Building Plugins

Building Plugins

By building plugins, you can add new features to the application. This includes new widgets and other UI features, as well as back-end components such as web services or custom authentication providers.

What You Can Do With Plugins

With a plugin, you can add new features. The plugin framework supports several kinds of components.


To write plugins you'll need the following:

Packaging and Deploying a Plugin

However you get your plugin to its finished state, you'll deploy it as a JAR file. When you deploy, the application expects the contents of your JAR file to be in a particular hierarchy. Here's a snapshot of how the contents might look:


Artifact Description
classes directory Required. Java classes for your plugin.
META-INF directory Directory for standard JAR descriptor file.
resources directory Plugin user interface files, including FTL files, CSS files, and so on go here.
scripts directory If you've got Javascript or Perl or some such, put it here.
README.html, changelog.html, and license.html Your plugin's users (including system administrators) will appreciate having information about how the plugin should be deployed, configured and used. As you upgrade the plugin, you can also include information about changes you make from version to version.
logo_small.png, logo_large.png Images to represent the plugin (logo_small must be 16x16 pixels).
plugin.xml Required. Configuration for the plugin. Lists components included in the plugin, along with components added to the UI. See Plugin XML Reference and UI Components XML Reference for more information.
schema.xml If your plugin creates tables in the database, define them here as SQLGen XML. Tables you define in this file will be automatically created when the plugin is deployed.
spring.xml If the plugin creates or overrides Spring beans, configure them here. This element is required as of version 5.0.1. For an example in the context of security, see Authentication and Authorization.
struts.xml If the plugin includes any Struts actions, use this standard struts configuration file to map actions to action classes and results to FTL files.

Configuring a Plugin

Your plugin.xml file contains nearly all of the high-level information about what's included in your plugin. What's not described here could include any Spring beans you're overriding or database tables you're adding.

You'll find references for plugin.xml file elements in Plugin XML Reference and UI Components XML Reference.

    Top-level information: overall plugin name and description,
        its version, and the earliest application version on which
        it's supported.
    <description>Hello World</description>
    <author>ACME Plugins</author>

        Widgets are user interface components that people can
        use to customize parts of the UI. The class attribute
        points to the Java class that provides the widget's logic.
    <widget class=""/>

        You can write web services that expose parts of the application
        not available as web services by default.
    <webservice class=""/>

        Specifies that this plugin includes a CSS stylesheet that
        should be used throughout the application. This is good
        way to add a global CSS class or override one already
        included with the application.
    <css src="/acme_styles.css"/>

         Key and value for indicating whether database changes are
         needed on upgrade.
        Aside from widgets, you can add elements to the user interface
        with Struts actions. You integrate into the UI here, then define
        the action itself
            <component> elements define user interface elements
            to be integrated. For a description of these, see
            Integrating Plugin UI. This one adds
            an Action box link to a user profile; this will be
            seen by visiting users, rather than the profile's owner.
        <component id="profile-actions">
            <tab id="profile-actions-tab">
                <item id="profile-actions-link" name="Example profile action">
                        <![CDATA[<@s.url value="/example-profile.jspa?userID=${targetUser.ID}"/>]]></url>

    <!-- A class that handles lifecycle events. -->


Handling Lifecycle Events

You can write a class that handles events from the application lifecycle. Your lifecycle class implements the interface com.jivesoftware.base.plugin.Plugin, which has two methods: init and destroy. Use the init method to perform actions (such as create connections to resources) that your plugin will likely need throughout its life. Use the destroy method to release resources and perform actions that are the last things your plugin should do.

You specify the presence of a lifecycle class with the plugin.xml class element:


Adding Database Access

You add database tables to support your plugin. When adding database support, you plug into the Spring context by creating data access object (DAO) Spring beans. You add your tables through a schema.xml file.

Deploying Plugins

The best way to deploy a plugin is by using the admin console. In the console, go to System > Plugins > Add Plugin.

Note that whenever you add or remove a plugin, you'll need to restart the application server.