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Generic KNIME Nodes

is a project aimed at the automatic generation of KNIME nodes for generic (command line) tools. It consists of functionality for KNIME developers (extension points, interfaces, ...), tool developers (automatic wrapping of tools into KNIME nodes based on the Common Tool Description; either by generating source code or recently automatically at KNIME startup, including an alternative plugin versioning approach) and KNIME users (intuitive configuration dialogs and node descriptions for any tool you can imagine plus additional nodes for the interaction with standard KNIME nodes).

The GenericKnimeNodes KNIME plugin

It provides the source code for the KNIME plugin com.genericworkflownodes.knime providing basic functionality for further plugins depending on the Generic Workflow Nodes for KNIME mechanism. NOTE: For this functionality, at least KNIME 2.7.2 is required and you need to install the KNIME File Handling Nodes. This functionality includes additional nodes for reading, writing, looping over and converting tables to and from files. For developers it provides extension points for:

  • registering conversion capabilities for new filetypes that show up in the table to file (and vice versa) nodes (so called mangler and demangler in the sources)
  • command line generation (to specify how to generate the command line from a tool description, if the standard way is not sufficient)
  • execution strategies (to specify how to schedule execution of the underlying tools; want to run it from inside a container? via ssh?)
  • versioned node set factories (to register new node generating plugins with a new version such that nodes shadowed by new versions show up as deprecated and are hidden in the node repository)

The GenericKnimeNodes static Plugin/Node generator

The com.genericworkflownodes.knime.node_generator has a main function that can be called via "ant" or after exporting an executable jar file. It provides a mechanism to create static source code for your own complete KNIME plugin. This includes folder structures, plugin.xml's and feature.xml's for the Eclipse plugin mechanisms as well as the source code for each node. With the node generator, the source code for the nodes is static. The classes for each node just fill the remaining information in the interfaces/extension points of the abovementioned GenericKnimeNodes KNIME plugin, based on a CTD file for each binary. In the following are the steps needed for static plugin+feature+node source code generation:

  1. Clone this repo
  2. Switch to your GenericKnimeNodes directory
  3. Call ant. This generates the required base plugin and runs the node generator. Further it will generate the source code for the KNIME plugin in a directory called generated_plugin/
  4. Load the GenericKnimeNodes folder and the generated plugin into the KNIME SDK as Java projects.
  5. Run the preconfigured KNIME Instance
  6. Enjoy your new nodes!
  7. If you want to build an update site for your new nodes, you can do that by creating an update site project in Eclipse or use buckminster as described here.

If you want to build your KNIME nodes from another directory just call:

ant -Dplugin.dir=[your_path]

Do not forget to replace [your_path] with a valid directory. e.g.

ant -Dplugin.dir=/home/jon.doe/my_plugin_sources

(without trailing slash!).

The following directory structure must be provided within the specified directory:

  ├── descriptors (place your ctd files and mime.types
  │                here)
  ├── payload (place your binaries here)
  ├── icons (the icons to be used must be here)
  ├── contributing-plugins (optional; place all your OSGI
  │                         bundles and Eclipse plugin projects
  │                         here)
  ├── DESCRIPTION (A short description of the project)
  ├── LICENSE (Licensing information of the project)
  └── COPYRIGHT (Copyright information of the project)

  See the sample* directories here for examples.

You can supply the executables for each node in the plugin. The wrapped binaries have to be supplied in the payload directory. Pleaser refer to payload.README for further details.

If you want to ship additional custom nodes written as any other KNIME node in Java code, you can create one or more OSGI bundles or Eclipse plugin projects (see KNIME node development documentation) and copy them to a contributing-plugins directory. The supplied plugins will be copied over and registered as part of the overall Eclipse feature (a collection of plugins) that is generated and thus being installed together with your newly generated KNIME nodes themselves.

You have two options to make the target system (KNIME) execute your code:

  1. You use the Activator/Plugin class (should be done automatically)
  2. You extend the extension point "org.eclipse.ui.startup" if you need to do additional things during startup of your plugin (like checking existance of another tool or library).

Since KNIME 4.2 the testing feature is disabeled by default. If you want to enable the testing feature you can provide an additional command to the ant call by:

ant -Dplugin.dir=[your_path] -Dgenerate.test.feature="enabled"

This will then generate the necessary testing features for your plugin.

What is generated?

An installable feature that bundles the GKN base plugin as well as the plugin generated from your CTDs plus any potential contributing plugins that you specified. This feature can then be added to an update site which can be shipped or hosted and then installed under KNIME -> Install New Software...

Versioning of your plugin/feature/update site

In general, Eclipse plugins have a version number following MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH.QUALIFIER. For KNIME/Eclipse to recognize potential updates, there has to be an increase in the version number for your generated feature. The main method of the raw nodegenerator.jar has three parameters: plugin-source-folder, build-output-folder and qualifier. When run from ant, it automatically takes the last change date from your clone of this git repository as the third "qualifier" argument. The third argument is used to represent the state of the GKN base plugin (if it changed after your sources changed, there might have been changes in the source code of your Nodes and you would want an updated version). For your plugin, it compares it to your qualifier in the file and updates it if it is alphabetically higher. For the generated feature (comprising your plugin and contribs) it compares the third argument to every qualifier in your plugin versions (see your for your own plugin, as well as the MANIFEST.MF entry BundleVersion of the contributing plugins) and takes the highest one for the resulting installable feature.

Dynamic (Versioned) Node Generation

Recently, dynamic generation of nodes is supported. If you manually create a new plugin (skeletons for dynamix plugins/features can not be automatically generated by the generator, yet) which provides a NodeSetFactory that extends the according extension points in the com.genericworkflownodes.knime plugin here, all descriptors (CTDs) in the registered payload "fragments" (same structure as in the static generation) are parsed automatically at KNIME startup and nodes are generated for them. More details here and in the test plugin that we provide for now.

Tips for Update site building

If you want to distribute your nodes, you will want an update site (to be used in KNIME via "Help -> Install new software"). This can be local as a zip or folder or you can upload it somewhere to be accessed online.

For static plugins generated via the nodegenerator

  1. First a warning: we have experienced problems with Java 9+ and buckminster (since it is a very old software).
  2. Run the nodegenerator as explained above (generates features, plugins and platform-specific fragments)
  3. Use Eclipse/KNIME SDK or manually generate an update site project where you register all the features you want
  4. Get an rmap and a cquery (similar to the one in the buildresources repo, see here for tips on how to create one)
  5. Get a p2 director (a standalone version is here)
  6. To install buckminster run
./director -r -r http://ftp-stud.fht- -r -d 
/Users/pfeuffer/Downloads/director/bucky[.app]/ -p Buckminster \
-i \
-i org.eclipse.buckminster.cmdline.product \
-i \
-i \
  1. Run buckminster on the cquery. TODO

For dynamic plugins

Try our dynamicPluginGeneration subrepo which tries to wrap the whole process in a CMake script.

Maven tycho

If buckminster does not work for you, we have beta support for bulding with maven tycho.

  1. Clone this repo to your git folder let's say $GIT. So you have $GIT/GenericKnimeNodes
  2. Clone our fork of KNIME's SDK target platform (only tag 2018-03 was converted by us for now, so check it out) to $GIT as well ($GIT/org.knime.sdk)
  3. If using eclipse, install the Maven2Eclipse (m2e) extension and the tycho configuration helper and import the plugins (make sure they are both recognized as PDE plugins and maven plugins). Or on the command line you probably just need maven.
  4. Cd to $GIT/GenericKnimeNodes/org.genericworkflownodes.maven
  5. Run mvn clean verify or run the Eclipse maven build configuration and add clean verify as "goals".
  6. Hope that everything builds.

Convert your own knime target platform

If our fork of org.knime.sdk does not have the right target platform converted to a maven tycho project, just copy over the pom.xml from another branch, rename all target platforms that you do NOT need to have another suffix than .target. And rename the one that you want to use to the same name as in the artifactID of the pom.xml plus the .target (usually Adapt the version in the pom.xml. TODO Make it easier and use profiles.