Monday, February 1, 2016

Quick overview of Maven plugin configuration

This article tries to give a quick generic overview of Maven plugins. In the end a pluginin usage is given and explained, so you can get a feeling of how maven plugins look like as a whole.  plugins refer to maven plugins in the following context.

1. Plugin naming rules

The naming convention for official plugins is maven-<plugin name>-plugin. For example, maven-surefire-plugin

The recommand third-party and user-defined plugin should be named <plugin name>-maven-plugin.  For example the plugin for spring boot is named spring-boot-maven-plugin

2. Plugins type

Build plugins will be executed during the build and they should be configured in the <build/> element from the POM. 
Reporting plugins will be executed during the site generation and they should be configured in the <reporting/> element from the POM.

Build plugins  ( <build/>) are more common to see.

3. Available plugins list

Here is the complete availble plugins from official, you can also find a plugin is a build plugin or a report plugin or both on that page.

4. Plugin goal

A plugin goal represents a specific task (finer than a build phase) which contributes to the building and managing of a project. It may be bound to zero or more build phases.

If a goal is bound to one or more build phases, that goal will be called in all those phases automatically.  For example if a plugin has goal bound to phase 'package', then when run 'mvn package' that plugin's goal will be executed.

A goal not bound to any build phase could be executed outside of the build lifecycle by direct invocation.

# Syntax for invoke a plugin's goal from command line:
# mvn <plugin name>:<goal> [-D<plugin name>.<property name>=<property value>]
#For example, use 'exec' plugin, goal is 'java', set the plugin property of 'mainClass'
mvn exec:java -Dexec.mainClass="com.shengwang.demo.DemoMain"

All official plugins support a goal called 'help'. It has 2 properties 'detail' and 'goal'. See example below.

5. How to get available goals of a certain plugin.

  • Search keyword "maven <plugin name>  plugin" on google, jump to plugin's official web to learn how to use it. It's suitable for first time using a plugin.
  • In command line, run 'mvn <plugin name>:help', get all available goals. It's more convinient for experienced users for just missing some details.

For example here is the output of the 'mvn exec:help'


6. How to get more usage help from command line.

First run 'mvn <plugin name>:help' for all goals, then run 'mvn <plugin name>:help  -Ddetail=true -Dgoal=<goal>' for more usage details of a certain goal. You can try to run 'mvn exec:help -Dgoal=java -Ddetail=true' to see the output. (Don't forget the -D)

7. Basic configuration structure of plugins

For Build plugins, it's included in <build/>.  it has <executions/>, which is the real actiion that are intened to do during bounded build lifecycle.  Let's examine an example:

    <!-- .... other plugins ...-->
    <!-- =========================================== -->
    <!-- make sure antrun is after packaging plugins -->
    <!-- =========================================== -->
              <!-- keyfile+passphrase or  password, choose one -->
              <scp localFile="${project.basedir}/target/qos-spark-1.0.jar"
                remoteToFile="root@" verbose="true"
              <scp localFile="${project.basedir}/target/qos-spark-1.0.jar"
                remoteToFile="root@" verbose="true"
                password="passwordForSSH" trust="true">
      <!-- libraries for scp impl      -->
      <!-- antrun doesn't use os's scp -->
    <!-- =========================================== -->
    <!--   antrun plugin end                         -->
    <!-- =========================================== -->

It's a long one, but no need to be panic. This example has the common configuration structure for maven plugins.  Most of the plugins' configuration are shorter.

It's included in <build/> because its a build plugin.

The first part of plugin configuration is trival:  <groupId>, <artifactId> and <version>.

Then there's one <execution> defined in above example. There are <id>, <phase>, <goal> and <configuration> in this <execution>. 

  • <id> - identify this execution. If more pom.xml  has the same plugin bound to same phase and has the same id, these <execution>  will be merged when building. Normally just give a meanful string for this execution.
  • <phase> - bind the execution to a build lifecycle. So it can get executed automatically at that build lifecycle. The above demo, executing antrun plugin when use 'mvn package'
  • <goal> - which behavior of this plugin to be used. In the example, the goal "run" will run some ant tasks. The tasks are defined in <configuration>.
  • <configuration> - Set property for the plugin. Normally any parameter in <configuration> has a corresponding field variable in the plugin class definition, just like a jave bean. For the <target> property, from antrun plugin's source has the variable. Just treat the properties in <configuration> as setting values for these field variables.


If there are more <execution>, every one can has its own <configuration>. If <configuration> is out of <executions>, it's  for all <execution>.

Finally, <dependencies> in the <plugin>, to set external libraries only used for this plugin. Most plugins don't need to specify <dependencies> for plugin itself.


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Has been a senior software developer, project manager for 10+ years. Dedicate himself to Alcatel-Lucent and China Telecom for delivering software solutions.


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