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Template developers guide

Peter Ledbrook edited this page Feb 22, 2016 · 16 revisions

Lazybones alone is just a tool that doesn't do much. It needs a solid selection of template packages to make it a compelling solution for developers' day-to-day needs. That's why we try to make it as easy as possible to develop and publish templates. This guide explains how to go about both steps.

Getting started

The first thing you want to do is set up a build for your templates, because creating and publishing a template involves several steps:

  1. Create the directory structure and files for the template
  2. Add VERSION and README files
  3. Package the template structure into a zip, filtering out .retain and VERSION files
  4. Publish the zip file to a repository (only Bintray supported at the moment)

Fortunately this is dead easy because you can use Lazybones to set a project up for you! Simply run

lazybones create lazybones-project my-lzb-templates

and you'll get a simple Gradle build file with a directory into which you put your templates. The next step is to create the template.

Creating a template

Lazybones templates are simple zip files containing a directory structure and a bunch of files. How you create that zip file is up to you, but we're going to use the build that was created for us. It handles both the packaging and publishing of templates, so we don't have to worry about the details.

So let's create a new template Java project with just a Gradle build file and some standard directories. First, create the directory templates/simple-java/. This is where our template files are going to go. Inside this new directory, add these files:

  • - a text file that contains information about the template
  • VERSION - a text file containing the current version number of the template
  • build.gradle - the build file for building this new project
  • src/main/java/.retain
  • src/main/resources/.retain
  • src/test/java/.retain
  • src/test/resources/.retain

The .retain files allow us to include empty directories in both a git repository and the template zip. The build simply excludes .retain files when packaging the template while maintaining the directory structure. Note that the .retain files can be empty, so a simple touch src/main/java/.retain is sufficient.

The build.gradle file is part of this template project and just contains:

apply plugin: "java"

group = "org.example"
version = "0.1"

repositories {

dependencies {

The VERSION file is required by the build, because that's how the build knows what the current version of the template is. Just put any version string into the file:


No quotes. No markup. Just the version text. Note that the build excludes this file from the template zip as the version is included in the zip file's name.

Finally, contains some information about the template. Remember that this is displayed immediately after a new project is created from the template, so it should offer some guidance on what the template provides and what steps to take next with the new project. Add this to the file:

Simple Java project template

You have just created a basic Java application. It provides a standard
project structure and a basic Gradle build. Simply add your source files
to `src/main/java`, your test cases to `src/test/java` and then you will
be able to build your project with

    gradle build
    gradle compile
    gradle test

Don't forget to add any extra JAR dependencies to `build.gradle`!

Although the README is not required, you really should include one. It doesn't have to be Markdown either or have a file extension. We just happen to like the Markdown syntax and the way that GitHub handles files with an md extension.

We could simply leave the template as it is, but wouldn't it be great if the user could set the group ID and version for the project at creation time? That would mean parameterising the group and version in the build file. Not a problem: we can add a post-install script.

Creating a post-install script

Post-install scripts are executed immediately after a template is unpacked into the new project directory and just before the README is displayed. They are straight Groovy scripts with access to just the core Groovy classes, plus Groovy's SimpleTemplateEngine and Apache Commons IO (for making file manipulation easier).

Every script has access to the following properties:

  • projectDir - (v0.7+) a File instance representing the root directory of the new project. Treat this as read-only.
  • targetDir - (deprecated) a string representing the root directory of the new project. Use this for versions of Lazybones prior to 0.7. Treat as read-only.
  • fileEncoding - the encoding used by your template files. You can set this at the start of the script. Defaults to UTF-8.
  • lazybonesVersion - a string representing the version of Lazybones the user is running.
  • lazybonesMajorVersion - a string representing the first number in the version string, e.g. "1" for "1.2.3".
  • lazybonesMinorVersion - a string representing the second number in the version string, e.g. "2" for "1.2.3".

The script also has access to all the public and protected methods and properties defined in the LazybonesScript class. Of particular interest are the ask() and processTemplates() methods.

ask() allows the script to request input from a user, such as 'y' or 'n' for whether to include a particular feature or not. Even better, the user can provide the input on the command line, bypassing the input requests all together.

processTemplates() makes it easy to parameterise any of the files in your template using Groovy syntax. It basically runs the source file through Groovy's SimpleTemplateEngine to produce the resulting file. So if we want to allow the user to specify the project's group ID and version at install time, we modify build.gradle slightly:

apply plugin: "java"

group = "${group}"
version = "${version}"

repositories {

dependencies {

and then add a post-install script, lazybones.groovy, in the root of the template:

def props = [:] = ask("Define value for 'group' [org.example]: ", "org.example", "group")
props.version = ask("Define value for 'version' [0.1]: ", "0.1", "version")

processTemplates "build.gradle", props

Sorted! And if the user wants to bypass the two asks, he or she can provide values for the requested properties on the command line:

lazybones create simple-java my-java-app -Pversion=1.0-SNAPSHOT

In other words, you get non-interactive creation of projects from templates.

Another useful method available to post-install scripts is transformText(). It's common for scripts to convert strings between camel case (for class names perhaps), lower-case hyphenated (for directory names), and other forms. The transformText() method allows you to do just that:


def className = "MyClass"
def directoryForClass = transformText(className, from: NameType.CAMEL_CASE, to: NameType.HYPHENATED)
new File(directoryForClass).mkdirs()

The from and to arguments are both required and must be one of the NameType enum values: CAMEL_CASE ("MyClass"), PROPERTY ("myClass"), HYPHENATED ("my-class"), or NATURAL ("My Class")

Once the template is ready, it's time to try it out and publish it.

Packaging, installing and publishing

There are three steps to publishing a template, each of which can be accomplished with a simple task provided by the build:

  • packaging - zipping up the template directory
  • installing - putting the template package into the local Lazybones template cache
  • publishing - making the template package available publicly in a Bintray repository

The relevant Gradle tasks are:

  • packageTemplate<Name>
  • packageAllTemplates
  • installTemplate<Name>
  • installAllTemplates
  • publishTemplate<Name>
  • publishAllTemplates

The packaging tasks aren't often used, so we'll skip over those right now. But installing the templates in your local cache is important so that you can easily test them before publication. You can do this on a per-template basis, or simply install all the templates in your templates directory.

So if you want execute a task for a particular template, what is <Name> in the above tasks? It's derived from the name of the template, which comes from the directory name. In our case, the template name is simple-java. To use this name in the Gradle tasks, we simply camel-case it: SimpleJava. Of course, this means your directories should use hyphenated notation rather than camel-case.

Installing the simple-java template in the local cache then becomes a case of

./gradlew installTemplateSimpleJava

which can then be tested with

lazybones create simple-java 1.0-SNAPSHOT my-java-app -Pversion=0.1

Note that you have to specify the version of the template to install, otherwise Lazybones will look up the latest version online and either say the template doesn't exist, or use whatever the latest version is (not your development version).

If the rules for converting between camel-case and hyphenated forms don't suit your template name, for example if you separate numbers with hyphens ('javaee-7'), then you can use hyphens in the task name:

./gradlew packageTemplate-javaee-7

Once you're happy with the template, you can publish it to a Bintray repository. To do that, you have to configure the build. If you have a look at build.gradle, you'll see this section (+ some comments):

lazybones {
    // Pre version 1.1 of the Lazybones Gradle plugin, you needed
    // to specify this property:
    //     repositoryUrl = "<account>/<templates-repo>"
    // instead of `repositoryName`
    repositoryName = "<account>/<repo>"             // e.g. "pledbrook/lazybones-templates"
    repositoryUsername = "your_bintray_username"
    repositoryApiKey = "your_bintray_api_key"

    // These are required for open source packages
    licenses = ["Apache-2.0"]
    vcsUrl = ""

As you can see, the repository name, username, and API key properties need to be set up properly. You can hard-code the repository name in the build file (just replace <account> and <repo> appropriately), but the username and API key shouldn't be included in a file that will probably go into version control.

Instead, create a file in the root of the project (not the root of the simple-java template, but the overall project directory) and put the following into it:


Of course, put your actual username and key in there! Then update build.gradle with:

lazybones {
    repositoryName = "..."
    repositoryUsername = project.bintrayUsername
    repositoryApiKey = project.bintrayApiKey

So now the repository credentials are being initialised from the (non-SCM-controlled) properties file.

Bintray adds a couple of extra restrictions on publishing if you are using the open source hosting. If that's the case, you will need to add licenses and vcsUrl properties to the Lazybones configuration block. The assumption here is that all templates in a project are licensed under the same OSS licence and the vcsUrl property points to the host source repository for the whole project.

Before you can successfully publish to Bintray, you of course have to have an account. You also have to set up a repository, which you can do through the Bintray web UI. Once that's done, you can run

./gradlew publishTemplateSimpleJava

to make it available to all and sundry! Don't forget to go to the Bintray UI in order to finalise the publication. You can also send an inclusion request for your package to pledbrook/lazybones-templates. If accepted, your template will automatically appear in the lazybones list command.

Fine-tuning the packaging

(Since version 1.2 of the Gradle plugin)

The packaging process is by default rather dumb. It will include all files and directories in the target template directory except for a few hard-coded exceptions (the VERSION and .retain files for example). That leaves a lot of scope for accidentally including temporary files in the package! To help you avoid that, the plugin allows you to specify a set of extra exclusions using Ant-style paths:

lazybones {
    packageExclude "**/*.swp", ".gradle", "build"

These exclusions apply to all templates. If you want template-specific exclusions, then use the following syntax:

lazybones {
    template("simple-java") {     // Template (directory) name
        packageExclude "**/*.swp", ".settings"

Note that the template-specific settings completely override the global ones, so if you want the global ones to apply you will need to repeat them in the template-specific list.

Another potential issue when packaging templates is with file and directory permissions. Lazybones attempts to retain the permissions it finds in the template directory, but these may not be correct on Windows. To compensate for that, the plugin allows you to specify file permissions in the template configuration:

lazybones {
    fileMode "755", "gradlew", "**/*.sh"

The first argument is the Unix-style permission as a string (such as "600", "755" and so on), and the rest are a list of Ant-style patterns representing the files and directories that the permission string should apply to. You can have multiple fileMode() entries, although ideally you should only have one per file mode.

As with package exclusions, you can also specify file modes on a per-template basis:

lazybones {
    template("simple-java") {
        fileMode "600", ""
        fileMode "755, "gradlew", "**/*.sh"

Again, the template-specific settings replace the global ones for that particular template.

That's it for the getting started guide. You've created a template, tested it, and finally published it to Bintray. For the rest of the guide we'll look at the template creation in more detail.

Template engines

The processTemplates() method available to post-install scripts allows you to generate files based on templates. By default, any files that match the pattern passed to processTemplates() are treated as Groovy templates that can be processed by SimpleTemplateEngine and those source files are replaced by the processed versions. That's not the end of the story though.

Lazybones allows you to use any template engine that implements Groovy's TemplateEngine, meaning that your source templates could be Moustache, Velocity, or anything else. Of course, not every template engine has a Groovy implementation but it's often trivial to create an adapter TemplateEngine implementation. For the following examples, we'll use a Handlebars implementation.

The first step to using an alternative template engine is to include the implementation JAR in the post-install script for your project template. Lazybones uses Groovy's @Grab annotation for that:

@Grab(group="", module="groovy-handlebars-engine", version="0.2")

registerDefaultEngine new HandlebarsTemplateEngine()

The Handlebars engine JAR is in jCenter which @Grab automatically searches along with Maven Central. If you have the JAR hosted elsewhere, you'll need to use @GrabResolver.

Once you have the JAR on the script's classpath, you can register the engine. There are several ways to do this depending what you want to do. The above example uses registerDefaultEngine() to make the Handlebars template engine the default, which means that any files handled by processTemplates will be treated as Handlbars templates rather than Groovy ones.

What if you want to use different engines for different templates though? Or perhaps you prefer to give the source templates a suffix that identifies them as such? In these cases, you can use registerEngine():

@Grab(group="", module="groovy-handlebars-engine", version="0.2")

registerEngine "hbs", new HandlebarsTemplateEngine()

processTemplates "**/*.groovy", [foo: "bar"]

This method registers a template engine against a specific suffix. If any files match the processTemplates() pattern with the addition of the registered suffix, Lazybones will use the corresponding template engine for that file.

So let's say your template project has a src/main/groovy/org/example/App.groovy.hbs file. The App.groovy part matches the pattern and hbs is a registered extension. So that file will be processed by the Handlebars template engine, creating a src/main/groovy/org/example/App.groovy file in the target project. Here's a summary of how source template files are processed:

Filename Resulting file Processing
App.groovy App.groovy Registered default template engine
App.groovy.gtpl App.groovy Groovy template engine
App.groovy.hbs App.groovy Handlebars template engine

Lazybones automatically registers the Groovy template engine against the suffix gtpl. Also note that you should not include the template suffix in your file pattern. If you try

processTemplates "**/*.hbs", [foo: "bar"]

then Lazybones will in fact use the default template engine for any source file that has an hbs suffix. It's better to use the pattern


instead, as then any files ending with hbs will be processed with the Handlebars template engine. This does raise a problem: the pattern above will match non-template files too, and Lazybones will process those files with the default template engine.

If you do want to take this approach, then you can disable the default template engine:

@Grab(group="", module="groovy-handlebars-engine", version="0.2")

registerEngine "hbs", new HandlebarsTemplateEngine()

processTemplates "**/*", [foo: "bar"]

This will ensure that only source files with a registered template suffix get processed. All other files are left untouched.

Subtemplates (since 0.7)

As long as you are using version 1.1 or later of the Lazybones Gradle plugin, it's very easy to add subtemplate support to your project templates. The key points to understand are:

  • Subtemplates are similar to project templates but packaged inside a project template zip
  • A subtemplate can be included in multiple project templates
  • Subtemplates only take effect when the user runs the lazybones generate command

Let's say you want to add a subtemplate for generating @Entity classes in a project created from the simple-java template we introduced earlier. Your starting point is to create a new directory for the subtemplate:


Note that although the subtemplate will be going inside the simple-jave template, its directory is at the same level as templates/simple-java. The key is to give the directory name as 'subtmpl-' prefix, as this is what tells the build that it's a subtemplate, resulting in subtmpl-entity being excluded from the *AllTemplates tasks.

The contents of a subtemplate source directory look a little like a normal project template, except you are unlikely to include as many files and the README is unnecessary. In this case, we want:

  • VERSION - the file containing the current version of the subtemplate
  • lazybones.groovy - the post-install script
  • Entity.groovy.gtpl - the template source file for entity classes

Each of these files behaves in the same way as in a project template, but there are a few subtleties. Consider the template source file for entities:

package ${pkg}

import grails.persistence.Entity

@Entity(group="${parentGroup}", version="${parentVersion}")
class ${cls} {
    String name

This references several parameters: pkg, cls, parentGroup and parentVersion. Where do these parameters come from? We need to look into the post-install script, lazybones.groovy, to find out:


import static

def params = [:]
params.pkg = ask("Define value for the package: ", null, "package")
params.cls = ask("Define value for class name: ", null, "class").capitalize()

// Pass in parameters from the project template
params.parentGroup =
params.parentVersion = parentParams.version

processTemplates("Entity.groovy", params)

def pkgPath = params.pkg.replace('.' as char, '/' as char)
def filename = params.cls + ".groovy"
def destFile = new File(projectDir, concat(concat("src/main/groovy", pkgPath), filename))

FileUtils.moveFile(new File(templateDir, "Entity.groovy"), destFile)

println "Created new persistence entity ${FilenameUtils.normalize(destFile.path)}"

As you can see, the pkg and cls parameters are mapped from the return values of two ask() calls. This is standard post-install script behaviour. The interesting parameters, parentGroup and parentVersion, are mapped from something new: the parentParams map. This contains any named parameters used by the parent project template, i.e. simple-java in this case. Because of this, parentParams only exists for subtemplates.

Another novel aspect of the post-install script is the reference to a templateDir property in addition to projectDir. This is because subtemplates are not unpacked directly in the project directory. Instead, Lazybones unpacks them into the project's .lazybones directory. templateDir points to the location of the unpacked subtemplate, whereas projectDir still points to the root directory of the project created from simple-java. So your subtemplate post-install script will typically want to copy or move files from templateDir to projectDir. The Commons IO classes that all post-install scripts have access to are ideal for this.

With all of the subtemplates files in place, all you need to do is tell the build that the simple-java project template should include the entity subtemplate. So open up the build file and add this line to the lazybones block:

lazybones {
    template "simple-java" includes "entity"

Note how the name of the subtemplate excludes the 'subtmpl-' prefix. Now when you package the simple-java project template, the entity subtemplate will be included in it, ready for use with Lazybones' generate command.

If you want to include multiple subtemplates, just pass extra arguments to includes():

lazybones {
    template "simple-java" includes "entity", "controller", "view"

There is one final option available to template authors. What if you want to package the entity, controller, and view template files into a single subtemplate package? How would the user be able to specify which type of class he or she wants to generate? The answer is through template qualifiers.

Let's say you have an 'artifact' subtemplate that includes Entity.groovy.gtpl, Controller.groovy.gtpl, etc. The user can run the generate command like this to determine which artifact type to use:

lazybones generate artifact::controller

The :: separates the subtemplate name, 'artifact', from the qualifier, 'controller'. In your post-install script, you can access the qualifiers through a tmplQualifiers property:

def artifactTemplate
if (tmplQualifiers) {
    artifactTemplate = tmplQualifiers[0].capitalize() + ".groovy.gtpl"
else {
    artifactTemplate = ask("Which type of artifact do you want to generate? ", null, "type")

// ... process the corresponding template file.

The user can even pass extra qualifiers simply by separating them with :::

lazybones generate artifact::controller::org.example::Book

This is why tmplQualifiers is a list. It retains the order that the qualifiers are specified on the command line.

Note qualifiers should not be used for general parameterisation such as packages and class names. Think carefully before supporting more than a single qualifier.

Post install script in-depth

The lazybones.groovy post install script is a generic groovy script with a few extra helper methods:

  • ask(String message, defaultValue = null) - asks the user a question and returns their answer, or defaultValue if no answer is provided

  • ask(String message, defaultValue, String propertyName) - works similarly to the ask() above, but allows grabbing variables from the command line as well based on the propertyName.

  • processTemplates(String filePattern, Map substitutionVariables) - use ant pattern matching to find files and filter their contents in place using Groovy's SimpleTemplateEngine.

  • hasFeature(String featureName) - checks if the script has access to a feature, hasFeature("ask") or hasFeature("processTemplates") would both return true

You can get a complete list of the available methods from the LazybonesScript class.

Here is a very simple example lazybones.groovy script that asks the user for a couple of values and uses those to populate parameters in the template's build file:

def params = [:]
params["groupId"] = ask("What is the group ID for this project?")
params["version"] = ask("What is the project's initial version?", "0.1", "version")

processTemplates("*.gradle", params)
processTemplates("pom.xml", params)

The main Gradle build file might then look like this:

apply plugin: "groovy"

<% if (group) { %>group = "${group}"<% } %>
version = "${version}"

The ${} expressions are executed as Groovy expressions and they have access to any variables in the parameter map passed to processTemplates(). Scriptlets, i.e. code inside <% %> delimiters, allow for more complex logic.

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