This is a half-day tutorial on developing domain-driven apps using Apache Isis.

Actually, you could probably spend a full day working through this tutorial if you wanted to, so pick and choose the bits that look interesting. The tutorial was originally written by Dan Haywood, for a conference workshop.

1. Prerequisites

You’ll need:

2. Run the archetype

Run the simpleapp archetype to build an empty Isis application. With the *nix bash shell, use:

mvn archetype:generate  \
    -D archetypeGroupId=org.apache.isis.archetype \
    -D archetypeArtifactId=simpleapp-archetype \
    -D archetypeVersion=1.16.2 \
    -D groupId=com.mycompany \
    -D artifactId=myapp \
    -D version=1.0-SNAPSHOT \
    -D archetypeRepository=http://repository-estatio.forge.cloudbees.com/snapshot/ \

Adjust as necessary if using Windows cmd.exe or Powershell.

3. Build and run

Start off by building the app from the command line:

cd myapp
mvn clean install -D mavenmixin-jettyconsole

Once that’s built then run using:

mvn -pl webapp antrun:run -D mavenmixin-jettyconsole

A splash screen should appear offering to start up the app. Go ahead and start; the web browser should be opened at http://localhost:8080

Alternatively, you can run using the mvn-jetty-plugin:

mvn -pl webapp jetty:run

This will accomplish the same thing, though the webapp is mounted at a slightly different URL

4. Using the app

Navigate to the Wicket UI (eg http://localhost:8080/wicket), and login (sven/pass).

Once at the home page:

  • install fixtures

  • list all objects

  • create a new object

  • list all objects

Go back to the splash screen, and quit the app. Note that the database runs in-memory (using HSQLDB) so any data created will be lost between runs.

5. Dev environment

Set up an IDE and import the project to be able to run and debug the app.

Then set up a launch configuration and check that you can:

  • Run the app from within the IDE

  • Run the app in debug mode

  • Run with different deploymentTypes; note whether prototype actions (those annotated @Action(restrictTo=PROTOTYPING) are available or not:


  • --type SERVER

6. Explore codebase

Apache Isis applications are organized into several Maven modules. Within your IDE navigate to the various classes and correlate back to the generated UI.

7. Testing

Testing is of course massively important, and Apache Isis makes both unit testing and (end-to-end) integration testing easy. Building the app from the Maven command line ("mvn clean install") will run all tests, but you should also run the tests from within the IDE.

  • myapp-dom unit tests

  • run

  • inspect, eg

    • SimpleObjectTest

  • myapp-integtests integration tests

  • run

  • inspect, eg:

    • integration.tests.smoke.SimpleObjectsTest

    • integration.specs.simple.SimpleObjectSpec_listAllAndCreate.feature

  • generated report, eg

    • myapp/integtests/target/cucumber-html-report/index.html

    • change test in IDE, re-run (in Maven)

If you have issues with the integration tests, make sure that the domain classes have been enhanced by the DataNucleus enhancer. (The exact mechanics depends on the IDE being used).

8. Prototyping

Although testing is important, in this tutorial we want to concentrate on how to write features and to iterate quickly. So for now, exclude the integtests module. Later on in the tutorial we’ll add the tests back in so you can learn how to write automated tests for the features of your app.

In the parent pom.xml:


change to:

    <!-- <module>integtests</module> -->

9. Build a domain app

The remainder of the tutorial provides guidance on building a domain application. We don’t mandate any particular design, but we suggest one with no more than 3 to 6 domain entities in the first instance. If you’re stuck for ideas, then how about:

  • a todo app (ToDoItems)

  • a pet clinic (Pet, Owner, PetSpecies, Visit)

  • a library (Book, Title, LibraryMember, Loan, Reservation)

  • a holiday cottage rental system

  • a scrum/kanban system (inspired by Trello)

  • a meeting planner (inspired by Doodle)

  • (the domain model for) a CI server (inspired by Travis/Jenkins)

  • a shipping system (inspired by the example in the DDD "blue" book)

  • a system for ordering coffee (inspired by Restbucks, the example in "Rest in Practice" book)

Hopefully one of those ideas appeals or sparks an idea for something of your own.

10. Domain entity

Most domain objects in Apache Isis applications are persistent entities. In the simpleapp archetype the SimpleObject is an example. We can start developing our app by refactoring that class:

  • rename the SimpleObject class

    • eg rename to Pet

  • if required, rename the SimpleObject class' name property

    • for Pet, can leave name property as is

  • specify a title

  • specify an icon

  • make the entity bookmarkable by adding the @DomainObjectLayout#bookmarking() attribute.

  • confirm is available from bookmark panel (top-left of Wicket UI)

11. Domain service

Domain services often act as factories or repositories to entities; more generally can be used to "bridge across" to other domains/bounded contexts. Most are application-scoped, but they can also be request-scoped if required.

In the simpleapp archetype the SimpleObjects service is a factory/repository for the original SimpleObject entity. For our app it therefore makes sense to refactor that class into our own first service:

  • rename the SimpleObjects class

    • eg rename to Pets

  • review create action (acting as a factory)

  • rename if you wish

    • eg newPet(…​) or addPet(…​)

  • review listAll action (acting as a repository)

  • as per the docs describing how to write a custom repository

  • note the annotations on the corresponding domain class (originally called SimpleObject, though renamed by now, eg to Pet)

  • rename if you wish

    • eg listPets()

  • note the @DomainService annotation

  • optional: add an action to a return subset of objects

    • use the JDO @Query annotation

    • see for example the Isisaddons example todoapp (not ASF), see here and here

12. Fixture scripts

Fixture scripts are used to setup the app into a known state. They are great for demo’s and as a time-saver when implementing a feature, and they can also be reused in automated integration tests. We usually also have a fixture script to zap all the (non-reference) data (or some logical subset of the data)

  • rename the SimpleObjectsTearDownFixture class

  • and update to delete from the appropriate underlying database table(s)

  • use the injected IsisJdoSupport domain service.

  • refactor/rename the fixture script classes that create instances your entity:

  • RecreateSimpleObjects, which sets up a set of objects for a given scenario

  • SimpleObjectCreate which creates a single object

  • note that domain services can be injected into these fixture scripts

13. Actions

Most business functionality is implemented using actions basically a public method accepting domain classes and primitives as its parameter types. The action can return a domain entity, or a collection of entities, or a primitive/String/value, or void. If a domain entity is returned then that object is rendered immediately; if a collection is returned then the Wicket viewer renders a table. Such collections are sometimes called "standalone" collections.

  • write an action to update the domain property (originally called SimpleObject#name, though renamed by now)

  • use the @ParameterLayout(named=…​) annotation to specify the name of action parameters

  • use the @Action(semanticsOf=…​) annotation to indicate the semantics of the action (safe/query-only, idempotent or non-idempotent)

  • annotate safe action as bookmarkable using @ActionLayout(bookmarking=…​)

  • confirm is available from bookmark panel (top-left of Wicket UI)

  • optional: add an action to clone an object


As well as exposing the Wicket viewer, Isis also exposes a REST API (an implementation of the Restful Objects spec). All of the functionality of the domain object model is available through this REST API.

  • add Chrome extensions

  • install Postman

  • install JSON-View

  • browse to Wicket viewer, install fixtures

  • browse to the http://localhost:8080/restful API

  • invoke the service to list all objects

  • services

  • actions

  • invoke (invoking 0-arg actions is easy; the Restful Objects spec defines how to invoke N-arg actions)

15. Specify Action semantics

The semantics of an action (whether it is safe/query only, whether it is idempotent, whether it is neither) can be specified for each action; if not specified then Isis assumes non-idempotent. In the Wicket viewer this matters in that only query-only actions can be bookmarked or used as contributed properties/collections. In the RESTful viewer this matters in that it determines the HTTP verb (GET, PUT or POST) that is used to invoke the action.

  • experiment changing @Action(semantics=…​) on actions

  • note the HTTP methods exposed in the REST API change

  • note whether the non-safe actions are bookmarkable (assuming that it has been annotated with @ActionLayout(bookmarking=…​), that is).

16. Value properties

Domain entities have state: either values (primitives, strings) or references to other entities. In this section we explore adding some value properties

  • add some value properties; also:

  • for string properties

  • use the @Column(allowsNull=…​) annotation specify whether a property is optional or mandatory

  • use enums for properties (eg as used in the Isis addons example todoapp, see here and here)

  • update the corresponding domain service for creating new instances

  • for all non-optional properties will either need to prompt for a value, or calculate some suitable default

  • change the implementation of title, if need be

  • revisit the title, consider whether to use the @Title annotation

  • order the properties using the @MemberOrder, also @MemberGroupLayout

  • use the @PropertyLayout annotation to position property/action parameter labels either to the LEFT, TOP or NONE

17. Reference properties

Domain entities can also reference other domain entities. These references may be either scalar (single-valued) or vector (multi-valued). In this section we focus on scalar reference properties.

  • add some reference properties

  • update the corresponding domain service (for creation actoin)

  • use different techniques to obtain references (shown in drop-down list box)

18. Usability: Defaults

Quick detour: often we want to set up defaults to go with choices. Sensible defaults for action parameters can really improve the usability of the app.

19. Collections

Returning back to references, Isis also supports vector (multi-valued) references to another object instances in other words collections. We sometimes called these "parented" collections (to distinguish from a "standalone" collection as returned from an action)

  • Ensure that all domain classes implement java.lang.Comparable

    • use the ObjectContracts utility class to help implement Comparable

      • you can also implement equals(), hashCode(), toString()

  • Add a collection to one of the entities

  • optional: use the @CollectionLayout(sortedBy=…​) annotation to specify a different comparator than the natural ordering

20. Actions and Collections

The Wicket UI doesn’t allow collections to be modified (added to/removed from). However, we can easily write actions to accomplish the same. Moreover, these actions can provide some additional business logic. For example: it probably shouldn’t be possible to add an object twice into a collection, so it should not be presented in the list of choices/autoComplete; conversely, only those objects in the collection should be offered as choices to be removed.

  • Add domain actions to add/remove from the collection

  • to create objects, inject associated domain service

    • generally we recommend using the @Inject annotation with either private or default visibility

  • the service itself should use DomainObjectContainer

  • use the @MemberOrder(name=…​) annotation to associate an action with a property or with a collection

21. CSS UI Hints

CSS classes can be associated with any class member (property, collection, action). But for actions in particular:

It’s also possible to use Font Awesome icons for the domain object icon.

So: - for some of the actions of your domain services or entities, annotate using @ActionLayout(cssClass=…​) or @ActionLayout(cssClassFa=…​)

22. File-based Layout

Up to this point we’ve been using annotations (@MemberOrder, @MemberGroupLayout, @Named, @PropertyLayout, @ParameterLayout, @ActionLayout and so on) for UI hints. However, the feedback loop is not good: it requires us stopping the app, editing the code, recompiling and running again. So instead, all these UI hints (and more) can be specified dynamically, using a corresponding .layout.xml file. If edited while the app is running, it will be reloaded automatically (in IntelliJ, use Run>Reload Changed Classes):

  • Delete the various hint annotations and instead specify layout hints using a .layout.xml file.

23. Business rules

Apache Isis excels for domains where there are complex business rules to enforce. The UI tries not to constrain the user from navigating around freely, however the domain objects nevertheless ensure that they cannot change into an invalid state. Such rules can be enforced either declaratively (using annotations) or imperatively (using code). The objects can do this in one of three ways:

  • visibility: preventing the user from even seeing a property/collection/action

  • usability: allowing the user to view a property/collection/action but not allowing the user to change it

  • validity: allowing the user to modify the property/invoke the action, but validating that the new value/action arguments are correct before hand.

Or, more pithily: "see it, use it, do it"

23.1. See it!

  • Use the Property(hidden=…​) annotation to make properties invisible

    • likewise @Collection(hidden=…​) for collections

    • the @Programmatic annotation can also be used and in many cases is to be preferred; the difference is that the latter means the member is not part of the Apache Isis metamodel.

  • Use the hide…​() supporting method on properties, collections and actions to make a property/collection/action invisible according to some imperative rule

23.2. Use it!

23.3. Do it!

24. Home page

The Wicket UI will automatically invoke the "home page" action, if available. This is a no-arg action of one of the domain services, that can return either an object (eg representing the current user) or a standalone action.

  • Add the @HomePage annotation to one (no more) of the domain services' no-arg actions

25. Clock Service

To ensure testability, there should be no dependencies on system time, for example usage of LocalDate.now(). Instead the domain objects should delegate to the provided ClockService.

  • remove any dependencies on system time (eg defaults for date/time action parameters)

  • inject ClockService

  • call ClockService.now() etc where required.

26. Using Contributions

One of Apache Isis' most powerful features is the ability for the UI to combine functionality from domain services into the representation of an entity. The effect is similar to traits or mix-ins in other languages, however the "mixing in" is done at runtime, within the Apache Isis metamodel. In Apache Isis' terminology, we say that the domain service action is contributed to the entity.

Any action of a domain service that has a domain entity type as one of its parameter types will (by default) be contributed. If the service action takes more than one argument, or does not have safe semantics, then it will be contributed as an entity action. If the service action has precisely one parameter type (that of the entity) and has safe semantics then it will be contributed either as a collection or as a property (dependent on whether it returns a collection of a scalar).

Why are contributions so useful? Because the service action will match not on the entity type, but also on any of the entity’s supertypes (all the way up to java.lang.Object). That means that you can apply the dependency inversion principle to ensure that the modules of your application have acyclic dependencies; but in the UI it can still appear as if there are bidirectional dependencies between those modules. The lack of bidirectional dependencies can help save your app degrading into a big ball of mud.

Finally, note that the layout of contributed actions/collections/properties can be specified using the .layout.json file (and it is highly recommended that you do so).

26.1. Contributed Actions

  • Write a new domain service

  • Write an action accepting >1 args:

    • one being a domain entity

    • other being a primitive or String

26.2. Contributed Collections

  • Write a new domain service (or update the one previously)

  • Write a query-only action accepting exactly 1 arg (a domain entity)

  • returning a collection, list or set

  • For this action:

  • use .layout.json to position as required

26.3. Contributed Properties

  • As for contributed collections, write a new domain service with a query-only action accepting exactly 1 arg (a domain entity); except:

    • returning a scalar value rather than a collection

  • For this action:

  • should be rendered in the UI "as if" a property of the entity

  • use .layout.json to position as required

27. Using the Event Bus

Another way in which Apache Isis helps you keep your application nicely modularized is through its event bus. Each action invocation, or property modification, can be used to generate a succession of events that allows subscribers to veto the interaction (the see it/use it/do it rules) or, if the action is allowed, to perform work prior to the execution of the action or after the execution of the action.

Under the covers Apache Isis uses the Guava event bus and subscribers (always domain services) subscribe by writing methods annotated with @com.google.common.eventbus.Subscribe annotation.

By default the events generated are ActionDomainEvent.Default (for actions) and PropertyDomainEvent.Default (for properties). Subclasses of these can be specified using the @Action(domainEvent=…​) or Property(domainEvent=…​) for properties.

Using the guidance in the docs for the EventBusService:

  • write a domain service subscriber to subscribe to events

  • use the domain service to perform log events

  • use the domain service to veto actions (hide/disable or validate)

28. Bulk actions

Bulk actions are actions that can be invoked on a collection of actions, that is on collections returned by invoking an action. Actions are specified as being bulk actions using the @action(invokeOn=OBJECT_AND_COLLECTION) annotation.

Note that currently (1.8.0) only no-arg actions can be specified as bulk actions.

Thus: * Write a no-arg action for your domain entity, annotate with @Action(invokeOn=…​) * Inject the ActionInteractionContext (request-scoped) service * Use the ActionInteractionContext service to determine whether the action was invoked in bulk or as a regular action. * return null if invoked on a collection; the Wicket viewer will go back to the original collection ** (if return non-null, then Wicket viewer will navigate to the object of the last invocation generally not what is required)

The similar Scratchpad (request-scoped) domain service is a good way to share information between bulk action invocations:

  • Inject the Scratchpad domain service

  • for each action, store state (eg a running total)

  • in the last invoked bulk action, perform some aggregate processing (eg calculate the average) and return

29. Performance tuning

The QueryResultsCache (request-scoped) domain service allows arbitrary objects to be cached for the duration of a request.

This can be helpful for "naive" code which would normally make the same query within a loop.

  • optional: inject the QueryResultsCache service, invoke queries "through" the cache API

  • remember that the service is request-scoped, so it only really makes sense to use this service for code that invokes queries within a loop

30. Extending the Wicket UI

Each element in the Wicket viewer (entity form, properties, collections, action button etc) is a component, each created by a internal API (ComponentFactory, described here). For collections there can be multiple views, and the Wicket viewer provides a view selector drop down (top right of each collection panel).

Moreover, we can add additional views. In this section we’ll explore some of these, already provided through the (non-ASF) Incode Platform.

30.1. Excel download

The Incode Platform’s Excel Wicket component allows the collection to be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet (.xlsx).

  • Use the instructions on the add-on module’s README to add in the excel download module (ie: update the POM).

30.2. Fullcalendar2

The Incode Platform’s Fullcalendar2 Wicket component allows entities to be rendered in a full-page calendar.

  • Use the instructions on the add-on module’s README to add in the fullcalendar2 module (ie: update the POM).

  • on one of your entities, implement either the CalendarEventable interface or the (more complex) Calendarable interface.

  • update fixture scripts to populate any new properties

  • when the app is run, a collection of the entities should be shown within a calendar view

30.3. gmap3

The Incode Platform’s Gmap3 Wicket componet allows entities that implement certain APIs to be rendered in a full-page gmap3.

  • Use the instructions on the add-on module’s README to add in the gmap3 module (ie: update the POM).

  • on one of your entities, implement the Locatable interface

  • update fixture scripts to populate any new properties

  • when the app is run, a collection of the entities should be shown within a map view

31. Add-on modules (optional)

In addition to providing Wicket viewer extensions, the (non-ASF) Incode Platform also has a large number of other modules. These address such cross-cutting concerns as security, command (profiling), auditing and publishing.

  • (optional): follow the security module README. There is also a screencast that refers to the Incode Platform’s predecessor, the isisaddons.org website.

  • (optional): follow the command module README. There is also a screencast that refers to the Incode Platform’s predecessor, the isisaddons.org website.

  • (optional): follow the auditing module README. Or, see (the same) screencast.

32. View models

In most cases users can accomplish the business operations they need by invoking actions directly on domain entities. For some high-volume or specialized uses cases, though, there may be a requirement to bring together data or functionality that spans several entities.

Also, if using Apache Isis' REST API then the REST client may be a native application (on a smartphone or tablet, say) that is deployed by a third party. In these cases exposing the entities directly would be inadvisable because a refactoring of the domain entity would change the REST API and probably break that REST client.

To support these use cases, Apache Isis therefore allows you to write a view model, either by annotating the class with @ViewModel or (for more control) by implementing the ViewModel interface.

  • build a view model summarizing the state of the app (a "dashboard")

  • write a new @HomePage domain service action returning this dashboard viewmodel (and remove the @HomePage annotation from any other domain service if present)

33. Testing

Up to this point we’ve been introducing the features of Isis and building out our domain application, but with little regard to testing. Time to fix that.

33.1. Unit testing

Unit testing domain entities and domain services is easy; just use JUnit and mocking libraries to mock out interactions with domain services.

Mockito seems to be the current favourite among Java developers for mocking libraries, but if you use JMock then you’ll find we provide a JUnitRuleMockery2 class and a number of other utility classes, documented here.

  • write some unit tests (adapt from the unit tests in the myapp-dom Maven module).

33.2. Integration testing

Although unit tests are easy to write and fast to execute, integration tests are more valuable: they test interactions of the system from the outside-in, simulating the way in which the end-users use the application.

Earlier on in the tutorial we commented out the myapp-integtests module. Let’s commented it back in. In the parent pom.xml:

    <!-- <module>integtests</module> -->

change back to:


There will probably be some compile issues to fix up once you’ve done this; comment out all code that doesn’t compile.

Isis has great support for writing integration tests; well-written integration tests should leverage fixture scripts and use the @WrapperFactory domain service.

  • use the tests from the original archetype and the documentation on the website to develop integration tests for your app’s functionality.

34. Customising the REST API

The REST API generated by Apache Isis conforms to the Restful Objects specification. Apache Isis 1.8.0 provides experimental support to allow the representations to be customized.

  • as per the documentation, configure the Restful Objects viewer to generate a simplified object representation:


35. Configuring to use an external database

If you have an external database available, then update the pom.xml for the classpath and update the JDBC properties in WEB-INF\persistor.properties to point to your database.