Templating engine for Java.
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Basis-template is an expressive templating engine for Java and other JVM languages. It is similar in spirit to Jtwig.


Why yet another templating engine?

  • Zero dependencies.
  • No external compilation steps while retaining a high level of performance.
  • Allow logic in templates using familiar syntax.
  • Exercise in compiler construction and interpreters.
  • Simple enough for others to extend and dork around with.


As a dependency of your Maven project:


As a dependency of your Gradle project:

compile 'io.marioslab.basis:template:1.7'

You can also build the .jar file yourself, assuming you have Maven and JDK 1.8+ installed:

mvn clean install

The resulting .jar file will be located in the target/ folder.

You can also find SNAPSHOT builds of the latest and greatest changes to the master branch in the SonaType snapshots repository. The snapshot is build by Jenkins

To add that snapshot repository to your Maven pom.xml use the following snippet:


Basic Usage

Create a new file called helloworld.bt with the following content:

Hello {{name}}.

We can then load the template from the file on the classpath, set the value of the template variable name, and render the template to a string, which we output to the console.

import io.marioslab.basis.template.Template;
import io.marioslab.basis.template.TemplateContext;
import io.marioslab.basis.template.TemplateLoader;
import io.marioslab.basis.template.TemplateLoader.ClasspathTemplateLoader;

public class BasicUsage {
   public static void main (String[] args) {
      TemplateLoader loader = new ClasspathTemplateLoader();
      Template template = loader.load("/helloworld.bt");
      TemplateContext context = new TemplateContext();
      context.set("name", "Hotzenplotz");

This yields the following result:

Hello Hotzenplotz.

This illustrates all the API surface you'll generally encounter. A quick run-down of the code:

  1. To load a template, we need a TemplateLoader. Basis-template provides loaders for classpath resources, files, and in-memory templates.
  2. To pass variable values to the template, we need a TemplateContext. A context can be thought of as a map from variable names (like name), and their values (like the string "Hotzenplotz").
  3. To render the template, we pass it the context. The template then evaluates all expressions contained in it, looks up variable values in the context, and finally returns a rendered string.

That's it! Let's explore the templating language, which is much more expressive than the above example lets on.

Text and code spans

A template consists of text and code spans. Text spans are any old character sequence. Code spans are character sequences inside {{ and }} which must conform to the templating language syntax. Text and code spans can be freely intermixed, e.g.:

Dear {{customer}},

Thank you for purchasing {{license.productName}}. You can find your activation codes below:

{{for index, activationCode in license.activationCodes}}
   {{(index + 1)}}. {{activationCode}}

Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with!

Kind regards,
Your friendly neighbourhood customer service employee

We can populate this template with the following code:

public static class License {
   public final String productName;
   public final String[] activationCodes;

   public License (String productName, String[] activationCodes) {
      this.productName = productName;
      this.activationCodes = activationCodes;

public static void main (String[] args) {
   TemplateLoader loader = new ClasspathTemplateLoader();
   Template template = loader.load("/textandcodespans.bt");
   TemplateContext context = new TemplateContext();
   context.set("customer", "Mr. Hotzenplotz");
   context.set("license", new License("Hotzenplotz", new String[] {"3ba34234bcffe", "5bbe77f879000", "dd3ee54324bf3"}));

Which will yield the output:

Dear Mr. Hotzenplotz,

Thank you for purchasing Hotzenplotz. You can find your activation codes below:

   1. 3ba34234bcffe
   2. 5bbe77f879000
   3. dd3ee54324bf3

Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with!

Kind regards
Your friendly neighbourhood customer service employee

When you render a template, all text and code spans are evaluated by the templating engine and written out ("emitted") to a String or OutputStream in sequence. Text spans, like "Dear " or "Thank you for purchasing ", are emitted verbatim as UTF-8 strings.

Code spans are more complex. If a code span consists of an expression like {{license.productName}} or {{index + 1}}, the expression is first evaluated by the templating engine. If it yields a non-void, non-null result, the result is converted to a UTF-8 string and emitted.

Some templating language constructs, like for above, consist of multiple intermixed code and text spans. In the for case above, the {{for ...}} and {{end}} code spans do non-emitting code spans, as they do not produce a value themselves. The spans in between are text spans and expression code spans producing a value, and will therefore be emitted (as many times as the for-loop iterates).

When a code span is the only non-whitespace character sequence in a line, and the code span does not emit a value, the entire line will be omitted from the output. Otherwise, the code span is either replaced with the emitted value, or entirely removed from its containing line if it does not emit a value, starting at {{ and ending (inclusively) in }}.

If you need {{ or }} in your text spans, simply escape them with \{ and \}. It's sufficient to only escape the first curly.

Let's have a look at what we can put inside code spans.


The basis-template language supports a wide range of literals, similar to what is supported by Java. When the templating engine encounters a code span only consisting of a literal, it will convert it to a string according to the semantics of Java's String.valueOf(). If a literal is used in an expression evaluation, like {{1 + 2}} it will assume the type of the literal during evaluation.

Boolean literals take the form of true and false:

{{true}} fake news is {{false}}.

Number literals come in integer and floating point flavors:

This is an integer {{123}}, and this is a float {{123.456}}.

You can specify the type of a numeric literal with a suffix, similar to how you can suffix long, float and double literals in Java:

A byte {{123b}}.
A short {{123s}}.
An int {{123}}.
A long {{123l}}.
A float {{123f}}.
A double {{123d}}.

While in general you will not find a lot of need for using the suffixes, they can come in handy when calling functions and methods that require a specific type.

Note: the templating engine will perform widening type coercion when evaluating arithmetic operations, such as {{1b + 2.3}}. In this case, the byte operand will first be widened to a double, to match the double operand.

The templating language also supports character and string literals:

The character {{'a'}} is included in the string {{"a-team"}}.

Character and string literals may contain the common escape sequences \n, \r, \t. The characters \, ', and " must also be escaped in character and string literals, e.g. {{'\\'}} {{'\''}} {{"\""}}.

Since basis-template is a JVM templating engine, we can not escape the billion dollar mistake of null, which looks like this in literal form: {{null}}. This may come in handy if you want to compare the return value of a method or function to null, or must pass a null.

Finally, basis-template supports map and array literals which look very similar to JSON:

        title: "Hello world"
        date: "2018/07/23",
        published: false,
        tags: [ "rant", "JVM", "ponies" ]

As you an see, map and array literals can be arbitrarily nested. A map literal will return an instance of Map<String, Object>, a list literal will return an instance of type List<Object>. The keys you specify in a map literal follow the same rules as identifiers in Java. You can not specify arbitrary quote strings with whitespace as keys of a map literal!

Map and array literals can be handy if you want to define metadata in your template to be reused in different parts of your template.


The templating language supports most of the Java operators. The precedence of these operators is also the same as in Java.

Unary Operators

You can negate a number via the unary - operator, e.g. {{-234}}. To negate boolean expressions, you can use the ! operator, e.g. {{!true}}.

Arithmetic Operators

Not entirely unexpectedly, the templating engine supports the common arithmetic operators, e.g. {{1 + 2 * 3 / 4 % 2}}.

Arithmetic operators evaluate to the wider type of their two operands. E.g. when adding a byte and a float, the resulting value will have type float.

As in Java, the + operator may also be used to concatenate a string with another value. The template engine will perform automatic coercion from the non-string operand to string in this case, e.g. {{"Lucky number " + 9}}.

Comparison Operators

All comparison operators you know from Java are at your disposal, e.g. {{23 < 34}}, {{23 <= 34}}, {{23 > 34}}, {{23 >= 34}}, {{ true != false }}, {{23 == 34}}.

Note: The equality operator does NOT invoke equals on object instances. Instead, it functions like its Java equivalent.

Comparison operators evaluate to a boolean.

Logical Operators

In addition to the unary ! operator, you can also use && and ||. The operators, just like in Java, are a short-circuiting operators. If the left-hand operator of && evaluates to false, the right-hand operand will not be evaluated. If the left-hand operand of || evaluates to false, the right-hand operand will not be evaluated.

Logical operators evaluate to a boolean.

Ternary Operator

The ternary operator is a short-hand for an if statement and works like in Java, e.g. {{true ? "yes" : "no"}}.

The conditional is required to evaluate to a boolean.

Note: null does not evaluate to the boolean false. This is not (yet) JavaScript. Use the == or != operators with (potential) null values.

Grouping expressions by parenthesis

If you need more control, or want to make precedence explicit, you can use ( and ) to group expressions, e.g. {{(1 + 3) * 4}}.

Where are my bit-wise operators?

These are currently not implemented. You can either implement them as functions, or send a pull request to add them to the language. It's simple and a great exercise!

Contexts & Variables

For a template to be useful, we need to be able to inject values into it. As shown previously, this is done by providing a TemplateContext when rendering a template.

To set a variable value, invoke the TemplateContext.set(String, Object) method:

{{a}} {{b}} {{c}}
context.set("a", 123).set("b", "Test").set("c", myObject);
123 Test @MyObject

You can set a variable to any Java primitive or object, and even null. Variable names, also known as identifiers, follow the same rules as identifiers in Java. They may start with _, $, or [a-zA-Z], and then continue on with zero or more of _, $, [a-zA-Z], or [0-9].

When the templating engine encounters a variable name in an expression, it looks into the context for its value. Unlike in other templating engines, if the value for that variable name is not found, a RuntimeException is thrown. If you really require "optional" variables, you can check for their existence by comparing the variable to null.

When the variable value is evaluated, it takes on whatever type the corresponding Java object has. For example, an int will be treated like an integer in expression, a Map like a map and so on. The template engine will also perform widening type coercions for arithmetic expressions and passing arguments to methods and functions in the same way Java does.

The evaluation of primitive types is straightforward. However, the real power of basis-template comes from being able to access fields and call methods on objects.


The templating language allows a limited form of assignments. You can set the value of a context variable in your template. This can be useful when you want to store function or method return values, or some intermediate results of a calculation:

{{{a = 10}}}
{{a = a + 2}}

If the variable name already exists in the context, its value will be replaced. If the variable name did not exist already, it is created.

Assigning new values to object fields, arrays or maps is not supported and will never be supported. This would allow modification of Java side objects from within the template, which is a big no-no.

Accessing fields

When a context variable points to an object, you can access that object's fields like in Java (with one slight twist):

Basis-template can access private {{myObject.privateField}}, package private {{myObject.packagePrivateField}}, protected {{myObject.protectedField}}, and public {{myObject.publicField}} fields. It can also access static {{myClass.STATIC_FIELD}} fields.
public static class MyObject {
   public static String STATIC_FIELD = "I'm static";
   private int privateField = 123;
   boolean packagePrivateField = true;
   protected float protectedField = 123.456f;
   public String publicField = "ello";

// ...
context.set("myObject", new MyObject());
context.set("myClass", MyObject.class);
Basis-template can access private 123, package private true, protected 123.456, and public ello fields. It can also access static I'm static fields.

The twist is that basis-template will stomp over your access modifiers and allow reading private, package private, and protected fields. Field access is slightly more performant in basis-template than method invocations. This little unsafe feature lets you wrangle out a tiny bit more performance of your templates.

Note: Unlike other templating engines, basis-template does not resolve getter methods following the JavaBean convention. Either access the field by name, or invoke the getter.

Calling methods

Similar to fields, basis-template lets you call any method on any object.

{{myObject.add(1, 2)}} {{myObject.add(1f, 2f)}} {{String.format(%010d", 93)}}
public static class MyObject {
   private int add (int a, int b) { return a + b; }
   protected float add (float a, float b) { return a + b; }
   public static String staticMethod () { return "Hello"; }

context.set("myObject", new MyObject());
context.set("String", String.class);
3 3.0 Hello

Again, basis-template allows you to ignore access modifiers entirely.

One point of note is the fact, that basis-template can deal with overloaded methods. For this to work, the types of the arguments passed to an overloaded method must match the method argument types (which may require an implicit widnening type coercion). In the above example {{myObject.add(1, 2)}} will call the MyObject.add(int, int) method, because the two supplied arguments are of type int, where as {{myObject.add(1f, 2f)}} will call the MyObject.add(float, float) method because the supplied arguments are of type float. A widening type coercion will be attempted in a case like {{myObject.add(1b, 1s)}}. This would match the MyObject.add(int, int) method. through widening the byte and short arguments to int.

Note: basis-template currently does not handle varargs like in String.format(). See issue #5.

Arrays and maps

The templating language also grants you access to array elements and map entries:

{{myArray[2]}} {{myMap.get("key")}} {{myMap["key"]}}
context.set("myArray", new int[] { 1, 2, 3 });
Map<String, String> myMap = new HashMap<String, String>();
myMap.put("key", "value");
context.set("myMap", myMap);
3 value value

Array elements are accessed via [index] like in Java. To access map entries, you can either call Map.get(), or use the short hand notation map[key].

Both array indices and map keys can be arbitrary expressions. Array indices must evaluate to an ìnt. Map keys must evalute to the key type of the map.

You can use a short-hand similar to member access on maps if the keys are strings without whitespace:

map = {
    title = "Hello world",
    tags = [ "JVM", "compilers", "ponies" ]
title = map.title
firstTag = map.tags[0]

Access chaining

Like in Java, you can infinitely nest member, array element and map accesses:

{{{myObject.aField[12]["key"].someMethod(1, 2).anotherMethod()}}


Basis-template supports functions as first class citizens. For this to work, you must use a Java 8+ JVM. But how can you set a variable to a Java "function"?

context.set("cos", (DoubleFunction<Double>)Math::cos);

The trick is to take a method reference (like Math::cos) and cast it to a fitting FunctionalInterface. The Java compiler will translate this into an anonymous class instance with one method called apply. When such an instance is set as the value of a variable and the template engine encounters that variable as a name of a function to call, it is smart enough to resolve the apply function and reflectively call it.

With this little trick, you can build up a "standard" library of sorts to be used in all our templates, with short function names like trim, abs, and so on.

Note: Basis-template does not come with any built-in functions out of the box. If you happen to create a set of such functions, send a PR!

This feature also allows you to store "functions" in fields, arrays, maps, or variables, essentially making "functions" first-class citizens.

This calls Math::abs on the argument: {{array[0](-123)}}
This calls Math::signum on the argument: {{array[1](-7)}}
This calls the function in the field myFunc: {{myObject.myFunc(3)}}
class MyObject {
   IntFunction<Integer> myFunc = v -> return v + 1;

// ...
context.set("myObject", new MyObject());
context.set("array", new IntFunction[] {Math::abs, Math::signum});
result = template.render(context);
This calls Math::abs on the argument: 123
This calls Math::signum on the argument: -1
This calls the function in the field myFunc: 4

As an alternative to injecting functional interface instances via the template context, you can also create functions directly in your template. These are called macros.


A macro consists of a name, an argument list and a macro body. They are essentially functions defined directly in your template:

{{macro button(id, text)}}
   <input id="{{text}}" value="{{text}}">

   {{button("send", "Send")}}
   {{button("canel", "Cancel")}}
   <input id="send" value="Send">
   <input id="cancel" value="Cancel">

The macro declaration (and definition) itself does not emit anything. However, when we call the macro like a function, the text and code spans in its body will be evaluated and emitted according to the arguments provided.

When a macro is called, it gets its own context. This context only contains the arguments and any included macros (see the section on includes below). Accessing the context of the enclosing template is not possible.

Macros need to be defined at the top-level of a template (so, not inside other macros, control statements, etc.).

Macros cannot optionally return a value. See the section on return statements below. A macro without an explicit return statement will always return null semantically.

Control flow

The templating language comes with 3 basic control flow statements.

If statements

If statements expect a boolean condition to determine which block of text and code spans is evaluated.

{{if 1 > 2}}
   This is evaluated when someCondition is true
{{elseif 2 == 5}}
   This is evaluated when anotherCondition is true
   Otherwise, this will be evaluated.
   Otherwise, this will be evaluated.

You can, of course, omit elseif and else clauses.

For statements

For statements are similar to Java's enhanced for loops, e.g. for (SomeType x : someCollection) statements. You can iterate over arrays, map values, Iterable instances, and Iterator instances:

{{for value in array}}
   Got {{value}} from the array

{{for value in map}}
   Got {{value}} from the map

{{for value in iterable}}
   Got {{value}} from the iterable
context.set("array", new int[] {1, 2, 3});
Map<String, String> map = new HashMap<String, String>();
map.put("a", "Value for key a");
map.put("b", "Value for key b");
map.put("c", "Value for key c");
context.set("map", map);
Set<String> set = new HashSet<String>();
set.add("Value #1");
set.add("Value #2");
set.add("Value #3");
context.set("set", set);
result = template.render(context);
   Got 1 from the array
   Got 2 from the array
   Got 3 from the array
   Got Value for key a from the map
   Got Value for key b from the map
   Got Value for key b from the map
   Got Value #1 from the iterable
   Got Value #2 from the iterable
   Got Value #3 from the iterable

If you iterate over an array or map, you can assign the index/key to a local variable, scoped to the for loop body:

{{for index, value in array}}
   Is this the first element: {{index == 0 ? "yes" : "no"}}
   Element value: {{value}}

The for statement does not support ranges out of the box. But you can be creative with functions!

{{for value in range(0, 4)}}
   Ranged value: {{value}}
context.set("range", (BiFunction<Integer, Integer, Iterator<Integer>>) (from, to) -> {
   return new Iterator<Integer>() {
      int idx = from;
      public boolean hasNext () { return idx <= to; }
      public Integer next () { return idx++; }
   Ranged value: 0
   Ranged value: 1
   Ranged value: 2
   Ranged value: 3
   Ranged value: 4

While statements

While statements work as expected:

{{i = 0}}
{{while i < 3}}
    {{i = i + 1}}

Continue and break

You can use the familiar continue and break statements within all the above loop constructs. The statements will act on the innermost loop they are issued from.


You can exit a template early by using a return statement anywhere in your template.

A return statement that does not return a value should be terminated with a `;':

    i = 5;
    if (i == 5)
    // never reached

A return statement can also return an arbitrary value:

    return { title: "Hello world" }

A value-returning return statement does not need to be terminated by a ;.

You can also use return statements in macros to let the macro return a value.

macro myMacro (a, b)
    return a + b


You can include another template in your template like this:

{{include "path/to/template.bt"}}

Classical applications of this are headers and footers of websites. A template included like this will use the including template's context.

If you want to avoid the included template having access to the including template's context, you can specify a context like this:

{{include "path/to/template.bt" with (var1: 1 + 2, anotherVar: "Test")}}

The included template will only have access to the variables var1 and anotherVar.

If you only want to include the macros of another template, you can do it like this:

{{include "path/to/template.bt" as someName}}
{{someName.myMacro(1, 2)}}

All macros contained in the included template can be accessed via the someName variable.

Finally, if you want to include another file as it is, without being interpreted as a template, you can use a raw include:

{{include raw "path/to/file"}}

When the template engine encounters an include statement, it uses the same template loader that was used to load the including template.

If you use one of the basis-template TemplateLoader classes to load your templates, all templates will be cached in their "compiled" form. This way inclusion is quite fast.

Note: the include statement currently does not allow circular inclusion of templates. But you can include the same template multiple times.


A template has a global scope in form of a template context. All code spans inside the template have access to the variables in this scope.

Bodies of if conditionals, for blocks, and while blocks create their own scope. A variable name is first looked up inside this scope, and then searched in the scopes above it (these statements can be nested). Variables in a higher scope may thus be shadowed by a lower scope.

A macro creates its own scope and does not inherit the scope of the template it is defined or included in. A macro does have access to other macros defined in the same template as well as macros included from other templates.

An include without a context inherits the scope of the including template. An include with a context does not inherit the including template's scope. An include that only imports macros does not have any scope.


Basis-template Template and TemplateLoader instances are thread-safe. You can use them in multiple threads in parallel.

TemplateContext is not thread safe. Always instantiate a new one and do not reuse old contexts unless you know what you are doing. E.g. sharing a single TemplateContext between multiple threads in a request handler of your web server is a bad idea. 1) your threads will concurrently write to the template context, overwriting each other and 2) when your poor template tries to render itself, it will get whatever is current in the context, including values from other threads.

Always instantiate a new TemplateContext for rendering. If you are super adventurous, you can use a ThreadLocal to cache template context instances and reduce the pressure on the GC. In this case, make sure you clear out the context after a call to Template.render(), or whatever you put in the context will stay alive and will not be GCed, which might result in a big nasty memory leak.

In short:

// setup code, e.g. when starting up your server. Hold on to the template
Template template = new ClasspathTemplateLoader().load("/path.bt");

// Somewhere in your request handler:
TemplateContext context = new TemplateContext();
context.set("stuff", myStuff);


Basis-template does not come with i18n support out of the box. Given basis-template's expressiveness, you can pick whatever flavor of i18n framework you like and stuff it into your templates via functions or methods on objects.


Basis-template compiles templates to an abstract syntax tree, which is then interpreted. While this sounds terribly slow, a lot of care was taken to ensure that basis-template is among the fastest JVM templating engines.

You can test performance with this fork of template-benchmark. While this is a JMH based microbenchmark, it tries to simulate a real-world scenario. YMMV.

The benchmark contains many commonly used JVM templating engines. If you don't see your templating engine of choice, send a PR.

Here are the results on an idle Hetzner EX40, using JDK 10.0.1, OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM, 10.0.1+10.

BasisTemplate.benchmark         thrpt   10  39906.867 ±  513.546  ops/s
BasisTemplateGetters.benchmark  thrpt   10  36745.616 ± 1389.334  ops/s
Freemarker.benchmark            thrpt   10  20429.272 ±  394.242  ops/s
Handlebars.benchmark            thrpt   10  21507.412 ±  242.507  ops/s
JMustache.benchmark             thrpt   10  14235.609 ±  105.795  ops/s
JTwig.benchmark                 thrpt   10   4327.615 ±  322.175  ops/s
JavaMustache.benchmark          thrpt   10  19954.687 ± 4233.619  ops/s
Pebble.benchmark                thrpt   10  28430.695 ±  807.715  ops/s
Rocker.benchmark                thrpt   10  70602.199 ±  768.252  ops/s
Thymeleaf.benchmark             thrpt   10   1495.825 ±   34.195  ops/s
Trimou.benchmark                thrpt   10  25983.174 ±  558.236  ops/s
Velocity.benchmark              thrpt   10  23083.624 ±  139.350  ops/s

Basis-template comes in second behind Rocker. Rocker compiles templates to Java source code.

Other templating engines do not fare as well as basis-template. However, most of them have been in the wild for much longer, are battle tested and have more than one maintainer. Performance alone is not a reason to use a templating engine.

So, should you use basis-template? If it fits your requirements, sure. But be warned that basis-template is a very young project, and there'll likely be dragons.

To round out this section, here are some free performance tips:

  • Function and method invocations are the most expensive operation, followed by field, array and map access and expressions. If you can, access fields instead of calling getters.
  • The compiler does not perform any kind of common subexpression elimination. If readability doesn't suffer to much, assign intermediate results to variables.
  • The less code spans you have, the faster the template evaluation will be.

Other than this, I recommend profiling your use of basis-template.




Simply send a PR and grant written, irrevocable permission in your PR description to publish your code under this repository's LICENSE.