Deps and CLI Reference


Clojure "endeavors to be a general-purpose language suitable in those areas where Java is suitable" (from Rationale). To effectively target the JVM platform, Clojure needs to provide ready access to Java libraries, ideally in a way suited for dynamic development. In practice, this means meeting the JVM platform in two places:

  • the classpath used when invoking JVM processes (and/or URLClassLoaders)

  • transitive dependency download and resolution from providers like Maven

Clojure build tools have traditionally taken the approach of wrapping the Maven ecosystem to gain access to Java libraries. However, they have also forced this approach on Clojure code as well, requiring a focus on artifacts that must be built and deployed (which Clojure does not require). This approach has created friction for Clojure developers, making it hard to e.g. work with libs not yet publishing artifacts, work on speculative changes w/o artifacts or across multiple libs, or give control to a 3rd party to manage shared dependencies.

To this end Clojure provides:

  • tools.deps.alpha - a library providing an API for resolving dependency graphs and building classpaths that can utilize both Maven and other providers of code or artifacts

  • Command line tools (clojure and clj) that enable users to make use of this capability at the terminal to declare dependencies, assemble classpaths, and launch Clojure programs with data

  • System-specific installers for downloading the tools, improving the "Getting Started" experience


You use the Clojure tools (clj or clojure) to run Clojure programs on the JVM, e.g. to start a REPL or invoke a specific function with data. The Clojure tools will configure the JVM process by defining a classpath (with desired libraries), an execution environment (JVM options), the main class, and args.

Using a deps.edn file (or files), you tell Clojure where your source code resides and what libraries you need. Clojure will then calculate the full set of required libraries and a classpath, caching expensive parts of this process for better performance.

The internal steps of the Clojure tools, as well as the Clojure functions you intend to run, are parameterized by data structures, often maps. Shell command lines are not optimized for passing nested data, so instead you will put the data structures in your deps edn file and refer to them on the command line via aliases - keywords that name data structures.

clj and clojure differ in that clj has extra support for use as a REPL in a terminal, and should be preferred unless you don’t want that support, then use clojure. The invocation structure is the same for both:

clj     [clj-opt*] [exec-opt]
clojure [clj-opt*] [exec-opt]

Start a REPL

To run a REPL, invoke clj without any exec-opt:

$ clj
Clojure 1.10.1

Executing a function

Use the following exec-opt to invoke a function that takes a map:

clojure [clj-opt*] -X[aliases] [a/fn*] [kpath v]*

-X is configured with an arg map with :exec-fn and :exec-args keys, and stored under an alias in deps.edn:

;; deps.edn
  {:exec-fn my.qualified/fn
   :exec-args {:my {:data 123}
               :config 456}}}}

To invoke, pass the name of the alias to -X:

clj -X:my-fn

You can supply additional keys, or override values stored in the deps.edn file by passing pairs of key-path and value. The key-path should either be a single key or a vector of keys to refer to a nested key (as with assoc-in). Each key-path will be used to assoc-in to the original :exec-args map, overriding the value there.

# Top key override
clj -X:my-fn :config 789

# Nested key override
clj -X:my-fn '[:my :data]' 789

See the later section on "Quoting keys and values" for more details on how to properly quote edn values on the command line.

If you want to execute an arbitrary function, you can pass it on the command instead, along with pairs of key-path and value:

clj -X my.qualified/fn :config 789

Additionally, you may list multiple functions to execute as if by . The first function will receive the :exec-args and command-line key-path / value map. Subsequent functions will receive the result of the previous function (which will only include those kvs if the first function passes them along).

clj -X my.qualified/fn my.other/fn :config 789

Alias arg maps can also include a default namespace or namespace aliases for resolving the function (see "Namespace resolution" for more details).

Running a main or script

You can use the -M exec-opt to invoke clojure.main, which supports calling a namespace with a -main function or a Clojure script:

clojure [clj-opt*] -M[aliases] [main-opts]

The -M aliases are pulled from deps.edn and combined to form an arg map. The arg map can modify the classpath or supply main options.

See the clojure.main documentation for more details on main options.


When you execute the Clojure tool, there are a series of steps performed to prepare and execute your command. This section is an overview of those steps, see later sections for how to modify those steps in a variety of ways.

Locate deps edn sources

Configuration is stored in one or more "deps edn" maps. These are edn maps with the following top-level keys:

  • :deps - map of lib (symbol) to coordinate

  • :paths - vector of project source paths

  • :aliases - map of alias name to alias data

  • provider-specific keys for configuring dependency sources

The Clojure tools look for 4 potential deps edn sources:

  • Root - part of the clj installation (a resource in the tools.deps library)

  • User - cross-project configuration (typically tools), usually found at ~/.clojure/deps.edn

  • Project - the deps.edn in the current directory

  • Config data - a deps edn map passed on the command line

Check cache

The next several steps of this execution can be skipped if we have already computed the classpath and cached it. Classpath and the runtime basis files are cached in the current directory under .cpcache/. The key is based on the contents of the deps.edn files and some of the command arguments passed and several files will be cached, most importantly the classpath and runtime basis.

If the key is found, and the cached files are newer than all deps.edn sources, they will be used and execution begins immediately.

Replace project environment ("tool")

When you execute a tool in the context of your project, the tool can use its own paths and/or deps in place of the project’s paths and/or deps.

Merge sources

All deps edn sources are merged into a single master edn file in the order listed above - root, user, project (possibly with tool replacements), config. This merged deps will be included in the runtime basis and used after this point.

The merge is essentially merge-with merge, except for the :paths key, where only the last :paths found is used (they replace, not combine).

Resolve dependencies

Starting from the master edn’s merged :deps, the full transitive expansion of the dependency tree is computed. Dependency sources (procurers) are used to obtain metadata and other dependency information. At the completion of this step, all libraries to use in the execution have been found and downloaded to local files if needed.

See dep expansion for more details on the dep expansion algorithm.

Make classpath

JVM execution relies on computing the classpath for the execution. The classpath will consist of the :paths in the merged deps.edn and the locations of all resolved dependencies.

Prepare JVM environment

JVM arguments may either be passed on the command line (with -J) or by using data stored in an alias under :jvm-opts and passed with -X or -A or -M

Execute command

Finally the command is executed - see the Overview above for the execution options. The already computed (or loaded from cache) classpath, JVM environment, and main arguments if relevant are used in the execution.


The configuration file format (in deps.edn files) is an edn map with top-level keys :deps, :paths, and :aliases, plus provider-specific keys for configuring dependency sources.


Paths are declared in a top level key :paths and are a vector of string paths or alias names. Relative paths are resolved in relation to the directory containing the deps.edn (the project root). These source paths will be added to the classpath. Source paths should be at or under the project root directory (where deps.edn is located).


{:paths ["src"]}

If used, alias names should refer to a path vector in the alias data:

{:paths [:clj-paths :resource-paths]
 {:clj-paths ["src/clj" "src/cljc"]
  :resource-paths ["resources"]}}


Dependencies are declared in deps.edn with a top level key :deps - a map from library to coordinate. Libraries are symbols of the form <groupID>/<artifactId>. To indicate a Maven classifier, use <groupId>/<artifactId>$<classifier>.

Coordinates can take several forms depending on the coordinate type:

  • Maven coordinate: {:mvn/version "1.2.3"}

    • Other optional keys: :exclusions

    • Note: :classifier is not supported - add to lib name as specified above

  • Local project coordinate: {:local/root "/path/to/project"}

    • Optional key :deps/manifest

      • Specifies the project manifest type

      • Default is to auto-detect the project type (currently either :deps or :pom)

  • Local jar coordinate: {:local/root "/path/to/file.jar"}

    • If the jar includes a pom.xml file, it will be used to find transitive deps

  • Git coordinate: {:git/url "", :sha "sha", :tag "tag"}

    • Required key :git/url can be one of the following:

      • https - secure anonymous access to public repos

      • ssh or user@host form urls (including GitHub) - ssh-based access (see Git configuration section)

    • Required key :sha should indicate the full commit sha

    • Optional key :tag is used only to indicate the semantics of the sha

    • Optional key :deps/root

      • Specifies the relative path within the root to search for the manifest file

    • Optional key :deps/manifest - same as in :local deps

 {org.clojure/tools.reader {:mvn/version "1.1.1"}
  github-sally/awesome {:git/url "", :sha "123abcd549214b5cba04002b6875bdf59f9d88b6"}
  ;; ... add more here


Aliases give a name to a data structure that can be used either by the Clojure tool itself or other consumers of deps.edn. They are defined in the :aliases section of the config file. These Clojure tool subprocesses use data which can be read from aliases:

Basis and classpath

The core of the tools.deps library is a process to take a merged deps.edn file, arg maps for the resolve-deps and make-classpath-map steps, and produce the "runtime basis", or "basis" for short. The basis is a superset of the deps.edn file also containing those args, the lib map, and the classpath map.

The JVM classpath consists of a series of roots, either directory paths or the path to a jar file. Classes (and Clojure files) map via package or namespace to a path relative to a classpath root. For example, the java.lang.String class can be found at path java/lang/String.class and the clojure.set Clojure namespace may be found at paths clojure/set.class (for AOT), clojure/set.clj, or clojure/set.cljc. When the JVM needs to load one of these files it searches each root for the relative path and loads it when found.

We divide the process of building a classpath into two primary operations: resolve-deps and make-classpath-map.


(resolve-deps deps args-map)

resolve-deps takes an initial map of required dependencies and a map of args that modify the resolution process. It builds a full graph of transitive dependencies, resolves any version differences, and flattens that graph to a full list of libraries to be included on the classpath.

The deps from the merged deps.edn is a map of library to coordinate. The library is (in Maven terms) the groupId and artifactId, which are sufficient to locate the desired project. The coordinate is used to describe a particular version that is being requested from a particular provider (like Maven or git).

For example, this deps map specifies a (Maven-based) dependency:

{org.clojure/core.cache {:mvn/version "0.6.5"}}

resolve-deps expands these dependencies to include all transitive dependencies, cut cycles, resolve version differences, download required artifacts from the provider, and produce a lib map of the flattened set of all needed dependencies and where to find their artifacts:

{org.clojure/core.cache        {:mvn/version "0.6.5",
                                :deps/manifest :mvn,
                                :paths [".../core.cache-0.6.5.jar"]}
 org.clojure/data.priority-map {:mvn/version "0.0.7",
                                :deps/manifest :mvn,
                                :dependents [org.clojure/core.cache],
                                :paths [".../data.priority-map-0.0.7.jar"]}
 ... }

The lib map lists all libraries, their selected coordinates, the :paths on disk, and a list of dependents that caused it to be included. Here you can see that data.priority-map was included as a dependency of core.cache.

The second args-map is a map of optional modifications to the standard expansion to account for common use cases: adding extra dependencies, overriding deps, and default deps. These can be used separately or together, or not at all:

{:extra-deps { ... }
 :override-deps { ... }
 :default-deps { ... }}

:extra-deps is the most common modification - it allows you to optionally add extra dependencies to the base dependency set. The value is a map of library to coordinate:

{:extra-deps {criterium/criterium {:mvn/version "0.4.4"}}}

:override-deps overrides the coordinate version chosen by the version resolution to force a particular version instead. This also takes a map of library to coordinate:

{:override-deps {org.clojure/clojure {:mvn/version "1.9.0"}}}

:default-deps provides a set of default coordinate versions to use if no coordinate is specified. The default deps can be used across a set of shared projects to act as a dependency management system:

{:default-deps {org.clojure/core.cache {:mvn/version "0.6.4"}}}


(make-classpath-map lib-map paths args-map)

The make-classpath-map step takes the lib map (the result of resolve-deps), the internal source paths of the project ["src"], an args-map of optional modifications, and produces a classpath string for use in the JVM.

The args-map includes support for modifications to be applied while making the classpath: adding extra paths, and overriding the location of libraries specified in the lib map. These modifications can be used separately or together or not at all in a map like this:

{:extra-paths [ ... ]
 :classpath-overrides { ... }}

:extra-paths is used to include source paths in addition to your standard source paths, for example to include directories of test source:

{:extra-paths ["test" "resources"]}

Note that external paths should be at or under the root directory of the project (location of the deps.edn file).

:classpath-overrides specify a location to pull a dependency that overrides the path found during dependency resolution, for example to replace a dependency with a local debug version. Many of these use cases are ones where you would be tempted to prepend the classpath to "override" something else.

 {org.clojure/clojure "/my/clojure/target"}}

Clojure tools usage

deps.edn sources

The Clojure tools will use the following deps.edn map sources, in this order:

  • Root - found in the installation of clj (or as a resource in tools.deps)

  • User - cross-project configuration (typically tools)

    • Locations used in this order:

      • If $CLJ_CONFIG is set, then use $CLJ_CONFIG (explicit override)

      • If $XDG_CONFIG_HOME is set, then use $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/clojure (Freedesktop conventions)

      • Else use $HOME/.clojure (most common)

  • Project - the deps.edn in the current directory

  • Config data - a deps.edn map passed on the command line

The deps.edn sources can be modified or inspected by the following options:

  • -Sverbose - print all source locations

  • -Sdeps - pass the config data on the command line

  • -Srepro - omit the user deps source (other sources will be used if found)

Classpath caching

The cached classpath file is used for execution when:

  • It exists and

  • It is newer than all deps.edn sources

Classpath and basis files are cached in a directory computed as follows:

  • If there is a project deps.edn

    • Use ./.cpcache

  • Else (no project deps.edn)

    • If $CLJ_CACHE is set, then use $CLJ_CACHE (explicit override)

    • If $XDG_CACHE_HOME is set, then use $XDG_CACHE_HOME/clojure (Freedesktop conventions)

    • Else use config_dir/.cpcache (see deps.edn sources for config_dir logic, usually ~/.clojure)

A hash is computed based on the config file paths, the resolve-aliases, and the classpath aliases.

Files cached (if needed):

  • <hash>.libs - a ::lib-map in the specs, the output of running resolve-deps

  • <hash>.cp - a classpath string, the output of make-classpath-map

  • <hash>.jvm - jvm options for main execution

  • <hash>.main - main options for main execution

  • <hash>.basis - the runtime basis, passed to the program

Caching can be modified by the following options:

  • -Sforce - ignore cache and force recomputation

  • -Scp CP - don’t use cache or compute, use the provided classpath instead

Replace project environment (tool)

The tool process is used when executing a tool that should not use the project classpath environment. This process takes the project deps.edn and the following modifier args and replaces them (if provided) before the project deps is merged:

  • :replace-deps - a deps map from lib to coordinate of deps to REPLACE the project :deps

  • :replace-paths a collection of string paths to REPLACE project :paths (note these should be under the project root)

This tool map should be provided as an alias in one of the deps sources and provided to the Clojure tools using -A (for REPL invocation), -X (for function execution), or -M (for clojure.main execution). Multiple aliases can be provided by concatentating the alias names.

Merging deps.edn

The deps.edn files found from the source locations (with Clojure tool modifications by any options) are merged to form one master deps map. The merge is done in the order above root/user/project/config, last one wins. The operation is essentially merge-with merge, except for the :paths key, where only the last one found is used (they are not combined).

Resolve deps modifiers

The resolve-deps modifiers are provided in a map that was described in a prior section:

  • :extra-deps - a deps map from lib to coordinate of deps to add to the deps

  • :override-deps - a deps map from lib to coordinate of override versions to use

  • :default-deps - a deps map from lib to coordinate of versions to use if none is found

  • If multiple alias maps with these keys are activated, all of them are merge-with merged

The resolve-deps args should be provided as an alias in one of the deps sources and provided to the Clojure tools using -A (for REPL invocation), -X (for function execution), or -M (for clojure.main execution). Multiple aliases can be provided by concatentating the alias names.

Make classpath modifiers

The make-classpath-map modifiers are provided in a map that was described in a prior section:

  • :extra-paths - a collection of string paths to add to :paths (should be in the project)

  • :classpath-overrides - a map of lib to string path to replace the location of the lib

  • If multiple maps with these keys are activated, :extra-paths concatenate and :classpath-overrides merge-with merge

The resolve-deps args should be provided as an alias in one of deps sources and provided to the Clojure tools using -A (for REPL invocation), -X (for function execution), or -M (for clojure.main execution). Multiple aliases can be provided by concatentating the alias names.

Prepare JVM environment

The JVM has many options and some programs also take configuration via Java system properties. JVM options can be passed on the command line for any execution specfier by prefixing with -J. If multiple options are specified, each must be prefixed.

Additionally, main execution can take a map with key :jvm-opts:

  • :jvm-opts - a collection of string JVM options

  • If multiple maps with these keys are activated, :jvm-opts concatenate

  • If -J JVM options are also specified on the command line, they are concatenated after the alias options

This map is stored in alias data and provided to the Clojure tools using -A (for REPL invocation), -X (for function execution), or -M (for clojure.main execution). Multiple aliases can be provided by concatentating the alias names.


Main execution

One additional option for main execution is a map with key :main-opts:

  • :main-opts - a collection of clojure.main options

  • If multiple maps with these keys are activated, only the last one will be used

  • If command line clojure.main arguments are supplied on the command line, they are concatenated after the last main alias map

This map is stored in alias data and provided to the Clojure tools using -M:an-alias. Multiple aliases can be provided by concatentating the alias names.

Prepare for execution

The -P flag can be used with any other execution mode to "prepare" but not execute. Importantly, this flag will cause the Clojure tool to resolve deps, download libraries, make and cache classpaths. This may be useful in containers, continuous integration systems, etc where an environment can be prepared to execute and do necessary network activity first, and then later execute without that activity.

Other programs

There are some options that can be provided to clj that short circuit normal execution and run an alternate program instead:

  • -Sdescribe - print environment and command parsing info as data

  • -Spath - compute classpath and echo to stdout only

The :deps alias is built into the root deps.edn and provides a default namespace with several additional programs:

  • -X:deps tree - print dependency tree (also see tree printing)

  • -X:deps mvn-pom - generate (or update an existing) pom.xml with deps and paths

  • -X:deps git-resolve-tags - resolve git coordinate tags to shas and update deps.edn

Local Maven install

The -X:deps mvn-install program is provided with the Clojure tools for convenience and can be executed with -X to install a jar into your local Maven cache.

The install argmap takes the following options:

:jar - path to jar file, use pom inside jar by default

To supply an explicit pom file:
:pom - path to pom file (used instead of pom inside the jar)

To generate a minimal pom file:
:lib - qualified symbol like
:version - string
:classifier - string

Other options:
:local-repo - path to local repo (default = ~/.m2/repository)

You can pass overrides on the command line for these as needed:

clj -X:deps mvn-install :jar '"/path/to.jar"'

As mentioned above, edn strings must be in double quotes, and then single-quoted for the shell.

A pom file must be either provided explicitly, generated from :lib/:version, or found inside the .jar file (the default).


Coordinates are interpreted by procurers, which know how to determine dependencies for a library and download artifacts. tools.deps.alpha is designed to support an extensible set of procurers that can expand over time. Currently the available procurers are: mvn, local, and git.

The procurer to use is determined by examining the attributes of the coordinate and using the first attribute qualifier that’s found (ignoring the reserved qualifier "deps"). For example, a Maven coordinate contains a :mvn/version attribute and a local coordinate contains a :local/root attribute.

Procurers may also have configuration attributes stored at the root of the configuration map under the same qualifier.


The mvn procurer will look for two keys at the root of the deps.edn:

  • :mvn/repos - map of repository name to repository descriptor, a map currently taking only the key :url

  • :mvn/local-repo - a path (string) to the local repo cache. If none supplied, Maven uses ~/.m2/repository.

The installation deps.edn configures these default Maven repos:

 {"central" {:url ""}
  "clojars" {:url ""}}}

Modifying the default repositories

The :mvn/repos map is merge-with merge across the deps.edn sources, so you can modify the default repositories by specifying a new definition or remove it by specifying nil.

tools.deps guarantees that the "central" and "clojars" repositories will be checked first, in that order, for Maven libraries.

Maven authenticated repos

For Maven deps in authenticated repositories, existing Maven infrastructure is used to convey credentials.

In your ~/.m2/settings.xml:


Then in your deps.edn include a repo with a name matching the server id (here my-auth-repo):

 {authenticated/dep {:mvn/version "1.2.3"}}
 {"my-auth-repo" {:url ""}}}

Then just refer to your dependencies as usual in the :deps.

Maven S3 repos

The tools also provide support for connecting to public and private S3 Maven repositories.

Add a :mvn/repos that includes the s3 repository root:

 {my/library {:mvn/version "0.1.2"}}
 {"my-private-repo" {:url "s3://my-bucket/maven/releases"}}}

S3 buckets are specific to the AWS region they were created in. The s3 transporter will attempt to determine the bucket’s location. If that doesn’t work, you can specify the bucket region in the url explicitly: "s3://my-bucket/maven/releases?region=us-west-2".

For authenticated repos, AWS credentials can be set in the ~/.m2/settings.xml on a per-server basis or will be loaded ambiently from the AWS credential chain (env vars, etc). The repository name in deps.edn must match the server id in settings.xml:


AWS S3 credentials can be set in the environment using one of these mechanisms:

  1. Set the environment variables AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY.

  2. Create a default profile in the AWS credentials file ~/.aws/credentials (older ~/.aws/config also supported).

  3. Create a named profile in the AWS credentials file and set the environment variable AWS_PROFILE with its name.

  4. Amazon ECS container and instance profile credentials should also work, but have not been tested.

For more information, most of the advice in this AWS document describes how credentials are located. Note however that the Java system properties options will NOT work with the command line tools (but would work if using the tools.deps.alpha library directly).

Maven proxies

In environments where the internet is accessed via a proxy, existing Maven configuration in ~/.m2/settings.xml is used to set up the proxy connection:


Refer to the Maven Guide to using proxies for further details.

Maven HTTP headers

For adding custom headers to outgoing HTTP requests, existing Maven configuration in ~/.m2/settings.xml is used.


The server id in settings.xml must match the repository name in deps.edn:

 {"my-token-repo" {:url ""}}}

This mechanism is used by repositories that authenticate using a token, rather than by username and password.


The supported git url protocols are https and ssh. https repos will be accessed anonymously and require no additional authentication information. This approach is recommended for public repos. ssh repos may be either public or private.

Support for git deps occurs via shelling out to command-line git (and ssh). git >= 2.5 is required. In general, if access works at the command line, it should work via clj. Git is expected to be installed and by default, git is expected to be on the path. For ssh access, refer to documentation for your system (typically you will register your ssh keys in ~/.ssh/id_rsa).

For more information on creating keys and using the ssh-agent to manage your ssh identities, GitHub provides excellent info:

Configuration and debugging

The following environment variables can be set to control the git integration:

  • GITLIBS - the path to the gitlibs storage directory (default = ~/.gitlibs)

  • GITLIBS_COMMAND - the command to run for git access (default = git)

  • GITLIBS_DEBUG - set true to see a log of the actual git commands being run and their output (default = false)


For tools installation, see the instructions in the Getting Started guide.

Command line reference

Arg map keys

This section summarizes all of the available arg map keys that clj uses and that can be conveyed via alias data in deps.edn. For clarity, these are separated by category, but in general, all of them can be used with -X (exec), -A (repl), and -M (main).

  • tool

    • :replace-deps - map of lib to coords that should replace the project deps

    • :replace-paths - vector of path strings that should replace the project paths

  • resolve-deps

    • :extra-deps - map of lib to coords that should be added to the root deps

    • :override-deps - map of lib to coords that should replace deps in the root deps

    • :default-deps - map of lib to coords that should be used if the coord is nil in root or transitive deps

  • make-classpath-map

    • :extra-paths - vector of string paths (or keyword aliases to same) to add to base paths

    • :classpath-overrides - map of lib to string path to replace lib on classpath

  • jvm opts

    • :jvm-opts - vector of strings to pass as jvm args

  • namespace aliasing

    • :ns-aliases - map of alias symbol to namespace symbol, used to resolve symbols (such as :exec-fn)

    • :ns-default - default namespace for unqualified symbols (such as :exec-fn)

  • execution (-X only)

    • :exec-fn - function to execute with -X

    • :exec-args - function args to pass to -X (can be overridden at command line)

  • main (-M only)

    • :main-opts - vector of string args to pass to clojure.main

Namespace resolution

Symbols in the exec-opts or argmaps (like :exec-fn) are resolved with the following rules:

  • If function is unqualified, use the namespace in the :ns-default key in the arg map (if none, this is an error)

  • If function is qualified, and the qualifier is an alias in the arg map under :ns-aliases, use that namespace

  • Else use the fully qualified function symbol

Keys and key paths

With the -X exec-opt you can supply key-path/value pairs on the command line. The key-path is either a single key or a vector of keys to refer to a nested key (as with assoc-in). Each key-path will be used to assoc-in to the original :exec-args map, overriding the value there.

# Top key override
clj -X:my-fn :val 789

# Nested key override
clj -X:my-fn '[:my :data]' 789

Trailing map argument

In addition to passing key-path/value pairs and key paths in the command line, an optional map providing value mappings may be passed as the final argument. This map will merge with and perhaps override the previously provided key-path/value mappings:

# Augment the arguments to my-fn
clj -X:a-tool my-fn :val 789 '{:val2 123}'

# Override the arguments to my-fn
clj -X:a-tool my-fn :val 789 '{:val 123}'

# Single map (no kvs) provides arguments to my-fn
clj -X:a-tool my-fn '{:val 789}'

Quoting keys and values

Keys and values on the command line are read as edn. The following data can be used without quoting:

  • Numbers - 123, 12.4

  • Booleans - true, false

  • Nil - nil

  • Symbols - name, foo/bar

  • Keywords - :id, :company/name

These data types need to be surrounded by single quotes:

  • Strings - '"hi there"' - note use of both single quotes for the shell and double quotes to be read as an edn string

  • Vectors - '[1 2 3]'

  • Maps - '{:a 1, :b 2}'

  • Sets - '#{:a :b}'

  • Lists - '(1 2 3)'



An independently-developed chunk of code residing in a directory hierarchy under a root. We will narrow to those libraries that can be globally named, e.g. my.namespace/my-lib.


A snapshot of a library, captured at a point in time, possibly subjected to some build process, labeled with a version, containing some manifest documenting its dependencies, and packaged in e.g. a jar.


A particular version of a library chosen for use, with information sufficient to obtain and use the library.


An expression, at the project/library level, that the declaring library needs the declared library in order to provide some of its functions. Must at least specify library name, might also specify version and other attrs. Actual (functional) dependencies are more fine-grained.

Dependency types:

  • maven artifacts

  • unversioned libraries - a file location identifying a jar or directory root

  • git coordinates

Classpath (and roots/paths)

An ordered list of local 'places' (filesystem directories and/or jars) that will form root paths for searches of requires/imports at runtime, supplied as an argument to Java which controls the semantics. We discourage order-dependence in the classpath, which implies something is duplicated (and thus likely broken).


Given a set of root dependencies, a full walk of the transitive dependencies.


Given a collection of root dependencies and additional modifications, creates a fully-expanded dependency tree, then produces a mapping from each library mentioned to a single version to be used that would satisfy all dependents, as well as the local path. We will also include those dependents for each entry. Conflicts arise only if libraries depend on different major versions of a library.

Classpath creation

Creates a classpath from a resolved lib-map and optional extra local lib paths. Current plan for lib-map does not provide for control over resulting order.


A human numbering system whose interpretation is determined by convention. Usually x.y.z. Must protect against 'semver' interpretation, which allows libraries to break users while keeping the name the same. Ascending by convention - higher numbers are 'later', vague compatibility with lower/earlier.

Version difference

This occurs when the dependency expansion contains the same library with more than one "version" specified but where there is a relative ordering (either by number or by SHA etc). Version differences can be resolved by choosing the "later" or "newest" version when that relationship can be established.

Version conflict

A version conflict occurs when the dependency expansion contains the same library with more than one "version" such that the best choice cannot be automatically chosen:

  • semver version breakage (major version changed)

  • github shas that do not contain any common root or ancestry (two shas on different branches or unrelated repos, for example)

  • versions that cross different repos or repo types such that no relative relationship can be established

Maven Repo

A repository of library artifacts - e.g. Maven central or Clojars

Requires and imports

Mentions in source code of library (sub)components that must be in the classpath in order to succeed. namespace and package/class names are transformed into path components.


See the project’s wiki for a list of tools that use or work with tools.deps.alpha (or the clojure tools) - tools for project creation, packaging, and much more.