Getting Started

Before jumping directly into the development tasks, you need to learn about the basic knowledge via the following sections:


This section gives you explanations of some technical terms which are used throughout the documentation.

Container templates

Templates which are used to contain the UI components in a specific layout and display them on the site’s page.


An object which stores all information about the state of the current user. This object also stores acquired attributes of an Identity which is a set of principals to identify a user.

Data container

An object which implements the physical data storage. It enables different types of backend (such as RDB, FS files) to be used as a storage for the JCR data. With the main Data Container, other storages for persisted Property Values can be configured and used. The eXo JCR persistent data container can work in two configuration modes.

  • Multi-database: A database for each workspace (used in the standalone eXo JCR service mode).

  • Single-database: All workspaces persisted in one database (used in the embedded eXo JCR service mode; for example in eXo portal). The data container uses the JDBC driver to communicate with the actual database software. For example, any JDBC-enabled data storage can be used with the eXo JCR implementation.

Database Creator (DBCreator)

A service that is responsible for executing the DDL (Data Definition Language) script in runtime. A DDL script may contain templates for database name, username, and password which will be replaced by real values at execution time.


Customized workspaces which include:

  • a configured path where the user will start when browsing the drive.

  • a set of views with limitations to available actions, such as editing or creating contents while being in the drive.

  • a set of permissions to limit the access (and view) of the drive to a restricted number of people.

  • a set of options to describe the behavior of the drive when users browse it.

eXo Cache

One which all applications on the top of eXo JCR need. This can rely on an instance managed by


An object which behaves like a class loader that is responsible for loading services/components. The eXoContainer class is inherited by all the containers, including RootContainer, PortalContainer, and StandaloneContainer. It itself inherits from a PicoContainer framework which allows eXo to apply the IoC Inversion of Control principles.

External Plugin

One which allows adding configuration for services and components easily.


A system of classification which is derived from the practice and a method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content. This practice is also known as collaborative tagging social classification social indexing and social tagging. See Wikipedia for more details.


Web-based software components which are based on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They allow developers to easily write useful web applications that work anywhere on the web without modification. See OpenSocial for more details.

Groovy template

A template which is widely used in eXo UI framework. It leverages the usage of Groovy language, a scripting language for Java. The template file consists of HTML code and Groovy code blocks.


A service that allows accessing a JCR repository via WebDAV.


One which defines a job to execute a given number of times during a given period. It is a service that is in charge of unattended background executions commonly known for historical reasons as batch processing.

JodConverter (Java OpenDocument Converter)

A tool which converts documents into different office formats and vice versa.

JCR Item

One which may be a node or a property.


An event mechanism which allows triggering and listening to events under specific conditions inside eXo Platform. This mechanism is used in several places in PRODUCT, such as login/logout time, creating/updating users and groups.


One that stores lock objects, so it can give a lock object or can release it. Also, LockManager is responsible for removing locks that live too long.


The name of a node or property which may have a prefix delimited by a single ‘:’ colon character. This name indicates the namespace of the item (Source: JSR-170) and is used to avoid the naming conflict.

Navigation node

A node that looks like a label of the link to page on the Navigation bar. By clicking a node, the page content is displayed. A node maps a URI and a site page for the site’s navigation system.


One that looks like a menu which is to help users visualize the site structure and to provide hyperlinks to other parts on a site. Thus, a bar which contains navigations is called the Navigation bar.

Node type

One which defines child nodes and properties which a node may (or must) have. Every node type has attributes, such as name, supertypes, mixin status, orderable child nodes status, property definitions, child node definitions and primary item name (Source: JSR-170).


An element in the tree structure that makes up a repository. Each node may have zero or more child nodes and zero or more child properties. There is a single root node per workspace which has no parent. All other nodes have only one parent.

Organization listener

One that provides a mechanism to receive notifications via an organization listener, including UserEventListener, GroupEventListener and MembershipEventListener.

  • UserEventListener is called when a user is created, deleted or modified.

  • GroupEventListener is called when a group is created, deleted or modified.

  • MembershipEventListener is called when a membership is created or removed.

Organization management

A portlet that manages users, groups and memberships. This portlet is often managed by administrators to set up permission for users and groups.


A service that allows accessing the Organization model. This model is composed of users, groups, and memberships. It is the basis of eXo’s personalization and authorizations and is used for all over the platform.

Path constraint

One which restricts the result node to a scope specified by a path expression. The following path constraints must be supported exact child nodes descendants and descendants or self (Source: JSR-170).


A control of which actions that users can or cannot perform within the site and are set by the portal administrators. Permission types specify what a user can do within the site.

Site Page

A page that consists of one or more various portlets. Their layouts are defined by container templates. To display a site page, this page must be mapped to a navigation node.

Portal skins

Graphic styles that display an attractive user interface. Each skin has its own characteristics with different backgrounds, icons, color, and more.


A type of container that is created at the startup of the portal web application in the init method of the PortalController servlet.


A web-based application that provides a specific piece of content to be included as part of a portal page. In other words, portlets are pluggable user interface components that provide a presentation layer to information systems. There are two following types of portlet:

  • Functional Portlets support all functions within the portal. They are integrated into the portal that can be accessed through toolbar links.

  • Interface Portlets constitute the interface of a portal. eXo Portal consists of some Interface Portlets, such as Banner Portlet, Footer Portlet, Homepage Portlet, Console Portlet, Breadcrumb Portlet and more.

Property constraint

One that a query may specify on the result nodes by way of property constraints (Source: JSR-170).


An element in the tree structure that makes up a repository. Each property has only one parent node and has no child node.


One that holds references to one or more workspaces.

eXo REST framework

One that is used to make eXo services (for example, the components deployed inside eXo Container) simply and transparently accessible via HTTP in a RESTful manner. In other words, those services should be viewed as a set of REST Resources-endpoints of the HTTP request-response chain. Those services are calledResourceContainers.


A base container which plays an important role during the startup. However, it is recommended that it should not be used directly.

RTL Framework (Right To Left Framework)

A framework which handles the text orientation depending on the current locale settings. It consists of four components, including Groovy template, Stylesheet, Images, and Client java.


One which is a context independent eXo Container. It is also used for unit tests.


One which is used to sort documents to ease searches when browsing documents online.

Tree structure

One structure which is defined as a hierarchical structure with a set of linked nodes and properties.

Type constraint

One which specifies the common primary node type of the returned nodes plus possibly additional mixin types that they also must have. Type constraints are inheritance-sensitive in which specifying a constraint of node type x will include all nodes explicitly declared to be type x and all nodes of subtypes of x (Source: JSR-170).

Web Content

A textual, visual or aural content that is encountered as part of the user experiences on a website. It may include other things, such as texts images, sounds, videos, and animations.


A container of single rooted tree which includes items.


The architecture of eXo Platform is summarized in the following schema:


Service Container

A container is always required to access a service, because the eXo Kernel relies on the dependency injection. This means that the lifecycle of a service (for example, instantiating, opening and closing streams, disposing) is handled by a dependency provider, such as the eXo Container, rather than the consumer. The consumer only needs a reference to an implementation of the requested service. The implementation is configured in an .xml configuration file that comes with every service.


See Container, Kernel Reference for details.


Containers are used to gain access to services. The followings are important characteristics of services:

  • The interface and implementation for a service are usually separate because of the Dependency Injection concept.

  • Each service has to be implemented as a singleton, which means it is created only once per portal container in a single instance.

  • A component equals a service. A service must not be a large application. A service can be a little component that reads or transforms a document where the term “component” is often used instead of service.


See service configuration for beginners and in details for further references.

Java Content Repository

Some data of eXo Platform are stored in a Java Content Repository (JCR). JCR is the Java specification (JSR-170) for a type of Object Database tailored to the storage, searching, and retrieval of hierarchical data. It is useful for the content management systems, which require storage of objects associated with metadata. The JCR also provides versioning, transactions, observations of changes in data, and import or export of data in XML. The data in JCR are stored hierarchically in a tree of nodes with associated properties.

The JCR is mainly used as an internal storage engine for the following addons: - ECMS <> - Calendar <> - Forum <> - News <>

Accordingly, eXo Platform lets you manipulate JCR data directly in several places.

In Java Content Repository, there are 2 main parts:

  • Repositories and workspaces: A content repository consists of one or more workspaces. Each workspace contains a tree of items.

  • Tree structure - nodes and properties: Every node can only have one primary node type. The primary node type defines names, types and other characteristics of the properties, and the number of its allowed child nodes. Every node has a special property called jcr:primaryType that records the name of its primary node type. A node may also have one or more mixin types. These are node type definitions that can mandate extra characteristics (for example, more child nodes, properties and their respective names and types).

    • Data are stored in properties, which may hold simple values, such as numbers, strings or binary data of arbitrary length.

    • The JCR API provides methods to define node types and node properties, create or delete nodes, and add or delete properties from an existing node. You can refer to the 6.2.3 Node Read Methods in the JCR Specification document.


See JCR Reference Guide for the full knowledge of JCR.

Customization Capabilities with eXo Platform

eXo Platform can be easily customized and extended by:

  • Creating extensions that allows you to customize all resources of eXo Platform, including templates, skin, default configuration, and more.

  • Creating new applications (portlets or gadgets) that you can add to your portal’s pages.


Almost everything in eXo Platform can be customized through extensions. The main concept behind extensions is that resources of your extensions will override resources of eXo Platform. See eXo Platform Extensions for more details.

Here are some examples of what can be done with extensions:

  • Creating a site with some pages and navigations.

  • Customizing internationalized labels.

  • Changing the default connector for users/groups/roles.

  • Creating and customizing a new site. See Creating a new site for details.

  • Adding or removing languages. See Adding/Removing a language for details.

  • Creating a new skin for your site and portlet.

  • Creating and customizing templates for content. See Developing Content for more details.

  • Creating a Groovy REST script in your extension that will be loaded at startup by the REST engine. See Using Groovy REST service for more details.


Applications are blocks that compose a portal page. eXo Platform comes with a lot of out-of-the-box applications which allow you to display a navigation menu, display a content or a list of content, manage bookmarks, display your next calendar events, and more. Also, you can create your own applications.

From a technical point of view, an application can be either a portlet or a gadget. Therefore, it is important to understand distinctions between gadgets and portlets. While portlets are user interface components that provide fragments of markup code from the server side, gadgets generate dynamic web content on the client side. With gadgets, small applications can be built quickly, and mashed up on the client side using lightweight Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) technologies, like REST or RSS.

Developing portlets and gadgets complies with different rules and components that are detailed in:

Setting up development environment

This guideline helps developers to set up their development environment (SCM, IDE and building tools).

To set up development environment, see the followings:

  • JDK 8+ is required.

  • Maven (3.0.4 or later) and GIT are required to developers who want to contribute to eXo projects (mainly the company’s developers).

  • Any Java IDE tool can be used, such as Eclipse, NetBean.

  • Developers who write extensions are free to choose their favorite tools. Maven and GIT are recommended to get the best support from eXo Company and Community.

Setting eXo Repository in Maven

To set up Maven, you can follow instructions in Apache’s Maven in 5 minutes for quick start or see The Apache Maven definitive guide by Sonatype for a complete reference. Since eXo Platform 4, no specific Maven settings are required to build eXo projects.

To use eXo APIs in your own projects, you have to add the eXo Platform Maven repository to your Maven settings.xml file.

  • Open the settings.xml file in $M2_HOME/conf/ or ${user.home}/.m2/, depending on your Maven installation. Refer to Maven settings guideline for more details.

  • Add a repository to this file, as stated in Maven’s Guide to using Multiple Repositories.

  • Replace the repository URL in your settings with

  • An example of settings.xml:

                 <name>eXoPlatform public repo</name>

Importing eXo dependencies

You can, of course, add any eXo artifact as a dependency of your project. To avoid losing time looking for the good version of the artifacts you want to add as dependencies, eXo Platform provides an import dependency which defines all of the versions for you. You just need to give the version of eXo Platform you are using, without concerning about proper versions of all artifacts. To import the right eXo dependencies, you can refer to Dependency Management for more details.

  • Here is an example of the pom.xml file using implicit variables to indicate the artifact version:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
        <project xmlns="" xmlns:xsi="" xsi:schemaLocation="">
            <name>My project</name>
                <!-- Import versions from social project -->

    In this file, the property exoplatform.version was declared under properties tag, indicating a specific platform version used for the project. After that, each dependency (under dependencyManagement tag) can reuse this parameter as an implicit variable ${exoplatform.version} without specifying its artifact version.

GIT and

eXo projects use GIT and for managing source code. Thus, to contribute to the projects, you need to install GIT and register a account. See to learn to use GIT.

Many eXo projects are public at eXo Platform repository. To contribute to a project, you can follow steps described in Community member contribution guide.


To write your own extension, see this sample project.

Running eXo Platform in Debug and Dev modes

Dev and Debug modes are turned off by default and are not recommended in production because of performance impact. They should be turned on only for debugging in development environment.

If you are debugging against eXo Platform Tomcat, use the following start command:

./ --dev --debug

This section will introduce more details about Debug and Dev modes and their effects.

Debug mode

The Debug mode in eXo Platform is generally like other Java applications using JDWP that enables debugging by Eclipse.

In eXo Platform Tomcat, the Debug mode is turned on by appending --debug to the startup command:

./ --debug

This parameter adds the following JVM option:


If you want to change the port (address=8000), you have to customize environment variables and edit the following variable: EXO_DEBUG_PORT="8000".

Dev mode

The Dev mode is useful for debugging container configuration, CSS and JavaScript.

In eXo Platform, the Dev mode is turned on by appending --dev to the startup command:

./ --dev

This parameter will add the following system properties:

  • -Dorg.exoplatform.container.configuration.debug

  • -Dexo.product.developing=true

Effects of Dev mode

Hereafter are effects of the Dev mode:

  • Magic locale - A language option called magic locale - with the code ma - is added. It is useful for debugging localization resource. In this language, all labels are displayed as the resource name instead of the translated values:


  • JavaScript and CSS debug - For optimizing performance, eXo Platform merges, minifies and compresses all CSS/Stylesheet resources into one at the startup. This reduces requests to the server, so performance will be improved, but this causes developers to restart the server for any CSS resource modification to take effect (similar to JavaScript). So in the Dev mode, the feature (JavaScript/CSS compressor) will be disabled for easy debugging.

  • Container configuration debug - The Dev mode turns on logging information of the configuration retrieval process. At the startup, you will see logs as below:

    INFO  | Add configuration jar:file:/D/platform-4.2/lib/exo.kernel.component.common-2.4.8-GA.jar!/conf/portal/generic-configuration.xml [e.k.container.ConfigurationManagerImpl<Catalina-startStop-1>]
    INFO  | Add configuration jndi:/localhost/portal/WEB-INF/conf/configuration.xml [e.k.container.ConfigurationManagerImpl<Catalina-startStop-1>]
    INFO  |     import jndi:/localhost/portal/WEB-INF/conf/common/common-configuration.xml [e.k.container.ConfigurationManagerImpl<Catalina-startStop-1>]
    INFO  |     import jndi:/localhost/portal/WEB-INF/conf/common/resource-compressor-configuration.xml [e.k.container.ConfigurationManagerImpl<Catalina-startStop-1>]

    Moreover, the Dev mode allows the hot re-loading of configuration. You can modify container configuration without restarting the server. The hot re-loading can be done via JMX clients, such as JConsole, as follows:

    1. Connect JConsole to the eXo Platform process.

    2. Find an MBean with object name: exo:container=root.

    3. Run the reload() operation.



See more details in eXo Kernel reference.

  • Unpacking .war files (Tomcat) - Particularly to eXo Platform Tomcat in the Dev mode, the startup scripts also set EXO_TOMCAT_UNPACK_WARS=true that results in decompressing .war archives in webapps folder.