Getting Help

Ways to get help with Lisp-Stat

There are several ways to get help with Lisp-Stat and your statistical analysis. This section describes way to get help with your data objects, with Lisp-Stat commands to process them, and with Common Lisp.

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If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, you can use the apropos command. You can do this either from the REPL or emacs. Here are two examples:

LS-USER> (apropos "remove-if")
REMOVE-IF (fbound)
REMOVE-IF-NOT (fbound)

This works even better using emacs/slime. If you use the slime command sequence C-c C-d a, (all the slime documentation commands start with C-c C-d) emacs will ask you for a string. Let’s say you typed in remove-if. Emacs will open a buffer like the one below with all the docs strings for similar functions or variables:

Restart from errors

Common lisp has what is called a condition system, which is somewhat unique. One of the features of the condition system is something call restarts. Basically, one part of the system can signal a condition, and another part of it can handle the condition. One of the ways a signal can handled with is by providing various restarts. Restarts are handled by the debugger, and many users new to Common Lisp tend to shy away from the debugger (this is common to other languages too). In Common Lisp the debugger is both for developers and users.

Well written Lisp programs will provide a good set of restarts for commonly encountered situations. As an example, suppose we are plotting a data set that has a large number of data points. Experience has shown that greater than 50,000 data points can cause browser performance issues, so we’ve added a restart to warn you, seen below:

Here you can see we have options to take all the data, take n (that the user will provide) or take up to the maximum recommended number. Always look at the options offered to you by the debugger and see if any of them will fix the problem for you.

Describe data

You can use the describe command to print a description of just about anything in the Lisp environment. Lisp-Stat extends this functionality to describe data. For example:

LS-USER> (describe 'mtcars)

MTCARS names a special variable:
  Value: #<DATA-FRAME (32 observations of 12 variables)
Motor Trend Car Road Tests>
    Motor Trend Car Road Tests

    The data was extracted from the 1974 Motor Trend US magazine, and
	comprises fuel consumption and 10 aspects of automobile design and
	performance for 32 automobiles (197374 models).

    Henderson and Velleman (1981) comment in a footnote to Table 1:
	Hocking [original transcriber]'s noncrucial coding of the Mazda's
	rotary engine as a straight six-cylinder engine and the Porsche's
	flat engine as a V engine, as well as the inclusion of the diesel
	Mercedes 240D, have been retained to enable direct comparisons to
	be made with previous analyses.

    Henderson and Velleman (1981), Building multiple regression models
	interactively. Biometrics, 37, 391411.

    Variable | Type         | Unit | Label
    -------- | ----         | ---- | -----------
    MODEL    | STRING       | NIL  | NIL
    MPG      | DOUBLE-FLOAT | M/G  | Miles/(US) gallon
    CYL      | INTEGER      | NA   | Number of cylinders
    DISP     | DOUBLE-FLOAT | IN3  | Displacement (
    HP       | INTEGER      | HP   | Gross horsepower
    DRAT     | DOUBLE-FLOAT | NA   | Rear axle ratio
    WT       | DOUBLE-FLOAT | LB   | Weight (1000 lbs)
    QSEC     | DOUBLE-FLOAT | S    | 1/4 mile time
    VS       | CATEGORICAL  | NA   | Engine (0=v-shaped, 1=straight)
    AM       | CATEGORICAL  | NA   | Transmission (0=automatic, 1=manual)
    GEAR     | CATEGORICAL  | NA   | Number of forward gears
    CARB     | CATEGORICAL  | NA   | Number of carburetors


The documentation command can be used to read the documentation of a function or variable. Here’s how to read the documentation for the Lisp-Stat mean function:

LS-USER> (documentation 'mean 'function)
"The mean of elements in OBJECT."

You can also view the documentation for variables or data objects:

LS-USER> (documentation '*ask-on-redefine* 'variable)

"If non-nil the system will ask the user for confirmation
before redefining a data frame"

Emacs inspector

When Lisp prints an interesting object to emacs/slime, it will be displayed in orange text. This indicates that it is a presentation, a special kind of object that we can manipulate. For example if you type the name of a data frame, it will return a presentation object:

Now if you right click on this object you’ll get the presentation menu:

From this menu you can go to the source code of the object, inspect & change values, describe it (as seen above, but within an emacs window), and copy it.

Slime inspector

The slime inspector is an alternative inspector for emacs, with some additional functionality.

Slime documentation

Slime documentation provides ways to browse documentation from the editor. We saw one example above with apropos. You can also browse variable and function documentation. For example if you have the cursor positioned over a function:


and you type C-c C-d f (describe function at point), you’ll see this in an emacs window:

  [compiled function]

Derived type: (FUNCTION (&KEY (:HEAD T) (:STREAM T)) *)
  Print all data frames in the current environment in
  reverse order of creation, i.e. most recently created first.
  If HEAD is not NIL, print the first six rows, similar to the
  HEAD function.
Source file: s:/src/data-frame/src/defdf.lisp

Other help

You can also get help from the Lisp-Stat community, the user mailing list, github or stackoverflow

Last modified 21 July 2022: Update for July 2022 release (89e38b1)