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Item providers are a means for accessing items from data sources. On this page, we provide more details about their characteristics and main advantages, and we show a few examples of using them.


The concept of Item providers is an abstraction aiming to give developers a flexible way to specify which item a form field (simple or complex) should bind to and how an item should be accessed. 

Item providers allow you to bind form views to complex nested data structures and to fine tune such bindings. For example, if a form binds a contact address as a separate sub-form (a composite field in the Magnolia 5 UI context), a Magnolia user might want to:

  • Use a contact's child node to store the data, in which case an item provider that resolves a sub-node can be used.
  • Store the properties directly on the contact node and keep it flat. This would represent a self-reference item provider use case.

Item providers get reference items as context. Applied to the contact address example, an address editor will get the root contact node so that it would be trivial to resolve the corresponding sub-node, if needed.

Typically, item providers are executed only:

  • When fetching data from the back-end (to populate a form).
  • When some updated data needs to be flushed from the Vaadin components back to the back-end (on a form commit).

Last but not least, item providers yield items wrapped into the Optional container, so it is fine not to return anything from the item provider implementation. In this case, however, the form data may not be populated or saved back to the back-end.

Main advantages

Item providers represent a much simpler solution than the field transformers in Magnolia 5 UI.

  • An item provider only needs to know how to access the data. In contrast, the transformers in the 5 UI framework were responsible for both types of data operations – reading and writing. In Magnolia 6 UI, data updates should be piped into back-end items via simple fields by means of Vaadin 8 data binding (Binder objects).
  • Unlike transformers, item providers do not have to deal with the deprecated Vaadin 7 Item API and do not require manual verifications that child properties are populated within an item.
  • Item providers have a clearer concept of chaining. They get a reference of an item from a previous level in the hierarchy, making the whole complex data binding process recursive.
  • The number of provider types is much lower in Magnolia 6 UI, compared to a relatively high number of field transformers in the 5 UI.
  • There's also provider implementations that can handle JSON structures, task and notifications items, assets or specific product content items.

Where are they used

Item providers can be used in:

  • Item provider definition in a detail subapp
  • Item provider definition In a form containing composite and complex fields. In this use, the provider replaces the former field transformer functionality that is part of the UI framework 5, but no longer part of the Magnolia 6 UI.

Provider types

For any data source

$typeclass and description


Returns the parent node. Suitable for sub-forms only since it relies on a parent.

Do not use currentItemProvider with multi fields. The same nodes could be resolved by multiple fields that use currentItemProvider, which means their content would be overwritten. Additionally, if a multi field is not configured to resolve nodes strictly (the strict property is set to false by default), it will resolve irrelevant nodes from the parent and likely result in errors.

For JCR data source

$typeclass and description


Resolves a JCR child node from the parent. Suitable for sub-forms only since it relies on a parent.

From Magnolia 6.2.4, jcrChildNodeProvider is used by default in JcrMultiFieldDefinition.



Resolves an indexed JCR child node from the parent. Suitable for sub-forms only since it relies on a parent.



Proposes a JCR node property as an item datasource. Typically used in complex fields with sub-editors where a single field entry needs to be exposed as an editor.



Resolves JCR node content from the current location.

For JSON data source

$typeclass and description

Proposes a JSON node property as an item data source. Typically used in complex fields with sub-editors where a single field entry needs to be exposed as an editor.


Proposes a JSON node property as an item data source in a multi field context. Typically used in complex fields with sub-editors where a single field entry needs to be exposed as an editor.


Resolves a JSON child node from the parent in a multi field context. Suitable for sub-forms only since it relies on a parent.


Replaces the {id} path parameter with the one passed in the location and then fetches the result using a configured REST call.

In subapp definition

The jcrNodeFromLocationProvider is used for example in the Pages app (see line 7 below). This provider resolves a JCR node from its location context:

      $type: jcrDatasource
      workspace: website
      $type: jcrNodeFromLocationProvider

(A snippet of an existing full definition, see

Using item providers is not limited only to operations related to JCR content. See the following definition, where content items are provided from a JSON structure through the jsonProvider (line 16):

    label: View Commit
    class: info.magnolia.ui.contentapp.detail.DetailDescriptor
      $type: jsonDatasource
      restClient: bitbucket
      restCall: commit
          author: '$.author.raw'
        label: Cancel
        $type: closeAction
      $type: jsonProvider

In form definition

A provider strategy can be applied to handle data-read operations in forms with complex field. For example, see the jcrChildNodeProvider in the following definition of a complex field called address , composed of two simple fields, city and country .

          label: address
          i18n: true
          $type: compositeField
            $type: jcrChildNodeProvider
              label: city
              $type: textField
              label: country
              i18n: true
              $type: textField

(A snippet of an existing full definition, see

Using the jcrChildNodeProvider resolves the content of the child items city and country from the parent address:

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