Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simple client-side build system with wro4j command line tool

Intro

Wro4j is a free and Open Source Java project which will help you to improve your web application page loading time. It can help you to keep your static resources (js & css) well organized, merge & minify them at run-time (using a simple filter) or build-time (using maven plugin or a command line tool) and has a dozen of other features you may find useful when dealing with web resources.

The main target of wro4j framework is help to speed up web applications to be optimized by implementing a couple of recommended performance rules.

Starting with wro4j-1.3.4 release, it is not limited anymore to java development environment. If, for instance, you are developing a js framework with many small modules (ex: jquery, yui, mootools, etc) or if you are working on the client-side of a large web project, then wro4j can help you to easily organize all your static resources (css/js) and build them (merge and minimize) using a simple command line tool. The only prerequisite is to install jdk-1.6 on your machine.

This post will focus on description of the wro4j command line tool.

Target audience: this post may be interesting not only for java developers, but also for web developers (using any kind of technology) and css/javascript framework creators.

Getting Started

Let's make it practical. We'll show how wro4j can help building the jquery tools project.

Currently, it uses ant build script (build.xml) to describe how the js resources are merged and minimized. Also it supports google closure compiler only. Switching to another compressor is not supported. Using an ant script can be a good solution for many similar projects, but it also can be quite complex. Having a verbose and complex script is very hard to understand and maintain. Isn't there a simpler solution?

Installation Steps

With new wro4j command line tool, you can achieve the same results with minimum effort. All you have to do, is to follow the following steps:

  1. Add wro4j-runner-1.3.4-jar-with-dependencies.jar. In our case, we add it to the lib folder (just where other jar files resides). The default relative context path depends on the location of the jar (this can be changed with an argument we'll get back to this later).
  2. Create wro.xml file and add it in the same folder where the jar is located. . This file describes how you want your resources to be merged and the resources location. For more details about wro.xml, visit this page. Here is an example:
    
      
        /jquery-1.4.2.js
        /../src/**.js 
      
    
    
  3. Run the following in your console:
    java -jar wro4j-runner-1.3.4-jar-with-dependencies.jar
    
    As a result, a new folder (called 'wro') will be created. It will have one file: all.js containing a merged content of all js files from ui folder (as described in wro.xml).

Minimization (compression) configuration

Of course, it would be nice to have the all.js file compressed. In order to do that, make a small change to the console script:
java -jar wro4j-runner-1.3.4-jar-with-dependencies.jar -m
Adding -m attribute, inform the wro4j runner to minimize the scripts. By default, it uses JSMin processor for js compression. You can easily switch this compressor with other, here is an example:
java -jar wro4j-runner-1.3.4-jar-with-dependencies.jar -m -c uglifyJs
This will inform wro4j runner to use UglifyJs compressor instead. Similarly, you can use other compressor.

You don't have to worry when invoking the wro4j-runner with wrong arguments, it will inform you about the cause of the problem and in some cases can suggest possible solutions. Also, when everything is ok, you will see in command line the details about processing and total duration of the operation.

Supported Compressors

Currently wro4j-runner support the following js compressors:
  • jsMin - For JsMin compressor. This one is used by default if you don't specify any.
  • uglifyJs - For UglifyJs compressor
  • beautifyJs - Exactly the opposite of the uglifyJs, it does what it says - makes compressed code readable.
  • googleClosureSimple - For Google Closure Compiler with simple optimization
  • googleClosureAdvanced - For Google Closure Compiler with advanced optimization
  • yuiJsMin - For YUI compressor with no munge
  • yuiJsMinAdvanced - For YUI compressor with munge
  • packerJs - Uses Dean Edwards Packer compressor (version 3.1)
  • dojoShrinksafe - Uses Dojo Shrinksafe compressor.

You can easily switch between any of the preferred compressors, depending on your tastes or preferences. Maybe for some projects one compressor suites better than other. The nice part is that wro4j can support any possible existing javascript compressors. For more details visit wro4j project home page.

Wro4j runner arguments

Here you'll find all the arguments supported by wro4j runner tool.
  • -m or --minimize - Turns on the minimization by applying the default or specified compressor
  • -c or --compressor - Name of the compressor to use. The complete list of supported compressors was described earlier.
  • -i or --ignoreMissingResources - This is useful when you want the runner to do its job even when you specify an invalid resource in your wro.xml. By default missing resources are not ignored.
  • --targetGroups ${GROUPS} - Comma separated list of groups (defined in wro.xml) to process. If you don't specify this argument, all existing groups will be processed and for each of them will be created a file.
  • --destinationFolder ${PATH} - The folder where the target groups will be generated. By default it will create a folder called wro
  • --wroFile ${PATH} - location of the wro.xml file. By default runner will search it in the current folder.
  • --contextFolder ${PATH} - folder used as a root of the context relative resources (or where to search when you have a resource starting with / character). By default this is the current folder.

You can find the updated version of jquery tools project using the new wro4j runner for merging and compressing resources at the following location: https://github.com/alexo/jquerytools.

Summary

Starting with wro4j-1.3.4 release, you can easily maintain, merge and minimize client-side resources (css & js) with wro4j-runner command line tool. By following 3 simple steps, you can compress your static resources into a single compressed file, using one of 8 supported javascript compressor. This tool is easily customizable, flexible and can help you simplify the way you are building your client-side project.

Resources

  1. Wro4j project home
  2. Wro4j github homepage
  3. Jquery tools project page - used as an example for this post
  4. Jquery tools using wro4j runner example

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Thank you SOOOOO much!! you just saved me from having to reformat my entire hard disk :) System Optimization

    ReplyDelete