Getting Started

This article describes what you need to do to get up and running with Common Lisp.

For the fastest solution, see Portacle. It is a portable and multiplatform development environment, with no installation needed.

Linux & OS X

Linux and OS X differ only in how we install things, so we’ve grouped both in the same section.

Install SBCL

On both Linux and OS X, we’ll use SBCL as the Common Lisp implementation.


To install SBCL on either, just run:

$ sudo apt-get install sbcl

Arch Linux

Since SBCL is available from the official repositories, you can install it with:

$ sudo pacman -S sbcl


To install SBCL on OS X, just do:

$ brew install sbcl

Install Quicklisp

Next, we set up Quicklisp, the package manager. This is similarly easy:

$ curl -o /tmp/ql.lisp
$ sbcl --no-sysinit --no-userinit --load /tmp/ql.lisp \
       --eval '(quicklisp-quickstart:install :path "~/.quicklisp")' \
       --eval '(ql:add-to-init-file)' \

This will install Quicklisp to the ~/.quicklisp/ directory.

Installing Emacs and SLIME

SLIME is a Common Lisp IDE built on Emacs. You can install it with Quicklisp using:

$ sbcl --eval '(ql:quickload :quicklisp-slime-helper)' --quit

Then, add this to your ~/.emacs.d/init.el:

(load (expand-file-name "~/.quicklisp/slime-helper.el"))
(setq inferior-lisp-program "sbcl")

Running SLIME

Now that you’ve installed SLIME, you can run it by running Emacs and typing M-x slime. That is: the Alt key along with the x key, then type slime in the little buffer at the bottom. Press enter, and a REPL will start.


On Windows, you can use Lispstick.