Programming Tutorials

Excellent Free Tutorials to Learn Lisp

Lisp (derives from “LISt Processing”) is one of the oldest programming languages. It was invented in 1958, with the language being conceived by John McCarthy and is based on his paper “Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine”. Over the years, Lisp has evolved into a family of programming languages. The most commonly used general-purpose dialects are Common Lisp and Scheme. Other dialects include Franz Lisp, Interlisp, Portable Standard Lisp, XLISP and Zetalisp.

The majority of Lisp implementations offer a lot more than just a programming language. They include an entire environment such as debuggers, inspectors, tracing, and other tools to add the Lisp developer. Lisp is a practical, expression-oriented, interactive programming language which uses linked lists as one of its major data structures. A Lisp list is written with its elements separated by whitespace, and surrounded by parentheses. Lisp source code is itself comprised of lists.

The language has many unique features that make it excellent to study programming constructs and data structures. Many regard Lisp as an extremely natural language to code complex symbolic reasoning programs. Lisp is popular in the fields of artificial intelligence and symbolic algebra.

Here’s our recommended tutorials to learn Lisp. If you’re looking for free Lisp programming books, check here.


1. Common Lisp Quick Reference by Bert Burgemeister

Common Lisp Quick Reference is a free booklet with short descriptions of the thousand or so symbols defined in the ANSI standard. It comes with a comprehensive index.

Read the booklet


2. Google Common Lisp Style Guide by Google

This guide recommends formatting and stylistic choices designed to make your code easier for other people to understand.

Read the guide


3. Common Lisp Koans by Stanley Bileschi

Common Lisp Koans is a language learning exercise in the same vein as the Ruby koans, Python koans and others. It is a port of the prior koans with some modifications to highlight Lisp-specific features.

Read the tutorial


4. Lisp Quickstart by Sean Luke

The goal of this tutorial is not to teach you many of those powerful features: rather it’s to teach you just enough of Lisp that you can get up and coding quickly if you have a previous background in a procedural language such as C or Java.

Read the tutorial


5. Learning Lisp for CMPT 310 by Philip Fong

The tutorials cover basic LISP programming, advanced functional programming in LISP, data abstraction in LISP, and imperative programming in LISP.

Read the tutorials


6. Common Lisp Tutorial by Sadi Evren Seker

This tutorial covers symbols, numbers, conses, lists, functions, printing, forms and the top-level loop. It then moves on to look at special forms, binding, dynamic scoping, arrays, strings, structures, setf, booleans and conditionals, iteration, and more.

Read the tutorial


All tutorials in this series:

Free Programming Tutorials
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AdaALGOL-like programming language, extended from Pascal and others
AgdaDependently typed functional language based on intuitionistic type theory
AliceEducational language with an integrated development environment
ArduinoInexpensive, flexible, open source microcontroller platform
AssemblyAs close to writing machine code without writing in pure hexadecimal
AwkVersatile language designed for pattern scanning and processing
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BASICFamily of general-purpose, high-level programming languages
CGeneral-purpose, procedural, portable, high-level language
C++General-purpose, portable, free-form, multi-paradigm language
C#Combines the power and flexibility of C++ with the simplicity of Visual Basic
ChapelParallel-programming language in development at Cray Inc.
ClojureDialect of the Lisp programming language
ClojureScriptCompiler for Clojure that targets JavaScript
COBOLCommon Business-Oriented Language
CoffeeScriptA very succinct programming language that transcompiles into JavaScript
CoqDependently typed language similar to Agda, Idris, F*, Lean, and others
CrystalGeneral-purpose, concurrent, multi-paradigm, object-oriented language
CSSCSS (Cascading Style Sheets) specifies a web page’s appearance
DGeneral-purpose systems programming language with a C-like syntax
DartClient-optimized programming language for fast apps
DylanMulti-paradigm language, supports functional & object-oriented programming
ECMAScriptBest known as the language embedded in web browsers
EiffelObject-oriented language
ElixirRelatively new functional language that runs on the Erlang virtual machine
ElmFunctional language that compiles to JavaScript
Emacs LispA dialect of the Lisp programming language.
ErlangGeneral-purpose, concurrent, declarative, functional language
F#General purpose, strongly typed, multi-paradigm language. Part of ML
FactorDynamic stack-based language
ForthImperative stack-based programming language
FortranThe first high-level language, using the first compiler
GDScript Godot’s built-in language for scripting and interacting with nodes
GoCompiled, statically typed programming language
GroovyPowerful, optionally typed and dynamic language
HackFor the HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM), created as a dialect of PHP
HamlHTML Abstraction Markup Language
HaskellStandardized, general-purpose, polymorphically, statically typed language
HTMLHyperText Markup Language
IconHigh-level, general-purpose language
ImbaFull-stack language that compiles to performant JavaScript
JArray programming language based primarily on APL
JavaGeneral-purpose, concurrent, class-based, object-oriented, high-level language
JavaScriptInterpreted, prototype-based, scripting language
JuliaHigh-level, high-performance language for technical computing
KotlinStatically typed, general-purpose programming language with type inference
LabVIEWDesigned to enable domain experts to build power systems quickly
LaTeXProfessional document preparation system and document markup language
LessBackwards-compatible language extension for Cascading Style Sheets
LimboDesigned for applications running distributed systems on small computers
LispUnique features - excellent to study programming constructs
LogoDialect of Lisp that features interactivity, modularity, extensibility
LuaDesigned as an embeddable scripting language
MarkdownPlain text formatting syntax designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-write
MoonScriptDynamic scripting programmer friendly language that compiles into Lua
NimStatically typed compiled systems language with syntax resembling Python
Objective-CGeneral purpose language which is a superset of C
OCamlGeneral-purpose, powerful, high-level language
OctaveHigh-level language, primarily intended for numerical computations
OpenCLOpen Computing Language
PascalImperative and procedural language designed in the late 1960s
PerlHigh-level, general-purpose, interpreted, scripting, dynamic language
PikeInterpreted, general-purpose, high-level, cross-platform, dynamic language
PHPPHP has been at the helm of the web for many years
PonyPony is an actor-model, capabilities-secure, high-performance language
PostScriptPage description language in electronic and desktop publishing
PrologGeneral purpose, declarative, logic programming language
PureScriptSmall strongly, statically typed language with expressive types
PythonGeneral-purpose, structured, powerful language
QMLHierarchical declarative language for user interface layout with a syntax to JSON
RDe facto standard among statisticians and data analysts
RacketPlatform for programming language design and implementation
RakuMember of the Perl family of programming languages
RubyGeneral purpose, scripting, structured, flexible, fully object-oriented language
RustIdeal for systems, embedded, and other performance critical code
ScalaModern, object-functional, multi-paradigm, Java-based language
SchemeGeneral-purpose, functional, language descended from Lisp and Algol
ScratchVisual programming language designed for 8-16 year-old children
SolidityObject-oriented, high-level language for implementing smart contracts
SQLAccess and manipulate data held in a relational database management system
Standard MLOne of the two main dialects of the ML language
SwiftPowerful and intuitive general-purpose programming language
TclDynamic language based on concepts of Lisp, C, and Unix shells
TypeScriptStrict syntactical superset of JavaScript, adding optional static typing
VStatically typed compiled language to build maintainable software
ValaObject-oriented language with a self-hosting compiler that generates C code
VHDLVery High Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language
VimLPowerful scripting language of the Vim editor
XMLSet of rules for defining semantic tags that describe the structure and meaning
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