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Getting Started with the Alfresco Maven

Jeff Potts
January, 2014
Important Concepts
o Apache Maven
o Alfresco Module Package (AMP)
o Alfresco Maven SDK
What About the Old Ant-based SDK?
Your First Project
o Let's Run It
o What Just Happened?
o Other Commands for Invoking the Build
o Logging
o Working With Your Project in an IDE
o Understanding the Project Structure
Creating a Project for Share Tier Customizations
o Share project dependencies
o Target WAR
Try It: Create a Share Project Using the Archetype
o Understanding the Share Project Folder Structure
o Running an Integration Test with Share
Dependency Management
Other Topics to Explore on Your Own
Where to Find More Information

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This tutorial is for people who have been handed a project that requires you to customize
Alfresco in some way and you're thinking, "Now what?". By the end, you'll know:
How to create a new Alfresco project using the Alfresco Maven SDK
What goes where depending on the type of customization you are doing
How to create and run tests
How to produce an artifact suitable for deploying to your environment or sharing with
the community.
This tutorial should be considered a pre-requisite before moving on to more detailed tutorials
on things like content modeling, custom actions, behaviors, advanced workflows, or web
Before we jump in, a quick disclaimer: There are almost always multiple routes to a given
solution. In this tutorial, I'm going to take you through the most direct, safest route that will
get you up-and-going quickly. Later, if you decide you want to change things up or explore
other paths, that's great.
Important Concepts
You don't need to know much about Maven, Alfresco, or why this SDK exists before
jumping in but it kind of helps set the scene, so let me take you through those three concepts
Apache Maven
Apache Maven is essentially a build management tool. It has many features, but the primary
time-saving feature is its ability to understand the dependencies your project relies on (and
the dependencies of those dependencies and so on). Maven can then retrieve and cache those
dependencies for you. If you've ever spent time chasing down JAR file after JAR file, the
value of such a tool will be immediately obvious.
Alfresco Module Package (AMP)
An AMP is a ZIP file with a folder structure that follows a specific convention. AMP files are
used to make it easy to share and deploy customizations to the Alfresco platform. If your
project is about making customizations to the repository tier (the /alfresco web application)
you will create a "repo" AMP. If your project is about making customizations to the Share
tier (the /share web application) you will create a "share" AMP. It is quite common for a
project to require changes in both tiers, so in that case you will create two AMPs.
Alfresco Maven SDK
Today's developers are used to rails-like frameworks where you have an empty directory one
moment and a fully instantiated, ready-to-run project the next. Why should Alfresco
developers settle for anything less?
With the Alfresco Maven SDK you don't have to. The goal of the Maven-based SDK is to
make it extremely easy for you to get started with Alfresco development. It consists of a
project template (an "archetype" in Maven parlance) and some built-in smarts that make
Maven understand how to create AMPs and deploy them to Alfresco.
If you are writing your own custom application that is separate from the Alfresco and Share
WARs you don't need the Alfresco Maven SDK. But if you intend to write code that runs
within either of those web applications, the Alfresco Maven SDK is where you need to start.
What About the Old Ant-based SDK?
Alfresco has provided a downloadable SDK since the early-days. The SDK consisted of a
ZIP that contained compile-time dependencies, source code, JavaDocs, and sample Eclipse
projects. The sample projects used Ant-based builds.
There was nothing wrong with this approach, but as the platform evolved, the Ant-based
SDK failed to evolve with it. Today, it contains examples for parts of the product that have
fallen out-of-favor (the native Web Services API, for example, or the Alfresco Explorer user
interface) and lacks examples for hugely important pieces of the product such as CMIS, Web
Scripts, and advanced workflows using Activiti.
Aside from its out-of-date examples, the old Ant-based SDK required developers to do too
much work. With the Alfresco Maven SDK, you don't even have to download anything
yourself--you just create your project and start coding.
Now you have a high-level understanding of Apache Maven, AMPs, and the Alfresco Maven
SDK. It's time to see them in action.
Your First Project
Let me show you how easy it can be to get started with Alfresco development using the
Alfresco Maven SDK. Before I start I'm going to assume you have JDK 1.7 installed as well
as Apache Maven 3. You don't need to download anything else. Seriously. Not even
1. Create an empty directory. We're going to be creating some additional directories in
here shortly.
2. Now let's create a new project. For now, let's assume you want to create something
that you will deploy to the Alfresco repository tier such as a custom content model,
some custom rule actions, a new set of web scripts, or some Activiti business
processes. It doesn't really matter. To create the new project, run this command:
3. mvn archetype:generate \
4. -
/public/archetype-catalog.xml \
5. Maven will do some work and eventually ask you to choose an "archetype". You're
basically selecting from a library of template projects. There are two available. One is
called "alfresco-amp-archetype" and the other is called "alfresco-allinone-archetype".
Our goal is to create an AMP that can be deployed to Alfresco so the first one is the
one we want. Type 1 and hit enter.
6. Now Maven is asking you to specify the version of the archetype you want to base
your project on. Currently, the latest version is 1.1.1 which is the 5th option in the list,
so type 5 and hit enter.
7. Maven now asks for a groupId. You should be thinking "Java package". My examples
always assume I am working at a fictitious company called SomeCo, so I will specify
"com.someco" here. Specify what makes sense in your case and hit enter.
8. Next is the artifactId. You can think of this as what you want your project to be
called. It will also be the ID of your AMP so make it something unique. You should
also append the string "-repo" to your artifactId because this module is intended to be
deployed to the repository tier. I'm going to specify "someco-mvn-tutorial-repo" for
mine followed by enter.
9. At this point Maven will show you the values you entered plus some others that were
defaulted and ask you to confirm your choices. If you want to change something you
can specify "N" and then make changes or you can enter "Y" to continue. I can always
change these values later if needed, so I'm going to specify "Y" followed by enter.
Now Maven is going to do some work. When it is done you will have:
A project structure organized exactly how it needs to be to support your Alfresco
Default configuration files
Minimal Java code and an accompanying unit test just to verify that everything works
Configuration required to run a local instance of Alfresco suitable for testing
A default POM (Project Object Model) XML file that tells Maven what your project
depends on
Let's Run It
You haven't downloaded anything. You haven't edited anything. All you've done is tell
Maven to create a project based on a template. But the cool thing is this: Your project is
runnable right now.
Try this:
mvn integration-test -Pamp-to-war
If you watch the output, you'll see that Maven is downloading everything it needs to compile
the project, creating an AMP, deploying the AMP to the Alfresco WAR, deploying the
Alfresco WAR to the embedded Tomcat server, and starting the server up. Eventually you'll
2014-01-15 18:01:19,339 INFO [repo.module.ModuleServiceImpl] [localhost-
startStop-1] Found 1 module(s).
2014-01-15 18:01:19,480 INFO [repo.module.ModuleServiceImpl] [localhost-
startStop-1] Installing module 'someco-mvn-tutorial-repo' version
Which means that the module your project generated was recognized by the Alfresco server.
Once you see:
Jan 16, 2014 8:38:20 AM org.apache.coyote.AbstractProtocol start INFO:
Starting ProtocolHandler ["http-bio-8080"]
You should be able to go to:
And log in using "admin" and "admin".
When you are done poking around, go back to the window where you ran your Maven
command and type ctrl-c to shutdown the server.
What Just Happened?
You asked maven to run the "integration-test" goal using the "amp-to-war" profile. This
causes the project to be built, deployed as an AMP to a fresh Alfresco WAR, and run on the
embedded Tomcat server. Once it started up, you were able to log in to the old Alfresco
Explorer client and work with the repository to test your module.
If you go look in the target directory you'll see the AMP that was produced and subsequently
deployed to the Alfresco WAR. In my case it is called "someco-mvn-tutorial-repo.amp". This
file is what you would give to your IT team if you were ready to deploy your repository tier
changes to a real Alfresco server.
Other Commands for Invoking the Build
You may not always need to start up the Alfresco server and leave it running. If you just want
to build the project, run the unit tests, and package the AMP, you can run:
mvn package
If you want to install the AMP into your local Maven repository you can run:
mvn install
You may have noticed that the default project includes a simple unit test. By default, Maven
will automatically run the unit tests in your project. You can see this happening in the output:
Running org.alfresco.demoamp.test.DemoComponentTest
It's a good practice to make sure that your project always includes unit tests and to run them
every time you build. Many organizations run CI (Continuous Integration) tools that depend
on this being the case. If you don't want to run tests for some reason you can skip them, like
mvn install -DskipTests=true
If you want to delete all of the compiled artifacts that Maven created and start fresh you can
mvn clean
If you also want to delete the embedded database, Alfresco content store, indexes, and log
files that were created by running the test Alfresco server, you can run:
mvn clean -Ppurge
Now you know how to create a new Alfresco project from an archetype and the fundamentals
of running builds with and without unit tests. Next up, you'll learn about working with your
new project in an IDE and you'll get a tour of the default project structure.
In the file that exists in the module directory, the file
You'll probably want to replace that with settings that match your package structure.
To set the module.log.level you can either do it when you run Maven, like this:
mvn install -Dmodule.log.level=DEBUG
Or you can edit the pom.xml and add it to the properties, like this:
If you change the pom.xml, then the AMP that gets produced will include that setting, and
subsequently, the WAR the AMP gets deployed to will write log statements accordingly. This
may or may not be what you want. If you aren't sure, it's probably best to set it using the
command-line so it doesn't accidentally get set in your AMP.
Working With Your Project in an IDE
Althought it isn't required, most people prefer to work in an IDE when developing Alfresco
customizations. Any IDE will do, but the most popular one is Eclipse so let's see how that
I'll be using the Kepler version of Eclipse Java EE IDE for Web Developers. It comes with
built-in Maven support.
To open the project we created earlier in Eclipse, do this:
1. Select File, Import, Maven, Existing Maven Projects. Click Next.

2. Specify the directory that contains the someco-mvn-tutorial-repo folder. Eclipse will
inspect that folder and show your project in the projects list. Make sure the checkbox
next to the project name is checked, then click Next.

3. Eclipse will show the Setup Maven plugin connectors panel. You may see the "set-
version" plugin complaining. That is safe to ignore for now. Click Finish.

Now the project is imported into your Eclipse workspace.
In the Markers panel you may see a Maven Problem listed that says, "Plugin execution not
covered by lifecycle configuration".

Maven has a problem with the set-version plugin
To fix this:
1. Right-click on the error and select "Quick Fix".
2. Select "Permanently mark goal set-version in pom.xml as ignored in Eclipse build"
then click Finish.
3. Select your POM location (mine is com.someco : someco-mvn-tutorial-repo : 1.0-
SNAPSHOT) and click OK.
After the project rebuilds you may see one last problem listed, which is "Project
configuration is not up-to-date with pom.xml". To fix this:
1. Right-click on the project and select Maven, Update Project.
2. Make sure the project is selected, then click OK.
Now Eclipse should be happy and the only errors left should be some Java warnings related
to unused imports.
Understanding the Project Structure
The folder structure of your project is a bit more pleasant to explore in your IDE. Let's see
what we've got.
pom.xml In the root of the project directory you'll see pom.xml. This tells Maven
everything it needs to know about your project. Remember those settings you
specified when you created the project from the archetype? You can make changes to
those settings here. For example, version 1.1.1 of the archetype assumes you are
working with Alfresco Community Edition 4.2.e. If you wanted to work with a
different version, you would simply change those properties and then tell Maven to
update and it will take care of the rest.
src/main/java This is where you should create your own packages to organize your
Java code. Things like custom action executer classes, custom behaviors, Java-based
controllers for web scripts go here. If you don't know what those are, don't worry,
there are tutorials available here. These files will ultimately be placed in a JAR. When
the AMP is installed into the Alfresco WAR, the JAR will be placed under WEB-
src/test Everything under src/test is about running unit tests. The unit tests themselves
go in src/test/java. Any resources those classes need go in src/test/resources. In
src/test/properties/local you'll see an file. If you are already
know something about Alfresco you know that this is used to configure Alfresco. In
this case, it is only used when running the embedded Alfresco server for testing
src/main/amp Everything else goes somewhere in this part of the project. The
structure of an AMP is well-documented so I don't want to duplicate that here. Let me
just point out the highlights:
o The file tells Alfresco what it needs to know about this
AMP such as its ID, version, the minimum and maximum version of Alfresco
required to run the AMP, and any other AMPs on which this one depends.
o The config/alfresco/module/someco-mvn-tutorial-repo directory is the heart of
the AMP. This is where you place Spring config XML files, content model
XML files, and user interface configuration. As you'll see in later tutorials, I
prefer separate sub-directories for each of these things.
o If your module includes web scripts or workflows, those don't reside under the
module directory. Instead, those would go under
config/alfresco/extension/templates/webscripts and
o Your module may include client-side resources that need to be deployed to the
root of the web application. Those go in src/main/amp/web in directories such
as css, jsp, scripts, and images.
You should check this entire project into source code control. You will want to configure
your source code control client to ignore the target directory and the alf_data_dev directory.
Now that you understand how to create a project for repository tier customizations, let's take
a look at the Share tier. As part of that I'll show you another option for creating projects
without leaving Eclipse.
Creating a Project for Share Tier
The first thing you should realize is that the structure for a project that creates repo tier
customizations is exactly the same as one that targets Share tier customizations. From an
Alfresco Maven SDK perspective, there are two things different about a Share project: The
project's dependencies and the WAR the AMP will be deployed to.
Share project dependencies
We'll talk more about dependency management in a minute. For now realize that, by default,
the archetype configures the project's pom.xml to have a dependency on the alfresco-
repository artifact. Share projects have no such dependency. In fact, many Share projects
don't use any Java at all. For now, edit the pom.xml and remove the alfresco-repository
dependency. This will cause the demo component and its associated test class to fail to
compile. They can be deleted.
Target WAR
The other thing that is different about a Share project is the WAR the AMP will be deployed
to. Instead of the alfresco WAR it needs to be deployed to the share WAR. This is configured
in the alfresco.client.war property in pom.xml. By default it is set to "alfresco". For Share
projects it should be set to "share".
Try It: Create a Share Project Using the Archetype
Let's create a new project for Share customizations. You could go into the command line and
run the exact same archetype command you ran earlier, specifying a new artifactId, and then
changing the alfresco.client.war property to "share". If you are not using Eclipse, go ahead
and do that now, then skip the next section.
Another option is to configure Eclipse so you can create new Alfresco projects using the
Alfresco Maven SDK without leaving the IDE. Let's do that.
1. File, New Maven Project.
2. Specify the directory that contains the repo project directory, then click next.

3. Click Configure so we can add Alfresco's catalog to the list.

4. Click Add Remote Catalog
5. Specify "
catalog.xml" as the Catalog File. Specify "Alfresco Archetypes" as the description.
Then, click OK and OK again to close the Preferences panel.

6. Now select "Alfresco Archetypes" in the catalog and you'll see a bunch of archetypes
show up in the list.
7. Specify "org.alfresco.maven.archetype" in the filter and you'll see the same two
archetypes that were presented to you as options on the command line at the start of
the tutorial.
8. Select the alfresco-amp-archetype and click Next.

9. Specify "com.someco" for the groupId, "someco-mvn-tutorial-share" as the artifactId,
and change alfresco_target_amp_client_war to "share". Then click Finish.

Now your Share customization project is in your workspace. The next time you create a new
project using the archetype, it will be a few less steps because you won't have to add the
Understanding the Share Project Folder Structure
As I mentioned earlier, the structure of this project is exactly the same as the one we created
for our repo project. The only difference worth mentioning is that in the repo project, things
like web scripts went into src/main/amp/config/alfresco/extension/templates/webscripts. In a
Share project, those go in src/main/amp/config/alfresco/web-extension/site-webscripts.
Running an Integration Test with Share
Often you will work on both repo tier customizations and share tier customizations at the
same time. Your Share tier needs an Alfresco repository to talk to. One way to do that is to
tell Maven to start your repo project using:
mvn integration-test -Pamp-to-war
And then start your Share project using:
mvn integration-test -Pamp-to-war -Dmaven.tomcat.port=8081
Once both servers come up, you can go to http://localhost:8081/share and log in to test your
Dependency Management
The cool thing about Apache Maven is that it manages your projects dependencies for you.
All you need to do is tell Maven about them by configuring your pom.xml. By default, the
Alfresco Maven SDK will create two dependencies for your project: alfresco-repository and
As I mentioned earlier, Alfresco Share projects don't depend on the Alfresco repository so for
the someco-mvn-tutorial-share project, that dependency can be removed. But what if I
wanted to put some Alfresco Java in my Share project, like maybe a Java-based web script?
In that case, we'll need to adjust the dependencies.
Web scripts can run in either the repository tier or the share tier. If you write a Java-based
web script in your repository project the class will compile because that project depends on
the alfresco-repository artifact which in turn depends on the spring-webscripts artifact. You
can see this if you go to the Dependency Hierarchy tab in Eclipse in your pom.xml file:

Depency hierarchy shown in Eclipse
Alternatively, you can see the hierarchy by running:
mvn dependency:list
So, to add a Java-based web script to our share tier project, we'd need to add spring-
webscripts as a dependency. You can do this by editing the pom.xml, like this:
Now a Java-based web script will be able to find its parent class, DeclarativeWebScript.
You might be wondering how you were supposed to know that the DeclarativeWebScript
class was included in the spring-webscripts artifact. One way to find out is to go to You can do a search for a class and it will show you all of the
artifacts that contain it.
Other Topics to Explore on Your Own
You now know how to use the Alfresco Maven SDK to create projects for both your Alfresco
repository customizations and your Alfresco Share customizations. If you are new to Alfresco
development, I hope you agree it is really easy to boostrap a project to get started. If you are
an old hand at Alfresco but are still using the old SDK I hope this has motivated you to
switch to the new SDK to produce your AMPs.
There are many topics that weren't covered in this tutorial. I'll leave you to explore those on
your own. Here are a few:
The Alfresco Maven SDK supports dynamic class reloading when used in conjunction
with a tool called JRebel. See Gab's Alfresco Summit 2013 presentation linked to in
the More Information section.
This tutorial covered the AMP archetype. But the Alfresco Maven SDK includes
another archetype called All-in-One. That archetype gives you a complete Alfresco
installation including SOLR.
The Alfresco Maven SDK supports both Community Edition and Enterprise Edition.
If you need help accessing the Enterprise Edition artifacts, contact Alfresco Support.
Where to Find More Information
The official documentation on the Alfresco Maven SDK is on
More detailed documentation on the Alfresco Maven SDK can be found at
Gab's Alfresco Summit presentation on Test-Driven, Rapid Development, and
Continuous Delivery of Alfresco Solutions
The Instant Apache Maven Starter book by Maurizio Turatti and Maurizio Pillitu
might be a good resource if you are interested in learning more about Apache Maven.
Gethin James' Getting Started with Alfresco Development presentation from Alfresco
The Alfresco Developer Series on ECM Architect has free tutorials on custom content
models, actions, behaviors, workflows, and web scripts.
ECM Architect

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