SBCL Setup

Steel Bank Common Lisp (SBCL) is aggressively maintained with releases approximately monthly. SBCL has a long history, with its source code stretching back to the early ’80s under different systems. This tutorial recommends SBCL due to its popularity at the time of writing. Other opens source systems such as ECL, CLISP, CMUCL, and CCL exist.

Installing on Linux and OSX

Linux is the “home OS” of SBCL. The installation procedure also works the same easy way for OSX. Typically the best way to start is to download the binary from SBCL and install it.

The procedure for installing it on your system runs as so:

tar xjf <sbcl-binary>
    cd sbcl-<version-name>
    sudo sh ./

After that, execute sbcl at the command line and you should find the REPL! Congratulations!

SBCL’s REPL is designed to be used in an environment such as emacs’ SLIME interface. Check the IDE help page for more information.


The tool Linedit should provide some reasonable CLI capabilities for users.

In order to load it into SBCL, copy and paste the following snippet:

    (ql:quickload :linedit)
    (require :sb-aclrepl)
    (require :linedit)
    (funcall (intern "INSTALL-REPL" :linedit) :wrap-current t))

Installing on Windows

Install the Scoop package manager. To do this, open PowerShell and type: ' iex (new-object net.webclient).downloadstring('') ' (minus single quotes). Review the permissions for Scoop and and accept them if you are comfortable with them

Type: scoop install sbcl (no special permissions needed!) into PowerShell, and you're all set! Restart the shell and you can start working in SBCL!

Further installation on Linux/OSX

Sometimes the SBCL you pick up from isn’t as feature-complete as you want, or perhaps you want to recompile it for your own reasons (i.e., the Hunchentoot web server requires threads).

In order to do this, download the source SBCL package and issue this set of commands:

sh ./ --fancy
    pushd doc/manual/ && make && popd
    sudo sh ./
  • –fancy builds with several optional features as of 1.1.3: :sb-core-compression :sb-xref-for-internals :sb-after-xc-core, plus threading on supported platforms.

  • For platforms with very limited memory, –dynamic-space-size= can help ensure that you don’t blow the internal Lisp heap.