Running ClojureScript Apps on Heroku

In this article, you’ll create a simple ClojureScript application with Leiningen, Figwheel, Om and a few other libraries from the Chestnut template. Then you’ll learn how to deploy that application as an Uberjar to Heroku.

Creating a ClojureScript app

The simplest way to create a new ClojureScript app is by using a template such as Chestnut. Chestnut builds a barebones app that is prepared for development with a browser-connected REPL and instant reloading of Clojure, ClojureScript, and CSS. But it also has all of the configuration you need to deploy that same app to production.

To create a new Chestnut application, run this command:

$ lein new chestnut my-app

Then move into the app directory by running:

$ cd my-app

Now you can run the application locally from a REPL. First, start the REPL by running this command:

$ lein repl
nREPL server started on port 59194 on host - nrepl://
REPL-y 0.3.7, nREPL 0.2.10
Clojure 1.6.0
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM 1.8.0_51-b16
    Docs: (doc function-name-here)
          (find-doc "part-of-name-here")
  Source: (source function-name-here)
 Javadoc: (javadoc java-object-or-class-here)
    Exit: Control+D or (exit) or (quit)
 Results: Stored in vars *1, *2, *3, an exception in *e


When the REPL is ready, execute the (run) function to start the app:

my-app.server=> (run)
Figwheel: Starting server at http://localhost:3449
Starting web server on port 10555.
2015-10-15 10:34:40.132:INFO:oejs.Server:jetty-7.6.13.v20130916
2015-10-15 10:34:40.173:INFO:oejs.AbstractConnector:Started SelectChannelConnector@
#<Server org.eclipse.jetty.server.Server@3888ab53>
my-app.server=> Compiling "resources/public/js/app.js" from ["src/cljs" "env/dev/cljs"]...
Successfully compiled "resources/public/js/app.js" in 10.023 seconds.
notifying browser that file changed:  resources/public/js/app.js
notifying browser that file changed:  resources/public/js/out/goog/deps.js
notifying browser that file changed:  /my_app/core.js
notifying browser that file changed:  /my_app/main.js

After you see the Successfully compiled ... message, open a browser to http://localhost:10555, and you’ll see the “Hello Chestnut” text.

Preparing for Production

The Chestnut template is already prepared for Heroku deployment. In this section, we’ll describe how it’s configure so that you can use a similar pattern in your own application if you didn’t start with Chestnut.

When you deploy a Clojure or ClojureScript application to Heroku, the platform detects if your application is configured to be built as a Uberjar. You may be using Figwheel in development, but in most cases you will want the robustness of a Jetty or HttpKit backed Uberjar for deployment.

A Chestnut application will contain this line in it’s project.clj:

:uberjar-name "my-app.jar"

It also contains a profile that configures how the Uberjar will package up the Clojure and ClojureScript code:

:uberjar {:source-paths ["env/prod/clj"]
          :hooks [leiningen.cljsbuild]
          :env {:production true}
          :omit-source true
          :aot :all
          :main my-app.server
          :cljsbuild {:builds {:app
                     {:source-paths ["env/prod/cljs"]
                      :compiler {:optimizations :advanced
                                 :pretty-print false}}}}}})

The main entry point of the Uberjar is my-app.server, which is a file that was generated by Chestnut. This file contains a main function that boots Ring and Jetty, which provide an HTTP server for the static content compiled from your ClojureScript code. This is especially convenient because in most cases you’ll eventually need some server-side logic, which you can easily add to the project.

Before you deploy, try building the Uberjar locally:

$ lein with-profile -dev,+production uberjar

And run it with this command:

$ heroku local web

The heroku local command reads the web command from the application’s Procfile. This file is preconfigured by Chestnut with the following content:

$ web: java $JVM_OPTS -cp target/my-app.jar clojure.main -m my-app.server

You’ll need to add a similar file to a non-Chestnut app before deploying.

Open a browser to http://localhost:5000 and you’ll see the “Hello Chestnut” text again. Then kill the server by pressing Ctrl+C.

Deploying to Heroku

Before you can deploy to Heroku, you’ll need to create a free Heroku account and install the Heroku toolbelt. Then log into the toolbelt CLI with the account you created by running:

$ heroku login

Next, initialize a local Git repository for your application by running these commands:

$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -am "first"

Now create a Heroku application for your project by running this command:

$ heroku create

This will provision a new remote Git repository on the Heroku servers, and add it as a remote to your local repo. To deploy, you push to the remote Git just as you might push to a Github repo by running this command:

$ git push heroku master
remote: -----> Clojure (Leiningen 2) app detected
remote: -----> Installing OpenJDK 1.8...done
remote: -----> Installing Leiningen
remote:        Downloading: leiningen-2.5.2-standalone.jar
remote:        Writing: lein script
remote: -----> Building with Leiningen
remote:        Running: lein uberjar
remote: -----> Compressing... done, 72.5MB
remote: -----> Launching... done, v3
remote: deployed to Heroku
remote: Verifying deploy... done.
 * [new branch]      master -> master

After some time, your app with be up and running. You can check it’s status with the heroku ps command, and you can view it’s logs with the heroku logs command. To view the app in a browser, run this command:

$ heroku open

Pushing Local Changes

Now let’s make some changes to the application and push those up to Heroku.

Open the file src/cljs/my_app/core.cljs. It looks like this:

(ns my-app.core
  (:require [om.core :as om :include-macros true]
              [om.dom :as dom :include-macros true]))


(defonce app-state (atom {:text "Hello Chestnut!"}))

(defn main []
    (fn [app owner]
          (render [_]
            (dom/h1 nil (:text app)))))
    {:target (. js/document (getElementById "app"))}))

As you can see, it’s using Om, a ClojureScript interface to Facebook’s React. Let’s change this simple view so that it renders a list of contact. In the spirit of Clojure, you’ll use REPL-driven development as you do this. Before starting you’re REPL, you need to clean the Uberjar artifacts by running this command (otherwise you’ll get a “Production environment code is being loaded while the dev environment is active” error).

$ lein clean

Now start your REPL again and boot the app with (run). In the src/cljs/my_app/core.cljs file, replace the app-state definition with this code:

(defonce app-state
      [{:first "Ben" :last "Bitdiddle" :email ""}
       {:first "Lem" :middle-initial "E" :last "Tweakit" :email ""}]}))

Then add these functions after the app-state definition:

(defn display-name [{:keys [first last] :as contact}]
  (str last ", " first))

(defn contact-view [contact owner]
    (render [this]
      (dom/li nil (display-name contact)))))

(defn contacts-view [data owner]
    (render [this]
      (dom/div nil
        (dom/h2 nil "Contact list")
        (apply dom/ul nil
          (om/build-all contact-view (:contacts data)))))))

Finally, replace the main function with this:

(defn main []
    {:target (. js/document (getElementById "app"))}))

Then view your app in the browser and you’ll see the list of contact.

Now you can deploy these changes to Heroku with just a few commands. Kill the REPL or open a new terminal and run this:

$ git commit -am "contacts"
$ git push heroku master

In just a few moments you app with be deployed and you can view it again with heroku open.

This is just a very simply introduction to Om and ClojureScript. You can learn a great deal more about unlocking their potential in the Om tutorial.

Further Reading

Here are some articles on Heroku’s Clojure support:

Here some great resources for learning more about ClojureScript.