Silken wraps Google Closure Templates in a managed servlet environment simplifying push-MVC development.
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SILKEN - A nicer tasting Soy Tofu (Google Closure Templates)

Silken is the easiest way to drop in Google Closure Templates into your Java web application.

Silken wraps Google Closure Templates (Soy Templates) in a managed servlet environment simplifying template use in push-MVC environments. Silken encourages convention over configuration, and promotes a set standard structure for template management.

##Motivation Google Closure Templates (aka Soy Templates) is a fantastic language neutral templating system. It has an advanced syntax, great localization support, enforces good practice such as parameter documentation, and allows the same templates to be used on both client and server.


Google Closure Templates does not provide a clear set of standards for organizing and structuring your project. For example it provides little guidance on managing namepsaces, shared resource, file naming conventions, caching and methods of integrating with existing tools. Silken wraps Google Closure Templates in a nice consumable form.

Silken was initially developed to compliment the HtmlEasy project however is not tied to HtmlEasy in any way and can be used from any push-MVC environment/framework or your own Servlet controller code.

Silken is a zero-dependency JAR (other than Closure Templates of course) and can be quickly integrated into a new or existing Java web project via a simple servlet mapping. See the installation section to find out more about manual setup or using via Maven/Ivy.

##Silken's Benefits

  • Loose Coupling: Clear separation between controller code, models and template rendering (views).
  • Simple API: Render soy templates from your controller code with a simple Servlet forward/dispatch.
  • Convention over Configuration: Clear conventions for file placement and naming conventions.
  • Managed namespaces: Both isolated and shared namespaces.
  • Smart Caching: Compiled templates are cached while JVM memory is available.
  • Auto Publish as JavaScript: Expose selected templates as JavaScript (i.e. use the same templates on the client as on the server).
  • Edit->Refresh Development: Turn off caching to speed on-the-fly template editing.
  • Runtime Management: Precompile templates on startup, and flush caches or recompile remotely via management URLs.
  • Globals: Conventions for defining both compile-time and run-time globals.
  • Translation: Conventions for message bundle/file management.
  • Simple Setup: Simple Servlet configuration. Optional Maven/Ivy support.

##How To Use

Before reading this section you should already be familiar with Google Closure Template's documentation and the concept of template namespaces.

###Step 1: Setup the Silken Servlet

Silken is a simple servlet and should be deployed on a /soy context (or equivalent). After adding the required dependencies to your project (see installing), add the following to your web.xml file:



Note: Although any URL prefix is supported, /soy is recommended and the remainder of the documentation assumes the servlet is hosted here.

###Step 2: Create your directory or classpath structure

Silken expects your soy templates to exist either under your web app root in /templates or /WEB-INF/templates, or as resources on the classpath. All soy templates have a namespace and just like a Java Class file, should be stored under a directory structure matching the namespace. There is a special namespace called shared. By default a template can call all other templates in its own namespace as well as templates contained in the shared namespace.

For example your project may look like:


Alternatively you may choose to put your *.soy files as a resource on the classpath in the corresponding namespace. This approach allows you to locate *.soy files relative to its supporting server-side code. The merits of classpath vs. web root is a personal choice - Silken will search both locations. When in doubt, choose the web root - soy files contain presentation/views only, and the choice of web root makes this distinction clear, and the location is analogous to *.jsp files.

###Step 3: Write your templates

Unlike Classes in *.java files, each *.soy file may contain more than one template. The suggest practice is to place large templates (e.g. complete pages) in their own file, while smaller related templates (e.g. "a partial view" or section templates) in a single file together.

Example: templates/products/

{namespace products}
* Product template with stock remaining.
* @param productName The product name.
* @param qty The quantity remaining as an int.
{template .remaining}
   {if $qty == 0}
     <td class="nostock">{$qty}</td>

###Step 4: Rendering template in your controller logic

Templates are rendered by forwarding (dispatching) the request from your controller code across to the Silken Servlet. The target/forwarded URL will be in the format:


For example:


The general approach is as follows:

  1. The requst/browser hits your controller code (e.g. servlet code, or an MVC framework like HtmlEasy, or SpringMVC ).
  2. Your controller code generates the data parameters that will be consumed by the template by constructing a "model". e.g. it may query a database and make a Boat() POJO/Bean class.
  3. The model is set as a Servlet Request Attribute under a name model.
  4. Finally, the controller code forwards/dispatches the request across to Silken and the template is rendered (returned to the browser).

Data parameters (the model) are passed to the templates via a request attribute. The model may either be:


Using a simple servlet:

public class SimpleBoatServlet extends HttpServlet {

	protected void doGet(HttpServletRequest req, HttpServletResponse resp)
			throws ServletException, IOException {
        String sailNumber = req.getParameter("sailNumber");
		// Validate and fetch the SailBoat POJO from data store
        // ...
		SailBoat boatPojo = datastore.fetchSailingBoat(sailNumber);
		// Push the model into the request attribute under key "model".
		req.setAttribute("model", boatPojo);
		// Forward across to Silken - the path denotes the template to render.
		RequestDispatcher rd = getServletContext().getRequestDispatcher("/soy/products.boat.sailingBoatView");
		rd.forward(req, resp);

Using HtmlEasy (recommended) in a nice-URL JAX-RS RESTful style:

public class BoatDisplayController {

	public SailBoat showSailingBoat(@PathParam("sailNumber") String sailNumber) {
		// Validate and fetch the SailBoat POJO from data store
        // ...
		return datastore.fetchSailingBoat(sailNumber);


In the example above the model (data passed to the template) is a POJO/Bean. The template parameters are populated with data from the matching POJO getter names.

For example the template:

{namespace products.boat}
* Page template for sail boats.
* @param name The boat's name.
* @param lengthOverAll The boat's LOA.
{template .sailingBoatView}
    {call shared.header /}
    <h1>Boat Details</h1>
          <td>Length Over All (LOA):</td>
    {call shared.footer /}

Could be rendered my passing an instance of the POJO:

class SailBoat {
    private String name;
    private int lengthOverAll;
    public String getName() {
        return name;
    public int getLengthOverAll() {
        return lengthOverAll;
    // Setters ...

Or by passing a Map<String,?> like:

ImmutableMap.of("name", "Australia II", "lengthOverAll", 19);

Note: There is no relationship between the dispatch URL used to render a template, and the name or path of the *.soy file. Although, like with public Classes and *.java files, there is often a one-to-one relationship between a template and a *.soy file, this is not always the case. Multiple templates can exist in the one *.soy file.

###Step 5: Use advanced features as required (e.g. globals, translations, etc.)

On large projects you may need to consider translation/localization of messages, global variables (both run time and compile time) and pre-compiling your key templates on startup. These advanced features and others are discussed in detail below.

##Referencing Model Data Silken enhances Soy by supporting POJOs (aka simple Java Beans) as model data. POJOs are automatically converted to Maps before being passed to the template. POJOs may also be nested (referenced or as List elements).
For example, model data constructed like:

Employee manager = new Employee()

Employee projectLead = new Employee();
projectLead.setNickNames(Lists.newArrayList("Johnny", "Jack", "Johno"));

Map<String, ?> model = ImmutableMap.of(
                "project", "Project X", 
                "lead", projectLead);

can be accessed with template syntax:

Project: {$project}
Lead: {$lead.firstName}
Lead's Manager: {$lead.manager.firstName}
Lead is also known as:
{foreach $nick in $lead.nickNames}

See Soy Expressions for more information supported types and how to reference deep/nested data and list elements.

##Message Bundles and Translation

###Message Files One of Google Closure Templates most powerful features is it's first-class support for message translations. Silken offers a set of conventions to help with message file management. Message files should confirm to the following conventions:

  • Confirm to the file nameing convention *.[JavaLocaleString].xlf (e.g. messages.pt_BR.xlf, messages.fr_FR.xlf)

  • Reside in the same namespace (directory) as the corresponding templates. Templates only have access to message files within its own namespace and the shared namespace.

For example:



Again a single messages file per namespace/locale is a recommendation only. Silken will endeavor to source all *.[locale].xlf files located within the namespace. If it can't match a file using the full language_COUNTRY format it will revert to searching at the wider language-only level (e.g. pt_BR will match messages-pt.xlf if message-pt_BR.xlf does not exist).

###Locale Selection By default, Silken selects the locale based on the Accept-Language header. ServletRequest.getLocale(). You can change this behaviour by pointing the localeResolver servlet init parameter to a new class that implements com.papercut.silken.LocaleResolver. (See Advanced Servlet configuration options below.)

##Management URLs Silken exposes the following management URLs that can assist with development and debugging:

/soy/_precompile/[namespace] - Pre-compiles all templates in the given [namespace] and returns 200 OK on success.

/soy/_flush/[namespace] - Flushes any cached compiled templates in the given [namespace] forcing a recompile on next access.

/soy/_flushAll - Flushes all cached compiled templates from all namespaces.


###Compile-time Globals: Compile-time global variables are compiled into the template on first use and always remain fixed. Reasons for using compile-time globals include:

  • A deployment version number
  • A domain name (e.g. for absolute paths)
  • A variable for cache busting assets

By default globals are sourced from a *.globals file located in the "shared" namespace. This file should be in key = value format as outlined in the Closure Templates documentation . You may define globals in code by setting the compileTimeGlobalsProvider servlet init parameter to the fully qualified name of your class that implements com.papercut.silken.CompileTimeGlobalsProvider.

###Run-time Globals (Advanced): Run-time globals are available as Soy Injected Data ($

Reasons for using run-time globals include:

  • Passing in a user name so it's available in the header on every page.
  • Session data that may be useful across many pages.

Runtime globals can be set in one of two ways:

  • By setting servlet request attribute under the key "globals".
  • In code by implementing com.papercut.silken.RuntimeGlobalsResolver.

A logical place to set your runtime globals would in a Servlet Filter or a JAX-RS PreProcessInterceptors.

public class SetGlobalsFilter extends Filter {

    public void doFilter(ServletRequest request, ServletResponse response, FilterChain chain)
            throws IOException, ServletException {
        // All templates need access to the logged in user ($ij.username)
        String username = request.getUserPrincipal().getName()

        // Let's make our user agent a global as well.
        String userAgent = request.getHeader("User-Agent");

        Map<String, ?> globals = ImmutableMap.of("username", username,
                                                 "userAgent", userAgent);

        request.setAttribute("globals", globals);

Runtime globals can also be defined in code by implementing com.papercut.silken.RuntimeGlobalsResolver. This interface gives you access to the HTTPServletRequest. To define an implementation, set the runtimeGlobalsResolver servlet init parameter to a fully qualified name of your class that implements com.papercut.silken.RuntimeGlobalsResolver.

It is also possible to construct and inject an alternate GlobalsResolver at runtime. See Injecting Configuration and Resolvers at Runtime below.

##Publishing Templates as JavaScript

Closure Templates offer a unique advantage where the same template language can be used on both the client and the server. Advanced web development technologies such as ajax, push state, and pjax make the re-use of the same template on both the client and the server very attractive. Templates defined in a file with a extension (as apposed to just soy are published as compiled JavaScript so they can included/consumed as a JavaScript resources on the client. The URL to request the compiled templates (templates in files) for a given namespace is:



  • [serial] - a mandatory component that can be used for cache busting. For example this may be a date or version number that increments every time a new version is deployed.
  • [locale] - an optional component that denotes the locale (in Java string format like pt_BR, en, de, etc.) used to compile the template. If [locale] is not defined, the locale is selected using the accept-header or as implemented by the localeResolver (see below).
  • [namespace] - the namespace. All templates defined in files will be rendered into the request.

An example URL:

Note: JavaScript files are served up with a cache-control header setting the cache time to 30-days. Using the cache busting [serial] is the best way to ensure browsers always pick up the latest version of your templates.

##Fast Edit->Refresh Development

To speed up template development and editing, Silken may be run with caching disabled ensuring templates are recompiled on every request. Caching may be disabled with one of two ways:

  1. By setting a system variable silken.disableCaching For example, by adding -Dsilken.disableCaching as a VM argument in your IDE launcher.
  2. By setting the servlet init-parameter disableCaching.

Note: For obvious reasons, it's not a good idea to run in this mode in production!


Silken is a single zero-dependency JAR (other than Closure Templates of course) and can be quickly integrated into a new or existing Java web project via a servlet mapping. To install:

###Manual Install Add the soy-[version].jar and the silken-[version].jar file onto your project's class path. The latest version of Silken is:


###Maven/Ivy Install

Silken (and its dependency Google Closure Templates) are hosted in a Maven repository.


    <id>codedance on Github</id>



Note: Please check the repository for the latest version ID.

###Servlet Configuration Init Parameters

Silken has the following servlet init parameters to support advanced configuration. They are usually defined in your web.xml file as follows, however may also be set in code.

        <param-name>sharedNamespaces </param-name>

showStackTracesInErrors - Set to "true" to show stack traces in the browser/response. Default: false

disableCaching - Set to "true" to turn off caching. Helps when authoring templates (i.e. live refresh). Default: false

sharedNamespaces - A comma separated list of namespaces shared (available) to all templates. Default: shared

localeResolver - Customize the locale resolver. Set to a fully qualified class name pointing to an implementation of LocaleResolver. Default: AcceptHeaderLocaleResolver

modelResolver - Customize the model resolver. Set to a fully qualified class name pointing to an implementation of ModelResolver. Default: RequestAttributeModelResolver

fileSetResolver - Customize the model resolver. Set to a fully qualified class name pointing to an implementation of FileSetResolver. Default: WebAppFileSetResolver

compileTimeGlobalsProvider - Provide a custom map of Soy Template compile time globals. Default: none

runtimeGlobalsResolver - Provide a custom map of runtime globals passed into every template render. Default: none

precompileNamespaces - a comma separated list of namespaces to pre-compile.

searchPath - Advanced: Modify the default search path used to locate *.soy and associated files. Value is a colon separated path that may contain/reference $CLASSPATH and $WEBROOT. Default: $CLASSPATH:$WEBROOT/templates:$WEBROOT/WEB-INF/templates

##Injecting Configuration and Resolvers at Runtime (Advanced)

In addition to using Servlet Init Parameters, configuration can be modified in code at runtime. This includes modifying config options and also injecting alternate provider implementation. To access the configuration at runtime, grab a reference to the Silken Config class via the silken.config servlet context attribute. Example code:

import com.papercut.silken.Config;
// ...
Config config = (Config) getServletContext().getAttribute("silken.config");
config.setLocaleResolver(new MyLocaleResolver());

A logical place to perform this initalization would be in a startup servlet's init method. It is also possible to access the Config class using the convenience method: SilkenServlet.getConfig().

##Accessing the Template Renderer (Advanced)

It's possible for non-servlet request code to access Silken's template rendering service. For example you may have a service that generates template emails. By using Silken's TemplateRenderer service, your template email generation code can benefit from the same template structure, caching layer, etc. Example usage:

Map<String, String> model = ImmutableMap.of("username", username
                                            "password", password); 

TemplateRenderer renderer = (TemplateRenderer) context.getAttribute("silken.templateRenderer");

String emailText = renderer.render("email.lostPassword", model);
myEmailService.sendEmail(emailAddress, emailText);

It is also possible to access the TemplateRenderer using the convenience method: SilkenServlet.getTemplateRenderer().

##Supported Environments

Silken will run in any standard Servlet hosting environment, including Google App Engine. Silken is written to work with the latest version of Soy Templates.


To get a quick fee for Silken it is recommended that you download and play with the Htmleasy Playground Project. This is a pre-assembled Google App Engine Eclipse project demonstrating Htmleasy and includes some Silken examples.

##Miscellaneous Questions

Q: What is the difference between Plovr and Silken?

A: Polvr dynamtically compiles JavaScript. Silken is designed to assist with the development of both the server-side Java and client-side JavaScript Closure templates.


Silken's development is supported by PaperCut Software (makers of print management software) and is use in production. It's been actively developed. If you have any ideas for features please submit them as issues. A few ideas:

  • An implicit or explicit import system so it's easy to define dependencies between namespaces.
  • Options to define deligate templates (via a resolver).
  • Maybe a way of publishing multiple namespaces into one JavaScript file.
  • Lock down management URLs to set client IPs.

##Why is the project called "Silken"?

Google Closure Templates is also referred to as Soy Templates. You'll find references to Soy and Tofu throughout the project's class names. Silken is a type of smooth fine Tofu.

##Release History


  • Initial public release.


  • BUGFIX: Explicitly set the output character encoding to UTF-8.


  • Nested POJO support. Globals are now set as $ij Injected Date.


  • Runtime globals are now no longer also put into the Model. They are only available via $ij Injected Data.
  • Improved documentation of injecting provider implementations at runtime.
  • Fixed at potential NPE that may occur if the model is null and a custom runtime globals provider is implemented.


  • Global $ij data may now be defined by setting a request attribute "globals".
  • Experimental: The TemplateRenderer is now set as a servlet context attribute under "silken.templateRenderer". This allow other code to potentially use the template rendering layer in a raw form from outside web request code.
  • Renamed RuntimeGlobalsProvider to RuntimeGlobalsResolver to make it consistent with the other request based resolvers. Sites using a custom implementation will need to rename their class.
  • A few changes to areas of code that may not have been thread-safe.


  • Fixed a potential thread-safety issue that may occur when running with disableCaching set to true (i.e. development mode).


  • Updated POM dependencies to bring in latest Closure/Soy version.
  • Code changes to leverage later version of Guava (e.g. Loading Cache)
  • Minor performance work: POJOs are now parsed using java.beans.Introspector to benefit from its caching.
  • Documentation improvements


(c) Copyright 2011-2013 PaperCut Software Int. Pty. Ltd.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at

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