Integrating A Maven-Backend- With A Nodjs/Grunt-Fronted-Project

Frontend-Development With Nodjs and Grunt

As I already wrote in a previous article, frontend-development is mostly done with Nodjs and Grunt nowadays. As I am planing to base the frontend of my next Spring-Application on Bootstrap, I was looking for a way to integrate my backend, which is build using Spring and Thymeleaf and managed with Maven, with a frontend, which is based on Bootstrap and, hence, build with Nodjs and Grunt.

Integrate The Frontend-Build Into The Maven-Build-Process

As I found out, one can integrate a npm-based build into a maven project with the help of the frontend-maven-plugin. This plugin automates the managment of Nodjs and its libraries and ensures that the version of Node and NPM being run is the same in every build environment. As a backend-developer, you do not have to install any of the frontend-tools manualy. Because of that, this plugin is ideal to integrate a separately developed frontend into a maven-build, without bothering the backend-developers with details of the frontend-build-process.

Seperate The Frontend-Project From The Maven-Based Backend-Project

The drawback with this approach is, that the backend- and the frontend-project are tightly coupled. You can configure the frontend-maven-plugin to use a separate subdirectory as working-directory (for example src/main/frontend) and utilize this to separate the frontend-project in its own repository (for example by using the submodule-functions of git). But the grunt-tasks, that you call in the frontend-project through the frontend-maven-plugin, must be defined in that project.

Since I am planing to integrate a ‐ slightly modified ‐ version of Bootstrap as frontend into my project, that would mean that I have to mess around with the configuration of the Bootstrap-project a lot. But that is not a very good idea, because it hinders upgrades of the Bootstrap-base, because merge-conflicts became more and more likely.

So, I decided to program a special Gruntfile.js, that resides in the base-folder of my Maven-project and lets me redefine and call tasks of a separated frontend-project in a subdirectory.

Redefine And Call Tasks Of An Included Gruntfile From A Sub-Project

As it turned out, there are several npm-plugins for managing and building sub-projects (like grunt-subgrunt or grunt-recurse) or including existing Gruntfiles from sub-projects (like grunt-load-gruntfile), but none of them lets you redefine tasks of the subproject before calling them.

I programmed a simple Gruntfile, that lets you do exactly this:

module.exports = function(grunt) {


  grunt.registerTask('frontend','Build HTML & CSS for Frontend', function() {
    done = this.async(),
    path = './src/main/frontend';

      cmd: 'npm',
      args: ['install'],
      opts: { cwd: path, stdio: 'inherit' }
    }, function (err, result, code) {
      if (err || code > 0) {'Failed installing node modules in "' + path + '".');
      else {
        grunt.log.ok('Installed node modules in "' + path + '".');

      require(path + '/Gruntfile.js')(grunt);'newer:copy');'newer:less');'newer:svgstore');


  grunt.registerTask('default', [ 'frontend' ]);


This Gruntfile loads the npm-taks grunt-newer. Then, it registers a grunt-task called frontend, that loads the dependencies of the specified sub-project, read in its Gruntfile and runs redefined versions of the tasks copy, less and svgstore, which are defined in the sub-project. The sub-project itself does not register grunt-newer itself. This is done in this parent-project, to demonstrate how to register additional grunt-plugins and redefine tasks of the sub-project without touching it at all.

The separated frontend-project can be used by the frontend-team to develop the temlates, needed by the backend-developers, without any knowledge of the maven-project. The frontend-project is then included into the backend, which is managed by maven, and can be used by the backend-developers without the need to know anything about the techniques that were used to develop the templates.

The whole example can be browsed at or cloned with:

git clone

Be sure to checkout the tag 2.0.0 for the corresponding version after the cloning, in case i add more commits to demonstrate other stuff. Also, you have to init and clone the submodule after checkout:

git submodule init
git submodule update

If you run mvn jetty:run, you will notice, that the frontend-maven-plugin will automatically download Nodejs into a the folder node of the parent-project. Afterwards, the dependencies of the parent-project are downloaded in the folder node_modules of the parent-project and the dpendencies of the sub-project are downloaded in the folder src/main/frontend/node_modules and the sub-project is build automatically in the folder src/main/frontend/dist, which is included into the directory-tree that is served by the jetty-maven-plugin.

The sub-project is fully usable standalone to drive the development of the frontend separately. You can read more about it in this previous article.


In this article, I showed how to integrate a separately developed frontend-project into a backend-project managed by Maven. This enables you to separate the development of the layout and the logic of a classic ROCA-project nearly totally.

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