Leveraging Dependencies

Using an OSGi manifest, a module declares the Java packages it consumes and shares. The manifest’s Import-Package and Export-Package settings expose this information. As you determine whether to use a particular module, you know up-front what it offers and what it depends on. As an improvement over Java EE, OSGi takes away dependency guesswork.

This part of the tutorial explains:

Let’s start by learning how dependencies operate in Liferay DXP 7.1.

How Dependencies Work

Each module’s manifest lists the packages the module depends on. Using a build environment such as Gradle, Maven, or Ant/Ivy, you can set dependencies on each package’s module. At build time, the dependency framework verifies the entire dependency chain, downloading all newly specified modules. The same thing happens at runtime: the OSGi runtime knows exactly which modules depend on which other modules (failing fast if any dependency is unmet). Dependency management is explicit and enforced automatically upfront.

Versioning is independent for each module and its exported packages. You can use a specific package version by depending on the version of the module that exports it. And you’re free to use a mix of modules in the versions you want (but remember, “With great power comes great responsibility,” so unless you really know what you’re doing, use the same version of each module you depend on).

For all its modules, Liferay DXP uses Semantic Versioning. It’s a standard that enables API authors to communicate programmatic compatibility of a package or module automatically as it relates to dependent consumers and API implementations. If a package is programmatically (i.e., semantically) incompatible with a project, bnd (used in Liferay Workspace and projects created from Liferay project templates) fails that project’s build immediately. Developers not using bnd can check package versions manually in each dependency module’s manifest.

Semantic Versioning also gives you flexibility to specify a version range of packages and modules to depend on. In other words, if several versions of a package work for an app, you can configure the app to use any of them. What’s more, bnd automatically determines the semantically compatible range of each package a module depends on and records the range to the module’s manifest.

On testing your project, you might find a new version of a dependency package has bugs or behaves differently than you’d like. No problem. You can adjust the package version range to include versions up to, but not including, the one you don’t want.

Next you want to consider when to modularize existing apps and when to combine modules to create apps.

Dependencies Facilitate Modular Development

Liferay DXP’s support of dependencies and semantic versioning facilitates modular development. The dependency frameworks enable you to use modules and link them together. You can use these modules throughout your organization and distribute them to others. Liferay’s integration with dependency management frees you to modularize existing apps and develop apps that combine modules. It’s a powerful and fun way to develop apps on Liferay.

Here are some general steps to consider when modularizing an existing app:

  1. Start by putting the entire app in a single module: This is a minimal first step that acquaints you with Liferay’s module framework. You’ll gain confidence as you build, deploy, and test your app in an environment of your choice, such as a Liferay Workspace, Gradle, or Maven project.

  2. Split the front-end from the back-end: Modularizing front-end portlets and servlets and back-end implementations (e.g., Service Builder or OSGi component) is a logical next step. This enables each code area to evolve separately and allows for varying implementations.

  3. Extract non-essential features to modules: You may have functionality or API extensions that need not be tied to an app’s core codebase. They can be refactored as independent modules that implement APIs you provide. Examples might be connectors to third-party systems or support for various data export/import formats.

The principles listed above also apply to developing new modular-based apps. As you design an app, consider possible implementation variations with respect to its features, front-end, and back-end. Encapsulate the variations using APIs. Then develop the APIs and implementations as separate modules. You can wire them together using dependencies.

Liferay’s Blogs application exemplifies modularization in the manner we’ve described:


  • blogs-api - Encapsulates the core implementation


  • blogs-service - Implements blogs-api


  • blogs-web - Provides the app’s UI

Non-essential features and extensions:

  • blogs-editor-configuration - Extends the portal-kernel module for extending editors

  • blogs-recent-bloggers-web - Provides the Recent Bloggers app

  • blogs-item-selector-api - Encapsulates the item-selector implementation

  • blogs-item-selector-web - Renders the Blogs app’s item-selector

  • blogs-layout-prototype - Creates a Page Template showcasing blog entries

The Blogs app, like many modular apps, separates concerns into modules. In this way, front-end developers concentrate on front-end code, back-end developers concentrate on that code, and so on. These logical boundaries free developers to design, implement, and test the modules independently.

As you develop app-centered modules, you can consider bundling them with your app (e.g., as part of a Liferay Marketplace app). Including them as part of the app is convenient for the consumer. By bundling a module with an app, however, you’re committing to the app’s release schedule. In other words, you can’t directly deploy a new version of a module for the app–you must release it as part of the app’s next release.

So far, you’ve learned how dependencies and Semantic Versioning work. You’ve considered guidelines for modularizing existing apps and creating new modular apps. Now, to add to the momentum around OSGi and modularity, explore OSGi Services and dependency injection using OSGi Declarative Services.

Configuring Dependencies

Importing Packages

Exporting Packages

« OSGi and ModularityOSGi Services and Dependency Injection with Declarative Services »
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