Molecule

A Rack inspired web micro-framework for easy and fun Java Web Development

View project on GitHub

Quick Start

public class HelloWorld {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException {
        WebServer server = WebServer.create();
        server.start((request, response) -> response.done("Hello, World"));
    }
}

Access your application at:

http://localhost:8080

About

Molecule is a rack inspired micro web framework for Java, with minimal dependencies. It is fast, small, easy to use, easy to learn and easy to extend.

Molecule is great for building micro services or regular web applications. It is designed around simplicity, testability and freedom of choice. It's more a library than a framework really.

Molecule is small, it weights less than 140k, and will stay as lean as possible. It is pluggable through the concept of rack middlewares and offers some out-of-the box integrations. You're free to use the built-in options or provide your own implementations.

Molecule requires Java 8. It runs an embedded web-server powered by Simple. Both are fully asynchronous and non-blocking, which means they can scale to very high loads.

Have fun!

Download

You can get the latest release version from Maven Central:

<dependency>
      <groupId>com.vtence.molecule</groupId>
      <artifactId>molecule</artifactId>
      <version>0.10</version>
</dependency>

To use the default web server, you also need to add Simple as a dependency:

<dependency>
      <groupId>org.simpleframework</groupId>
      <artifactId>simple-http</artifactId>
      <version>6.0.1</version>
      <scope>runtime</scope>
</dependency>

Want to start with some code?

Try out the following examples:

Getting Started

First thing first, you need a server to run your app:

WebServer server = WebServer.create();

This will set the default web server, which is powered by Simple, to run locally on port 8080.

To start the server, give it an app:

server.start((request, response) -> response.done("Hello, World!"));

To stop the server, call the stop method:

server.stop()

You can optionally specify the interface and port to bound to when creating the server, e.g. if you want to make your server globally available:

WebServer server = WebServer.create("0.0.0.0", 8088);

Asynchronous Processing

Molecule uses Simple as a default webserver. Both are fully asynchronous and non-blocking. This allows the server to scale to very high loads and handle as many concurrent connections as possible, even when depending on a high latency external resource.

What this means is you can serve your response content from a thread separate to the original servicing thread. For instance your application might need to wait for some remote process that takes some time to complete, such as an HTTP or SOAP request to an external server. You can simply call this external resource from a different thread, and complete the response when you get the result.

To tell the server that you're ready to serve the response, call the done method on the response.

Look at the Asynchronous example to see how to serve content from a separate thread.

Routing

Most modern webapps have nice URLs. Simple URLs are also easier to remember and more user friendly.

Molecule comes with a routing middleware that let you define your URL routes.

Routes let you map incoming requests to different applications based on the request verb and path. A route is composed of a path pattern, an optional set of verbs to match, and an application endpoint:

server.start(new DynamicRoutes() {{
    get("/posts/:id").to((request, response) -> {
        // retrieve a given post
    });
    post("/posts").to((request, response) -> {
        // create a new post
    }); 
    put("/posts/:id").to((request, response) -> {
        // update an existing post
    });
    delete("/posts/:id").to((request, response) -> {
        // delete a post
    }); 
    map("/").to((request, response) -> {
        // show the home page
    });
}});

Matching

Routes are matched in the order they are defined. If not defined route matches, the default behaviour is to render a 404 Not Found. This can be configured to pass the control to any default application.

By default, a route matches a single verb, specified by the method you use, i.e. get, post, put, delete. That can be changed by providing the verbs as arguments to the via method:

map("/").via(GET, HEAD).to((request, response) -> {
    // show the home page
});

If you don't provide any verbs, map will match on all verbs.

Dynamic Parameters

Route patterns can be matched exactly - they are said to be static - or can include named parameters, which are then accessible as regular request parameters on the request object:

// matches "GET /photos/18" and "GET /photos/25"
// request.parameter("id") is either '18' or '25'
get("/photos/:id").to((request, response) -> {
    response.done("Photo #" + request.parameter("id"));
});

Custom Matching

You are not limited to the provided match patterns. You can easily implement your own matcher and decide exactly how to match an incoming url to an application.

To do this, use the route definition methods that accept a Matcher rather than a String.

Working with the Request

Applications receive a Request that provide information about the request coming in from the client.

The request represents the environment for the client request, including the headers, the request body as well as parameters and other common things. The Request object is built from information provided by the HTTP server.

Any middleware can modify the content of the request during processing before passing control to the next stage of the middleware pipeline. This of course has no effect on the original HTTP request. See Middlewares for more information on middlewares and the middleware pipeline.

Request

request.uri();                          // the uri, e.g. /path?query
request.path();                         // the path info, e.g. /foo
request.remoteIp();                     // ip of the client
request.remoteHost();                   // hostname of the client
request.remotePort();                   // port of the client
request.protocol();                     // protocol, e.g. HTTP or HTTPS
request.timestamp();                    // time the request came in
request.secure();                       // whether the request was made over a secure connection
request.method();                       // HTTP method (e.g.  GET, POST, PUT, etc.)
request.body();                         // the body as a string, decoded using the request charset
request.bodyContent();                  // the raw body content as bytes
request.bodyStream();                   // the body as a stream of bytes
request.parts();                        // list of parts of a multipart/form-data request
request.part("name");                   // named part of a multipart/form-data request
request.charset();                      // charset of the body, read from the content type
request.hasHeader("name");              // checks presence of a named header
request.header("name");                 // value of a given HTTP header
request.headers("name");                // list of values of a given HTTP header
request.headerNames();                  // the set of HTTP header names received
request.contentLength();                // length of the body
request.contentType();                  // content type of the body
request.hasParameter("name")            // checks for the presence of a request parameter
request.parameter("name");              // value of a specific request parameter
request.paremeters("name");             // list of values for a specific request parameter
request.parameterNames();               // set of all request parameter names
request.allParameters();                // map of all request parameters
request.attribute("key");               // value of a keyed attribute
request.attribute("key", "value");      // sets the value of a keyed attribute
request.attributeKeys();                // set of all attibute keys
request.removeAttribute("key");         // removes a keyed attribute
request.attributes();                   // map of all request attributes

For the complete documentation, see the Javadoc of the Request class.

Attributes

Request attributes are not sent by the client - as opposed to request parameters. They are used for server-side processing only.

Attributes are a local server storage mechanism, scoped within the request. Whereas request parameters are string literals, request attributes can be any type of Objects.

Working with the Response

Applications respond to client requests by sending data back to the client using the Response.

The response includes a status code and text, headers and an optional body.

Any middleware can modify the content of the response during processing before returning control to the previous stage of the middleware pipeline. See Middlewares for more information on middlewares and the middleware pipeline.

Response

response.status(HttpStatus.OK);         // sets the status
response.statusCode(400);               // sets the status code
response.statusText("Bad Request");     // sets the status text
response.redirect("/url");              // 303 redirect to /url
response.header("name", "value");       // sets the single value of a named header
response.addHeader("name", "value");    // adds another value to a named header
response.contentType("text/html");      // sets the Content-Type header of the response
response.contentLength(16384);          // sets the Content-Length header of the response
response.charset("utf-8");              // sets the charset of the response body
response.body("text");                  // sets the response body as text
response.done();                        // sends the response to the client
response.done("text");                  // sends the specified response text to the client

For the complete documentation, see the Javadoc of the Response class.

Note that no response will actually be sent back to the client until the done method is called. Calling done signals the end of the request processing and triggers sending back the status, headers and body.

Rendering

There are a variety of ways to send back a response to the client. You can render text, binary content, the content of a file, XML, JSON, use a view template or render nothing at all. You can specify the content type or HTTP status of the rendered response as well.

Molecule uses the concept of response Body to represent data to send back to the client.

Molecule comes with a few body implementations ready to use for sending text, binary content, the content of a file or a view template.

Rendering an empty response

You can render an empty response by not specifying a body at all. In which case, an empty body is used.

So this is perfectly valid:

response.done();

Rendering text

You can send plain text - with no markup at all - back to the browser like this:

response.done("All good");

Rendering pure text is sometimes useful if you're client is expecting something other than proper HTML.

Rendering HTML

You can send an HTML string back to the browser by using a text body to render:

response.done("<html><body><h1>It Works</h1></body></html>");

This can be useful when you're rendering a small snippet of HTML code. However, you might want to consider moving it to a template file if the markup is complex. See View Templating for more on using templates.

Rendering JSON

You can send back JSON to the browser by using a text body. Here's an example using google Gson library:

Gson gson = new Gson();
response.done(gson.toJSON("ok"));

Another option would be to create a your own body implementation - let's call it JSONBody - and use your preferred JSON serializer:

response.done(new JSONBody("ok"));

or with a static factory method:

response.done(json("ok"));

Rendering XML can be done the same way.

Rendering binary content

You can send back a raw body as binary like this:

byte[] content = ... //
response.body(content).done();

Rendering the content of a file

You can use a FileBody to stream the content of a file:

 response.render(new FileBody(new File("/path/to/file")))).done();

This will use a default chunk size of 8K, although you can specify a different chunk size.

Redirection

You can trigger a browser redirect using a See Other (303) status code using the redirectTo method on the Response:

response.redirectTo("/url").done();

If you need to use a different status code, simply change the status:

response.redirectTo("/url").statusCode(301).done(); // moved permanently

Cookies

To enable cookies support first add the Cookies middleware to your middleware pipeline (see Middlewares for more information on using middlewares).

This will create a CookieJar and populate that cookie jar with cookies sent by the client. The cookie jar is available as a request attribute:

CookieJar cookies = CookieJar.get(request);

To read cookies sent by the client:

Cookie customer = cookies.get("customer");

To send back cookies to the client, all you have to do is add cookies to the jar:

cookies.add("weapon", "rocket launcher")
       .path("/ammo")
       .maxAge(30)

To expire a cookie, discard it from the jar:

cookies.discard("weapon").path("/ammo");

For more on cookies, see the Cookies example.

Sessions

Enabling sessions support

To use sessions you need to start your server with session support:

server.add(new Cookies())
      .add(new CookieSessionTracker(CookieSessionStore.secure("your secret");))
      .start(new DynamicRoutes() {{
      // your routing here
}}

Since HTTP is a stateless protocol and Molecule uses a minimalist approach, sessions are not part of the request. Usage of sessions requires the use of a middleware. This means you have full control over the way sessions are tracked and stored.

Molecule comes with a CookieSessionTracker middleware that uses cookies to track sessions across HTTP requests and two session storage mechanisms:

  • An in memory session store, the SessionPool
  • A client side storage using encrypted cookies, the CookieSessionStore

Using sessions

Once session support is enabled, the current session is bound to the request:

Session session = Session.get(request);

One thing to understand is that as long as your server is started with session support, there will always be a session bound to the request. There's no need to check against null. There's no need to ask for session creation either.

The session attached to the request can be a fresh and empty session or the session opened in a previous request. This does not mean a new session is automatically opened for each request though. A fresh session is only persisted if it is modified before the end of the request cycle. This means you can safely read from a new session.

If you write data to the session then it is automatically persisted to the session store you've selected - created in case of a new session or updated in case of an existing session. If you invalidate the session, it will be discarded from the session store automatically.

Some of the things you can do with sessions include:

session.fresh()             // checks if session is new
session.id()                // gets the session id
session.createdAt()         // the session creation time
session.updatedAd()         // the last session update time
session.expires()           // whether this session expires
session.expirationTime()    // this session expiration time, if it expires
session.maxAge(30)          // sets the session to expire after 30s of inactivity
session.contains("key")     // checks if this session contains a keyed attribute
session.get("key")          // returns the keyed attribute
session.remove("key")       // removes a keyed attribute
session.put("key", "value") // writes a key value pair to the session
session.clear()             // clears the session content
session.invalidate()        // invalidates the session

For more on using sessions, see the Session Example.

View Templates

When your markup becomes complex, you might want to consider moving it to a template file.

Rendering a template requires a RenderingEngine. To use the built-in JMustacheRenderer, first add JMustache to your dependencies:

<dependency>
    <groupId>com.samskivert</groupId>
    <artifactId>jmustache</artifactId>
    <version>1.13</version>
</dependency>

Rendering a template takes a view model and returns a body object to use with the response. Assuming a Mustache template file named profile.mustache, here's how we would render the template using an hypothetical Employee object:

// Declare the template engine
Templates templates = new Templates(new JMustacheRenderer().fromDir(new File("/path/to/template/files")));
// Load the 'profile.mustache' template
Template<Employee> profile = templates.named("profile");
// Render the template using an Employee instance 
response.done(profile.render(new Employee("Bob", "...")));

For further information on using view templates, take a look at the View Templates and Layout example.

View Layouts

Sometimes you want to share a common look and feel for a set of pages. This is when view layouts can help.

Layouts are just templates that are used to decorate existing pages. A layout defines the surroundings of your HTML page. It's where you define a common look and feel of your final output. This reverses the common pattern of including shared headers and footers in many templates to isolate changes in repeated setups.

Think of the layout rendering process in two steps.

The first step processes the generated HTML view to extract its content. This extraction process makes individual pieces of the original page content available to the layout template:

  • the head content, excluding the title
  • the title
  • the body content
  • all the meta parameters

The second step merges the content pieces with the layout template to produce the final result.

Here's a contrived example of a mustache layout template that simply recreates the original page:

<html>
<head>
{{head}}
<title>{{title}}</title>
</head>
<body>
{{body}}
</body>
</html>

The Layout middleware intercepts generated HTML responses and merges them with layout decorator(s) to build the final result:

// Declare the template engine
Templates layouts = new Templates(new JMustacheRenderer().fromDir(new File("/path/to/layout/templates")));
// Load the main layout template
Template<Map<String, String>> mainLayout = layouts.named("main");

// Apply the main site layout to requests under the / path, in other words to all rendered pages
server.filter("/", Layout.html(mainLayout))
      .start(new DynamicRoutes() {{
          // Your routes definitions here
          // ...
      }});

For more on using layouts, take a look at the View Templates and Layout example.

SSL

To use HTTPS connections, enable SSL on the WebServer. Enabling HTTPS/SSL requires you to have a keystore file, which you can generate using the Java keytool. You specify the location of your keystore, the keystore password and the keys password like this:

WebServer server = WebServer.create();
server.enableSSL(new File("/path/to/keystore/file"), "keyStorePassword", "keyPassword"))
      .start(...);

This will start the server with TLS enabled, trusting all clients.

If you need more control over the type of keystore and algorithms used, you can alternatively pass an javax.net.ssl.SSLContext to use.

See the SSL example for more details.

Testing

Molecule provides fluent assertion helpers for unit testing your application endpoints and middlewares. It also provides a test HTTP client for integration testing your server.

Add the testing jar to your dependencies to benefit from the test HTTP client and fluent assertion helpers:

<dependency>
      <groupId>com.vtence.molecule</groupId>
      <artifactId>molecule-tests</artifactId>
      <version>0.10</version>
      <scope>test</scope>
</dependency>

You will also need to add Hamcrest to your list of dependencies:

<dependency>
    <groupId>org.hamcrest</groupId>
    <artifactId>java-hamcrest</artifactId>
    <version>2.0.0.0</version>
    <scope>test</scope>
</dependency>

Unit Testing Middlewares and Application Endpoints

The Request and Response are plain Java objects that you can use directly in your unit tests. They are simple representations of the environment for the client request and the content of the response your application wants to send back. They are not wrappers around the actual HTTP request and response, so there's no need to mock them:

Request request = new Request();
Response response = new Response();

request.header("Authorization", "Basic " + mime.encode("joe:bad secret"));

// Call your application endpoint
authentication.handle(request, response);

// Make assertions on the response
// ...

Fluent Assertions

ResponseAssert provides a fluent interface for asserting the generated response. Based on the previous example:

// ...
assertThat(response).hasStatus(UNAUTHORIZED)
                    .hasHeader("WWW-Authenticate", "Basic realm=\"WallyWorld\"")
                    .hasContentType("text/plain")
                    .isEmpty()
                    .isDone();

RequestAssert helps make assertions on the request:

assertThat(request).hasAttribute("username", "joe");

CookieJarAssert and CookieAssert both provide fluent assertions for Cookies and the CookieJar:

assertThat(cookieJar).hasCookie("session")
                     .hasValue("sJaAMRYetEJhQcS9s283pMrlGoXr88LkFf0NCOTZb8A")
                     .isHttpOnly();

Integration Testing

You can use the test HTTP client to write integration tests for your API or test how various parts of your web application interact:

HttpRequest request = new HttpRequest(8080).followRedirects(false);
HttpResponse response = request.content(Form.urlEncoded().addField("username", "bob")
                                                         .addField("password", "secret"))
                               .post("/login");

Fluent Assertions

HttpResponseAssert and HttpCookieAssert provides fluent interfaces for making assertions on the HTTP response and cookies:

assertThat(response).hasStatusCode(303)
                    .hasHeader("Location", "/users/bob")
                    .hasCookie("session").hasMaxAge(300);

Middlewares

Middlewares are a way to enhance your application with optional building blocks, using a pipeline design. A middleware component sits between the client and the server, processing inbound requests and outbound responses.

Middlewares implement functionality you tend to need across all your applications, but you don't want to build everytime. Things like access logging, authentication, compression, static files, routing, etc.

Being able to separate the processing of the request (and post-processing of the response) in different stages has several benefits:

  • It separate concerns, which helps keep your design clean and application well-structured
  • It let you only include the functionality you need, so your server is as small and fast as possible
  • It let you plug in your own processing stages, to customize the behavior of your application
  • It let you reuse and share middlewares, as elemental building blocks of application behavior

For example you could have the following separate stages of the pipeline doing:

  1. Capturing internal server errors to render a nice 500 page
  2. Monitoring, logging accesses to the server
  3. Authentication and authorisation, to control access to your applicatoin
  4. Caching, returning a cached result if request has already been processed recently
  5. Compression, to reduce bandwith usage
  6. Security, to prevent attacks such as CSRF
  7. Processing, the actual request processing by your application

The Middleware Stack

You can think of the Middleware pipeline as a stack, at the bottom of which is your application. When a request comes in, it starts at the top of the stack and goes down until it is processed by your application. The response then goes up the stack backwards through the middleware chain, before it is sent back to the client.

We call it a middleware stack because each part will call the next part in sequence. Or it might not. In fact there are two types of middlewares. Those that modify the request or response and call the next step in the chain, and those that short circuit the stack and return their own response without ever calling anything further down the stack.

Building the Middleware Stack

The simplest way to build your middleware stack is to add middlewares to your WebServer.

For example, suppose we'd like to enhance performance of our application by adding caching and compression:

WebServer server = WebServer.create();
server.add(new ContentLengthHeader())
      .add(new ConditionalGet())
      .add(new ETag())
      .add(new Compressor())
      .start(new DynamicRoutes() {{
          // ...
      }});

Here's what a more complete, real-life middleware stack might look like:

server.failureReporter(failureReporter)
      .add(new ServerHeader("Simple/6.0.1"))
      .add(new DateHeader())
      .add(new ApacheCommonLogger(logger))
      // a custom middleware to redirect non secure requests to HTTPS 
      .add(new ForceSSL())
      .add(new ContentLengthHeader())
      .mount("/api", new MiddlewareStack() {{
          use(new Failsafe());
          use(new FailureMonitor(failureReporter));
          use(new ConnectionScope(database));
          // runs the api application
          run(api());
      }})
      .add(new ConditionalGet())
      .add(new ETag())
      .add(new Compressor().compressibleTypes(CSS, HTML))
      // configures the StaticAssets middleware
      .add(staticAssets())
      .add(new HttpMethodOverride())
      .add(new Cookies())
      // a custom middleware to redirect based on the preferred user locale
      .add(selectLocale())
      // a custom middleware to display static pages if case of errors
      .add(new PublicExceptions())
      .add(new Failsafe())
      .add(new FailureMonitor(failureReporter))
      .add(new ConnectionScope(dataSource))
      .add(new CookieSessionTracker(CookieSessionStore.secure("secret")))
      .add(new Flash())
      // starts the main application
      .start(webapp());

For more on using middlewares, take a look at the various code examples (see above), including the sample application.

The javadoc of the WebServer class is another good source of information.

Available Middlewares

Molecule comes with a bunch of handy middlewares that you can use to build your processing pipeline:

  • Router (See Routing)
  • Static Assets
  • File Server
  • Apache Common Logger
  • Apache Combined Logger
  • Cookies (See Cookies)
  • Locale Negotiation
  • Compressor
  • ETag
  • Conditional Get
  • Connection Scope
  • Server Header
  • Date Header
  • Content-Length Header
  • Filter Map
  • URL Map
  • Cookie Session Tracker
  • Failsafe
  • Failure Monitor
  • Not Found
  • Http Method Override
  • Layout
  • Flash

Living on the edge

If you want the latest development version, grab the latest snapshot from Sonatype snapshots repositories:

<dependency>
      <groupId>com.vtence.molecule</groupId>
      <artifactId>molecule</artifactId>
      <version>0.11-SNAPSHOT</version>
</dependency>

New snapshots are pushed to Sonatype on every commit. So you'll always be running the head version.