If you are a novice Lisp programmer and you are confused about the difference between systems and packages, I recommend you to read the Packages, systems, modules, libraries - WTF? before you continue.
The most common way that people use packages nowadays is by adding a
package.lisp file. This file is usually the first
file to be loaded and define the packages that the other files
use. This approach has worked for many projects. However, when
packages become larger, it requires discipline to manage the
dependencies between the files.
An alternative approach to the definition of packages is named one package per file. As the name suggests, it consists in starting every file with a defpackage. Because dependencies between packages are explicit and every file has a unique package, the dependencies between the files can be inferred.
This style of programming was introduced a few years ago by faslpath and quick-build. But recently, the de facto standard Common Lisp build system ASDF3 added support for it with the asdf-package-system extension. As a consequence, now it is easier than ever to use it.
So, stay with me for the next minutes and you will learn how to use this new approach in your projects. I hope you find it useful.
How to use it
First of all, we have to enable the asdf-package-system extension on
our system. We will work on a system named
project as definition
This defines a correspondence between systems, packages and files. A
project/foo/bar refers the file
foo/bar.lisp, which have to
provide a package
project/foo/bar, and whose used and imported
packages refer to systems of the same name.
For example, as the system
project depends on
addons.lisp must be loaded first. The content of
Note that it uses the package
project/core and “import” the
cl-ppcre one. Therefore, ASDF will infer that it depends on both the
systems cl-ppcre and
they must be loaded first. But remember, the system
refers to the file
And that is all. This file has no external dependencies. Then, if we try to load our system
the systems and files
be loaded in the proper order.
Integration with other systems
What if we use a package but the system that provides such a package
has not the same (downcased) name? For example, the system
provides a package named c2cl. In order to let ASDF know how to find
the system for a package, we can call the function
register-system-packages with the name of the systems and the
packages it provides as argument. In our case, we would include the
following in our
(register-system-packages :closer-mop '(:c2cl))
A Last Trick
Most of the time we want to export a single package with all the
symbols from the “subpackages”. This can be done very easily if you
use the UIOP library shipped with ASDF. For example, let us define a
all.lisp in our example like:
Now, the system
project/all depends on both
project/addons, and it will reexport the symbols into a
If you want to know more about ASDF3 and package-system:
ASDF 3, or Why Lisp is Now an Acceptable Scripting Language
(Extended version) by François-René Rideau.