Created: 2011-07-17 15:01
Updated: 2015-02-16 12:46
License: apache-2.0





This plugin (Maven 2 or 3) provides support to work with JavaScript projects. It compiles scripts with Google's Closure Compiler, packages them into a JAR file and also has dependency support so a JavaScript project can depend on other JavaScript projects.

But be warned: If you are searching for a Maven plugin to simply compress some JavaScript files with Google's Closure Compiler then you are wrong here. This plugin enforces a specific usage which is not configurable to ensure that all JavaScript projects managed by this plugin are compatible to each other.


This plugin is regularly deployed into my personal Maven repository. Add this configuration to your POM to automatically use this repo:

    <name>Ailis Maven Releases</name> 


To use this plugin simply create a pom.xml which contains at least this information:

<project xmlns=""



As you can see you have to include the plugin with the extensions setting set to true. Then you can put your JavaScript sources into the /src/main/javascript folder and your JavaScript resources into the src/main/script-resources folder.

How it works

Let's assume you have the following source files:


When you use the POM from above and compile this project then you end up with a target directory content like this:


So what exactly happens here?

  1. All script resources are copied to the script-resources directory.
  2. All script sources are copied to the script-sources directory.
  3. The copied script sources are parsed by the dependency manager to bring them into a working order (How the order is calculated is explained later).
  4. The ordered script sources are written into the script-source-bundles directory. The bundle filename is the artifact id.
  5. The script sources are compiled with Google's closure compiler. The source bundles of external dependencies are used as externs so the Closure Compiler can validate the correct usage of external dependencies. When compilation succeeds then the compiled scripts are written to the scripts directory.
  6. All compiled scripts are written (in the correct order) into a single file in the script-bundles directory. The filename is the same as the script source bundle.

When packaging the project all these folders are put into a JAR which then can be deployed into some Maven repository so other projects can depend on it.

Dependency management

The plugin needs to know which JavaScript file depends on which other JavaScript files so the files are bundled in the correct order. To achieve this the files must use special annotations to describe this dependency tree. Let's say the file foobar/foo.js defines a function in the foobar namespace. This namespace is defined by the foobar.js file. So the plugin must place the content of the foobar.js file at the top of the created bundle. So the foobar/foo.js file must tell the dependency manager that it requires the file foobar.js before it can work. Here is the content of this file:

 * @require foobar.js
foobar.doSomething = function() {};

If a file just uses another file but does not require it to be loaded first you can use the @use annotation. Example:

 * @require foobar.js
 * @use foobar/foo.js
foobar.doSomethingElse = function()

This dependency type is not really needed at compile time but it is retained so it can be used at runtime.

The plugin supports another annotation but this one is normally not used manually but instead it is automatically added to script bundles: The @provide annotation. For each file which is included in the bundle one annotation is added. This can be used at runtime to check which bundle must be loaded to fulfill a requirement of an other script. The compiled bundle could look like this for example:

 * @provide foobar.js
 * @provide foobar/foo.js
 * @provide foobar/bar.js
 * @require jquery.js
 * @use prototype.js
(All scripts in compiled form here)

As you can see the bundle still contains @require and @use annotations which were not resolved to local scripts. So if the file foobar/bar.js requires jquery and uses prototype then these dependencies are written to the bundle file so they can be read at runtime.

Runtime dependency management

The section above mentioned runtime dependency management here and there and you may wonder what this is. The Maven plugin has no support for this because this is not the job of the plugin. Instead you could write a dependency manager in PHP or Java or whatever which implements a system which can work with the annotations in the javascript files and also can control what type of file (single files, bundles, compiled form, source form) is used. Up to now no such software exists.

Some words about the Closure Compiler

This plugin uses Google's Closure Compiler to compile the projects. The Closure Compiler supports dozens of configuration settings but up to now the JavaScript Maven plugin uses a fixed configuration which can't be changed. This may change in the future but there are some settings which will never be configurable:

  • Renaming is only done for function parameters and variables. All global stuff (Even when annotated as private) is never renamed. JavaScript has no concept for private symbols so renaming them can trigger strange problems when switching from uncompiled scripts to compiled scripts. So the base rule of the plugin is: The real API signature of all files must be retained.
  • Only optimizations which doesn't affect the API signature are performed.
  • All checks are enabled and set to ERROR level. In the future I might add some plugin configuration settings to lower the level of some checks to WARNING but up to now the plugin expects code which is 100% type-safe and error free.

Eclipse and m2e

This plugin works well in Eclipse with m2e as long as you add these lines to your pom.xml:


These lines tells Eclipse that it should simply execute the resources, compile and demo rules without looking for some specialized eclipse plugin.

If done correctly your JavaScript Maven project is compiled by Eclipse (which simply executes Maven) and you even get error and warning markers and workspace dependency resolution.

JavaScript files are compiled on-save. But the build is not incremental so every time you save a JavaScript file the whole project is compiled. If you have a large project this might get pretty slow. When you can't bear it any longer you can disable compile-on-save by configuring the plugin like this:


By setting incremental to false you tell the plugin to do nothing when Eclipse requests an incremental build. You have to do a full build (By cleaning the project) to compile the project then.

Demo support

It is often useful to have some demo files in the project which are used during development to test the JavaScript application or demonstrate some features. There is some basic support for this in the plugin but it requires a locally installed Apache web server with enabled PHP because resolving the Maven dependencies needs some dynamic processing.

Let's simply start right away and create a file named /src/demo/index.php with the following content:

<?php require("../../target/demo/resolver.php"); ?>
<!DOCTYPE html>
    <?php $resolver->includeScript("foobar/bar.js"); ?>
    <script type="text/javascript">
    var bar = foobar.Bar();

This script contains two magic things:

The first line includes the dependency resolver. This script is automatically written to the /target/demo directory by the plugin. By simply including this file your demo PHP script automatically becomes a proxy script to access all the files in the Maven dependencies. So when you have packaged jQuery in a compatible format and your project depends on it then your browser can automatically access jquery by calling index.php/scripts/jquery.js. The dependency resolver automatically fetches the script from the JAR file which is located somewhere in your local maven repository. If you are using Eclipse with the m2e plugin then the dependency resolver can also access the files from other m2e projects as long as you haven't disabled workspace resolution.

The second magic in the above PHP script is the inclusion of the foobar/bar.js. THis is done by using the includeScript method of the dependency resolver. The resolver checks the @require and @use annotations of the included script and automatically (and recursively) includes all the other needed files. So you don't have to change your demo script when you add some dependency in a used file.

To be able to call the demo script you have to setup an Apache webserver with PHP support on your local machine. On Linux you can simply link your project directory to the /var/www directory and then open http://localhost/myproject/src/demo/ in your browser. If your projects are private you might consider configuring Apache to only listen on localhost or setup some firewall rules.


  • Add junit support. Idea: Plugin provides a JavaScript wrapper for JUnit (Using rhino) so Unit-Tests in /src/test/javascript can be executed.
  • Add jsdoc support. Idea: Use the new rhino-based JSDoc implementation to create API documentation.
  • Implement runtime dependency manager for PHP and Java.
  • Ignore warnings/errors in dependencies.
  • Place require/use/provide annotations below the first comment of the output file so license information is always on top.
  • Use real dependencies instead of hardcoded externs.
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