Lightweight Scheme Development Tool for macOS

LispKit Core

Basic primitives

(procedure? obj) [procedure]

Returns #t if obj is a procedure. Otherwise, it returns #f.

(eval expr env) [procedure]

If expr is an expression, it is evaluated in the specified environment and its values are returned. If it is a definition, the specified identifiers are defined in the specified environment, provided the environment is not immutable.

(apply proc arg1 ... args) [procedure]

The apply procedure calls proc with the elements of the list (append (list arg1 ...) args) as the actual arguments.

(equal? obj1 obj2) [procedure]

The equal? procedure, when applied to pairs, vectors, strings and bytevectors, recursively compares them, returning #t when the unfoldings of its arguments into possibly infinite trees are equal (in the sense of equal?) as ordered trees, and #f otherwise. It returns the same as eqv? when applied to booleans, symbols, numbers, characters, ports, procedures, and the empty list. If two objects are eqv?, they must be equal? as well. In all other cases, equal? may return either #t or #f. Even if its arguments are circular data structures, equal? must always terminate. As a rule of thumb, objects are generally equal? if they print the same.

(eqv? obj1 obj2) [procedure]

The eqv? procedure defines a useful equivalence relation on objects. It returns #t if obj1 and obj2 are regarded as the same object.

(eq? obj1 obj2) [procedure]

The eq? procedure is similar to eqv? except that in some cases it is capable of discerning distinctions finer than those detectable by eqv?. It always returns #f when eqv? also would, but returns #f in some cases where eqv? would return #t. On symbols, booleans, the empty list, pairs, and records, and also on non-empty strings, vectors, and bytevectors, eq? and eqv? are guaranteed to have the same behavior.

(quote datum) [syntax]

(quote datum) evaluates to datum. datum can be any external representation of a LispKit object. This notation is used to include literal constants in LispKit code. (quote datum) can be abbreviated as ’_datum_. The two notations are equivalent in all respects. Numerical constants, string constants, character constants, vector constants, bytevector constants, and boolean constants evaluate to themselves. They need not be quoted.

(quasiquote template) [syntax]

Quasiquote expressions are useful for constructing a list or vector structure when some but not all of the desired structure is known in advance. If no commas appear within template, the result of evaluating (quasiquote template) is equivalent to the result of evaluating (quote template). If a comma appears within template, however, the expression following the comma is evaluated ("unquoted") and its result is inserted into the structure instead of the comma and the expression. If a comma appears followed without intervening whitespace by @, then it is an error if the following expression does not evaluate to a list; the opening and closing parentheses of the list are then "stripped away" and the elements of the list are inserted in place of the ,@ expression sequence. ,@ normally appears only within a list or vector.

Quasiquote expressions can be nested. Substitutions are made only for unquoted components appearing at the same nesting level as the outermost quasiquote. The nesting level increases by one inside each successive quasiquotation, and decreases by one inside each unquotation. Comma corresponds to form unquote, ,@ corresponds to form unquote-splicing.

(lambda (arg1 ...) expr ...) [syntax]
(lambda (arg1 ... . rest) expr ...)
(lambda rest expr ...)

A lambda expression evaluates to a procedure. The environment in effect when the lambda expression was evaluated is remembered as part of the procedure. When the procedure is later called with some actual arguments, the environment in which the lambda expression was evaluated will be extended by binding the variables in the formal argument list arg1 ... to fresh locations, and the corresponding actual argument values will be stored in those locations. Next, the expressions in the body of the lambda expression will be evaluated sequentially in the extended environment. The results of the last expression in the body will be returned as the results of the procedure call.

(case-lambda (formals expr ...) ...) [syntax]

A case-lambda expression evaluates to a procedure that accepts a variable number of arguments and is lexically scoped in the same manner as a procedure resulting from a lambda expression. When the procedure is called, the first clause for which the arguments agree with formals is selected, where agreement is specified as for formals of a lambda expression. The variables of formals are bound to fresh locations, the values of the arguments are stored in those locations, the expressions in the body are evaluated in the extended environment, and the results of the last expression in the body is returned as the results of the procedure call. It is an error for the arguments not to agree with formals of any clause.

Here is an example showing how to use case-lambda for defining a simple accumulator:

(define (make-accumulator n)
    (()  n)
    ((m) (set! n (+ n m)) n)))
(define a (make-accumulator 1))
(a)                              ⇒ 1
(a 5)                            ⇒ 6
(a)                              ⇒ 6

Definition primitives

(define var expr) [syntax] (define (f arg ...) expr)

At the outermost level of a program, a definition (define var expr) has essentially the same effect as the assignment expression (set! var expr) if variable var is bound to a non-syntax value. However, if var is not bound, or is a syntactic keyword, then the definition will bind var to a new location before performing the assignment, whereas it would be an error to perform a set! on an unbound variable.

The form (define (f arg ...) expr) defines a function f with arguments arg ... and body expr. It is equivalent to (define f (lambda (arg ...) expr)).

(define-values (var ...) expr) [syntax]

define-values creates multiple definitions var ... from a single expression expr returning multiple values. It is allowed wherever define is allowed.

expr is evaluated, and the variables var ... are bound to the return values in the same way that the formal arguments in a lambda expression are matched to the actual arguments in a procedure call.

It is an error if a variable var appears more than once in var ....

(define-values (x y) (integer-sqrt 17))
(list x y)                               ⇒ (4 1)

(define-syntax keyword transformer) [syntax]

Syntax definitions have the form (define-syntax keyword transformer). keyword is an identifier, and transformer is an instance of syntax-rules. Like variable definitions, syntax definitions can appear at the outermost level or nested within a body.

If the define-syntax occurs at the outermost level, then the global syntactic environment is extended by binding the keyword to the specified transformer, but previous expansions of any global binding for keyword remain unchanged. Otherwise, it is an internal syntax definition, and is local to the "body" in which it is defined. Any use of a syntax keyword before its corresponding definition is an error.

Macros can expand into definitions in any context that permits them. However, it is an error for a definition to define an identifier whose binding has to be known in order to determine the meaning of the definition itself, or of any preceding definition that belongs to the same group of internal definitions. Similarly, it is an error for an internal definition to define an identifier whose binding has to be known in order to determine the boundary between the internal definitions and the expressions of the body it belongs to.

Here is an example defining syntax for while loops. while evaluates the body of the loop as long as the predicate is true.

(define-syntax while
  (syntax-rules ()
    ((_ pred body ...)
      (let loop () (when pred body ... (loop))))))

(syntax-rules (literal ...) rule ...) [syntax] (syntax-rules ellipsis (literal ...) rule ...)

A transformer spec has one of the two forms listed above. It is an error if any of the literal ..., or the ellipsis symbol in the second form, is not an identifier. It is also an error if syntax rules rule are not of the form

  • (pattern template).

The pattern in a rule is a list pattern whose first element is an identifier. In general, a pattern is either an identifier, a constant, or one of the following:

  • (pattern ...)
  • (pattern pattern ... . pattern)
  • (pattern ... pattern ellipsis pattern ...) (pattern ... pattern ellipsis pattern ... . pattern)
  • #(pattern ...)
  • #(pattern ... pattern ellipsis pattern ...)

A template is either an identifier, a constant, or one of the following:

  • (element ...)
  • (element element ... . template) (ellipsis template)
  • #(element ...)

where an element is a template optionally followed by an ellipsis. An ellipsis is the identifier specified in the second form of syntax-rules, or the default identifier ... (three consecutive periods) otherwise.

Here is an example showcasing how when can be defined in terms of if:

(define-syntax when
  (syntax-rules ()
    ((_ c e ...)
      (if c (begin e ...)))))

(define-library (name ...) declaration ...) [syntax]

A library definition takes the following form: (define-library (name ...) declaration ...). (name ...) is a list whose members are identifiers and exact non-negative integers. It is used to identify the library uniquely when importing from other programs or libraries. It is inadvisable, but not an error, for identifiers in library names to contain any of the characters |, \, ?, *, <, ", :, >, +, [, ], /.

A declaration is any of:

  • (export exportspec ...)
  • (import importset ...)
  • (begin statement ...)
  • (include filename ...)
  • (include-ci filename ...)
  • (include-library-declarations filename ...)
  • (cond-expand clause ...)

An export declaration specifies a list of identifiers which can be made visible to other libraries or programs. An exportspec takes one of the following forms:

  • ident
  • (rename ident1 ident2)

In an exportspec, an identifier ident names a single binding defined within or imported into the library, where the external name for the export is the same as the name of the binding within the library. A rename spec exports the binding defined within or imported into the library and named by ident1 in each (ident1 ident2) pairing, using ident2 as the external name.

An import declaration provides a way to import the identifiers exported by another library. It has the same syntax and semantics as an import declaration used in a program or at the read-eval-print loop.

The begin, include, and include-ci declarations are used to specify the body of the library. They have the same syntax and semantics as the corresponding expression types.

The include-library-declarations declaration is similar to include except that the contents of the file are spliced directly into the current library definition. This can be used, for example, to share the same export declaration among multiple libraries as a simple form of library interface.

The cond-expand declaration has the same syntax and semantics as the cond-expand expression type, except that it expands to spliced-in library declarations rather than expressions enclosed in begin.

(set! var expr) [syntax]

Procedure set! is used to assign values to variables. expr is evaluated, and the resulting value is stored in the location to which variable var is bound. It is an error if var is not bound either in some region enclosing the set! expression or else globally. The result of the set! expression is unspecified.

Delayed execution

(promise? obj) [procedure]

The promise? procedure returns #t if argument obj is a promise, and #f otherwise.

(make-promise obj) [procedure]
(eager obj)

The make-promise procedure returns a promise which, when forced, will return obj. It is similar to delay, but does not delay its argument: it is a procedure rather than syntax. If obj is already a promise, it is returned.

eager represents the same procedure like make-promise.

(delay expr) [syntax]

The delay construct is used together with the procedure force to implement lazy evaluation or "call by need". (delay expr) returns an object called a promise which, at some point in the future, can be asked (by the force procedure) to evaluate expr, and deliver the resulting value.

(delay-force expr) [syntax]
(lazy expr)

The expression (delay-force expr) is conceptually similar to (delay (force expr)), with the difference that forcing the result of delay-force will in effect result in a tail call to (force expr), while forcing the result of (delay (force expr)) might not. Thus iterative lazy algorithms that might result in a long series of chains of delay and force can be rewritten using delay-force to prevent consuming unbounded space during evaluation.

lazy represents the same procedure like delay-force.

(force promise) [procedure]

The force procedure forces the value of a promise created by delay, delay-force, or make-promise. If no value has been computed for the promise, then a value is computed and returned. The value of the promise must be cached (or "memoized") so that if it is forced a second time, the previously computed value is returned. Consequently, a delayed expression is evaluated using the parameter values and exception handler of the call to force which first requested its value. If promise is not a promise, it may be returned unchanged.

(force (delay (+ 1 2)))        ⇒  3

(let ((p (delay (+ 1 2))))
  (list (force p) (force p)))  ⇒ (3 3)

(define integers
  (letrec ((next (lambda (n)
                   (delay (cons n (next (+ n 1)))))))
    (next 0)))
(define head
  (lambda (stream) (car (force stream))))
(define tail
  (lambda (stream) (cdr (force stream))))

(head (tail (tail integers)))  ⇒  2

The following example is a mechanical transformation of a lazy stream-filtering algorithm into Scheme. Each call to a constructor is wrapped in delay, and each argument passed to a deconstructor is wrapped in force. The use of (delay-force ...) instead of (delay (force ...)) around the body of the procedure ensures that an ever-growing sequence of pending promises does not exhaust available storage, because force will, in effect, force such sequences iteratively.

(define (stream-filter p? s)
    (if (null? (force s))
        (delay ’())
        (let ((h (car (force s)))
              (t (cdr (force s))))
          (if (p? h)
              (delay (cons h (stream-filter p? t)))
              (stream-filter p? t))))))

(head (tail (tail (stream-filter odd? integers))))  ⇒  5

The following examples are not intended to illustrate good programming style, as delay, force, and delay-force are mainly intended for programs written in the functional style. However, they do illustrate the property that only one value is computed for a promise, no matter how many times it is forced.

(define count 0)
(define p
  (delay (begin (set! count (+ count 1))
                (if (> count x) count (force p)))))
(define x 5)
p                              ⇒  a promise
(force p)                      ⇒  6
p                              ⇒  a promise
(begin (set! x 10) (force p))  ⇒  6


(symbol? obj) [procedure]

Returns #t if obj is a symbol, otherwise returns #f.

(gensym) [procedure] (gensym str)

Returns a new (fresh) symbol whose name consists of prefix str followed by a number. If str is not provided, "g" is used as a prefix.

(symbol=? sym ...) [procedure]

Returns #t if all the arguments are symbols and all have the same names in the sense of string=?.

(string->symbol str) [procedure]

Returns the symbol whose name is string str. This procedure can create symbols with names containing special characters that would require escaping when written, but does not interpret escapes in its input.

(symbol->string sym) [procedure]

Returns the name of symbol sym as a string, but without adding escapes.


The standard boolean objects for true and false are written as #t and #f. Alternatively, they can be written #true and #false, respectively. What really matters, though, are the objects that the Scheme conditional expressions (if, cond, and, or, when, unless, do) treat as true or false. The phrase a "true value" (or sometimes just "true") means any object treated as true by the conditional expressions, and the phrase "a false value" (or "false") means any object treated as false by the conditional expressions.

Of all the Scheme values, only #f counts as false in conditional expressions. All other Scheme values, including #t, count as true. Boolean literals evaluate to themselves, so they do not need to be quoted in programs.

(boolean? obj) [procedure]

The boolean? predicate returns #t if obj is either #t or #f and returns #f otherwise.

(boolean? #f)    ⇒  #t
(boolean? 0)     ⇒  #f
(boolean? '())   ⇒  #f

(boolean=? obj1 obj2 ...) [procedure]

Returns #t if all the arguments are booleans and all are #t or all are #f.

(and test ...) [syntax]

The test ... expressions are evaluated from left to right, and if any expression evaluates to #f, then #f is returned. Any remaining expressions are not evaluated. If all the expressions evaluate to true values, the values of the last expression are returned. If there are no expressions, then #t is returned.

(and (= 2 2) (> 2 1))  ⇒  #t
(and (= 2 2) (< 2 1))  ⇒  #f
(and 12 'c '(f g))     ⇒  (f g)
(and)                  ⇒  #t

(or test ...) [syntax]

The test ... expressions are evaluated from left to right, and the value of the first expression that evaluates to a true value is returned. Any remaining expressions are not evaluated. If all expressions evaluate to #f or if there are no expressions, then #f is returned.

(or (= 2 2) (> 2 1))            ⇒  #t
(or (= 2 2) (< 2 1))            ⇒  #t
(or #f #f #f)                   ⇒  #f
(or (memq 'b '(a b c)) (/ 3 0)) ⇒  (b c)

(not obj) [procedure]

The not procedure returns #t if obj is false, and returns #f otherwise.

(not #t)        ⇒  #f
(not 3)         ⇒  #f
(not (list 3))  ⇒  #f
(not #f)        ⇒  #t
(not '())       ⇒  #f
(not (list))    ⇒  #f
(not 'nil)      ⇒  #f

Conditional & inclusion compilation

(cond-expand ce-clause1 ce-clause2 ...) [syntax]

The cond-expand expression type provides a way to statically expand different expressions depending on the implementation. A ce-clause takes the following form:

(featurerequirement expression ...)

The last clause can be an “else clause,” which has the form:

(else expression ...)

A featurerequirement takes one of the following forms: - featureidentifier - (library name) - (and featurerequirement ...) - (or featurerequirement ...) - (not featurerequirement)

LispKit maintains a list of feature identifiers which are present, as well as a list of libraries which can be imported. The value of a featurerequirement is determined by replacing each featureidentifier and (library name) with #t, and all other feature identifiers and library names with #f, then evaluating the resulting expression as a Scheme boolean expression under the normal interpretation of and, or, and not.

A cond-expand is then expanded by evaluating the featurerequirements of successive ce-clause in order until one of them returns #t. When a true clause is found, the corresponding expression ... are expanded to a begin, and the remaining clauses are ignored. If none of the listed featurerequirement evaluates to #t, then if there is an "else" clause, its expression ... are included. Otherwise, the behavior of the cond-expand is unspecified. Unlike cond, cond-expand does not depend on the value of any variables. The exact features provided are defined by the implementation, its environment and host platform.

LispKit supports the following featureidentifier:

  • lispkit
  • r7rs
  • ratios
  • complex
  • syntax-rules
  • little-endian
  • big-endian
  • dynamic-loading
  • modules
  • 32bit
  • 64bit
  • macos
  • macosx
  • ios
  • linux
  • i386
  • x86-64
  • arm64
  • arm

(include str1 str2 ...) [syntax] (include-ci str1 str2 ...)

Both include and include-ci take one or more filenames expressed as string literals, apply an implementation-specific algorithm to find corresponding files, read the contents of the files in the specified order as if by repeated applications of read, and effectively replace the include or include-ci expression with a begin expression containing what was read from the files. The difference between the two is that include-ci reads each file as if it began with the #!fold-case directive, while include does not.

Multiple values

(values obj ...) [procedure]

Delivers all of its arguments to its continuation. The values procedure might be defined as follows:

(define (values . things)
    (lambda (cont) (apply cont things))))

(call-with-values producer consumer) [procedure]

Calls its producer argument with no arguments and a continuation that, when passed some values, calls the consumer procedure with those values as arguments. The continuation for the call to consumer is the continuation of the call to call-with-values.

(call-with-values (lambda () (values 4 5))
                  (lambda (a b) b))
  ⇒  5
(call-with-values * -)
  ⇒  -1


(environment? obj) [procedure]

Returns #t if obj is an environment. Otherwise, it returns #f.

(environment list1 ...) [procedure]

This procedure returns an environment that results by starting with an empty environment and then importing each list, considered as an import set, into it. The bindings of the environment represented by the specifier are immutable, as is the environment itself.

(scheme-report-environment version) [procedure]

If version is equal to 5, corresponding to R5RS, scheme-report-environment returns an environment that contains only the bindings defined in the R5RS library.

(null-environment version) [procedure]

If version is equal to 5, corresponding to R5RS, the null-environment procedure returns an environment that contains only the bindings for all syntactic keywords defined in the R5RS library.

(interaction-environment) [procedure]

This procedure returns a mutable environment which is the environment in which expressions entered by the user into a read-eval-print loop are evaluated. This is typically a superset of bindings from (lispkit base).

Syntax errors

(syntax-error message args ...) [syntax]

syntax-error behaves similarly to error except that implementations with an expansion pass separate from evaluation should signal an error as soon as syntax-error is expanded. This can be used as a syntax-rules template for a pattern that is an invalid use of the macro, which can provide more descriptive error messages.

message is a string literal, and args ... are arbitrary expressions providing additional information. Applications cannot count on being able to catch syntax errors with exception handlers or guards.

(define-syntax simple-let
  (syntax-rules ()
    ((_ (head ... ((x . y) val) . tail) body1 body2 ...)
      (syntax-error "expected an identifier but got" (x . y)))
    ((_ ((name val) ...) body1 body2 ...)
      ((lambda (name ...) body1 body2 ...) val ...))))


(void) [procedure]

Performs no operation and returns nothing. This is often useful as a placeholder or whenever a no-op statement is needed.

(void? obj) [procedure]

Returns #t if obj is the "void" value (i.e. no value); returns #f otherwise.

(identity obj) [procedure]

The identity function is always returning its argument obj.