Compare Clojure Project configuration tools

Leiningen, Clojure CLI tools and Boot are different approaches to Clojure project configuration. Regardless of the tool used, the Clojure code in the project remains the same.

Clojure CLI tools overview

Clojure CLI tools takes a very simple approach, focusing on running a REPL process, Clojure programs via clojure main and specific functions via clojure exec. With the Clojure exec approach any function can be called as the entry point to running an application or tool written in Clojure.

CLI tools can use both Maven and Git repositories for dependency management. Code from a Git repository dependency can be used without packaging it into a library (Java jar file), simplifying the use of libraries under active development.

Clojure CLI tools provides a comprehensive set of features via community tools. These community tools are provided via aliases in the user level configuration for all projects (e.g. practicalli/clojure-deps-edn) or an alias for a specific project deps.edn configuration.

Leiningen overview

Leiningen is a feature rich tool which is simple to get started with a plugin extension to add more functionality. Leiningen does use more resources as it starts a Java Virtual machine to run itself and another to run the application.

Boot overview

Boot runs tasks written in Clojure on the command line, providing a flexible way to work with projects. However, this approach does require expertise with Clojure and Clojure scripts to work with projects.

Clojure code is the same which ever tool is used

The Clojure code for the project will be the same regardless of which tool is used to configure and manage the Clojure project.


As Clojure CLI tools is a wrapper around the Java command line, its really lightweight. Tools are mostly libraries and are only installed on first use or when a version is updated.

Install is via a Linux script or Homebrew.

For windows, Scoop is recommended, although there is also an alpha level install from

Leiningen is a script that managed the download and use of the leiningen-$ package.

Lein script or lein.bat to install, or use one of the supported package managers.

Install via package mangers or the script


Tool Project Config User Config Extension
Clojure CLI tools deps.edn hash-map merged with user config ~/.clojure/deps.edn aliases in deps.edn
Leiningen project.clj and defproject macro ~/.lein/profiles.clj Leiningen specific plugin
Boot build.boot with deftask, task-options!, set-env! Write the tasks required in Clojure

Clojure CLI tools are configured with an EDN data structure, i.e. a hash-map of key-value pairs. As this is a Clojure data structure its much easier to parse and should be very familiar to Clojure developers.

Leiningen projects are configured with a project.clj file which contains a defproject macro with a great many options. The Leiningen tutorial explains the options in detail. A sample project.clj contains examples of using each of this options.

For most projects all the configuration resides in the project.clj file. Exceptions to this include figwheel-main, which also adds it own EDN configuration and EDN build configuration files.

Leiningen also has a user level configuration

build.boot is a file containing Clojure code that defines the tasks for using your project.

Extending the tools

Clojure CLI tools has been designed for a very specific role, to provide a lightweight wrapper over running Clojure programs and via tools.deps managing dependencies from Maven and Git repositories.

The projects that extend Clojure CLI tools are self-contained libraries and tools, so are not tied to any one particular tool. Any general tools written for Clojure should work with Clojure CLI tools by calling their main function (clojure main) or a specifically named function (clojure exec)

Leiningen plugin extension was the main way to extend the functionality of Leiningen (or getting pull requests accepted to the Leiningen projects).

Although there are several plugins that were widely adopted, some plugins eventually caused more confusion than benefit or were simply trivial and in the main plugins seem to have become less important to the Clojure community.

One of the limitations of Leiningnen plugin mechanism was not being able to exclude any configuration in a users .lein/profles.clj file, so there was greater potential for conflict.

The recommended way to extend Leiningen is to not write plugins, but to include aliases that define a qualified function to run when that alias is used with the Leiningen command.

Write clojure to define scripts to run with boot projects.

Babashka for Clojure scripting

Babaska is an approach to writing bash-style scripts using the Clojure language. Babashka bundles additional libraries to support common tasks

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