Grails is Groovy!


Grails is a framework that uses the advantages of Groovy, a dynamic type language which is almost a superset of Java, and the principle of “convention over configuration” in order to supply a very easy to use and quick to develop web-applications. It relies on the JVM and Spring as well as some other technologies that are out of scope for this post (Hibernate, templates etc).

Grails is based on MVC design pattern, in case you’re not familiar with it yet – you should, but until you do I’ll give you the highlights:
MVC stands for Model-View-Controller, which separates concerns and thus eliminates dependencies between the data (model), display (view) and business logic (controller). The controller is the entry point to the app, the HTTP request is dispatched to the relevant controller which drive the data from the Model, and might process it using one or more of the Service classes and will choose the proper View for display. The View doesn’t have to be strictly “display” it could also be JSON/XML or any other representation of the data.

In the rest of this post we’ll create the helloworld example and run it – with one major added value: I’ll help you avoid the pitfalls that I ran into. Ready ?

If you already have JDK installed – good for you, if not, you’ll have to install it first (not the JRE!)
It took me less than 10 minutes to download, install and run my first “Hello World!”
All you have to do is:
1. extract the zip file into the location you want it to be
2. add the environment variable GRAILS_HOME – make it point to that folder
3. update the PATH variable to PATH="$PATH:$GRAILS_HOME/bin"

After we’re done with the installation, navigate to the location where you want the project to be created (command prompt if you’re a windows user) and type:
grails create-app hello
after a few seconds, a new directory will be created by the surprising name of…
yes you guessed right: “hello” (convention over configuration anyone?)
Lets get in by typing cd hello and create our first controller. Can you guess the command ?
grails create-controller hello
if you missed this one – don’t be upset, you’ll get the next one.
One of the lines that were printed after the last command should have been:
Created file grails-app/controllers/hello/HelloController.groovy
Open a text-editor and edit HelloController.groovy:

package hello
class HelloController {

    def index() {
        render "Hello World!"

That’s it! now, can you guess how to run our app ? that’s right:
grails run-app
it starts running, looking good, it even prints:
Server running. Browse to http://localhost:8080/hello
which seems awesome, but before we get to copy the URL and paste it into the browser…

*** java.lang.instrument ASSERTION FAILED ***: "!errorOutstanding" with message
transform method call failed at ../../../src/share/instrument/JPLISAgent.c line:
Exception in thread "main"
| Error Forked Grails VM exited with error

Hey! that’s not a nice thing to do!
Don’t worry guys, I hear you, here’s how we can fix it:
go to: hello/grails-app/conf
and edit the file BuildConfig.groovy – comment out the following section using /* … */ like this:

grails.project.fork = [
// configure settings for compilation JVM, note that if you alter the Groovy version forked compilation is required
// compile: [maxMemory: 256, minMemory: 64, debug: false, maxPerm: 256, daemon:true],
// configure settings for the test-app JVM, uses the daemon by default
test: [maxMemory: 768, minMemory: 64, debug: false, maxPerm: 256, daemon:true],
// configure settings for the run-app JVM
run: [maxMemory: 768, minMemory: 64, debug: false, maxPerm: 256, forkReserve:false],
// configure settings for the run-war JVM
war: [maxMemory: 768, minMemory: 64, debug: false, maxPerm: 256, forkReserve:false],
// configure settings for the Console UI JVM
console: [maxMemory: 768, minMemory: 64, debug: false, maxPerm: 256]

Now for most of the readers it should work: if you’ll grails run-app paste the following URL into your browser:
you should see the link to the controller that prints “Hello World!

But… if you’re like me… all the wrong things WILL happen: another issue I had was that port 8080 was already in use. To work around that, you can run your app on a different port:
grails -Dserver.port=8090 run-app

That’s it, now you should definitely see in your browser the following page:


and once you’ll click the controller-link, you’ll receive a sweet “Hello World!” in Grails.

Update: there is actually an open bug for the issue described above, and a fix should be deployed on the next release (Grails 2.3.3)

Grails is Groovy!