Clojure Cookbook: Templating with Hiccup

  • clojure
  • cookbook

For HTML templates in a pinch, I prefer the simplicity and ease of use of James Reeves' Hiccup. This week’s Clojure Cookbook preview recipe takes you through the ropes of templating HTML with Hiccup.

I like this recipe a lot because I think it’s very representative of the flavor of recipes in the Cookbook: it covers a contemporary topic quickly, but to a level that you should be able to pick-up and run with.


Templating with Hiccup

by Ryan Neufeld


You want to create HTML dynamically based on a template, written in pure Clojure data.


Use Hiccup, a library for representing and rendering HTML templates made up of regular Clojure data structures.

To follow along with this recipe, start a REPL using lein-try:

$ lein try hiccup

Hiccup represents HTML nodes as vectors. The first entry of the vector is the element’s name; the second is an optional map of the element’s attributes; and any remaining entries are the element’s body:

;; <h1 class="header">My Page Title</h1> in Hiccup...
[:h1 {:class "header"} "My Page Title"]

;; <ul>
;;   <li>lions</li>
;;   <li>tigers</li>
;;   <li>bears</li>
;; </ul> in Hiccup...
  [:li "lions"]
  [:li "tigers"]
  [:li "bears"]] ;; oh my!

Render any Hiccup data structure to HTML using the hiccup.core/html function:

(require '[hiccup.core :refer [html]])
(html [:h1 {:class "header"} "My Page Title"])
;; -> "<h1 class=\"header\">My Page Title</h1>"

Since nodes are represented as regular Clojure data, you can leverage any of Clojure’s built-in functions or techniques to yield Hiccup-compliant vectors:

(def pi 3.14)
(html [:p (str "Pi is approximately: " pi)])
;; -> "<p>Pi is approximately: 3.14</p>"

(html [:ul
        (for [animal ["lions" "tigers" "bears"]]
          [:li animal])])
;; -> "<ul><li>lions</li><li>tigers</li><li>bears</li></ul>"

Using all of the preceding techniques, it’s possible to create a simple function to dynamically populate the contents of a minimal blog page using only Clojure functions and data:

(defn blog-index
  "Render a blog's index as Hiccup data"
  [title author posts]
      [:title title]]
      [:h1 title]
      [:h2 (str "By " author)]
      (for [post posts]
          [:h3 (:title post)]
          [:p (:content post)]])]])

(-> (blog-index "My First Blog"
                 [{:title "First post!" :content "I'm here!"}
                  {:title "Second post." :content "Yawn, bored."}])


Formatted output:

    <title>My First Blog</title>
    <h1>My First Blog</h1>
    <h2>By Ryan</h2>
      <h3>First post!</h3>
      <p>I'm here!</p>
      <h3>Second post.</h3>
      <p>Yawn, bored.</p>


Hiccup is an easy, “no muss, no fuss” way of templating and rendering HTML from raw functions and data. This comes in particularly handy when you don’t have the time to learn a new DSL or you prefer to work exclusively with Clojure.

An HTML node is represented in Hiccup as a vector of a few elements:

  • The node’s name, represented as a keyword (e.g., :h1, :article, or :body)
  • An optional map of the node’s attributes, with attribute names represented as keywords (e.g., {:href "/posts/"} or {:id "post-1" :class "post"})
  • Any number of other nodes or string values constituting the node’s body

Invoke hiccup.core/html with a single node, snippet, or entire page to render its contents as HTML. For content with special characters that should be escaped, wrap values in a hiccup.core/h invocation:

(require '[hiccup.core :refer [h]])
(html [:a {:href (h "/post/my<crazy>url")}])
;; -> "<a href=\"/post/my&amp;lt;crazy&amp;gt;url\"></a>"

Hiccup also has basic support for rendering forms. Use form-to and a bevy of other helpers in the hiccup.form namespace to simplify rendering form tags:

(require '[hiccup.form :as f])

(f/form-to [:post "/posts/new"]
  (f/hidden-field :user-id 42)
  (f/text-field :title)
  (f/text-field :content))
;; -> [:form {:method "POST", :action #<URI /posts/new>}
;;      [:input {:type "hidden"
;;               :name "user-id"
;;               :id "user-id"
;;               :value 42}]
;;      [:input {:type "text"
;;               :name "title"
;;               :id "title"
;;               :value nil}]
;;      [:input {:type "text"
;;               :name "content"
;;               :id "content"
;;               :value nil}]]

See Also

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