October 29, 2004
The Best Lisp

In a comp.lang.lisp thread about “the best product (or freeware) for developing Lisp applications”, Marco Baringer gave a pretty concise reply [seen at Bill Clementson's weblog], one that put a bit more of a stake in the ground and is therefore somewhat more useful than the true, but unwelcome “it depends”.

I took Marco's answer and shortened it even further, extracting what I felt was the most important advice, and then adding a little bit of my own. This, then, is my advice, based on Marco's but changed enough that he should not be blamed, to people interested in trying Lisp for the first time:


As far as the commercial implementations go, I've never heard anyone complain about Allegro, LispWorks, or MCL. As far as the open source stuff goes, if you're on x86 *nix, pick one of CLISP, CMUCL or SBCL. If you're on PPC, try OpenMCL.

If you're just starting out, I'd suggest grabbing one of the free commercial trial versions as they tend to Just Work.


The commercial Lisp products tend to have either pretty good IDEs or good emacs interfaces. If you're using an open source Lisp, you can pick between Emacs+SLIME, Emacs+SLIME and, should you feel daring, Emacs+SLIME. Seriously, there's really no other option when it comes to open source Lisp development.


Have a look around cliki.net and common-lisp.net. Especially convenient are packages that are ASDF-installable.

Posted by jjwiseman at October 29, 2004 01:11 AM

Okay, here's a newbie-oriented complaint about Lispworks, since you mention it: it's blue. Utterly blue. Insufferably blue. So blue the sky here could be considered grey -- oh, wait, it is grey. See http://www-jcsu.jesus.cam.ac.uk/~csr21/blue.png for what I mean. Blue. Except for the quit confirmation dialog, which is red.

(In case helpful souls think that they should e-mail me to tell me how to get rid of the blueness: thank you, no need.)

Posted by: Christophe Rhodes on October 29, 2004 06:31 AM

There is a very straightforward way to get rid of the blueness. See http://www.pascalcostanza.de/lisp/grab.jpg - it also improves quite a lot of other things. ;)

Posted by: Pascal Costanza on October 30, 2004 01:22 AM

Why would someone choose SBCL over CMUCL over CLISP? I know CLISP runs on Win32, but for -- say -- linux on an x86, I've never seen pros and cons documented anywhere.

Posted by: TonyClifton on November 3, 2004 03:53 PM
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