Monday, October 4, 2010

Custom Hudson Plugins

Where to Begin

So you want to write a Hudson plugin but don't know where to start. Luckily, it's fairly easy to get started by following the tutorial on the official Hudson wiki: If all you need is a simple Hudson builder, the Hudson tutorial should suffice. The purpose of this blog post is to supplement that tutorial with additional hints and explanations to make your journey a bit easier.

After following the Hudson plugin tutorial you should end up with a fully-functioning HelloWorld Hudson plugin that can be run from the command-line by running mvn clean hpi:run. Running clean is optional, but I highly recommend cleaning because I have had many moments where my plugin wasn't working as expected, only to discover after much troubleshooting that I didn't clean. If everything works, you should be able to connect to your custom Hudson instance via localhost:8080.

Testing the HelloWorld Builder plugin

Once you've got Hudson running, you're ready to configure the HelloWorld Builder plugin. Hudson provides 2-levels of configuration, global and job. To access, global configuration navigate to Hudson->Manage Hudson->Configure System. Here you will find a section labeled "Hello World Builder" with a configuration checkbox for French. This controls the default language of the plugin.

Now it's time to configure this plugin. Create a new Hudson job and on the project configuration screen under Build, notice that the Add Build Step menu has an option "Say hello". Adding this build step will invoke the custom HelloWorld Builder which prints a "Hello" message to the console output of a job build.

Under the Covers

Plugin Discovery

Hudson automagically discovered the HelloWorldBuilder class because it is annotated with @Extension and it extends Builder, which is a defined Hudson extenson point. Other defined extensions points can be found here:


After discovering the HelloWorldBuilder, Hudson found the UI resources for this plugin using the package and classname. Hudson uses Jelly for generating HTML.

The plugin ships with 2 jelly files, global.jelly and config.jelly. As the name implies, global.jelly provides the UI elements that are displayed on the global Hudson configuration screen. config.jelly provides the UI elements that are displayed in the job configuration screen.

Explaining jelly is beyond the scope of this document. I found jelly easy enough to learn by example using other Hudson plugins for reference.


Hudson uses the Stapler to associate jelly files with plugins. In MVC terms, your plugin class is the "M", Jelly is the "V", Stapler is the "C". To associate Jelly files with a plugin class using Stapler, you create a resource directory under src/main/resources/{package}/{Class}/ and drop the jelly files in there. For example, if the fully-qualified name of your plugin is demo.hudson.HelloWorldBuilder then your jelly files must be located under src/main/resources/demo/hudson/HelloWorldBuilder. If you ever rename or repackage your plugin class, you must also reorganize your resource subdirectories appropriately.

Stapler is used for more than just stapling jelly files to plugins. It's also used to dispatch requests to the plugin classes. Once again, Stapler does this all by convention. If you have a form that submits to /foo/bar/SomePlugin then Stapler will try to invoke the doSubmit method on Likewise, if a form field needs to be validated, then Stapler will call the method SomePlugin.checkSomeField. I found this to be the most confusing part of plugin development. It's fairly straightforward until it doesn't work, then it's a lot of spellchecking and consulting the Stapler docs to try to figure out what you're doing wrong.

Configuration Persistance

After configuring the plugin, you may be wondering how it gets stored or why it's not being stored. When you fire up the plugin via hpi:run, you'll see a work directory created under the project directly. This directory contains all plugin and job configuration as well as job run history logs. Global plugin configuration is stored under work/{plugin-name}.xml. Per job plugin configuration is stored under work/jobs/{jobname}/{plugin-name}.xml.

More information on configuration persistance can be found here:

Going Beyond HelloWorldBuilder

Once you've mastered the HelloWorldBuilder plugin, you're ready to invent your plugin. The first place to start is by find the right extension point(s) to hook into. The complete list of extension points can be found here:

Most plugins seem to extend Builder, BuildWrapper and Action. Hopefully by now I've provided you enough information to dissect how an existing plugin works. I found that looking at existing plugins gave me nearly enough insight to accomplish what I wanted. There are a wealth of plugins on Hudson with full-source code. Start here to find a plugin that looks similar to what you are trying to accomplish. Then download the project source from (login credentials are user=guest with empty password).

Overall, I found writing a Hudson plugin fairly easy once I understood the architecture. There isn't a lot of reference material out there beyond the Hudson tutorial. The Javadoc is generally better than most open source projects I've encountered. I definitely had some frustrating moments, especially when working with Stapler. There's a fairly good community of Hudson developers with ample source code to refer to when you get stuck.


  1. Thanks for this usefull bit of information on how hudson plugins work !

  2. Thanks for this. Stapler is indeed rough on the NOOB, that I am.

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