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Allegro CL version 11.0

Delivering Applications

1.0 Delivery introduction

This document describes the application generation utility in Allegro CL. The facility differs from the image creation utility (see building-images.html) in that the end result is not a single image file but a directory of files in theory suitable to be delivered to customers after suitable packaging. The main operator for creating deliverable application is generate-application. It and related functionality are named by symbols in the :excl package. They are in the :genapp module (which is autoloaded if necessary when relevant operators are called)

2.0 Definitions

3.0 Application mode

When a application directory, which includes an application image, is created with generate-application or its various equivalents such as generate-executable or building a project distribution in the IDE (see cgide.html, the build is done in application mode. In application mode, the signal handling behavior is different and certain variables have different initial values. The differences are described in this section. There is no way to build an application distribution in non-application mode. If desired, you can add code to your application which returns behavior to that of non-application mode.

The differences in application mode are as follows:

4.0 Developing the application and preparing for delivery

4.1 A summary of the delivery process

generate-application and generate-executable are the functional entry point for developers to deliver an application. (Note that generate-application and generate-executable are only available in Enterprise versions of Allegro CL.)

On Windows when you use the Integrated Development Environment, much of the file handling and such is done using projects. When you have a project defined, you build an application using the IDE menu option File | Build Project Distribution (which calls generate-application on a project). In this document, we describe generate-application rather than the File | Build Project Distribution menu command, but what we say about generate-application broadly applies to building applications using projects (thus most of the subsections of Creating the deliverable apply). See IDE User Guide, chapter 4: Projects for discussion of projects.

On Unix or on Windows without the IDE, the task of generate-application is to build and assemble the files for the developer's application into a single directory. This directory has many purposes. As a developer, you might want to:

  1. Test your application under non-development conditions.

  2. Test your application on another machine, to shake out any environmental dependencies in your application.

  3. Package your application for delivery to your customers.

For the purposes of this document, it does not matter what the motivation of the developer is, generate-application is used in the same way.

There are three distinct delivery types, as:

  1. an .exe (Allegro CL is in control even though the user might not be able to tell this),

  2. [MS Windows only] an OLE in-proc server (the application is started via OLE calls in another application), and

  3. a shared library.

(1) is the most common case, by far. (3) is what is commonly called Lisp as a subroutine. (2) requires registration, either implicit or explicit. In the OLE samples there are examples of both.

It is important to understand that generate-application calls build-lisp-image and the latter starts a new (operating system) process to build the requested image. Any errors that occur during the building of the image will be handled in the other process. The development environment of the originating process (the one in which the call to generate-application was made) cannot be used to debug the problem in the image creating process.

See Debugging an image build problem or failure in building-images.html for more information on debugging the image creating process.

If you want to distribute your applications outside your organization or inside your organization to users with machines not licensed to run Allegro CL, you must be licensed to do so by Franz Inc. One type of license that allows distribution is an Allegro Runtime license. See runtime.html. Please contact your Franz Inc. account manager for information on licensing applications.

4.3 Deciding on necessary features

You need all the features necessary to run your application (whatever they may be). Certain items, like the debugger, the inspector, the tracer, will not be present in an image unless explicitly used or called for. If you are preparing a runtime delivery, be sure to check the Allegro CL runtime license to see what modules cannot be included in the image. See Including all desired modules for information on insuring all needed and licensed functionality is included in the delivery image.

generate-application only builds runtime images (see runtime.html). The value of the runtime keyword argument to generate-application (actually, it is a build-lisp-image argument accepted by generate-application) must be one of :standard (the default), :dynamic or :partners. If :standard, the compiler cannot be in the final image. You must either specify include-compiler nil or include-compiler t and discard-compiler t. The latter choice allows the compiler to be present during the build, which is sometimes useful. The compiler may be included in a Dynamic Allegro Runtime image (value of runtime :dynamic) and in a Partner's Runtime image (value of runtime :partners). Partner's Runtime is described in Allegro CL Partner's Runtime in runtime.html.

External formats and locale where the application is run

Allegro CL supports non-ASCII character sets and allows the specification of a locale that specifies the standard character set to be used. If the locale where the application being generated by generate-application is different from the locale on the machine where the application is generated, then the necessary code for switching external formats must be included in the image or available to the application. This is most easily done by specifying the runtime-bundle keyword argument true. See Locales in applications in iacl.html.

4.4 Deciding on top-level (user interaction)

Are your users going to interact with your application through the Lisp top-level (so they will enter Lisp forms or at least one Lisp form), through a custom top-level of your own, or will users interact with your application via some graphical user interface? (Of course, some applications may have no top-level -- that is, little or no user interaction is necessary.)

If your application has a custom top-level, you must write its functionality and have it initiated when your application image starts. You do this by having the function that is the value of *restart-app-function* initiate your top-level. If your application has no top-level, then the value of *restart-app-function* should be the function that starts your application running.

If you want to use the standard Lisp top-level, leave the value of *restart-app-function* nil. Any initializations that are necessary can be done by the function that is the value of *restart-init-function*.

Warning for users calling generate-application from the IDE: the value of *restart-init-function* may be a function which starts the IDE. That value will be inherited if the restart-init-function keyword argument to generate-application (or build-lisp-image) is unspecified. If the value of the :restart-app-function is nil (because you want to use the standard top level), the value of :restart-init-function should either be nil or the bname of a function which will do desired initializations.

A minimal top-level is provided if you build an image with the include-tpl argument to build-lisp-image (or generate-application, which accepts build-lisp-image arguments). See Minimal top levels in building-images.html for more information.

4.5 Packaging the product

In the past, it was possible to deliver an application as a single file (called a standalone application). This is no longer possible. We have, however, created a precise method to help you easily create and identify all the necessary parts of your application for it to be complete. generate-application is the entry point to creating your application. This function creates a directory containing all the files making up your application.

4.6 Including all desired modules

A standard Allegro CL image on startup does not contain all the system modules that a program may invoke. Instead, certain modules are left out (and contained in the bundle file, typically sys:files.bu but the name varies, or in a fasl file in sys:;code;, the code/ subdirectory of the Allegro directory). When a module is called for with require, it is looked for according to the *require-search-list*, which usually looks in sys:;code; and, if it is not there, in the bundle file (which is essentially a collection of fasl files). Further, when an important function associated with the facility is called (e.g. trace for the trace module, def-foreign-call for the foreign module, etc.), the system detects that the module must be loaded and loads it automatically (a process called autoloading, see Autoloading in implementation.html).

However, the bundle file supplied with the distribution, files.bu or whatever it is named, generally cannot be distributed with applications. (It is explicitly forbidden to distribute the bundle file, usually files.bu but the name varies, with a runtime image. If you have a VAR license, you may or may not be allowed to distribute the bundle file, depending on the terms of the license. In this document, we assume you are not permitted to distribute the bundle file. If you have any questions about licensing issues, please contact your Franz Inc. account manager. If you have an Allegro Runtime license, see runtime.html)

There is, however, a bundle file specifically for a runtime application. Specify :runtime-bundle t in your call to generate-application and a files.bu will be created and placed in the application directory. This file may be distributed with your application.

If you are creating an application on Windows using the IDE project system, there is a tool for finding necessary modules. See the description of the Find Required CG Modules button on the Project Manager Include tab.

Or you can ensure that all desired modules are loaded into the image. The remainder of this section describes how to do that in case you do not want to use the runtime bundle option.

The file contains a list of require's that load optional functionality for the Lisp development environment. Some of the require's in this file are explicitly forbidden by your Allegro CL Runtime or Allegro CL Dynamic Runtime license agreements, and those are identified by comments. Do not modify that file but rather copy it or the desired parts of it to your own file for use with your own application.

You should require the modules you need for your application to work properly. Check the autoloads.out file generated when the autoload-warning keyword argument to generate-application is specified true (the default when generate-application is called). That will tell you what modules might be autoloaded in your application and you can decide whether it is necessary to include the module. (Just because a module might be autoloaded, that does not mean that it will be autoloaded in your application. Modules are typically autoloaded when an important function associated with the module is called. If your application does not call a function that triggers an autoload, the autoload won't occur.)

autoloads.out actually identifies the files that will be autoloaded. A module name is the keyword symbol whose name is the filename. Thus, the name of the module associated with the file acldns.fasl is :acldns. The form (require :acldns) causes the file acldns.fasl to be loaded.

Note that the value of the autoload-warning argument can be a string naming a file (perhaps including directory information). If it is, the information will be written to that file rather than autoloads.out

If you determine a module which a function might autoload is not needed in your application, you should consider fmakunbound'ing the function, so calling it generates an undefined function error rather than a file not found error (in a runtime application with no bundle file, an error of some sort will be signaled when a function that triggers an autoload is called).

4.6.1 Including the SSL module: issues with OpenSSL libraries

A change made to Allegro CL in June, 2016, which affected all supported versions, made it link to the latest OpenSSL libraries at run time rather than linking to a specific OpenSSL library. The way OpenSSL is linked to is described in The Allegro CL SSL API in socket.html.

The change required some modification to the way delivery images link to OpenSSL libraries. When a delivery image is created, the names of linked libraries are stored and they are relinked when the image is started. Some libraries are identified as system libraries and are searched for in standard locations on the machine running the delivery image, others are copied into the delivery directory and included with the distribution.

However, neither of these methods worked with OpenSSL libraries. OpenSSL libraries change regularly and newer versions usually have different names from earlier versions. Thus copying the libraries from the build machine into the delivery directory means that the application will not see updated OpenSSL libraries. And the names of the libraries on the build machine may be different from the names on the delivery machine (or the names of the latest versions of the libraries). That is why (as described in The Allegro CL SSL API in socket.html) when the :ssl module is loaded, the system searches for the latest libraries using a moderately complex algorithm.

This library search method is now done in delivery images. Note (for licensing reasons) you cannot load the :ssl module into a delivery image: it must be included when the image is built. It will be if :ssl is included in the list of files to be loaded (which is the third required (input-files) argument to generate-application). Loading it will link to the latest libraries on the build machine but those libraries will be marked so the system will not look for them when the delivery image starts up. Instead, it will use the same algorithm used when the :ssl module is loaded and so will find the latest OpenSSL libraries available on the delivery machine. That algorithm is described in The Allegro CL SSL API in socket.html.

You may have to tweak the value of *ssl-library-names* to make it suitable for the delivery image. The Allegro CL library aclissl.[so/dll] or aclssl.[so/dll] -- which depends on whether you are creating a 16-bit cheracter image or 8-bit character image -- must be copied into the delivery directory but that happens automatically if the copy-shared-libraries argument to generate-application has its default value of t.

If you want the delivery image to use specific OpenSSL libraries, make sure you copy those libraries into the delivery directory, modify *ssl-library-names* to include the library names (except on Windows and the Mac, where that variable is ignored) and make sure that the delivery directory is first in LD_LIBRARY_PATH (DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH on macOS). Wanting a specific rather than the latest OpenSSL library is very unusual.

4.6.2 Minimum required version of OpenSSL

Our :ssl module will only work with specific versions of OpenSSL. Those versions are given in the installation guide discussion of OpenSSL If your application uses foreign libraries that use OpenSSL, those foreign libraries must be compatible with a version of OpenSSL compatible with our :ssl module. Otherwise, our :ssl module cannot be used.

4.6.3 The :disasm module is needed for backtraces

You must include the :disasm (disassembly) module in order to get a backtrace with the :zoom top-level command (or in any other way). However, :disasm may not appear in the list of missing modules because backtraces are (usually) not triggered during an image build. Include :disasm in the list which is the value of the input-files (third required) argument to generate-application to ensure you can get a backtrace is needed.

4.7 Defining the init functionality

Look at the file sys:;src; (that is, the file in the src/ of the Allegro directory). It is the source for the startup routine used by Lisp (the function start-lisp-execution) along with the sources for some ancillary functionality. (Note that the low-level initialization, including mapping of .so/.dll files built with the image -- systems libraries and others -- has already been performed when start-lisp-execution is called. As with any UNIX or Windows program, failure to find a needed shared object or Library file (so/sl/dll) during the low-level startup causes immediate program failure usually accompanied by a terse message identifying the unfound file. list-all-foreign-libraries can be used to identify dependencies on .so, .sl and .dll files.)

Examining the source for start-lisp-execution will tell you the exact sequence of operations -- when the command-line arguments are processed, when the init files are read, etc., so you can know in what order to do things. The startup sequence is also given in startup.html.

There are several places where a programmer can intervene in the startup process. One relatively early place is the restart-actions list (the value of *restart-actions*). Please note that this list may be used by Allegro CL or related functionality (such as CLIM). Therefore, you should add to the list but do not remove items from it or destroy it. Even earlier, -e command-line arguments are processed (assuming command-line arguments are not ignored by the image). Slightly later (but with a different interface), the ACL_STARTUP_HOOK environment variable is examined. If it has a value, that value is read by read-from-string and the result is evaluated.

The final two locations for programmer intervention in startup are the functions which are the values of *restart-init-function* and *restart-app-function*. As you may see from (found in the src/ subdirectory of the Allegro directory), if *restart-init-function* is true, it is assumed to name a function with no arguments and that function is funcall'ed. The purpose of excl:restart-init-function is to perform application initializations of any sort.

After *restart-init-function* completes, either *restart-app-function* is funcall'ed (if it is true) or a standard Lisp listener is started (but not both). If your application has its own top-level, it should be started with *restart-app-function*. (Or if no top-level is needed, *restart-app-function* would perform whatever your application does.) Note that the function that is the value of *restart-app-function* must not return. The consequences are undefined if it does return.

It is entirely your choice whether you use your own top-level or use the Lisp top-level. Note too that if you are using the normal top level, that is the image was built with the include-tpl argument to build-lisp-image true, you can start a Lisp top-level at any time by evaluating the following form:

  *terminal-io* 'tpl:top-level-read-eval-print-loop nil)

4.8 Specifying the initial value of package

Programmers who use a Lisp listener as a top-level often want the current package (the value of *package*) to be something other than the common-lisp-user package when the user sees the first prompt. Evaluating the following two forms as part of the function that is the value of *restart-init-function* accomplishes this (replace :my-package with the desired name, of course):

(tpl:setq-default *package* (find-package :my-package))
(rplacd (assoc 'tpl::*saved-package*

The second form suppresses (on startup) the [changing package from ...] warning printed by Allegro CL when the value of *package* is changed by the system in a Lisp listener (usually printed when the debugger is entered).

4.9 Setting up logical pathname translations

All logical pathname translations (except the one for sys: set up in the low-level startup code) are cleared as one of the first actions of start-lisp-execution (indeed, the first form in the function definition):

(defun start-lisp-execution ()

This is often not what an application developer wants. However, it is a conscious choice because the potential for mysterious bugs resulting from bogus translations being present in the image outweighed the cost of re-establishing the translations when needed.

If you want to use logical pathname translations in your application, then you will need to arrange for them to be present. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Have contain translations for additional hosts as required. Allegro CL, when it sees a logical host for which no translation is defined, will first look in to see if a translation is defined there. This file may have to be configured at the customer site (since the directory structure is usually different in every system).

  2. Have another file where the translations are defined. Use logical-pathname-translations-database-pathnames prior to creating the image to tell the system about the additional translations file (and the system will look at that file in addition to when it encounters an unknown logical host). This solution is similar to the one just above but does not require modifying which may be inconvenient to modify.

4.10 Use of shared libraries (foreign files)

generate-application causes all .so/.dll/.sl files loaded during image creation to be copied to the directory it creates. It also arranges, upon image restart, for these files to be reloaded from this directory (which is what will become sys:).

4.11 CLOS training

It is possible to significantly speed up the initialization of CLOS-based applications by gathering information about CLOS usage in the application and including that information in the application image. In this section, we discuss what information is useful for this purpose, how to collect it, and how to include it in an image.

First, let us explain the issue. The initial way to create instances and find effective methods is inherantly slow and inefficient, but Allegro CL notes what is done and so subsequent similar invocations are much faster. Lisp will write specialized functions for certain tasks and will store patterns used for others. Therefore, CLOS performance speeds up significantly as an application runs. Because it is only the first specific invocation that is slow, this slowness does not have a significant effect on overall performace.

But there is a problem with delivery images without the compiler (and delivery images do not contain the compiler unless there are specially licensed to do so): the discriminator functions that are written while the delivery application is running cannot be compiled and so run imterpreted, which means run slowly. Also, it is useful to have any CLOS optimization information conveyed from the development image to the delivery image in order that the delivery image will run as fast as possible from the start.

The problem is, however, how to convey this information. The delivery image is built in a process spawned by the development imge (which calls generate-application). Only numbers and strings can be passed to the command that initiates the new image but the information we want to pass (such as compiled function objects) cannot be encoded in numbers or strings. So we need to have the development image produce a fasl file which will contain the desired information and have the delivery image load this file.

CLOS training provides a significant performance enhancement in delivery images. If you notice that your delivery image runs noticeably slower than your application in the development image, it may be because you do not have adequate CLOS training.

Note about the development environment: Lisp users typically run in developer-environment mode. In that mode, the debugger, the code that runs the Emacs-Lisp interface, Allegro Composer (if ordered) etc. is loaded into Lisp. Often your application will not use those facilities and your application images will not want to include them. However, CLOS training will include information about those utilities (and then require you to have them available when you build your application image) unless you do one of the following:

4.11.1 Generic functions, method combination, and discrimination

A generic function examines its arguments to determine which method or methods are applicable. This is called discrimination. The symbol-function of a generic-function is a discriminator function. There are various kinds of discriminators and the discriminator for a particular generic function may change during the execution of a program.

When Lisp determines that a generic function needs a different kind of discriminator it checks to see if the one it needs has already been built and, if not, creates one. The creation of a discriminator is relatively expensive since it involves the Lisp compiler.

When a CLOS application is loaded the generic-functions all have a simple discriminator which will select the correct discriminator when the generic function is first called. Therefore when a CLOS application starts it will run very slowly unless the discriminators it needs are already built. The only way to tell which discriminators your program needs is to run your program for a while and then look at the list of discriminators that exist. Allegro CL provides a mechanism for dumping out these discriminators and then loading them in with your program so that when the program starts all the discriminators it will need will already exist.

You can dump discriminator functions to a fasl file by compiling a source file that contains the following two lines (see preload-forms) after loading and running your application (note that the best optimization is achieved if you combine this with the caching optimization described below):

(in-package :excl) 

4.11.2 Effective methods

With method-combination a call to a generic function can result in a sequence of methods being called. The code that calls the methods and processes the results of each call is called an effective method. In order to make effective methods fast, Lisp compiles them. In order to cut down on the compilation cost, Lisp actually creates effective-method templates which are functions closed over the particular methods to be called.

Thus many effective methods can share the same code. Just as in the case of discriminators above, it is expensive to start a CLOS application running if the effective methods it will need haven't been compiled already. And again Allegro CL provides a way of saving the effective methods that the application has used so that they can be defined before the application starts.

You can dump effective methods to a fasl file by compiling a source file that contains the following two lines (see preload-forms) after loading and running your application (this is the same as for discriminator functions):

(in-package :excl) 

4.11.3 Caches for fast dispatching

Generic functions use caching to implement fast dispatching. When an application starts the caches are empty so initial performance is degraded by having to handle cache misses. Allegro CL provides a way to fill the caches when an image starts up.

You can dump caches to a fasl file by compiling a source file that contains the following two lines after loading and running your application (see above under the heading Note about the development environment for information on ([packages]) in the following form):

(in-package :clos) 
(excl::precache-generic-functions ([packages])) 

4.11.4 Constructor functions

As we describe briefly below, calls to make-instance can be replaced with calls to some equivalent (but much faster) constructor functions. Allegro CL provides a way to preload compiled constructor functions.

You can dump constructors to a fasl file by compiling a source file that contains the following two lines after loading and running your application (see above under the heading Note about the development environment for information on ([packages]) in the following form):

(in-package :clos) 
(excl::preload-constructors ([packages])) 

Suppose those two lines are in a file named Compile that file with a form like (compile-file "") to produce myclosopt.fasl. (You may use any filename, of course. We use a filename here so we can refer to the fasl file below.) This file must be loaded into an image being built after all the relevant make-instance calls are loaded. This can be guaranteed be loading the constructor file last.

When you are generating an application with generate-application and you use this method to speed up constructor functions, you must include the module :constructor before the fasl file that that contains the above call to preload-constructors (myclosopt.fasl in our example). These files and modules are typically in the list which is the value of the input-files argument to generate-application (the third required argument). Again, if the fasl file is named myclosopt.fasl, the value of input-files should be something like (as the use of suspension points indicate, we are loading myclosopt.fasl last, as recommended above):

'(... :constructor ... myclosopt.fasl) 

Of course, you may have some other way of specifying files and modules (so, for example, the input-files list contains one file which contains the loads and requires for your application. In that case as well, the :constructor must be required before the myclosopt.fasl is loaded.

An example where the constructor file is created as part of the image build

In this example, we create the constructor file during the image build. Note we load it last, as that ensures it will have maximum effect. If it is loaded earlier than a relevant call to make-instance, optimization may not occur. We have a call to (main) and the defined main function is very simple, but in an actual application, it could do much more work if necessary.

cl-user(1): (shell "cat")
(in-package :cl-user)

(defclass foo ()
  ((base :accessor base :initarg :base)
   (val :accessor val :initarg :val)))

(defun main (&rest args)

(defun do-test ()
  (loop for i from 0 to 3
      as data = (make-instance 'foo :base i :val (* i i))
      sum (val data))
  (dotimes (i 10)
     (loop for i from 0 to 200000
     as data = (make-instance 'foo :base i :val (* i i))
     sum (val data)))))

(defun build ()
     (st "" :direction :output :if-exists :supersede)
    (format st "(preload-forms)~%")
    (format st "(excl::preload-constructors (list :cl-user :lisp))~%")
    (format st "(excl::precache-generic-functions (list :cl-user :lisp))"))
  (compile-file "")
  (generate-executable "sample" '(:trace :constructor :foreign 
                        "closopt-example.fasl" "closopt-example-pre.fasl")
               :allow-existing-directory t
               :include-compiler t :discard-compiler t

cl-user(2): :cl closopt-example
;;; Compiling file
;;; Writing fasl file closopt-example.fasl
;;; Fasl write complete
; Fast loading closopt-example.fasl
cl-user(3): (build)

4.11.5 How to do CLOS start up optimizations

The four possible start-up optimizations were just described. Conveniently, two (discrimination and effective methods) are achieved with the same utility. All depend on information being available. Therefore, the following is the first step for all optimizations:

  1. Exercise your application. Load your application into a Lisp image and run it as you expect one of your users will run it. Doing this causes Lisp to gather experience about how CLOS is being used.

    Once you have exercised your application sufficiently, you are ready to create the optimizing files. This is a standard fasl file created by compiling a special source file (described below).

  2. Create the clos optimization fasl file. While Lisp is still running, create a Lisp source file (we call it that contains the following four forms (see above under the heading Note about the development environment for information on ([packages]) in the following forms):

    (in-package :excl) 
    (excl::preload-constructors ([packages])) 
    (excl::precache-generic-functions ([packages])) 

Compile with compile-file. Lisp will put the discriminators, the effective methods, the constructors, and the contents of its CLOS caches into the resulting fasl file (closopt.fasl). If that file is built into the application binary image (it should be specified as one of the :lisp-files in a call to build-lisp-image, as an input-file in a call to generate-application, or required by another file specified in either location), then an application using CLOS will start up significantly faster.

Note that loading this file will not invoke the compiler so this can be loaded into a compilerless Lisp.

4.11.6 make-instance optimization

We have already discussed dumping make-instance constructor functions.
Note that calls to make-instance where the value of the class argument is a quoted constant and each of the keywords is a constant are transformed by the compiler into calls to constructor functions. A constructor function is a piece of code that is equivalent to the make-instance call except that it is significantly (10 to 100 times) faster.

The optimization is automatic when the call to make-instance is formed in a particular way.

In order for an optimized constructor function to be used certain restrictions apply:

  1. The set of keywords must be valid for the call.

  2. Only certain methods must be applicable as defined by the following table:

Generic Function: Condition for optimization:
make-instance Only system-supplied methods are applicable
initialize-instance Only system-supplied-standard methods and user-supplied :after methods are applicable
shared-initialize Only system-supplied-standard methods and user-supplied :after methods are applicable

Conditions for creation of constructor functions: The calls to make-instance are replaced by calls to the constructor regardless of whether an optimized constructor can be used. The first time the constructor function is called, the system tests whether any of the restrictions apply. If none do, an optimized constructor is generated. When the restrictions are not obeyed, a non-optimized constructor function is created. It calls make-instance. Redefining a class or one of its superclasses or adding/removing a method to one of the generic functions mentioned above causes the constructor function to be recomputed.

5.0 Creating the deliverable

As stated above, generate-application assembles the files needed to deliver an application. generate-application both builds the application's image file and copies any other files needed to support this image.

Like many powerful Lisp functions, generate-application has many options and can do many things, but quite a lot can be done with simple calls. For example, the following call builds an application from foo.fasl into the directory myappdir/ (relative to the current working directory of the running Lisp). You could then execute myappdir/myapp after the above form is evaluated.

(generate-application "myapp" "myappdir/" '("foo.fasl")
          :include-compiler nil)

generate-application provides a simpler interface for generating applications.

Important details of generate-application

generate-application is basically a wrapper around build-lisp-image. generate-application sets things up for producing a directory suitable for delivery and then calls build-lisp-image, which creates the actual deliverable image file. See building-images.html for information on build-lisp-image.

build-lisp-image, and therefore generate-application, create a new image by starting a new Lisp process and having it load necessary files and then dump a final image. It is important to understand that the new Lisp process that does the work does not inherit anything from the Lisp process that spawns it. The arguments to generate-application and build-lisp-image specify details of the new image to be created, but outside the arguments, nothing is inherited (although some arguments do default to current values in the calling image). Thus, for example, if a user-defined function or package or variable or class is defined in the calling image, it will not be defined in the new image. Every aspect of the new image is defined by the arguments to generate-application and build-lisp-image or by the files loaded during the build process.

The testapp example

There is an example showing how to create an application in examples/testapp/. It is more complex than the one above, but still relatively simple. See examples/testapp/readme.txt in that directory for information on the example, which is designed to show how to package an application. The code in the examples/testapp/ directory can be freely used. (Note that on Windows, you need the GNU make facility to use the example. The GNU make facility is (at the time of writing) available for free from

More on generate-application

The definition of generate-application is:

(generate-application application-name
          &key allow-existing-directory
           (application-type :exe)
           (autoload-warning t)
           (copy-shared-libraries t)
           (copy-file-function 'sys:copy-file)
  keyword args...
           dumplisp keyword argument ignore-command-line-arguments...)

The required arguments:

application-name A string which is the name of the application (e.g., "myapp"). When coerced to a pathname, this name should not have a directory or type. It is used to create the name of the executable or .dll/.so/.sl file and ancillary files.
destination-directory The name of a non-existent directory (the directory can exist if the :allow-existing-directory keyword argument is specified true). It is the directory used to create the output files. See image-only keyword argument below.
input-files A list specifying files to be loaded into the application. The contents can be strings or pathnames naming Lisp (.fasl or .cl) files or keywords naming modules to be loaded with require. Note: this argument is passed to build-lisp-image as the value of the :lisp-files keyword argument to that function.

The keyword arguments:

:allow-existing-directory A boolean. If true, allows the destination-directory to exist. If the value of this keyword argument is nil (the default) and the directory exists, then an error is signaled.
:application-files A list of files (strings or pathnames) which should merely be copied to the destination directory.
:application-administration This argument allows the specification of various application administrative tasks. The form of the value of this keyword argument is (type-keyword ...) or ((type-keyword ...) (type-keyword ...) ...).

(type-keyword ...) can be: (:resource-command-line "arg1" "arg2" "arg3" ...)

This creates a lisprc in the destination directory which sets the default command line arguments to "arg1" "arg2" "arg3" .... See the Resources section below for more information. The Windows version also supports win:set-default-command-line-arguments for the same purpose.

On Windows, the value can also be: ([:shortcut | :batch-file] filename ...command line arguments...) [Windows only]

This creates either a batch file or a shortcut named filename that will initialize the application. For a shortcut, the filename must have type "lnk" (the letter L, the letter N, the letter K). command line arguments are the arguments to application-name.exe. The filename argument should actually be a format control string given one argument, the name of the application. It is used like this: (format nil filename application-name). This allows the customization of the generated filename based on information generate-application has already been given.

One use of this is for OLE registration. For example:

'(:shortcut "One-time registration of ~a" "-register")

If the given application-name was "foo" this would create a shortcut named One-time registration of foo with the following command line:

foo.exe -- -register

An error is signaled if application-type is not :exe in this case.

:application-type A keyword specifying the application type. Valid values: :exe, :ole-in-proc-server, or :dll. If :exe is used, then application-name.exe is created. If :ole-in-proc-server or :dll is used application-name.dll is created.
autoload-warning A boolean whose value can be string naming a file. When true, the file autoloads.out is created that contains the functions, macros and methods that could possibly be autoloaded. Defaults to t in calls to generate-application. Note that the default is nil in direct calls to build-lisp-image. The value can be a string naming a file (which can include directory information), in which case the information will be written to that file rather than autoloads.out.
:build-executable This is a build-lisp-image keyword argument but is also used by generate-application if a value is supplied. The value must name a Lisp executable file (such as "mlisp" on Unix or "mlisp.exe" on Windows). It is used by build-lisp-image to start the Lisp process that builds the image. Unless image-only is true, generate-application copies a Lisp executable to the application directory. The executable specified as the value of this argument is the one copied.

See the description of this argument in building-imaages.html for information on when it is useful: a value is specified either when a custom executable has been built (see main.html) or when you want a character size in the new image that is different from the character size in the running image. On this last point, see The character size in the resulting image in building-images.html.

:copy-shared-libraries A boolean. The value may be a lambda expression. If true, then copy shared objects/libraries that have been loaded with the Common Lisp function load, with the system-library keyword argument nil, by the time the image is dumped. (See Using the load function in loading.html for details of the system-library argument.)

The value of this keyword argument can also be a lambda expression (you cannot use the function special form: the value must be a list), accepting one argument, that is a predicate which determines if the loaded shared objects should be copied. The one argument is the pathname of the shared object file (the original pathname given to load). The predicate should return t if the shared object is to be copied, and nil if it is to be ignored by shared-library copying process. The predicate can also return a relative pathname, which will be used as the name of the copied shared library relative to the destination-directory. Note: shared libraries may be specified without a directory path and found using Operating System tools (such as LD_LIBRARY_PATH or PATH or DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH on macOS), as described in section Load foreign code with cl:load in the foreign-functions.html document. However, the shared library copying functionality will not use Operating System tools to find shared libraries. If a shared library is specified without a directory path and is not in the current directory, it will not be found. The name of the shared libraries loaded on startup will be sys:[name], for each [name] copied by generate-application.

:copy-file-function If specified, the value should be a function object or a symbol naming a function. This function will be used to copy files to the destination directory. The default value is copy-file and that function is likely sufficient for most purposes. However, another function can be used if that is insufficient. This function will be called by the image that calls generate-application (not the image that builds the image). If the default is used, all keyword arguments to copy-file are called with their default values. It is simple to write your own function which calls copy-file with other argument values, if desired.
:include-locales A boolean, default is t If true, the copy-file-function is used to copy the locales/ subdirectory and its contents of the Allegro directory to the application directory being created. Note that the size of the locales/ subdirectory is about 2 Mbytes. You may wish to save space in your application by specifying a copy-file-function that copies only the locales that will actually be needed.

You can also avoid copying locales if you know which specific locales an application needs. Instead of constructing a copy function for generate-application, it is simpler to include those locales in the application. Each locale is small, about 10K, so there is hardly any space savings in leaving the locales unloaded. Locales are inlcuded by having a file loaded by the application which contains top-level forms of the type (find-locale <locale>) (see find-locale). For example, you could have the file as one of the files specified as the value of the input-files required argument, and this file would have something like the following contents:

;;  file to cause specified locales to be loaded into an application
(in-package :user)
(find-locale "en_US")        ; English in the USA
(find-locale "ja_JP")        ; Japanese in Japan
(find-locale "fr_FR@euro")   ; French in France using Euro currency
(find-locale "fr_BE@euro")   ; French in Belgium using Euro currency
;; end of file

When you are unable to anticipate locale usage at runtime, the safest thing is simply to copy the entire directory and let the application autoload.

:debug A boolean. If true, more information will be printed about progress as an aid to debugging.
:icon-file: [Windows only, ignored on UNIX.] If specified, the value must be a valid Windows .ico icon file. On the NT branch (which includes win2000 and XP), any .ico file should work. See Icon files suitable as a value for icon-file for more information on suitable icon files.

If a non-nil value is specified, win:set-application-icon is called to embed the icon in the exe file.

:demo You must be licensed to produce demos (demonstration applications) to specify a non-nil value for this argument. If you are licensed, there is a maximum number of days that a demo will work specified in your license. The value of this argument, if specified and non-nil, should be an integer less than or equal to the maximum number of days that a demo is allowed to work. The application license written to the application directory will then be valid for that number of days. Contact your Franz Inc. Account Manager (send email to if you do not know who your Account Manager is) for information on the demo license.
:image-only A boolean. If true, just build the image, and possibly the .pll file.
:pure-files The value should be a list of .cvs and .str files to be put into the application's .pll file. See Creating and using pll files in miscellaneous.html.
:purify A boolean. If true, do automatic purification of Lisp and the application. This means all the strings and code vectors will be put into a .pll file. If you choose this option, do not also specify a value for :pure-files.
:runtime-bundle A boolean, default is t. If specified t a bundle file named files.bu will be placed in the application directory. This file contains the modules allowable in a runtime image. This means that such modules need not be loading into the application image during the application build.
build-lisp-image keyword args generate-application accepts and passes through to build-lisp-image all of build-lisp-image's keyword arguments except :lisp-files. The required input-files argument is used in place of :lisp-files. Even if a value is specified for :lisp-files, it is ignored. See also the description of the build-executable argument above, as it is used (differently) by both generate-application and build-lisp-image.
dumplisp ignore-command-line-arguments keyword arg generate-application accepts and passes through to dumplisp the ignore-command-line-arguments keyword argument. When true, the resulting image will ignore command-line arguments prefixed by a dash (-). Command-line arguments prefixed by a + (used on Windows only) are never ignored. See Command line arguments in startup.html for details of command-line arguments.

5.1 Resources

Resources are a way to specify default information for an application. The most common of which is command line arguments.

UNIX and Windows


The newly exported function windows:set-default-command-line-arguments also allows specifying the command-line arguments in an executable. Allegro CL executables come in two flavors on each platform: an 8-bit character version (for example alisp8.exe on Windows) and a 16-bit character version (for example alisp.exe on Windows). All Allegro CL executables (which, following standard Windows practice, have type exe) are copies of one or the other of alisp8.exe and alisp.exe. You can use windows:set-default-command-line-arguments to specify the command-line arguments for any such executable.

Version info in Lisp executables on Windows

The Version Info of a file on Windows is information stored in the file and available to various Windows utilities. It is used for displayed information about the file. Allegro CL supports accessing and modifying the Version Info, using the functions windows:file-version-info and windows:set-file-version-info. An Allegro CL executable will work the same as an executable when the Version Info is changed, that is it will start Lisp with an appropriate image file. generate-application supports specifying the Version Info for the executable in an application directory.

5.2 Defsystem

If the application is made up of many source files, then using the defsystem utility (described in defsystem.html) will help the management (for compilation and loading) of the application. If defsystem is used, then it is easy, for example, to create a single .fasl file representing the compiled application. See defsystem.html and the function concatenate-system for more information.

5.3 Tuning the application

The application should be optimized. Allegro CL contains space and time runtime analyzers that should be used to find places in the application which can be optimized. See runtime-analyzer.html. The optimization of Common Lisp source code has two components, aside from optimizing algorithms used in the application:

Both of the above can be done globally or locally to a particular function. Functions which are known to be used frequently should be optimized by declaring the types of the values bound to symbols, when the types are known and checked. Then, increasing the speed compilation quality and decreasing the safety and debug qualities will allow the compiler to produce smaller and faster code. These issues are discussed in compiling.html. Note particularly the :explain declaration discussed in that document, in Help with declarations: the :explain declaration.

5.4 More on the development environment

If the application will not use the development environment of Allegro CL, then certain features of it can be turned off or compiled out of the application. For example, you might use the following global proclamation:

(proclaim '(optimize (debug 0)))

It will cause the compiler to compile with no consideration for easy debugging (presumably your users will not debug your application). Currently, this means local names of variables and the argument list for functions and macros will not be saved. Although the saving is not great, if these features are not to be used, then there is no reason to have the compiler annotate the fasl files with them.

Another saving can be achieved by evaluating (see argument-saving):

(setf (argument-saving) nil)

This will cause the runtime calling sequence to be more efficient on some architectures (RS/6000 currently).

5.5 GC parameters and switches

Setting of GC parameters and switches appropriate to application-specific behavior is important for performance. gc.html contains a complete discussion of the subject, and the only information included here is a check-list of items to consider.


:print (default: nil)

The users of many applications will not want to see the gc
messages. Keeping this switch `nil` will
prevent them from being printed. On the other hand, the gc message
does explain why your application seems to have paused (during a
gc). See also the discussion of gc cursors below.


See gc.html for more information on memory layout.

5.6 GC cursors

A gc cursor facility provides some visual clue to the user that a garbage collection is taking place. Application writers find gc cursors useful since their users may think the application has hung while in fact it is just gc'ing. Unfortunately, implementing a gc cursor is difficult. See Gc cursors in gc.html for more information.

In addition to the above parameters and switches, the variable global-gc-behavior determines whether or not a global gc is automatically performed when a certain number of bytes have been tenured (moved into oldspace). *tenured-bytes-limit* specifies this limit. It is very important to note that an interactive application would have execution suspended for an indeterminate amount of time if a global gc is performed--scavenges are normally quite short, in comparison.

The initial values for the above parameters are reasonable defaults, but there may be better defaults for individual applications. See gc.html for more information.

5.7 Allegro Runtime

Allegro Runtime is a Franz Inc. product which licenses distribution of applications written in Allegro CL. Please contact your Franz Inc. account manager if you want more information on Allegro Runtime and its terms. See the document runtime.html for technical details of Allegro Runtime, including a list of restrictions on runtime images. generate-application only produces runtime images. The runtime defaults to :standard and must be either :standard, :dynamic, or :partners. See runtime.html for allowable values.

5.8 Windows specific information

This section discusses special handling of certain files on Windows and other Windows-specific options. First we describe handling of system DLL's. Then files needed to run an application on Windows and so copied to the destination-directory. Then autorun options.

msvcrt.dll and other system DLL's

Starting with version 10.1, it should be the case that most, if not all, of the dlls that end up in the system-dlls/ directory overlap with those installed by the redistributable components discussed in this section. Developers, when testing the application, should first try to run without installing anything from system-dlls/ to determine if any are actually needed.

If the copy-shared-libraries argument is true, generate-application copies all needed system DLL's to a subdirectory of the destination-directory called system-dlls. When your application is installed, these DLL's are available to be copied to the Windows system directory if necessary (i.e. if they are not already there with the same or a later version). In the system-dlls subdirectory, they will not be seen by your application or any other program.

These system DLL's have presented a problem for Allegro CL applications. They are needed if the application is to run successfully but having them in more than one location where Windows sees them can create difficulties. Therefore, they cannot be put in the destination-directory, for that might result in two copies being visible (one there and one in the Windows system directory). And they cannot be copied blindly to the Windows system directory because that might overwrite an existing copy and result in a version mismatch (since other programs that depend on the copied-over later version may then fail).

Note that DLL's loaded with load with :system-library specified as true (see Using the load function in loading.html) are not copied to destination-directory or the system-dlls subdirectory. The only files that are copied to the system-dlls subdirectory are mfc42.dll and msvcrt.dll. (This may seem counter-intuitive, but we feel free to copy mfc42.dll and msvcrt.dll because Microsoft explicitly allows it.)

vcredist executables

On Windows, applications installed on customer machines require installation of the Microsoft Visual C++ run-time components, if vcruntime140.dll does not exist in the Windows 'System32' directory.

Installation is acomplished by running one of the following programs (depending on whether you are building a 32-bit or 64-bit application), found in the Allegro directory and now copied to the application destination directory created by generate-application:

If you are installing these with your application, you can give the above programs the /passive command line argument to make them not ask your user any questions. The installer returns exit status 0 if it succeeds, and a non-zero value if it does not.

Autorun options

It is possible to have a program autorun (that is, started automatically when, for example, a CD containing the software is inserted into the CD drive). See the MicroSoft document for useful information.

5.8.1 The console window in applications

If your application is started so the console window is created (i.e. the +c command-line argument -- no console -- was not specified on the command line), the function console-control provides control over whether the tray icon and/or the console window is visible, and whether you can exit the application using the tray icon and the close button on the console. The method close-console also provides control over the actions of the close button on the console (and the Alt-F4 key combination and the Exit choice on the tray icon menu).

5.8.2 Icon files suitable as a value for icon-file

The value of the icon-file to generate-application, if non-nil, must be a valid Windows icon file containing the icon that will be used for the application (in place of the bust of Franz Liszt icon used by Allegro CL). Such files normally have the .ico file type. A .bmp pixmap file or other non-icon image file will not work as an application icon.

5.8.3 Creating a Console APP on Windows

If you are unfamiliar with console apps, you probably do not want to create one.

Console apps should not use multiprocessing nor run-shell-command (in any form, which means do not use shell or any of the subprocess API in excl.osi -- os-interface.html). Doing so can cause the console app to hang. The problem has to do with I/O and the Windows console API and is a current Allegro CL restriction.

With that in mind, create a colsole app as follows:

  1. Build your application (with a call to generate-application in the usual way. Assume the name (first argument) is "app" and the directory (second argument) is "dist/".

  2. Execute the following code (replacing "dist/app.exe" with the actual directory and application name):

      (delete-file "dist/app.exe")
      (sys:copy-file #+ics "sys;buildi.exe" #-ics "sys;build.exe"

In the application, using format to *terminal-io* will result in the output going to the console command window.

5.8.4 Setting the VERSIONINFO of the application executable on Windows

On Windows, the Lisp executable file is name [something].exe, where something is alisp, mlisp, allegro, alisp8, or mlisp8. When the application is created, a copy of the appropriate executable is made and put in the application directory with the name changed to be the application name.

Executables on Windows store information about the application in VERSIONINFO slots. The function windows:file-version-info returns a list of alternating keywords and values:

cl-user(5): (pprint (windows:file-version-info "lisp.exe"))

(:comments (128 "") :company-name (138 "Franz Inc.") :file-description
 (148 "Allegro Common Lisp.") :file-version (136 "")
 :internal-name (136 "lisp.exe") :legal-copyright
 (154 "Copyright 2009, Franz Inc.") :original-filename (136 "lisp.exe")
 :product-name (147 "Allegro Common Lisp") :product-version
 (136 "") :language-id 1033 :language-name
 "English (United States)" :code-page 1252)

generate-application has a keyword argument file-version-info. Anything keyword in return value of windows:file-version-info that has a value which is a cons is a valid value to be used in the list passed as the value of that argument. The VERSIONINFO in the copy of the executable file placed in the application directory will have the specified values in the fields which are specified. Here is an example:

  "foo" "foo/" nil
  :include-compiler nil
  :file-version-info '(:company-name "Foo Inc"
                       :product-name "Foo Bar"
                       :legal-copyright "Copyright (C) 2009 Foo, Inc."
                       :product-version ""))

The executable will work just like any Allegro CL executable: when passed an appropriate image file as an argument, it will execute that image file. The VERSIONINFO does not affect the execution of executables. It does affect information displayed about the executables as discussed in Windows documentation.

5.9 Installation of your application on Windows using the Install Wizard

The Allegro CL Install Wizard is a tool that application programmers writing Allegro CL-based applications can use to help deliver applications on the Windows platform. It is designed to deal with the problem of ensuring that system DLL's supplied with the application distribution are installed if necessary, but are not installed if a later version is already present. Note that the Install Wizard is a bare bones installer and is not meant to compete in the Windows installer market. We recommend the Install Wizard for only the simplest of installations. If your needs are anything beyond the bare bones, please consider using a commercially available installation program. We list some with which we are familiar next:

In accordance with your license agreement, you can distribute Allegro CL-based applications. The files in the directory described in 1. Create the initial application directory below are typically suitable for distribution, but again, this is controlled by your license. Ask your Franz Inc. account manager for information on what your license allows if you are unsure. We assume in the remainder of this section those files are licensed for distribution.

Reasons for providing the Install Wizard. You can create a delivery directory, either with generate-application or the IDE's File | Build Project Distribution menu command. On Windows, this directory includes a system-dlls/ subdirectory. System DLL's needed for the application, such as mfc42.dll and msvcrt.dll, are placed in that directory.

As described in section Windows specific information, there is a problem when you install your application on a customer's machine: you must ensure the right thing is done with the system DLL's. They should be installed on the customer's machine if necessary but should not be installed if not necessary. So, it must be determined whether such installation is necessary. Further, when installing on Windows, various bookkeeping tasks like updating the registry must be performed. A program, usually named setup.exe, is typically provided to perform such tasks. The Install Wizard generates an appropriate setup.exe. Note: the user installing the application must have administrator privileges on Windows NT and Windows 2000.

Here are the steps for using the Install Wizard. Note that the Install Wizard will ensure that the user doing the installation has the administrative privileges necessary to install the application.

1. Create the initial application directory

Use either generate-application or the IDE's File | Build Project Distribution to create a directory, which for example purposes we will call c:/foo/foo/. This will be a directory of files and subdirectories. This directory is named by the destination-directory argument to generate-application and by the Distribution directory dialog when using the Build Project Distribution menu command.

When generate-application or Build Project Distribution complete, you now have the initial application directory.

2. Run the Install Wizard

Run the Install Wizard via a shortcut on the Start | Programs | Allegro CL submenu. This will display the Install Build Wizard dialog, which has the following fields:

The Install Wizard will create a new directory (called the Output directory) and copy the files from the source directory to it. Further, it will generate a program named setup.exe and put it in the output directory.

The following buttons are on the bottom of the dialog: Build, Quit and Help. After filling in the fields, click on the Build button to create the directory specified in Output directory. Quit will exit without building anything. Clicking on Help displays this section of this document in a browser.

When the Install Wizard completes, the output directory is suitable for distributing to application users. We assume it is placed on a CD. How the CD is organized is up to you, the application writer. We assume the CD contains a single directory distdir/ which contains the contents of the output directory from above. (At the toplevel, it may have a file causing it to autorun when the CD is inserted into the drive. In any case, setup.exe must be in the same location with respect to all other files as it was in the output directory.) Note, this will work equally well if you are distributing on floppies or some other media.

Once you have the CD, then you as application developer have finished creating the distribution.

3. On the application user's machine

The application user (presumably your customer) receives the application CD and puts it into the CD drive. On the application user's machine, there is (presumably) no Allegro CL, and the source and output directories mentioned in 2 above do not exist either. Recall we assume the CD contains a single directory distdir/ which contains the contents of the output directory from 2 above. That directory includes the installation program setup.exe. To run setup.exe on Windows NT and 2000, the user must have administrator privileges.

When the application user runs setup.exe (in our example, by inserting the CD into the drive and running distdir/setup.exe), setup.exe will ask the user for an installation directory for the application, which we will call appdir. This directory must not exist. setup.exe will create the directory and install the application. Specifically, setup.exe will do the following:

  1. Create appdir and copy the application specific files to the appdir on the user's machine.

  2. Determine which of the DLL's in the system-dlls/ subdirectory need to be installed. It will either immediately copy any that do need installation to the Windows system directory, or will arrange for them to be installed upon the next reboot of Windows.

  3. Update the registry. This includes adding or updating to \\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\SharedDLLs.

  4. Copy the uninstallation program to [appdir]\uninstall. (See Uninstalling an application on Windows for important information on uninstalling an application.)

  5. Adds uninstall entries to the registry key \\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\uninstall\. (See Uninstalling an application on Windows for important information on uninstalling an application.)

  6. On some Windows versions, if shared DLL's were to be installed which already existed, then tell the end-user to reboot to complete the installation. On other Windows versions, this doesn't happen.

If at any time the installation program gets an error, it will undo any changes made to the disk containing appdir and to the Windows registry. That is, if the application does not install, then appdir will not exist and no application files will be left on the user's machine, and the registry will be left in the pre-installation state.

5.9.1 Uninstalling an application on Windows

Part of the installation process done by the Install Wizard on an application user machine is the creation of an uninstallation program and the addition of appropriate entries in the registry having to do with uninstalling the application. An uninstall/ subdirectory is placed in the application directory. It contains the programs necessary for uninstallation.

Uninstallation of the application must be done using the Add/Remove Progams control, which can be displayed using the Windows Control Panel. User should not directly run the programs in the uninstall/ directory.

5.10 Testing your application

It is best to test an application on a different machine from the one it was developed on, as this ensures that machine-specific dependencies (presence of system libraries, for example) are better controlled for. However, even testing on the same machine can provide useful information. Because most necessary files are in the application directory, even after installation, the machine dependency problem is reduced. (Note that on Windows, Allegro CL DLL's are installed in system directories so you must be sure that the application is not working just because the ones from the Allegro CL installation are present.)

5.11 Expiration warnings

Evaluation copies of Allegro CL have a built-in expiration date (paid-up licensed copies do not have an expiration date). Applications built from evaluation copies will display the following when started:

WARNING: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WARNING: Application will expire on [date] (XXX days).
WARNING: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

where [date] is a specific date in the future and XXX is the number of days until expiration. If you believe you have a paid-up, licensed copy of Allegro CL and you see that warning when your application starts, please contact Franz Inc. for advice, since such a warning should not appear. (Submit a bug report as described in Reporting bugs in introduction.html.)

6.0 generate-executable: a wrapper for generate-application

The function generate-executable is a wrapper for generate-application, producing an application whose input is the command-line arguments. It can be used either as a quick way to create an application, or as an example of using generate-application. The source for generate-executable can be found in the file [allegro-cl-dir]/src/

7.0 Users of your app must have necessary software installed

Software external to Allegro CL but needed for the operation of your application must be properly installed on the computers on which your users will run your application. Obviously any external program called by your app using run-shell-command or equivalent must be available. Note that the Allegro CL installation tools do not (in general) install such external programs. You must arrange for your users to install them.

OpenSSL considerations when delivering a Common Graphics app

If you are deliverying an application that needs to use the :ssl module, either directly or indirectly (due to your application being browser based), read this discussion regarding application delivery and OpenSSL.

8.0 Updating your application after delivery

There may be bugs in the version of Allegro CL used to deliver your application and there may be bugs in your application code. Both need to be fixed for your users. Allegro CL bugs are typically fixed by updates supplied by Franz Inc. You, of course, have to decide how to provide fixes for bugs in your application, but you may wish to mimic the update system used by Allegro CL. That system and the tools associated with it are the subject of this section.

The following two features are useful in an update system:

The tools provided support both features. The tools are the sys:defpatch macro, the sys:load-patches function, and the featurep predicate function.

8.1 The Allegro CL update naming


We first describe the Allegro CL update scheme and then discuss how you can adapt it to your application's needs. Allegro CL update files are named as follows:


So the first letter is p, followed by

The version ([m]) changes with each new release. Its value is the value of excl::*cl-patch-version-char*. For example, p110a001.001 is the first version of the first patch file on version 110 (Allegro CL 11.0) for product a (Allegro CL base Lisp). p110a001.002 is the second version of the first patch file. p110a011.002 is the second version of the eleventh patch file.

8.2 Loading Allegro CL patches

All Allegro CL patches are placed in one directory, sys:;update, that is the update subdirectory of the Allegro directory, where Allegro CL was installed.

Patches are loaded by sys:load-patches. It takes only keyword arguments and the arguments are:

update-directory The directory in which to look for patch files. Defaults to the Allegro CL patch directory, sys:;update.
product Value should be nil, meaning load all patch files regardless of the product code (the third letter of the filename, [p] above), or a character or list of characters, meaning load only those files whose product code (third letter) match the single character or is in the list of characters.
patch-file-filter A function of three arguments, a product code, a pathname, and a version ([m] above). Returns true if the pathname names a valid patch file (based on parsing the name and location only).
patch-file-sorter A function of three arguments, a product, a list of patch files (validated by the patch-file-filter), and a version ([m] above). Sorts the list into the order in which the files should be loaded (from highest version to lowest).
version Specifies the version ([m] above). Should be a character object naming a decimal digit (#\0 - #\9) or a lowercase alphabetic letter (#\a-#\z). This is for use with application patches only. Defaults to the value of excl::*cl-patch-version-char*.

You should have an update/ subdirectory to your application directory (or wherever sys: translates to in your application). Then you can distribute post-loadable Allegro CL patches file to customers. post-loadable means that the patch can be loaded into an existing image. However, not all Allegro CL patches are post-loadable. You must distribute a new image with patches loaded if you need to deliver a non-post-loadable Allegro CL patch to your customers.

Patches are loaded latest version first and earlier versions are only loaded if the later version fails for some reason.

8.3 Patches for your application

The easiest way to provide loadable patches to your own application is to have a separate directory (say sys:;myapp-update) where your patches will go. Then mimic the Allegro CL patch naming scheme and call sys:load-patches, specifying update-directory to be the directory you chose. sys:load-patches should be called when your application starts up. As long as your patch files are created with sys:defpatch, the scheme should work with your application. Make sure that the version ([m] parameter) is the value of excl::*cl-patch-version-char* for the version of Allegro CL you are using.

If you want to use a different naming scheme, you will have to supply your own patch-file-filter and patch-file-sorter functions. See the description of sys:load-patches for advice on how to do that.

Again, please do not mix your application patch files with Allegro CL patch files in the same directory (unless you use your own naming scheme that cannot be confused with the Allegro CL naming scheme, and even then it is a bad idea). Franz Inc. reserves the right to use any product code at any time and so you cannot guarantee the uniqueness of filenames simply by using an apparently unused product code.

The value of the variable sys:*patches* is a list of loaded patches.

8.4 Creating patch files in general

The following table describes the three attributes of patch files.

Attribute Meaning
post-loadable Can be loaded into a running image (so named because loadable after -- post -- the original image build).
superseded This attribute is no longer used. Since the latest version of a patch is loaded (and if it cannot be loaded, the next latest, and so on), a superseded version is not looked at. Therefore this attribute is not necessary.

8.5 Creating a patch file

A patch file is a compiled Lisp file. At the start of the patch file, there should be a sys:defpatch form, followed by the code that implements the patch. Therefore, a skeleton patch file will look like the following:

;; Our application
;; patch for report XXXX

(sys:defpatch "mpnnn" 1 ;; replace mpnnn with the product version (m),
                        ;; product code (p), the patch id number (nnn) and 
                        ;; 1 with the patch version
"MESSAGE"               ;; Brief patch information (should fit on one line)
:type :myapp            ;; Type should be a keyword of your choosing.
;; Other arguments may be specified.

;; Put patch code after here ...

(in-package :blah)

The required arguments to sys:defpatch are:

The keyword arguments to sys:defpatch are:

8.6 What to do with patch files

How you and your application team will manage patch files depends on how you deliver your application and whether or not your customers can build new images with build-lisp-image. Only customers of properly licensed VARs and customers who hold an appropriate license from Franz Inc. for Allegro CL will be able to build new images. Customers (of yours) who receive runtime images (and are not independently licensed by Franz Inc.) cannot make new original images because dumplisp (called by build-lisp-image) does not work in runtime images.

This is an issue because (1) patches which are not post-loadable (i.e. cannot be loaded into a running Lisp) can only be included in a new original image; and (2) post-loadable patches can be loaded into a running image but should not be loaded into an image which already contains them. Therefore, if you have runtime customers (who cannot build original images), you can send them post-loadable patches and arrange for those to be loaded automatically, but you may also send them new images from time to time (which include non-post-loadable patches but will usually include all available post-loadable patches as well). You must ensure that such users do not load the post-loadable patches in their possession which are already included in the current image.

Here is a possible scheme which will work for applications which are distributed as runtime images. (This is not the only possible scheme or even the best for your situation. It illustrates how the tools and their features can be used to produce a scheme that works.)

  1. Your application, myapp, is distributed in a directory. That directory contains a subdirectory update-myapp/ and your users are informed to put patches from you in that directory. Patch files are named p[m]a[nnn].[vvv].

  2. As part of the *restart-init-function*, the following sys:load-patches forms are evaluated:

    (sys:load-patches :update-directory "sys:;update-myapp;" :product #\a)

    (sys:load-patches);; to load any Allegro CL patches in <em>update/</em>

    Each time the application is started, all patch files named in the update-myapp directory will be loaded automatically along with any in update.

  3. You create a new image for distribution to customers. This image includes all myapp patches, as well as non-post-loadable patches (which you have been testing internally) and perhaps other features and enhancements unrelated to patches. In this image, the first sys:load-patches form in *restart-init-function* is changed to

    (sys:load-patches :update-directory "sys:;update-myapp;" :product #\b)

  4. You distribute the new image to customers, telling them to delete all p[m]a[nnn].[vvv] files from update-myapp and remarking that patches associated with this image will be named p[m]b[nnn].[vvv].

Note that even if your customer ignores your instruction to delete the p[m]a[nnn].[vvv] files from myapp-update, those (no longer valid) patches will not be loaded because sys:load-patches is looking for product b and those files have product a.

8.7 Including application patches in an image at build time

The discussion under the previous heading concerns distributing patches to users who cannot themselves build an original image with build-lisp-image. You, however, will build original images (and perhaps your customers are licensed to do so as well). How do you include patch files in the image when it is built? You put appropriate sys:load-patches forms in and make sure all your patches are in the directories specified in the sys:load-patches forms. Allegro CL patches can be put in the update subdirectory (they will be included automatically by the image build process). See Use of in building-images.html.

8.8 Superseding a patch

Say you have sent a patch, p0a001.001 to your users (the first 0 would actually be the value of excl::*cl-patch-version-char*). The sys:defpatch form at the top of the patch file is:

(sys:defpatch "0a001" 1 "Fixes whatever" :type :myapp)

A user complains that including the patch fixes the problem reported but seems to cause another problem. You check it out and find that the patch does introduce new problems. So you create a new version. You put it into a file and compile it to p0a001.002. The sys:defpatch form at the head of the file is:

(sys:defpatch "0a001" 2 "Fixes whatever" :type :myapp)

When the user gets the new patch, the patch loader will load it. But you should also provide a new, withdrawn version of the original patch file. Then the actual bad patch file no longer exists and cannot be accidentally loaded.

8.9 Withdrawing a patch

Bad (for whatever reason -- introduces a new bug or does not do what it was supposed to or whatever) patch files should be simply withdrawn. A speed-enhancement patch which actually slows things down is one example (your idea for a speedup failed and you do not have other ideas). We recommend replacing the defective patch file with a new file (same filename and version, so the bad file is overwritten) marked withdrawn. This shows the fact that the patch is withdrawn in the dribble-bug output. So, the sys:defpatch form in the replaced p0a001.001 would be (like above):

(sys:defpatch "0a001" 1 "Fixes nothing" :type :myapp :withdrawn t)

When the compiler processes this sys:defpatch form, it stops compiling the file. Therefore, you can leave the original patch source (for later reference) without worrying that the patch fasl file will be larger than necessary or contain bogus compiled code.

8.10 Distributing patches

In the era of the World Wide Web, ftp, and users around the world, a typical way to distribute patches to users is having them download the patches from an ftp (or www) site directly into the appropriate directory without actual human contact between you and your users. If you use this model, you should tell your users to download every patch, you should use the version mechanisms we describe above, and you should tell your users to expect files to be overwritten.

You can also, of course, distribute patches on request, one at a time, with instructions (which usually include delete all earlier versions of this patch!) The more patch distribution has a human-contact element, the less you have to worry about old version and bad patches not being deleted. The more the system is automated, with less handholding, the more being very careful about version numbers becomes necessary.

8.11 Loading patches

Patches are compiled lisp files, and such files can be loaded in a number of ways. There is no reason a post-loadable patch file cannot be loaded with load. Often that is useful for quick tests. However, Allegro CL provides a patch-loading function carefully integrated with the patch system described in this section. As far as possible we recommend that you load with sys:load-patches.

The function featurep returns true or nil as the features called for in its argument are or are not on *features*. It is thus a functional analog of the #+/#- reader macros. It is used by sys:load-patches to process the feature argument in sys:defpatch forms.

Things to note

9.0 Turning your application into a Windows Service

On Windows, you can turn your Common Lisp application into a Windows NT/2000/XP/Server 2003 service with the ntservice package. There is an example in the examples/ntservice/ directory.

If you have a Common Lisp application that you would like to start up automatically when the system starts, and shut down cleanly when the system is shutting down, then this package is for you.

Follow these steps and you'll be on the road to servicedom.

  1. First write/test/debug your application without ntservice. Your application should be working properly as a standalone application (generated by generate-executable or generate-application) before attempting to involve ntservice.

  2. Add the following form to your application, so that the :ntservice module is loaded and available for use:

    (eval-when (compile eval load) (require :ntservice))
  3. The main function in your application should call ntservice:execute-service as soon as possible.
    ntservice:execute-service will be responsible for executing any initialization functions which your program may need. It is also responsible for starting the main loop of your program. Please note: ntservice:execute-service calls (exit 0 :no-unwind t :quiet t) when the service is stopped (see exit). If you need things to happen before exit is called, use the stop keyword argument to ntservice:execute-service to pass in a function that can do cleanup.

  4. Regenerate your application with the updated code.

  5. Call ntservice:create-service to add your program to the list of Windows services. Usually this would be done by the program that installs your application. See examples/ntservice/ for an example of how to add command-line switches to your program to allow a user to add/remove the service easily. ntservice:execute-service is defined below.

  6. Test it! Your service should now be listed in the Services control panel applet. Try starting and stopping your service. If it works as planned, you can use the Services control panel applet to make the service start automatically instead of manually.

If you want to remove your program from the list of services, you can use ntservice:delete-service to delete the service.

The LocalSystem account is very powerful! Be careful of what you allow your program to do. Also note that the LocalSystem account usually does not have access to network filesystems. This may lead to confusion if your service tries to access drive letters that are mapped to network drives, or if it tries to access remote filesystems via UNC names (\host\share\file).

You can use the Services control panel applet to change who the service runs as. Note that no account but LocalSystem will be able to interact with the desktop (i.e., your program's window will be invisible if you don't run as LocalSystem).

See examples/ntservice/ for an example skeleton for a service application.

To start and stop services programatically, you can use the ntservice:start-service and ntservice:stop-service functions.

9.1 ntservice functions

The functions in the ntservice module are as follows. All are named by symbols in the ntservice package.


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: service-name main &key init stop shutdown

service-name is a string naming the service. This name is the same name that is used when creating the service (with create-service). main should be a function (or a symbol naming a function) which constitutes the main loop of your program. This function will be called when the service starts running. No arguments are passed to this function. This function should never return (if it does, Windows will complain that the service terminated prematurely).

The keyword arguments init, stop, and shutdown are optional.

init specifies a function (or a symbol naming a function) that should be executed before the main loop is executed. Such a function might load in configuration settings or verify the system environment. The init function should be prepared to accept a single argument. This argument is the list of "Start parameters" that have been specified for the service. This list is usually empty but can be modified using the Services control panel applet. If the init function returns nil, the service will not be started and an error will be logged and/or reported. Make sure init returns non-nil under normal circumstances.

stop specifies a function (or a symbol naming a function) that should be executed when the service is to be stopped. Such a function might do work that your application needs done before Lisp exits. This function should do its job fairly swiftly, otherwise Windows might complain that the service isn't stopping properly. No arguments are passed to this function.

shutdown is like stop and specifies a function (or a symbol naming a function) that should be executed when the service is to be stopped due to the computer being shut down.

Please remember that execute-service never returns to its caller. It calls (exit 0 :no-unwind t :quiet t) to exit Lisp (see excl:exit).


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: name displaystring cmdline &key (start :manual) (interact-with-desktop t) description username (password "")

name should be a string that identifies your service. The maximum string length is 256 characters. The service control manager database preserves the case of the characters, but service name comparisons are always case insensitive. Forward-slash (/) and back-slash (\) are invalid service name characters.

displaystring should be a string that contains the display name to be used by user interface programs to identify the service. This string has a maximum length of 256 characters. The name is case-preserved in the service control manager. Display name comparisons are always case-insensitive.

cmdline should be a string that contains the command line for executing your service program. The first word in the string should be the fully-qualified pathname to the executable.

start can either be :manual or :auto. If :manual, the service must be started and stopped manually. If :auto, the service will start automatically at boot time.

If interact-with-desktop is true (the default), then the service will be allowed to interact with the desktop. Note that on Windows Vista, interaction with the desktop is limited, even with interact-with-desktop is true. See for details. If interact-with-desktop is true, then username (see below) must be nil.

description, if non-nil, must be a string, which (typically) explains the purpose of the service.

username specifies the name of the account under which the service should run. If this parameter is nil or zero, the LocalSystem account will be used.

password specifies the password for the account specified in username. Use a null string ("") if the account has no password.

Return values

If create-service is successful, it returns t. If it is not successful, it returns two values: nil and the Windows error code. You can use ntserver:winstrerror to convert the code into a string.


  (multiple-value-bind (success errcode)
          "My Common Lisp program service" 
          "c:\\devel\\program\\program.exe /runfast /dontcrash")
     (if success
         (format t "all is well~%")
       (error "create-service failed: ~A"
              (ntservice:winstrerror errcode))))

Your service will be created with the following properties:

    Manual start
    Run as LocalSystem account
    Allow program to interact with desktop


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: name description

name must be the name of an existing service. description must be a string or nil. If nil, any existing description for the named service will be removed. Otherwise, the service description for the name service will be set.


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: name

name is the name you gave the service in your call to create-service. It seems to be possible to request deletion of a running service. This disables the service from further starts and marks it for deletion once it stops. delete-service returns t if the removal was successful, otherwise it returns three values: nil, the Windows error code, and a string with the name of the function that actually failed. You can use ntserver:winstrerror to convert the code into a string.


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: name &key (wait t)

name is the name of the service. If wait is true (the default), then this function will wait until it has confirmation that the service has started before returning.


function, package: ntservice

Arguments: name &key (timeout 30)

name is the name of the service. timeout is the number of seconds to wait for the service to stop. Currently, this function does not automatically stop dependent services.

9.2 ntservice tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to use the testapp example found in examples/ntservice/.

First, startup Allegro, and do this:

cl-user(2): :cd examples/ntservice/
c:\program files\acl81\examples\ntservice\
cl-user(3): :cl
;;; Compiling file
; Fast loading c:\program files\acl81\code\ntservice.fasl
;;; Writing fasl file testapp.fasl
;;; Fasl write complete
; Fast loading c:\program files\acl81\examples\ntservice\testapp.fasl
cl-user(4): (build)
; Fast loading from bundle code\genexe.fasl.
;;; Compiling file e:\tmp\
;;; Writing fasl file e:\tmp\testappa13001130442.fasl
;;; Fasl write complete
; Fast loading c:\program files\acl81\code\genapp.fasl
;   Fast loading from bundle code\fileutil.fasl.
;   Fast loading from bundle code\build.fasl.
Bundle is up to date.
; Fast loading from bundle code\who.fasl.

This will build the test application and put the result in

  c:\Program Files\acl81\examples\ntservice\testapp\

Now, start up a cmd.exe (Command Prompt) and do this:

  cd \Program Files\acl81\examples\ntservice\testapp
  start /wait testapp /install

This will install the test service. You can now start the test service by doing this:

  net start MyService

The name MyService was set in and is just an example service name. You should see an Allegro CL console window with contents something like this:

[62c] args are ("C:\\Program Files\\acl81\\examples\\ntservice\\testapp\\testapp.exe"
                "arg1" "arg2" "arg3")
[d3c] calling StartServiceCtrlDispatcher()
[a6c] service-main: calling service init func
P  Id Bix Dis Sec   dSec Pri State    Process Name, Whostate, Arrest                        
* 62c   2   2   0    0.0   0 gated    Initial Lisp Listener, waiting for service to complete
* a6c   4   1   0    0.0   0 runnable Immigrant Process for service "MyService"             
* d3c   3   1   0    0.0   0 runnable executing service                                     
[a6c] init: Start parameters: nil
[a6c] set-service-status: retrieving status
[a6c] service-main: calling service main func
[a6c] main: starting...
[d3c] service-control-handler: got INTERROGATE
[d3c] set-service-status: retrieving status

You can either close the application (with the close button on the window) or you can shut down the service by doing this:

  net stop MyService

Both methods for stopping the service will work.

Copyright (c) 2023, Franz Inc. Lafayette, CA., USA. All rights reserved.

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