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Project README

Armed Bear Common Lisp (ABCL) README

Armed Bear Common Lisp is a conforming implementation of ANSI X3J13 Common Lisp that runs in a Java virtual machine. It compiles Lisp code directly to Java byte code for execution.


Armed Bear Common Lisp is distributed under the GNU General Public License with a classpath exception (see "Classpath Exception" below).

A copy of GNU General Public License (GPLv2) is included in this distribution, in file:COPYING.

We have modified our GPLv2 license section 13 to read:

 13. Linking this library statically or dynamically with other
 modules is making a combined work based on this library. Thus, the
 terms and conditions of the GNU General Public License cover the
 whole combination.

 The following paragraph details the "classpath exception" which ABCL
 allows as an exception to the statement about linking libraries.

 As a special exception, the copyright holders of this software give
 you permission to link this software with independent modules to
 produce an executable, regardless of the license terms of these
 independent modules, and to copy and distribute the resulting
 executable under terms of your choice, provided that you also meet,
 for each linked independent module, the terms and conditions of the
 license of that module. An independent module is a module which is
 not derived from or based on this software. If you modify this
 software, you may extend this exception to your version of the
 software, but you are not obligated to do so. If you do not wish to
 do so, delete this exception statement from your version.


With Docker Engine installed one may execute:

docker build -t YOURID/abcl .
docker run -it YOURID/abcl 

to get something like

illin:~/work/abcl$ docker run -it YOURID/abcl
Armed Bear Common Lisp 1.8.0
Java 11.0.8 AdoptOpenJDK
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM
Low-level initialization completed in 0.295 seconds.
Startup completed in 1.425 seconds.
Type ":help" for a list of available commands.
CL-USER(1): (lisp-implementation-version)

To install Quicklisp for ABCL in the Docker container run:

docker run -t YOURID/abcl abcl \
  --batch --load /home/abcl/work/abcl/ci/install-quicklisp.lisp

See file:Dockerfile for the build instructions.


After you have downloaded a binary release from either the distributed Maven POM graph or from archive unpack it into its own directory. To run ABCL directly from this directory, make sure the Java executable (java) (Java 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, and 15 are supported by ABCL 1.7.0) is in your shell's path.

To start ABCL, simply issue the following command:

cmd$ java -jar abcl.jar

which should result in output like the following

Armed Bear Common Lisp 1.8.0
Java 11.0.8 AdoptOpenJDK
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM
Low-level initialization completed in 0.222 seconds.
Startup completed in 1.09 seconds.
Type ":help" for a list of available commands.

Yer now at the interactive ABCL "Read Eval Print Loop" (REPL): hacks 'n glory await.


For usage of ABCL with the Superior Lisp Interaction Mode for Emacs, one may easily start a Swank listener via:

(require :asdf)
(require :abcl-contrib)
(asdf:load-system :quicklisp-abcl)
(ql:quickload :swank)
(swank:create-server :dont-close t)

Building From Source Release

ABCL may be built from its source code by executing the build instructions file:build.xml expressed by the venerable Apache Ant tool.

To build, one must have a Java 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16 or 17 Java Development Kit (openjdk) installed locally. Just the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) isn't enough, as you need the Java compiler ('javac') to compile the Java source of the ABCL implementation.

Download a binary distribution Ant version 1.7.1 or greater. Unpack the files somewhere convenient, ensuring that the 'ant' (or 'ant.bat' under Windows) executable is in your path and executable.

Then simply executing

cmd$ ant

from the directory containing the file:build.xml instructions will create an executable wrapper ('abcl' under UNIX, 'abcl.bat' under Windows). Use this wrapper to start ABCL.

The build may be customized by copying to, which will cause Ant to attempt to build incrementally as well as optimizing the runtime for a contemporary 64bit desktop/server machine running Java 8 or 11. The file contains incomplete documentation on how it may be edited for subsequent customization. As an alternative to copying the prototype, if one has a version of bash locally, one may issue via Ant


or from the shell as

bash ci/create-abcl-properties.bash openjdk11

Currently supported platforms are 'openjdk6', 'openjdk7', 'openjdk8', 'openjdk11', 'openjdk13', 'openjdk14', 'openjdk15', 'openjd16', and 'openjdk17'.

Using NetBeans

Alternatively, one may install the Netbeans visual integrated development environment, which contains both the Java Development Kit as well as the Ant build tool. The source distribution contains Netbeans-specific project artifacts under file:nbproject for loading ABCL as a Netbeans project.

With Netbeans, one should be able to open the ABCL directory as a project whereupon the usual build, run, and debug targets as invoked in the GUI are available. Use the 'slime' config with a suitably linked SLIME swank.asd ASDF configuration file:~/.config/common-lisp/source-registry.conf.d/ to connect a REPL to the NetBeans debug process.


Armed Bear Common Lisp strives to be a conforming ANSI X3J13 Common Lisp implementation. Any other behavior should be reported as a bug.

ABCL has a User Manual stating its conformance to the ANSI standard, providing a compliant and practical Common Lisp implementation.


ABCL 1.8.0 currently fails ~49 out of 21848 total tests, whereas ABCL 1.5.0 failed 48 out of 21708 total tests in the revised and expanded ANSI CL test suite (derived from the tests originally written for GCL).

Maxima's test suite runs without failures.

ABCL comes with a test suite. Consult the output of ant help.test for more information.


ABCL has many deficiencies, both known and unknown. Descriptions, tests, and even patches to address them will be gladly accepted.

Please report problems to the development mailing list or via opening an issue on either the ABCL trac instance or github.


On behalf of all ABCL development team and contributors,

Mark Evenson
Erik Hülsmann
Rudolf Schlatte
Alessio Stalla
Ville Voutilainen

Dmitry Nadezhin
olof ferada

András Simon
Peter Graves

Have fun!

October 2020

Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "Abcl" Project. README Source: armedbear/abcl