A performance-oriented Lisp-like language where I can have my cake, and eat it (too)
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Setting up projects to use Cakelisp

This tutorial introduces a way to set up projects that use Cakelisp. This isn't the only way, so you shouldn't feel you have to follow this format.

An example repository (which also uses GameLib) is available here.


The following operating systems are supported by Cakelisp:

  • GNU/Linux

  • macOS

  • Windows

Anything POSIX/Unix-y will likely work because Cakelisp uses the C++ standard library and the platform's C/C++ compiler only.

You need a C++ compiler installed or available to build Cakelisp itself. Cakelisp will use this compiler while cakelisp is running to build compile-time code. You also need your target's C/C++ compiler so Cakelisp can build the code it generates.

You should install git for the best experience. You can download the code manually, but that will make getting updates harder.

Project setup

The assumption GameLib makes is that your project's root directory has a Dependencies directory with cakelisp inside it. This is only expected by GameLib, but enables a whole bunch of convenience.

For this tutorial, we will set up a new directory tree like so:

  • my-project/

    • src/

    • Dependencies/

    • Build.sh (or Build.bat on Windows)

I also recommend you include a COPYING for copyright and LICENSE for license if you plan to ever upload or distribute your code.

Getting Cakelisp

Let's get cakelisp with git. In my-project/:

  git clone https://macoy.me/code/macoy/cakelisp.git Dependencies/cakelisp


If you are using Git on your project, I recommend you use submodules to track Cakelisp's version. To do so, instead of the above command, run this:

  git submodule add https://macoy.me/code/macoy/cakelisp.git Dependencies/cakelisp

That way, I can freely update Cakelisp and your project won't break, because your project tracks a specific version of Cakelisp.

Building the project

Now that we have Cakelisp's source code downloaded, we need to set up a script to build both Cakelisp and our project.

First, let's create an empty .cake file where we will put a "Hello World". I typically name this the same as the project, or Main.cake. We'll call it MyProject.cake and put it in src/:

  (c-import "<stdio.h>")

  (defun main (&return int)
    (fprintf stderr "Hello, world! From Cakelisp!\n")
    (return 0))

Now, to build the project, we need to do slightly different things on Windows vs. on GNU/Linux or macOS. Skip the section for platforms you aren't worrying about for now.

The line with src/MyProject.cake determines which file your project should start the build with. You can add files as necessary, or use (import) within any of the files included on that line.

On GNU/Linux and macOS



  # Build Cakelisp itself
  echo "\n\nCakelisp\n\n"
  ./Build.sh || exit $?

  cd ../..

  echo "\n\nMy Project\n\n"


  $CAKELISP --execute src/MyProject.cake || exit $?

On Windows

  cd Dependencies\cakelisp
  call Build.bat
  @if %ERRORLEVEL% == 0 (
    echo Successfully built Cakelisp
    goto user
  ) else (
    echo Error while building cakelisp
    goto fail

  cd ../../
  "Dependencies\cakelisp\bin\cakelisp.exe" --execute src/MyProject.cake
  @if %ERRORLEVEL% == 0 (
    echo Success!
    goto success
  ) else (
    echo Error while building user program
    goto fail

  goto end

  goto end

  echo Done


Now, open a terminal or command prompt and navigate to the project's root directory. Type ./Build.sh or Build.bat and hit enter.

You should see output saying that Cakelisp is being built. Once that succeeds, Cakelisp will build itself again, but this time using Cakelisp's build system rather than the Build scripts. This is a good way to test that things in Cakelisp are hooked up to the compiler properly.

The build script we wrote also builds and runs our project. It runs it because of --execute. You can remove that if desired.

You should see the following output, if all things go well:


  bin/cakelisp_bootstrap_v3 does not exist. Building bootstrap executable manually
  Built bin/cakelisp_bootstrap_v3 successfully. Now building with Cakelisp
  Successfully built and linked bin/cakelisp
  Cakelisp successfully bootstrapped. Use ./bin/cakelisp to build your files

  My Project

  Successfully built and linked a.out
  Hello, world! From Cakelisp!


Permission denied

Run chmod +x Build.sh to give the build script executable permissions, then run ./Build.sh again.

No such directory "Dependencies/cakelisp"

Check you are in project's root directory when running build script. Download cakelisp to Dependencies/cakelisp.

Build fails after "Building bootstrap executable manually", and "Built bin/cakelisp_bootstrap_v3 successfully." was not output

Check Dependencies/cakelisp/Build.sh. Does it reference your system's compiler toolchain correctly? Edit it if not.

Build fails after "Built bin/cakelisp_bootstrap_v3 successfully.", and "Successfully built and linked bin/cakelisp" was not output

Cakelisp itself must not refer to your system's compiler toolchain correctly. Open ModuleManager.cpp and find your platform in moduleManagerInitialize(). You may need to edit these defaults.

Another option is to look at Dependencies/cakelisp/runtime/Config_Mingw.cake and add similar code to the Dependencies/cakelisp/Bootstrap*.cake script for your platform. This allows you to override Cakelisp's default compiler toolchain variables.

Build fails after "Cakelisp successfully bootstrapped."

At this point, Cakelisp is building successfully, but your project is failing to build. There are many ways this can happen:

Incorrect process commands

Edit your build script to include --verbose-processes on the same line with src/MyProject.cake (there should be a space on both sides of --verbose-processes):

  $CAKELISP --execute --verbose-processes src/MyProject.cake

That will cause output for all the subprocesses Cakelisp launches. By running these commands, you can more quickly diagnose compiler issues. See cakelisp/runtime/Config_*.cake files for references on how to override cakelisp's default compiler/linker.

Invalid Cakelisp code

Cakelisp should print an error saying where it encountered a problem. Please email macoy@macoy.me if you encounter errors you don't know how to proceed to fix. By telling me about your error experience, I can write better errors that help save everyone frustration!

Invalid generated code

If you have errors output by your C/C++ compiler or linker, Cakelisp is successfully generating code, but the generated code is invalid. This is where knowing C/C++ is important. Cakelisp assumes a relatively strong grasp of C, so read up on C if you are trying to find problems at this stage.

If the generated C is syntactically invalid (e.g., missing a semicolon), please email macoy@macoy.me, because it may be an issue with Cakelisp.

Using GameLib

GameLib is a collection of generally useful modules for applications and game development.

GameLib uses Cakelisp's compile-time code execution features to automatically download dependencies as you (import) them. It is the closest thing to a package manager Cakelisp has, and could be compared to Go's remote packages (and I believe Rust has similar functionality).

To add Gamelib, we clone it using git:

  git clone https://macoy.me/code/macoy/gamelib.git Dependencies/gamelib

  # Or, if using git for your project
  git submodule add https://macoy.me/code/macoy/gamelib.git Dependencies/gamelib

Read Dependencies/gamelib/ReadMe.org for an overview of how GameLib works and what modules it offers.

Example: Using raylib

Let's use raylib. GameLib has a Raylib.cake module that will automatically download, build, and statically link Raylib to your project.

Modify src/MyProject.cake to include the following:

  ;; Tell Cakelisp what our directory structure is
  (set-cakelisp-option cakelisp-src-dir "Dependencies/cakelisp/src")
  (set-cakelisp-option cakelisp-lib-dir "Dependencies/cakelisp/bin")
  (add-cakelisp-search-directory "Dependencies/gamelib/src")
  (add-cakelisp-search-directory "Dependencies/cakelisp/runtime")
  (add-cakelisp-search-directory "src")

  ;; Edit this with your platform. 'Windows or 'Unix
  (comptime-define-symbol 'Unix)
  (import "Raylib.cake")
  (defun main (&return int)
    (InitWindow 800 450 "raylib [core] example - basic window")

    (while (not (WindowShouldClose))
      (ClearBackground RAYWHITE)
      (DrawText "Congrats! You created your first window!" 190 200 20 LIGHTGRAY)

    (return 0))

Now, when you run ./Build.sh (or Build.bat), you should see the following:

  My Project

  Dependencies/raylib: Automatically adding as submodule from https://github.com/raysan5/raylib.git

  Cloning into '/home/macoy/Repositories/cakelisp-tutorial-project/Dependencies/raylib'...
  Raylib: Building via Configure and Make

It will output the building of Raylib as well as building your project. Note that it only downloads and builds Raylib if you don't already have it downloaded and built. You should only have to wait for this once for your project.

Adding your own 3rd party dependencies

Look at gamelib/src/ and see how the various dependencies are implemented. SDL.cake is a good example of a module which also includes helper functions added for Cakelisp. You should see how add-dependency-git-submodule makes it much more convenient to obtain dependencies. Unlike Rust or Go, this feature is completely optional.