Getting Started
Guidelines, hints and resources for those who are starting out with Lisp.

Emacs Starter Kits for Common Lisp

  • Emacs4CL: A do-it-yourself kit to set up Common Lisp development environment with SBCL, Emacs, Slime, Paredit, Rainbow Delimiters and Quicklisp. Provides a step-by-step guide and a line-by-line explanation of every line of code that goes into ~/.emacs.d/init.el (or ~/.emacs) to turn vanilla Emacs into a Common Lisp development environment.
  • Portacle: Portacle is a complete IDE for Common Lisp that you can take with you on a USB stick. It is multi-platform and can be run on Windows, OS X, and Linux. Since it does not require any complicated installation process, it is set up and running in no time.

Non-Emacs Starter Kits

  • CLOG-Win64-ez - unzip and double click setup.bat - complete Windows Common Lisp (sbcl) environment using CLOG Builder (a full featured Lisp IDE and also a GUI Builder for CLOG)

More Setup Guides

Non-Emacs Guides

Getting a Lisp

Alternative ways to download and install a Common Lisp implementation. Some resources for bootstrapping a useful Lisp environment on various platforms:

Books and tutorials

Experienced programmers

Read Peter Seibel's excellent book Practical Common Lisp, available for free online, or in dead-tree form. This is especially a good book for anyone familiar with programming in other languages and wants to learn Lisp for real-world use.

Novice programmers

If you are new to programming in general, these books/tutorials may be better choices to begin with:

Other Online Tutorials.

IRC channels

There are numerous IRC channels on the Libera Chat server to help people with Common Lisp.

  • #clschool - A channel devoted specifically for helping Common Lisp newbies get started.
  • #lispcafe - A more laid-back version of #lisp, used for socialization and banter.
  • #lispgames - Conversation about writing games in various lisps, mostly Common Lisp.
  • #lispweb - Conversation about writing web applications in Common Lisp.
  • #lisp - For on-topic technical discussion of lisp programs, issues, and implementations.

There are other channels for discussing other languages such as:


Check out other Lisp books and online tutorials


  • the Common Lisp Hyperspec (CLHS) is a hypertext version of the standard with extensive indexing. Quick symbol lookup in the Hyperspec is available in SLIME.
  • The Common Lisp Quick Reference is a condensed Common Lisp pocket reference available for free and suitable for printing.
  • CLtL2 is outdated, but contains more useful descriptions of format and loop than the Hyperspec.


Other hints

Learn about Common Lisp coding conventions and naming conventions.