Your first application

Guestbook Application

This tutorial will guide you through building a simple guestbook application using Luminus. The guestbook allows users to leave a message and to view a list of messages left by others. The application will demonstrate the basics of HTML templating, database access, and project architecture.

If you don't have a preferred Clojure editor already, then it's recommended that you use Light Table to follow along with this tutorial.

Installing Leiningen

You need to have Leiningen installed in order to work with Luminus. Installing Leiningen is a simple process which involves the following steps.

  1. Download the script.
  2. Set it to be executable. (eg: chmod +x lein)
  3. Place it on your $PATH. (eg: ~/bin)
  4. Run lein self-install and wait for the installation to complete.
chmod +x lein
mv lein ~/bin
lein self-install

Creating a new application

Once you have Leiningen installed you can run the following command in your terminal to initialize your application:

lein new luminus guestbook +h2
cd guestbook

The above will create a new template project with the support for H2 embedded database engine.

We can now run the project as follows:

>lein ring server
guestbook started successfully...
2013-03-01 19:05:30.389:INFO:oejs.Server:jetty-7.6.1.v20120215
Started server on port 3000
2013-03-01 19:05:30.459:INFO:oejs.AbstractConnector:Started SelectChannelConnector@

A new browser window will pop up and you should see your application running. Note that if you didn't want to pop up a new browser you could run:

lein ring server-headless

You can also pass in a custom port as follows:

lein ring server-headless 8000

Anatomy of a Luminus application

The newly created application has the following structure

  └ log4j.xml
       └ handler.clj
           └ db.clj
           └ home.clj
           └ layout.clj
           └ templates
              └ about.html
  └ guestbook
       └ test
           └ handler.clj
  └ public
       └ css
           └ bootstrap-theme.min.css
          └ glyphicons-halflings-regular.eot 
          └ bootstrap.min.css

Let's take a look at what the files in the root folder of the application do:

  • Procfile - used to facilitate Heroku deployments.
  • - where documentation for the application is conventionally put.
  • project.clj - used to manage the project configuration and dependencies by Leiningen.

The Source Directory

All our code lives under the src folder. Since our application is called guestbook, this is the root namespace for project. Let's take a look at all the namespaces that have been created for us.


  • handler.clj - defines the base routes for the application, this is the entry point into the applicationand any pages we define will have to have their routes added here
  • repl.clj - provides functions to start and stop the application from the REPL
  • util.clj - used for general helper functions, it comes prepopulated with the md->html helper
  • log4j.xml - logging configuration for Korma


The models namespace is used to define the model for the application and handle the persistence layer.

  • db.clj - used to house the functions for interacting with the database
  • schema.clj - used to define the connection parameters and the database tables


The routes namespace is where the routes and controllers for our homepage are located. When you add more routes, such as authentication, or specific workflows you should create namespaces for them here.

  • home.clj - a namespace that defines the home and about pages of the application


The views namespace defines the visual layout of the application.

  • layout.clj - a namespace for the layout helpers


This namespace is reserved for the Selmer templates that represent the application pages.

  • about.html - the about page
  • base.html - the base layout for the site
  • home.html - the home page

The Test Directory

Here is where we put tests for our application, a couple of sample tests have already been defined for us.

The Resources Directory

This is where we put all the static resoruces for our application. We have folders for CSS, JavaScript, images, and markdown already defined.

Adding Dependencies

As was noted above, all the dependencies are managed via updating the project.clj file. The project file of the application we've created is found in its root folder and should look as follows:

  guestbook "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT"
  :url ""
  :description "FIXME: write description"
  :min-lein-version "2.0.0"
  [[com.h2database/h2 "1.3.174"]
   [ring-server "0.3.1"]
   [markdown-clj "0.9.40"]
   [environ "0.4.0"]
   [com.taoensso/timbre "2.7.1"]
   [korma "0.3.0-RC6"]
   [com.taoensso/tower "2.0.1"]
   [org.clojure/clojure "1.5.1"]
   [compojure "1.1.6"]
   [selmer "0.5.8"]
   [lib-noir "0.7.9"]
   [com.postspectacular/rotor "0.1.0"]]
  :plugins [[lein-ring "0.8.10"] [lein-environ "0.4.0"]]
  :repl-options {:init-ns guestbook.repl}
  {:handler guestbook.handler/app,
   :init guestbook.handler/init,
   :destroy guestbook.handler/destroy}
  {:uberjar {:aot :all},
    {:open-browser? false, :stacktraces? false, :auto-reload? false}},
   {:dependencies [[ring-mock "0.1.5"] [ring/ring-devel "1.2.1"]],
    :env {:selmer-dev true}}})

As you can see the project.clj is simply a Clojure list containing key/value pairs describing different aspects of the application. If you need to add any custom dependencies simply append them to the :dependencies vector.

Accessing the Database

First, we will create a model for our application, to do that we'll open up the schema.clj file located under the src/guestbook/models folder.

Here, we can see that we already have the definition for our database connection. The definition is simply a map containing the class for the JDBC driver, the protocol, user, password, and the name of the database file used by the H2 database.

(def db-spec {:classname "org.h2.Driver"
              :subprotocol "h2"
              :subname (str (io/resource-path) db-store)
              :user "sa"
              :password ""
              :naming {:keys clojure.string/upper-case
                       :fields clojure.string/upper-case}})

Next, we have a function called create-users-table with a definition for a table called users. We'll replace this function with a create-guestbook-table function instead:

(defn create-guestbook-table []
      [:timestamp :timestamp]
      [:name "varchar(30)"]
      [:message "varchar(200)"])
      "CREATE INDEX timestamp_index ON guestbook (timestamp)")))

The guestbook table will store all the fields describing the message, such as the name of the commenter, the content of the message and a timestamp.

We'll also update the create-tables function to call it:

(defn create-tables
  "creates the database tables used by the application"

With the table created we can write functions to read and write the messages in our guestbook. Let's open the db.clj file and add them there. Again, we see that there's already some code here to work with the users table. We'll replace it with the following code instead:

(ns guestbook.models.db
  (:use korma.core
        [korma.db :only (defdb)])
  (:require [guestbook.models.schema :as schema]))

(defdb db schema/db-spec)

(defentity guestbook)

(defn save-message
  [name message]
  (insert guestbook
          (values {:name name
                   :message message
                   :timestamp (new java.util.Date)})))

(defn get-messages []
  (select guestbook))

Above we create an entity to represent the guestbook table we created in the schema namespace. Then we add a functions called save-message and get-messages to interact with it.

Running Code on Startup

The handler namespace contains a function called init. This function will be called once when the application starts. Let's add the code to check if the database has been initialized and initialize it if necessary.

We'll first need to reference the schema namespace in order to use the initialized? and create-tables functions from there.

(ns guestbook.handler
  (:use ...)
  (:require ...
            [guestbook.models.schema :as schema]))

Next, we can update the init function as follows:

(defn init
  "init will be called once when
   app is deployed as a servlet on
   an app server such as Tomcat
   put any initialization code here"
    [:appenders :rotor]
    {:min-level :info
     :enabled? true
     :async? false ; should be always false for rotor
     :max-message-per-msecs nil
     :fn rotor/append})

    [:shared-appender-config :rotor]
    {:path "guestbook.log" :max-size (* 512 1024) :backlog 10})

  (if (env :selmer-dev) (parser/cache-off!))
  ;;initialize the database if needed
  (if-not (schema/initialized?) (schema/create-tables))
  (timbre/info "guestbook started successfully"))

Since we changed the init function of our application, let's restart it by hitting CTRL+C and running lein ring server again.

Creating Pages and Handling Form Input

Our routes are defined in the guestbook.routes.home namespace. Let's open it up and add the logic for rendering the messages from the database. We'll first need to add a reference to our db namespace:

(ns guestbook.routes.home
  (:use ...)
  (:require ...
            [guestbook.models.db :as db]))

Then we'll change the home-page controller to look as follows:

(defn home-page [& [name message error]]
  (layout/render "home.html"
                 {:error    error
                  :name     name
                  :message  message
                  :messages (db/get-messages)}))

All we did here was update it to send some extra parameters to the template, one of them being a list of messages from the database.

Since we'd like the users to be able to post new messages, we'll add a controller to handle the form posts:

(defn save-message [name message]

    (empty? name)
    (home-page name message "Somebody forgot to leave a name")

    (empty? message)
    (home-page name message "Don't you have something to say?")

      (db/save-message name message)

Finally, we'll add a route for this controller to our home-routes definition:

(defroutes home-routes
  (GET "/" [] (home-page))
  (POST "/" [name message] (save-message name message))
  (GET "/about" [] (about-page)))

Now that we have our controllers setup, let's open the home.html template located under the guestbook.views.templates namespace. Currenlty, simply renders the contents of the content variable inside the content block:

{% extends "guestbook/views/templates/base.html" %}
{% block content %}
 <div class="jumbotron">
    <h1>Welcome to guestbook</h1>
    <p>Time to start building your site!</p>
    <p><a class="btn btn-primary btn-lg" href="">Learn more &raquo;</a></p>

 <div class="row-fluid">
    <div class="span8">
{% endblock %}

We'll update our content block to iterate over the messages and print each one in a list:

{% extends "guestbook/views/templates/base.html" %}
{% block content %}
 <div class="jumbotron">
    <h1>Welcome to guestbook</h1> 

 <div class="row-fluid">
    <div class="span8">    
      {% for item in messages %}
          <time>{{item.timestamp|date:"yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm"}}</time> 
          <p> - {{}}</p>      
      {% endfor %}
{% endblock %}

As you can see above, we use a for iterator to walk the messages. Since each message is a map with the message, name, and timestamp keys, we can access them by name. Also, notice the use of the date filter to format the timestamps into a human readable form.

Next, we'll add an error block for displaying errors that might be populated by the controller:

{% if error %}
<p class="error">{{error}}</p>
{% endif %}

Here we simply check if the error field was populated and display it. Finally, we'll create a form to allow users to submit their messages:

<form action="/" method="POST">
       <input type="text" name="name" value={{name}}>
       <textarea rows="4" cols="50" name="message">
    <input type="submit" value="comment">

Our final home.html template should look as follows:

{% extends "guestbook/views/templates/base.html" %}
{% block content %}
 <div class="jumbotron">
    <h1>Welcome to guestbook</h1> 

 <div class="row-fluid">
    <div class="span8">    
      {% for item in messages %}
          <time>{{item.timestamp|date:"yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm"}}</time> 
          <p> - {{}}</p>      
      {% endfor %}
      {% if error %}
        <p class="error">{{error}}</p>
      {% endif %}
    <div class="span8">
      <form action="/" method="POST">
         <input type="text" name="name" value="{{name}}" />
         <textarea rows="4" cols="50" name="message" />{{message}}</textarea>
        <input type="submit" value="comment" />
{% endblock %}

Finally, we can update the screen.css file located in the resources/public/css folder to format our form nicer:

body {
	height: 100%;
	padding-top: 70px;  
	font: 14px 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
	line-height: 1.4em;
	background: #eaeaea;
	color: #4d4d4d;
	width: 550px;
	margin: 0 auto;
	-webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;
	-moz-font-smoothing: antialiased;
	-ms-font-smoothing: antialiased;
	-o-font-smoothing: antialiased;
	font-smoothing: antialiased;

input[type=submit] {
	margin: 0;
	padding: 0;
	border: 0;
  line-height: 1.4em;
	background: none;	
	vertical-align: baseline;		

input[type=submit], textarea {
	font-size: 24px;
	font-family: inherit;	
	border: 0;
	padding: 6px;
	border: 1px solid #999;
	box-shadow: inset 0 -1px 5px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);
	-moz-box-sizing: border-box;
	-ms-box-sizing: border-box;
	-o-box-sizing: border-box;
	box-sizing: border-box;	

input[type=submit]:hover {
	background: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.15);
	box-shadow: 0 -1px 0 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3);

textarea {
	position: relative;
	line-height: 1em;
	width: 100%;	

.error {
  font-weight: bold;
	color: red;  

.jumbotron {
	position: relative;
	background: white;
	z-index: 2;
	border-top: 1px dotted #adadad;

h1 {
	width: 100%;
	font-size: 70px;
	font-weight: bold;
	text-align: center;		

ul {
	margin: 0;
	padding: 0;
	list-style: none;

li {
	position: relative;
	font-size: 16px;
	padding: 5px;
	border-bottom: 1px dotted #ccc;
  box-shadow: 0 2px 6px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2),
	            0 25px 50px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.15);

li:last-child {
	border-bottom: none;  

li time {
	font-size: 12px;  
	padding-bottom: 20px;			

form:before, .error:before {  
	content: '';
	position: absolute;
	top: 0;
	right: 0;
	left: 0;
	height: 15px;	 
	border-bottom: 1px solid #6c615c;
	background: #8d7d77;	

form, .error {
	width: 520px;
	padding: 30px;
	margin-bottom: 50px;
	background: #fff;	
	border: 1px solid #ccc;
	position: relative;
	box-shadow: 0 2px 6px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2),
	            0 25px 50px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.15);

form input {
	width: 50%;
	clear: both;

Now, if you reload the page in the browser you should be greeted by the guestbook page. Try adding a comment in the guestbook to see that it's working correctly.

Packaging the application

To package our application we simply run

lein ring uberjar

This will create a runnable jar which can be run with:

java -jar target/guestbook-0.1.0-SNAPSHOT-standalone.jar

If we wanted to deploy our application to an app server such as Apache Tomcat, we could run

lein ring uberwar

The resulting war archive can now be deployed to the server of your choosing.

Complete source listing for the tutorial is available here. For a more complete example you can see the source for this site on Github.