Theme Components and Workflow

If you want to develop a website, you must have three key components: CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. Liferay DXP supports SASS as well as multiple JavaScript frameworks. The HTML, however, is rendered via FreeMarker theme templates. This reference guide provides an overview of Liferay DXP’s theme development components and workflow, covering the following topics:

  • Theme templates
  • Theme customizations and extensions
  • Portlet customizations and extensions
  • Theme workflow
  • CSS Frameworks and extensions

Theme Templates

Liferay DXP provides several default FreeMarker templates that each handle a key piece of functionality for the page:

  • portal_normal.ftl: Similar to a static site’s index.html, this file acts as a hub for all theme templates and provides the overall markup for the page.

  • init.ftl: Contains common FreeMarker variables that can be used in your theme templates. Useful for reference if you need access to theme objects. We recommended that you DO NOT override this file.

  • init_custom.ftl: Used to override FreeMarker variables in init.ftl and to define new variables, such as theme settings.

  • portlet.ftl: This template controls the theme’s portlets. If your theme uses Portlet Decorators, you can modify this file to create application decorator-specific theme settings. See the Portlet Decorators tutorial for more info.

  • navigation.ftl: Contains the navigation markup. To customize pages in the navigation, you must use the liferay.navigation_menu macro. Then you can leverage ADTs for the navigation menu. Note that navigation.ftl also defines the hamburger icon and navbar-collapse class that provides the simplified navigation toggle for mobile viewports, as shown in the snippet below for the Classic theme:

    <#if has_navigation && is_setup_complete>
      <button aria-controls="navigationCollapse" aria-expanded="false" 
      aria-label="Toggle navigation" class="navbar-toggler navbar-toggler-right" 
      data-target="#navigationCollapse" data-toggle="collapse" type="button">
        <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
      <div aria-expanded="false" class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navigationCollapse">
        <@liferay.navigation_menu default_preferences="${preferences}" />

Figure 1: The collapsed navbar provides simplified user-friendly navigation for mobile devices.

Figure 1: The collapsed navbar provides simplified user-friendly navigation for mobile devices.

  • portal_pop_up.ftl: The theme template controlling pop up dialogs for the theme’s portlets. Similar to portal_normal.ftl, portal_pop_up.ftl provides the markup template for all pop-up dialogs, such as a portlet’s Configuration menu. It also has access to the FreeMarker variables defined in init.ftl and init_custom.ftl.

Figure 2: Each theme template provides a portion of the pages markup and functionality.

Figure 2: Each theme template provides a portion of the page's markup and functionality.

Theme Template Utilities

Liferay DXP provides several FreeMarker variables and macros that you can use in your theme templates to include portlets, use taglibs, access theme objects, and more. You can see examples of these in portal_normal.ftl. These utilities are included in the files listed below:

  • Init.ftl: Provides access to common theme variables
  • FTL_Liferay.ftl: Provides macros for commonly used portlets and theme resources. See the Macros tutorial for more information.
  • Maps the portal taglibs to FreeMarker macros. Taglibs let you quickly create common UI components. This properties file is also provided separately for each app taglib. For convenience, these FreeMarker macros appear in the FreeMarker Taglib Mappings reference guide. See the Taglib tutorials for more information on using each taglib in your theme templates.

CSS Frameworks and Extensions

As noted above, Liferay DXP supports the Sass CSS extension, so you can take full advantage of Sass mixins, nesting, partials, and variables in your CSS.

Also important to note is Clay CSS, the web implementation of Liferay’s Lexicon design language. An extension of Bootstrap, Clay CSS fills the gaps between Bootstrap and the needs of Liferay DXP, providing additional components and CSS patterns that you can use in your themes. Clay base, Liferay’s Bootstrap API extension, along with Atlas, a custom Bootstrap theme, creates Liferay DXP’s Classic theme. See the importing Clay CSS tutorial for more information.

Theme Customizations and Extensions

The theme templates, along with the CSS, provide much of the overall look and feel for the page, but additional extension points/customizations are available. The following extensions and mechanisms are available for themes:

  • Color Schemes: specifies configurable color scheme settings for Administrator’s to configure via the Look and Feel menu. See the color scheme tutorial for more information.
  • Configurable Theme Settings: settings that let Administrators configure aspects of a theme that may need changed frequently, such as controlling the visibility of certain elements, changing a daily quote, etc. See the Configurable Theme Settings tutorial for more information.
  • Context Contributor: Exposes Java variables and functionality for you to use in your FreeMarker templates. This lets you use non-JSP templating languages for themes, ADTs, and any other templates used in Liferay DXP. See the Context Contributors tutorial or more information.
  • Theme Contributor: a package containing UI resources, not attached to a theme, that you want to include on every page. See the Theme Contributors tutorial for more information.
  • Themelet: small, extendable, and reusable pieces of code that contain CSS and JavaScript. It can be shared with other developers to provide common components for themes, and it only requires the files you want to extend. See the Themelets tutorial for more information.

Portlet Customizations and Extensions

You can customize portlets with these mechanisms and extensions:

Figure 3: There are several extension points for customizing portlets

Figure 3: There are several extension points for customizing portlets

Theme Workflow

Themes are built on top of one of the following base themes:

  • Unstyled: provides basic markup, functions, and images for Portal
  • Styled: inherits from the Unstyled base theme and adds some styling on top

You can use the development tools you’re most comfortable with so you can focus on creating a well designed theme. The following Liferay tools help you build themes:

Depending on the tool you choose ( Theme Generator, Gradle, Blade CLI, Maven, or Dev Studio ), the theme anatomy is a bit different. The overall development process is the same though:

  1. Mirror the structure of the files you want to modify. The main modifications are placed in the following files:

    • portal_normal.ftl: main theme markup
    • _custom.scss: custom CSS styling
    • main.js: the theme’s JavaScript
  2. Build and deploy the theme to your Liferay DXP server.

  3. Apply the theme through the Look and Feel menu by selecting your theme’s thumbnail.

The finished theme is bundled as a WAR (Web application ARchive) file.

During theme development, if you’ve built your theme with the Liferay Theme Generator, you can use some helpful Gulp tasks to make the process easier:

  • build: builds your theme’s files based on the specified base theme. See the gulp build tutorial for more information.
  • extend: sets the base theme or themelet to extend. See the gulp extend tutorial for more information.
  • init: specifies the app server to deploy your theme to (automatically run during the initial creation of the theme). See the gulp init tutorial for more information.
  • kickstart: copies files from an existing theme into your theme to help kickstart it. See the gulp kickstart tutorial for more information.
  • status: lists the base theme/themelets that your theme extends. See the gulp status tutorial for more information.
  • watch: watches for changes to your theme’s files and automatically deploys them to the server when a change is made. See the gulp watch tutorial for more information.
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