General definitions reflection library.

Upstream URL


Yukari Hafner <>


Yukari Hafner <>



About Definitions

This system implements a general definitions introspection library. It gives you the ability to retrieve definitions or bindings associated with designators such as symbols, packages, and names in general. For instance, it allows you to retrieve all function, type, variable, method, etc. definitions of a symbol.

How To

In order to list all discoverable definitions in a package, all you need to do is call find-definitions like so:

(find-definitions "CL")

Each definition is associated with a designator that names it. Most, but not all, definitions also allow you to retrieve the object that they define. If the designator is translatable to a symbol, the definition will also give you access to the symbol, name, package, and visibility within the package. Beyond that, you can also retrieve the associated documentation and, depending on implementation support, the source-location of the definition.

Some subclasses of the general definition, like callable give you access to further information like the arguments or the qualifiers.

If you would like to fuzzily search for definitions, you can use the apropos-definitions function. Do note that this will likely return very long lists of definitions for searches that aren't very long.

Modifying Definitions

The library also includes an optional protocol for establishing, modifying, and removing definitions. To use this protocol, see the functions bind, (setf object), and unbind.

Extending Definitions

Often time libraries and systems will introduce their own bindings and definitions that extend the environment. For instance, you might have a special kind of function definition that lives in its own namespace, or a particular kind of named resource. In this case it can be worthwhile to extend Definitions so that it can discover and handle information related to those definitions as well.

Adding new definition types is a matter of subclassing definition, using define-definition-resolver to handle the definition discovery, and adding methods to the relevant generic functions to provide the needed information.

Typically your definition will be a global-definition, and thus be tied to a simple designator like a symbol that will find the definition in a global namespace. The global-definition provides default implementations for symbol, name, package, and visibility, removing much of the need for duplicating those methods.

(defclass page (global-definition) ())

(define-simple-type-map page my-package:page)
(define-simple-definition-resolver page my-package:find-page)
(define-simple-object-lookup page my-package:find-page)
(define-simple-documentation-lookup page my-package:page)

The above will define a new definition type, page, and add the missing methods to it, provided that the documentation is already handled through cl:documentation on the my-package:page type, and that my-package:find-page returns the page object associated with a name. From there on out, find-definitions will pick up page definitions as well.

Depending on how your implementation tracks source information, and how well it is supported by this library, source-information might work automatically on new definition types once a suitable object method is in place. However, in general, it is not guaranteed that source tracking will be provided, let alone for definitions that are not standard.

Currently Supported Implementations

Some parts of this library such as the discovery of certain definitions, retrieval of some object bindings, and the source location tracking are implementation-specific. As such, in order to be complete, implementation-specific parts need to be written. Currently the following implementations are fully supported. Note that even if your implementation is not listed here, this library may still be useful.

  • SBCL (1.4.8+)
  • CCL
  • Clasp

Dependencies (1)

  • documentation-utils

Dependents (1)

  • GitHub
  • Quicklisp