Hello World


We’re glad you’ve decided to give Pedestal a try. We think it’s pretty powerful. Before we get into the heavy lifting though, we should start with some basics.

What You Will Learn

After reading this guide, you will be able to:

  • Create a Pedestal project from scratch.

  • Define a route.

  • Return a page on that route.

  • Return plain text in your response.

Guide Assumptions

This guide is for beginners who are new to Pedestal. It doesn’t assume that you have any prior experience with Pedestal, Clojure, or any other Clojure-based web framework. You should be familiar with the basics of HTTP: URLs, response codes, and content types.

If you’ve already done some of those other things, you might want to skip ahead to Your First API to start building some logic and multiple routes.

This guide also assumes that you are in a Unix-like development environment, with Java installed. We’ve tested it on Mac OS X and Linux (any flavor) with great results. We haven’t yet tried it on the Windows Subsystem for Linux, but would love to hear from you if you’ve succeeded with it there.

We will be installing a tool to help manage dependencies and download libraries. The one this guide uses is Boot. Feel free to take a look and install it now. We’ll discuss it at the appropriate time, so you can also wait until then.

Getting Help If You’re Stuck

We’ll take this in small steps. If you get stuck at any point in this guide, please submit an issue about this guide or hop over to the mailing list and raise your hand there.

This guide shows fragments of code as we add them. Sometimes it helps to see the whole thing at once, so you can always check out the whole shebang at the end of this guide.

Where We Are Going

In this guide, we’re going to take a series of small steps. We’ll see all the code to build a Pedestal service starting with an empty directory.

The first time through, we will just do everything "by hand". This is a little more work in typing (or copy-and-pasting) but it will let you see how the pieces connect in the simplest possible use case.

Before We Begin

Pedestal services are written in Clojure code, which you then run on a Java Virtual Machine. You will need to have a Java Runtime Environment installed on your computer. Let’s make sure you’re up to date. Fire up a terminal and put in this command:

$ java -version

You should see some output like this:

openjdk version "1.8.0_91"
OpenJDK Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_91-8u91-b14-3ubuntu1~16.04.1-b14)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.91-b14, mixed mode)

Yours might vary in some of the details. For comparison, I’m running on a Linux Mint virtual machine.

The main thing is that I actually got some output! If you get "Command not found" or some variation of that, you probably need to install Java.

The second thing is to make sure that the Java version is at least 1.7.

OK, so now that you are ready to run Java applications, let’s move on to the Pedestal part.

Starting From Scratch

We’re going to start this project with an empty directory. In practice, most of the time you’ll generate a project from a template. But for now, it’s more important to see what the pieces are and how they fit together.

I’m going to call my project 'hello-world'. Feel free to call yours something different, but it’s up to you to do the mental translation in the rest of this guide.

$ mkdir hello-world
$ cd hello-world

A quick note on naming style. Clojure itself uses "kebab case" for its names. That’s lowercase words, separated with hyphens. When you have a long name, it looks like the letters have been skewered. Hence, kebab case. Since Clojure’s own libraries use this style, most applications and libraries do too.

We need a place to keep our code. By convention, that’s in a "src" directory:

$ mkdir src

A Place to Put Things

Now we’re going to create a file under "src" to hold our code. Call it "src/hello.clj". It’s going to start with a "namespace declaration". This tell Clojure what namespace to put the code into. (If you’re a Java programmer, you can think of a namespace as similar to a package name.)

(ns hello                                        (1)
  (:require [io.pedestal.http :as http]          (2)
            [io.pedestal.http.route :as route])) (3)
1 This namespace is called 'hello'. This almost always matches the filename.
2 We need to use the 'io.pedestal.http' namespace, but would like to only type 'http' later in the file.
3 We need to use the 'io.pedestal.http.route.definition' namespace, but would like to spell it as 'routes' later in the file.

This is very similar to using "import" in Java or "require" in Ruby. It just makes some names from other namespaces available to us in this namespace.

If you haven’t written any Clojure before, this syntax might look a little strange. The first thing that jumps out at people is the parentheses. Why is there an open paren before the "ns"? In Clojure, every expression is enclosed in its very own set of parentheses. There are no semicolons to end the line or curly braces to close an "if" expression. To find the end of any expression, you just find the matching paren.

The first thing in an expression is the function or a macro to call. In this case ns is a macro that is built in to Clojure. It sets up a namespace and makes the stuff we :require available.

Speaking of the stuff we require, what is io.pedestal.http and io.pedestal.http.route? Those are each namespaces from Pedestal libraries. The io.pedestal.http namespace has functions that let you connect with HTTP servers, handle requests, and send responses. The io.pedestal.http.route namespace actually comes from a library dedicated to routing (ingeniously named pedestal.route.)

Where the :require says :as something it means we’re making an alias inside our namespace. So io.pedestal.http will be available as just http and io.pedestal.http.route will be available as route. Aliases don’t change anything about the semantics of the namespace we’re bringing in. They just save us some typing.

Routing is split off into its own library because you can use it by itself, or you can use the HTTP library with a different routing layer. We won’t need to do that in this guide, but other tutorials do some pretty amazing things by substituting modules.

Also, don’t worry about the indentation. Your editor might handle that for you, but in any case, Clojure doesn’t care about whitespace.

Generating a Response

Whew. That was a lot to unpack from just the first three lines of code! Let’s pause for a moment to talk about the next steps. We’re making a web service that can say hello. That means we need to do some basic things:

  1. Listen to on a socket for HTTP requests.

  2. Figure out what any given request means.

  3. Make a response to that request.

We’re going to do all of those things, but we’re going to do them backwards. In Clojure, you always find the most important, highest-level functions at the bottom of the file. Whenever I read a Clojure source file, I start at the bottom and page upward. So the next thing we’re going to do is write a function that can return a response to a "hello world" request.

(defn respond-hello [request]          (1)
  {:status 200 :body "Hello, world!"}) (2)
1 Define a function called hello that takes one argument, which we will call request
2 Return a map with two keys and two values.

A Clojure function returns the value of the last expression in the function. In this case, that will be the map that we construct on line 2. This is in "map literal" syntax, which just means that we’re writing the whole map straight in the source code rather than building it up by calling functions.

The map has two keys and their values:

  • :status 200

  • :body "Hello, world!"

That’s the whole thing. When our function returns that map, Pedestal will translate that into a full HTTP response complete with content type header and everything. (Later on, we’ll see how to take control of the whole response. For now we’re just taking the easy road.)

There’s absolutely nothing special about this map. It’s a plain old Clojure map. The keys on the other hand, do mean something. They are part of the "response map" specification, which you can read about.

In fact, you can call this function without hooking it up to a socket or route or anything. That’s one of the beauties of working in Pedestal…​ you can try everything interactively in a running system. Let’s do that before we move on.

Managing Dependencies

Pedestal is built on the shoulders of giants, in the form of great open source technology that many people have contributed to. That gives us great power, but with great power comes great dependencies. We could download all the jar files we need and string together a classpath, but it’s a huge pain. I just made a minimal project and found 57 entries on the classpath.

This is why we can have nice things, but it means we need some help managing those dependencies. We’re going to use help in the form of boot-clj. Please take a few minutes to go follow their installation instructions, then come back and we’ll continue.

Now we can make a build file that tells boot what libraries our service needs. This goes in the main directory hello:

 :resource-paths #{"src"}                                  (1)
 :dependencies   '[[io.pedestal/pedestal.service "0.5.1"]  (2)
                   [io.pedestal/pedestal.route   "0.5.1"]
                   [io.pedestal/pedestal.jetty   "0.5.1"]
                   [org.slf4j/slf4j-simple       "1.7.21"]])
1 Tell Boot where our source code lives
2 Tell Boot we need three Pedestal libraries

We talked about pedestal.service and pedestal.route before, but we have a new one here. Pedestal works with many different HTTP servers, so we don’t want the core library to depend on all of the possible servers out there. Instead, we let you decide which one to use by adding the library for your chosen service. We’re using Jetty for this guide. It is a fast, stable, and mature HTTP server. Best of all, it doesn’t require any installation ahead of time…​ we can start it up from inside our service. That makes our service more self-contained and portable.

Let’s try out our response function.

$ boot repl
nREPL server started on port 37569 on host - nrepl://
REPL-y 0.3.7, nREPL 0.2.12
Clojure 1.9.0-alpha10
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM 1.8.0_91-8u91-b14-3ubuntu1~16.04.1-b14
        Exit: Control+D or (exit) or (quit)
    Commands: (user/help)
        Docs: (doc function-name-here)
              (find-doc "part-of-name-here")
Find by Name: (find-name "part-of-name-here")
      Source: (source function-name-here)
     Javadoc: (javadoc java-object-or-class-here)
    Examples from [clojuredocs or cdoc]
              (user/clojuredocs name-here)
              (user/clojuredocs "ns-here" "name-here")

It’s pretty safe to ignore all that output for now. The main thing to look for is the prompt that says boot.user⇒. That shows you can input Clojure code to evaluate it (turn it into a value) and that you’re currently in the boot.user namespace. We need to tell Clojure about our hello namespace:

boot.user=> (require 'hello)

So Clojure apparently just burped 'nil' at us and came back to the prompt. Believe it or not, that means it worked. The require function returns nil, which Clojure printed for us.

If you get a message like these:

clojure.lang.Compiler$CompilerException: java.lang.RuntimeException: Unable to resolve symbol: hello in this context, compiling:(/tmp/boot.user164143164117124931.clj:1:1)
Unable to resolve symbol: hello in this context

It means you missed the single-quote before "hello" in the require.

You can check to see if your function got loaded:

boot.user=> hello/respond-hello
#object[hello$respond_hello 0x2db5083a "hello$respond_hello@2db5083a"]

This arcane output tells us that the symbol respond-hello in the namespace hello is an object. It happens to be function object. Why did Clojure print a function object at us? Because we told it to evaluate the symbol, when we probably wanted it to call the function. Like Batman, our symbol had no parens.

boot.user=> (hello/respond-hello {})
{:status 200, :body "Hello, world!"}

Well, we got the singularly unexciting result that we can call a function and it returns the map that we told it to. Let’s move on to hooking this up to a route.


In Pedestal, routing is the process of matching an incoming request to a handler or chain of handlers. In another guide, we’ll talk much more about what goes in those handlers. For the time being, we can just use our function as a handler.

Let’s tell Pedestal that we want the route "/greet" to map to our handler function:

(def routes
  (route/expand-routes                                   (1)
   #{["/greet" :get respond-hello :route-name :greet]})) (2)
1 We specify routes in a short notation, but they must be expanded and turned into a Router for use.
2 This is the "table syntax". There are others available.

This one route says that incoming HTTP GET requests with the query string '/greet' should call the function respond-hello, and that we’re naming this route :greet. Every route must have a unique name. Sometimes Pedestal can automatically assign a name for your route, but we’ll get to that later.

We still haven’t hooked this up to an HTTP server, but we can still do some testing by hand:

boot.user=> (require :reload 'hello)
boot.user=> (require '[io.pedestal.http.route :as route])
boot.user=> (route/try-routing-for hello/routes :prefix-tree "/greet" :get)
{:path "/greet", :method :get, :path-re #"/\Qgreet\E", :path-parts ["greet"], :interceptors [#Interceptor{:name }], :route-name :greet, :path-params {}, :io.pedestal.http.route.prefix-tree/satisfies-constraints? #object[clojure.core$constantly$fn__6443 0x6182d451 "clojure.core$constantly$fn__6443@6182d451"]}
boot.user=> (route/try-routing-for hello/routes :prefix-tree "/greet" :post)
boot.user=> (route/try-routing-for hello/routes :prefix-tree "/greet" :put)

The first thing we need to do is tell Clojure to reload the latest code from hello.clj. That’s what the :reload keyword does in the require call. Without that, you’ll get an "cannot resolve symbol" error when you try to reference hello/routes.

The function try-routing-for lets us ask "What would Pedestal do?" with an incoming HTTP request. We gave it our table of one route, a magic keyword :prefix-tree, then the query string and HTTP verb.

When there’s a match, try-routing-for returns the route that succeeded. When there’s no match, it returns nil. So the output shows that a GET to "/greet" will be match, but a PUT or POST will not. When no route matches, Pedestal returns a 404 response.

You might also notice that the output on the matching route has a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there in our input to expand-routes. In fact, it is exactly the job of expand-routes to add all that extra stuff that Pedestal needs but we don’t want to type.

Hooking It All Up

We’re ready for that last step: connecting everything to an HTTP server. That’s one more function (at the end of the file) to create the server.

(defn create-server []
  (http/create-server     (1)
   {::http/routes routes  (2)
    ::http/type   :jetty  (3)
    ::http/port   8890})) (4)

(defn start []
  (http/start (create-server))) (5)
1 io.pedestal.http/create-server is a convenience function that builds everything in one step.
2 This is where we tell Pedestal which routes to use for this service.
3 We tell Pedestal that we want to use Jetty as our HTTP responder.
4 Port 8080 is so boring. We’ll use something different, but not too different.
5 Start the server. This will not return.

All we need to do now is run it.

boot.user=> (require :reload 'hello)
boot.user=> (hello/start)

Yep, it didn’t return. Jetty is running and listening for connections, though. Flip to a different window and try curl or use a browser to hit

$ curl -i
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2016 20:27:06 GMT
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=31536000; includeSubdomains
X-Frame-Options: DENY
X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff
X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block
Content-Type: text/plain
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Server: Jetty(9.3.8.v20160314)

Hello, world!

It’s alive! Treat yourself to a hot beverage and a high five. Whenever you get tired of poking it, just hit Control-C in the terminal that is running the server to kill it.

The Whole Shebang

This might seem complicated because I’ve used so many words to describe all this. The code is pretty short though. For reference, and in case you’ve hit any snags along the way, here are the complete contents of both files.

(ns hello                                        ;; <1>
  (:require [io.pedestal.http :as http]          ;; <2>
            [io.pedestal.http.route :as route])) ;; <3>

(defn respond-hello [request]          ;; <1>
  {:status 200 :body "Hello, world!"}) ;; <2>

(def routes
  (route/expand-routes                                   ;; <1>
   #{["/greet" :get respond-hello :route-name :greet]})) ;; <2>

(defn create-server []
  (http/create-server     ;; <1>
   {::http/routes routes  ;; <2>
    ::http/type   :jetty  ;; <3>
    ::http/port   8890})) ;; <4>

(defn start []
  (http/start (create-server))) ;; <5>
 :resource-paths #{"src"}                                  ;; <1>
 :dependencies   '[[io.pedestal/pedestal.service "0.5.1"]  ;; <2>
                   [io.pedestal/pedestal.route   "0.5.1"]
                   [io.pedestal/pedestal.jetty   "0.5.1"]
                   [org.slf4j/slf4j-simple       "1.7.21"]])

You can also see all the code in the Github repository for this guide.

The Path So Far

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide. You have learned how to:

  • Start a Pedestal project from scratch.

  • Write a function to return a response.

  • Define routes for Pedestal.

  • Run a Jetty server that handles those routes.

Along the way you’ve also learned a bit of Clojure and some debugging tricks.

Where to Next?

The next part in this trail adds the ability to receive a query parameter, apply logic to it, and return a different response for an error.