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Gradle plugin to simplify loading project properties from external environment specific files
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Gradle Properties Plugin

The Properties plugin is a useful plugin that changes the way Gradle loads properties from the various properties files. See the CHANGELOG for recent changes.

NEW: Release 1.5.0 lets you to make environment files optional, so you don't need to make a bunch of empty files when you only need to override properties for certain environments.

The Properties plugin is designed to make it easier to work with properties that change from environment to environment, or client to client. It makes life easier for developers who are new to a project to configure and build, because properties for multiple environments can be stored with the project itself, reducing the number of external magic that needs to happen for a project to run. It makes life easier for experienced developers to create different configurations for different scenarios on their boxes.

The Properties plugin also adds support for validation methods inside a task that can prevent the task from running if it doesn't have all the properties it needs.

Gradle adds properties to your project in several ways, as documented in the Gradle User Guide. Gradle processes property sources in a particular order, and the value of a property in your project will be the value from the last thing that set the property.

Gradle's default order of processing is:

  1. The gradle.properties file in the parent project's directory, if the project is a module of a multi-project build.

  2. The gradle.properties file in the project directory

  3. The gradle.properties file in the user's ${gradleUserHomeDir}/.gradle directory.

  4. Environment variables starting with ORG_GRADLE_PROJECT_. For example, myProperty would be set if there is an environment variable named ORG_GRADLE_PROJECT_myProperty. Case counts.

  5. System properties starting with -Dorg.gradle.project.. For example, myProperty would be set if Gradle was invoked with -Dorg.gradle.project.myProperty. Again, Case counts.

  6. The command line properties set with -P arguments.

The properties plugin enhances this sequence by adding two additional types of property files. One is for properties that change from environment to environment, and the other is for properties that are common to a user (or client), but change from user to user (or client to client). The order of execution for the properties plugin is:

  1. The gradle.properties file in the parent project's directory, if the project is a module of a multi-project build.

  2. The gradle-${environmentName}.properties file in the parent project's directory, if the project is a module of a multi-project build. If no environment is specified, the plugin will assume an environment name of "local". We strongly recommend adding gradle-local.properties to the .gitignore file of the project so that developers' local configurations don't interfere with each other.

  3. The gradle.properties file in the project directory

  4. The gradle-${environmentName}.properties file in the project directory. if no environment is specified, the plugin will assume an environment name of "local". We strongly recommend adding gradle-local.properties to the .gitignore file of the project so that developers' local configurations don't interfere with each other.

  5. The gradle.properties file in the user's ${gradleUserHomeDir} directory. Properties in this file are generally things that span projects, or shouldn't be checked into a repository, such as user credentials, etc.

  6. If the ${gradleUserName} property is set, the properties plugin will load properties from ${gradleUserHomeDir}/gradle-${gradleUserName}.properties. This file is useful for cases when you need to build for a different user or client and you have properties that span projects. For example you might have several projects that have pages with a customized banner. The contents of the banner change from client to client. The gradle-${gradleUserName}.properties file is a great way to put the client's custom text into a single file per client, and specify at build time which client's banners should be used.

  7. Environment variables starting with ORG_GRADLE_PROJECT_. For example, myProperty would be set if there is an environment variable named ORG_GRADLE_PROJECT_myProperty. Case counts.

  8. System properties starting with org.gradle.project.. For example, myProperty would be set if Gradle was invoked with -Dorg.gradle.project.myProperty. Again, Case counts.

  9. The command line properties set with -P arguments.

If the project was three levels deep in a project hierarchy, The steps 1 and 2 would apply to the root project, then the plugin would check the files in the parent project before continuing on with steps 3 and 4. More formally, the plugin applies project and environment files, when found, from the root project down to the project that applies the plugin.

The property names for environmentName and gradleUserName can be configured if you don't like their name or there is a clash with properties you already use in your build. The property name for environmentName can be configured with the property propertiesPluginEnvironmentNameProperty and the property name for gradleUserName can be configured with the property propertiesPluginGradleUserNameProperty. Those properties have to be set before this plugin is applied. That means you can put them in the standard property file locations supported by Gradle itself, in environment variables, system properties, -P options or in the build.gradle file itself before applying this plugin.

You can also change the directory where the gradle-${environmentName}.properties files live. The environmentFileDir property can be set to the name of a directory where the environment files live. Note that this property has no effect on the main gradle.properties file, because that file's location is specified by Gradle itself. If the name environmentFileDir causes a problem in your environment, you can change it via the propertiesPluginEnvironmentFileDirProperty property.

As with standard Gradle property processing, the last one in wins. The properties plugin also creates a "filterTokens" property that can be used to do token replacement in files, allowing Gradle to edit configuration files for you. See Gradle's documentation for the copy task for more information on filtering.

Gradle can also set a Java system property from the properties it sees in the various property files. The Gradle User Guide describes the process in more detail, but basically, properties that start with "systemProp." will be converted into Java system properties, but only if they are in the gradle.properties file in either the root project's directory or the user's home directory. The Gradle Properties plugin adds the gradle-${environmentName}.properties in the project's root directory, and the ${gradleUserHomeDir}/gradle-${gradleUserName}.properties file to the list of files that can contain properties from which Java system properties can be set.

Gradle plugins can also be applied to a Settings object by applying the plugin in the settings.gradle file. Gradle handles properties a little differently when processing a settings.gradle file, so the plugin's behavior changes as well. When applied in a settings.gradle file, the plugin processes files in the following order:

  1. The gradle.properties file in the directory where settings.gradle is located.

  2. The gradle-${environmentName}.properties file in the directory where settings.gradle is located. If no environment is specified, the plugin will assume an environment name of "local". We strongly recommend adding gradle-local.properties to the .gitignore file of the project so that developers' local configurations don't interfere with each other.

  3. The files described in steps 5-9 for applying to a project.

Gradle technically allows plugins to be applied in an init.gradle file, but Gradle recommends against it, because the init.gradle file is designed for configuration and not plugin application. If you really want to apply this plugin in the init.gradle file, you can do it by wrapping it in an allprojects block like this:

initscript {
    repositories {
        mavenCentral()
    }
    dependencies {
        classpath "net.saliman:gradle-properties-plugin:1.4.6"
    }
}
allprojects {
  apply plugin: net.saliman.gradle.plugin.properties.PropertiesPlugin
}

Note that this example uses a class name instead of a plugin id. This is to workaround a bug in Gradle that prevents plugins from being found by id inside an init.gradle file.

Why should I use it?

One of the challenges to building a project is that it often contains things that should be changed from environment to environment. This includes things like the log file directory, or the JNDI data source name. The values of these properties are often complicated by platform differences between the OSX and Windows environments most developers use and the Unix environments used for deployments. It gets even messier when you consider that these values are often scattered amongst several files buried in the project.

This can be a real hindrance to new developers to a project, who don't know all the touch points of project configuration, or experienced developers who don't remember all the things that need to be changed to spin up a new environment.

The solution is to extract all the environment specific information to a single file for each environment, with everything the project needs in that single file. Files that need these values, like persistence.xml or log4j.properties, become template files with tokens that can be replaced by the build.

This provides an added benefit; new developers see some of the things that need to be setup external to the project. For example, if the project mentions a tomcat home, the developer knows they need to install tomcat. If they see a JNDI data source, they know they need to set one up inside their container.

You should also use it if you have any Gradle tasks that depend on a property definition to work. This plugin adds a requiredProperties method to every task that you can use to make sure a property is defined before the task runs.

How do I use it?

The initial setup of a project is a little involved, but once done, this process greatly simplifies things for the developers who follow.

Step 1: Extract environment sensitive files to a template directory

Make a directory to hold the template files and copy files that change, like log4j.properties, into it.

Edit the files and replace the environment specific values with tokens. For example, if the file had a property like "log.dir=/opt/tomcat/logs", replace it with "log.dir=@application.log.dir@".

Step 2: Create property files

Create a file for each named environment you use for deployment. For example, if you have "qa", "uat", and "prod" environments. You would create gradle-qa.properties, gradle-uat.properties and gradle-prod.properties files. There is no limitation on environment names, they are just labels to tell the plugin which file to read at build time. If no environment is specified, the properties plugin uses the gradle-local.properties file, which should not be checked in to source control, because this is the file where developers setup the properties for their own machines.

In our example, the gradle-local.properties file might contain "applicationLogDir=c:/opt/tomcat" or "applicationLogDir=/Users/steve/projects/myproject/logs" to define the log directory needed by the log4j.properties template.

Step 3: Include and apply the plugin

To use the plugin with Gradle 2.1 or later, add the following to the build.gradle file:

plugins {
  id 'net.saliman.properties' version '1.5.0'
}

To use the plugin with Gradle 2.0 or older, add the following to build.gradle:

// Pull the plugin from Maven Central
buildscript {
	repositories {
		mavenCentral()
	}
	dependencies {
		classpath 'net.saliman:gradle-properties-plugin:1.5.0'
	}
}

// invoke the plugin
apply plugin: 'net.saliman.properties'

Note that this only applies the plugin to the current project. To apply the plugin to all projects in a multi-project build, use the following instead of apply plugin: 'net.saliman.properties':

allprojects {
  apply plugin: 'net.saliman.properties'
}

If you also use your properties during the initialization phase in settings.gradle, you can also apply the plugin there. In this case the properties files of the root project and the properties files beneath the settings.gradle file are read, in that order. After those, as usual the property files in ${gradleUserHomeDir}, the environment variables, the system properties and the command line properties are handled. Due to a bug in Gradle, (Gradle 1.11) you cannot use apply plugin: 'net.saliman.properties' in the settings.gradle file, but you have to use the full class name apply plugin: net.saliman.gradle.plugin.properties.PropertiesPlugin. It is unknown if this is still an issue with newer versions of Gradle.

When the properties plugin is applied, three things happen. First, the plugin processes the various property files and property location as described above.

Next, the plugin creates a property named filterTokens. The filter tokens is a map of name-value pairs that can be used when doing a filtered file copy. There will be token for each property defined in the given properties file. The name of each token will be the name of the property from the properties file. For convenience, The plugin will also create a filter with the property name in dot notation to allow re-use of file templates created for Ant builds. The plugin only creates dot notation tokens for properties that start with a lower case letter. This means that in our example, the "applicationLogDir=/opt/tomcat/logs" entry in the property file will create 2 tokens. One will be named "applicationLogDir", and the other will be named "application.log.dir". They will both have a value of /opt/tomcat/logs. If the property had been named APPLICATION_LOG_DIR, or _applicationLogDir, only the original property would be in the filter tokens. No copy would be made under any other names.

Finally, the properties plugin - if applied to a project rather than a settings instance - adds some property closures to every task in the build (and causes them to be added to new tasks defined later). These properties can be used in the configuration of a task define which properties must (or should) be present for that task to work. Properties will be checked between the Gradle configuration and execution phases.

Step 4: Define prep tasks

Before the build can happen, tokenized files need to be copied to the right locations in the project. This can be done with a task like the following:

task prep() {
    requiredProperties "applicationLogDir", "logfileName", "defaultLogLevel"
    outputs.file new File(resourceDir, 'log4j.properties')
    doFirst {
        copy {
            from templateDir
            include 'log4j.properties'
            into resourceDir
            filter(org.apache.tools.ant.filters.ReplaceTokens, tokens: project.filterTokens)
        }
    }
}

Note that this prep task adds a file to the outputs. We recommend setting outputs so that the task can take advantage of Gradles Up-To-Date detection. The properties plugin will add all the properties from the requiredProperties and recommendedProperties methods to the list of task inputs, but unless a task declares outputs, Gradle will always assume that the task is out of date.

Once a prep task is defined, other tasks in the project can then depend on this it to make sure they don't run unless the tokenized files are in the right place. For example, a Java project might define the following in the build script:

compileJava.dependsOn prep

The reason we copy into the source resource directory instead of the build directory is to keep IDEs happy. In general, you'll want to run the prep (or a prepTest) task whenever properties or template files change, or to switch environments.

Properties added to each task

This plugin adds some methods to each task, which can be used to check for the presence of properties after configuration, but before any tasks are executed. These methods will also add properties to the task's inputs that can be used to determine when a task is up to date. A task is never up to date if there are no outputs, but if the task has defined any outputs, Gradle will consider the task up to date if the other inputs and outputs haven't changed, and the properties haven't either.

requiredProperty

requiredProperty "somePropertyName"

This method throws a MissingPropertyException if the named property is not defined.

requiredProperties

requiredProperties "property1", "property2", ...

This method throws a MissingPropertyException if any of the named properties are not defined

recommendedProperty

recommendedProperty "somePropertyName", "default File Text"

This method is handy when there are properties that have defaults somewhere else. For example, the build file might define it, or the application might be able to get it from a system file. It is most useful in alerting newer developers that something must be configured somewhere on their systems.

The method checks to see if the given property is defined. If it is not, a warning message is displayed alerting the user that a default will be used, and if the defaultFile has been given, the message will include it so that the developer knows which file will be providing the default value.

recommendedProperties

recommendedProperties names: ["property1", "property2", ...], defaultFile: "default File Text"

This method checks all the given property names, and prints a message if we're missing any.

Notes

If a property is set in the build.gradle file before the properties plugin is applied, and it happens to match a property in one of the standard locations defined earlier, the build.gradle property's value will be overwritten. If you need to set a property in build.gradle, it is best to do it after the properties plugin is defined. Keep in mind that properties set in the build.gradle file will not be in the filterTokens.

There are a few ways to change the Gradle user home directory. The properties plugin uses the Gradle user home directory that also Gradle itself uses, but I haven't done much testing of that yet.

It is not required to have a gradle-local.properties file, but if you specify an environment with the -PenvironmentName=x flag, the environment file for that environment must exist at least once in the project hierarchy. If a environment specific file is not found, the plugin will cause the build to fail because the user declared intent to use an environment, but no file exists for it. This behavior can be overridden by setting the propertiesPluginIgnoreMissingEnvFile property to true. Since this is likely to be a per-project setting, the project's build.gradle is a great place to set it.

Acknowledgements

A special thank you to to Hans Dockter at Gradleware for showing me how to dynamically define the requiredProperty method and attach it to the right place in the Gradle build lifecycle.

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