in your project.

In Clojure(Script) buffers the command cider-connect is bound to C-c C-x c s.

If you frequently connect to the same hosts and ports, you can tell CIDER about them and it will use the information to do completing reads for the host and port prompts when you invoke cider-connect. You can identify each host with an optional label.

(setq cider-known-endpoints
  '(("host-a" "10.10.10.1" "7888")
    ("host-b" "7888")))

Working with Remote Hosts

While most of the time you’d be connecting to a locally running nREPL server, that was started manually or via cider-jack-in-*, there’s also the option to connect to remote nREPL hosts. For the sake of security CIDER has the ability to tunnel a connection over SSH in such cases. This behavior is controlled by nrepl-use-ssh-fallback-for-remote-hosts: when true, CIDER will attempt to connect via ssh to remote hosts when unable to connect directly. It’s nil by default.

There’s also nrepl-force-ssh-for-remote-hosts which will force the use of ssh for remote connection unconditionally.

As nREPL connections are insecure by default you’re encouraged to use only SSH tunneling when connecting to servers running outside of your network.

There’s a another case in which CIDER may optionally leverage the ssh command - when trying to figure out potential target hosts and ports when you’re doing cider-connect-*. If cider-infer-remote-nrepl-ports is true, CIDER will use ssh to try to infer nREPL ports on remote hosts (for a direct connection). That option is also set to nil by default.

Enabling either of these causes CIDER to use TRAMP for some SSH operations, which parses config files such as ~/.ssh/config and ~/.ssh/known_hosts. This is known to cause problems with complex or nonstandard ssh configs.

You can safely run cider-jack-in-* while working with remote files over TRAMP. CIDER will handle this use-case transparently for you.


1. Yeah, that’s a "Neuromancer" reference.