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A Clojure interface to Google's protocol buffers


This project provides a Clojure interface to Google's protocol buffers. Protocol buffers can be used to communicate with other languages over the network, and they are WAY faster to serialize and deserialize than standard Clojure objects.

Getting started

Add the dependency to your project.clj:

[Clojars Project]clojars

Then, given a project with the following in resources/proto/your/namespace/person.proto:

package your.namespace.person;

option java_outer_classname = "Example";

message Person {
  required int32  id    = 1;
  required string name  = 2;
  optional string email = 3;
  repeated string likes = 4;

you can compile the proto using the protobuf compiler and include the resulting .java code in your project:

protoc \
  -I=/usr/include \
  -I=/usr/local/include \
  -I=resources/proto \
  --java_out=$OUT_DIR \

Note that, at this point, the files are .java source files, not .class files; as such, you will still need to compile them.

We've found a clean way to do this (and how we set up the tests) is to:

  • put these .java files in an isolated directory
  • add that directory to a :java-source-paths entry in the project.clj
  • place that in an appropriate project.clj profile


Now you can use the protocol buffer in Clojure:

(require '[protobuf.core :as protobuf])
(import '(your.namespace.person Example$Person)

(def alice (protobuf/create Example$Person
                            {:id 108
                             :name "Alice"
                             :email ""}))

Makes some changes to the data and serialize to bytes:

(def b (-> alice
           (assoc :name "Alice B. Carol")
           (assoc :likes ["climbing" "running" "jumping"])

Round-trip the bytes back to a probuf object:

(protobuf/bytes-> alice b)

Which gives us:

{:id 108,
 :name "Alice B. Carol",
 :email "",
 :likes ["climbing" "running" "jumping"]}

The data stored in the instance is immutable just like other clojure objects. It is similar to a struct-map, except that you cannot insert fields that aren't specified in the .proto file.

(For instance, if you do a round trip with the data like we did above, but use :dislikes -- not in the protobuf definition -- instead of :likes, converting from bytes back to the protobuf instance will result in the :dislikes key and associated value being dropped.)


The above usage is a quick taste; for more examples as well as the current and previous reference documentation, visit the Clojure protobuf documentation. These docs include the following:

  • Basic usage example
  • A Clojure port of Google's Java protobuf tutorial
  • An example for working with extensions
  • Clojure protobuf API Reference
  • Marginalia docs
  • Documentation for the two Java classes (see the "javadoc" link there)


(AKA "mini" ChangeLog)

3.5.1-v1.1Added docs, more func renames, new abstraction layer, improved DevEx of API, and fix for enums as Clojure keywords
3.5.1-v1.0Droped extra deps, renamed functions
3.5.1-v0.3Bumped to use the latest Google Protocol Buffer release, re-added tests, Travis CI support
3.4.0-v0.2Transition release; identical to the ghaskins clojure-protobuf at version 3.4.0-2-SNAPSHOT

A note on the history: This project picked up the Clojure protobuf code base from the ghaskins fork; its last significant update was 2 years prior. The work at that point had been given the version "3.4.0-2-SNAPSHOT", tracking the Protocol Buffer release of 3.4.0. We created a branch and tag for that release with no changes other than the org/artifact id.

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