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Light development is a modern front-end development approach that simplifies and speeds up development in Magnolia. A key feature is that configuration of common definitions, like dialogs and templates, moves out of JCR and onto the file system as YAML text files. As a developer you have all your code and configuration in the same place in files. This makes templates easier to understand, share, merge and manage in source control. Template scripts and configuration now live side-by-side in the same place.

Thanks to the resource loading mechanism, Magnolia picks up any changes to the files right away without a restart, whether they reside on the Java classpath or file system. These simplifications accelerate project development in both Java Maven modules and the light modules.

An additional benefit of the file system approach is that project teams or third party developers can easily create tools to generate Magnolia configuration.

Light Modules

Magnolia introduced light modules as part of the light development approach. 

The Magnolia CLI speeds up creating and developing light modules. The tool includes commands to install and start Magnolia, and to create modules, pages and components.

Develop Magnolia projects without Java skills

Now front-end developers can create Magnolia projects with light modules without the need for Java development skills, or even an SDK or Java IDE. 

A light module is simply a directory on the file system that contains YAML definition files, FreeMarker template scripts, and other resource files of any type. The file system approach is more familiar to most front-end developers and this allows them to get up to speed fast in Magnolia. They can use all of their familiar tools, text editors, IDEs and build processes.

While light modules open Magnolia to front-end developers, Java is still the key to the deep integration and customization capabilities of Magnolia.  

Light modules and Maven modules

The light module approach aligns with traditional Java development: A project can be built with both Maven and light modules. Additionally, because the structure of light modules dovetails perfectly with Maven modules, a light module can easily be transformed into a Maven module by copying its contents into the Maven module. As a project architect, now you have the flexibility to build your project with the technologies that make the most sense for your project and team.

Light development capabilities

What can you do with light development now?

All of the following light development features are available in both Maven modules and light modules.

The following tasks are currently possible in light development:

Creating a website with Magnolia is a step-by-step guide in light development.

What is next for light development?

We are working on expanding light development functionality. 

Please view the green items on the Magnoila Roadmap


What is not supported in light modules?

Resource storage and loading in light development

Resources include static resources (CSS, JavaScript), definition files for apps, dialogs and templates (YAML), and template scripts (FreeMarker). Magnolia's resource loading cascade includes hot-reload from the file system. See Light modules and Resources for more.
The following example works equally well as a light module, or in the src/main/resources directory of a Maven module. 

Example: Light module structure.

<module-name>
├── apps
├── dialogs
│   └── myDialog.yaml
├── webresources
└── templates
    ├── components
    └── pages
        └── my-template
            ├── myTemplate.yaml
            └── myTemplate.ftl

Definitions in light development

Definitions in light development are coded via text files in YAML format. You can configure templates, dialogs, apps and themes in YAML. 

Example: Simple page template definition.

example/templates/pages/home.yaml
renderType: freemarker
templateScript: /my-module/templates/pages/home.ftl
dialog: my-module:pages/homePageProperties

Configuration of system parameters for light development

Set these properties in your magnolia.properties file when developing light modules:

  • magnolia.develop is a configuration property that can be set to true in the magnolia.properties file for development purposes, specifically to:

    • Enable ClasspathScanner, when developing via IDE and changing / deploying edited classpath based resources.
    • Disable the cache for resources.
  • magnolia.resources.dir is a property defining the directory from which resources are loaded in a Magnolia instance. This directory is used for file-based resources such as light modules and for overriding classpath resources. The property is configured in WEB-INF/config/default/magnolia.properties and has the default value $magnolia.home/modules. To see the current value of the property, go to the Config Info tab in the About Magnolia app.
    (info) You can use symbolic links (a.k.a symlinks or soft links) in the resources directory to include light modules located elsewhere on your system.
  • magnolia.content.bootstrap.dir is a property defining the directory from which bootstrap XML files are loaded in a Magnolia instance. This directory is only used for file-based bootstrap. The directory can reside anywhere on the file system. The property is configured in WEB-INF/config/default/magnolia.properties.To see the current value of the property, see the list of properties in the About Magnolia app Config Info tab.
  • magnolia.resources.watcher.sensitivity is a property that defines the sensitivity (speed) with which the changes of the resources in the magnolia.resources.dir are observed by the DirectoryWatcherService. The property can be set in the magnolia.properties configuration file to one of the following values: low, medium, high. If not set explicitly in the configuration file, the DirectoryWatcherService works by default under the high value. This is ideal for development purposes on OSX. It is recommended that you leave the property set to high.
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