Developer docs

Here we present some notes that might be useful for developers.

Setting up ALEX for development

Make sure your machine has the following software installed:

  1. Java JDK 8 or greater
  2. Node.js v7.9.* or higher
  3. Git
  4. Maven 3.3.*

Clone the repository and install the frontend dependencies.

# clone the repository
git clone

# install frontend dependencies
cd alex/frontend/src/main/javascript
npm install

# install backend dependencies
cd ../../../../backend
mvn install [-DskipTests]

You are done! Add the optional parameter -DskipTests in order to skip the execution of tests.

Testing ALEX

Command Description
mvn test Execute all backend unit tests
mvn checkstyle:check Check if the code style is according to the specifications

Building a release

To build a packaged version of ALEX from the source, navigate to the root folder of the repository and enter the following command in the terminal:

mvn clean package [-DskipTests]

Afterwards, the ALEX-build-X.X.X.war archive is created in the build/target directory.

Command line arguments

Argument Description
alex.dbpath The path where the HSQL DB is stored.
java -jar ALEX-1.4.0.war --alex.dbpath=mem:testdb respectively
mvn spring-boot:run "-Dalex.dbpath=mem:testdb"
alex.port The path where ALEX should run
java -jar ALEX-1.4.0.war --alex.port=8000 respectively mvn spring-boot:run "-Dalex.port=8000"
chromeDriver The absolute path to the Chrome driver executable on your system
edgeDriver The absolute path to the Edge driver executable on your system
firefoxDriver The absolute path to the Gecko driver executable on your system
remoteDriver The URI to the remote Selenium server

Deploy with Docker

Another way to test and/or release ALEX involves Docker. Make sure that Docker is installed on your machine and that you have the right permissions to use it. Then, execute the following commands from the root of the repository to create a docker image:

# must be executed once
mvn install [-DskipTests]

# build the image
cd build
mvn docker:build

Afterwards a Docker image is created and you use it like any other Docker image, e.g.

# lets take a look at all images
docker images

# run ALEX at http://localhost:8000
docker run -d -p 8000:8080 alex:1.X.X-SNAPSHOT

The corresponding Dockerfile can be found at /build/src/docker

Frontend development

The frontend is developed with AngularJS and uses es6 features using the babel transpiler. Styling ALEX is done with Bootstrap v3 and custom sass stylesheets. All frontend files can be found in frontend/src/main/javascript.


  • node.js v7.9.* or higher

NPM commands

There are several NPM commands to automate the development workflow. In the frontend/src/main/javascript directory, use the following commands:

Command Description
npm run build Build all the application files
npm run serve Serves the frontend at http://localhost:8080.
For a custom port, add -- -p XXXX
npm run dev Compile sass, html and js files every time their content changes
npm test Execute all unit tests

Running the frontend

Since the frontend and the backend are decoupled from each other, we have to configure the address of the backend, so that all HTTP requests go to the correct server. Under javascript/src/main/javascript, there is a file called env.js which contains the following lines:

    window.__env.apiUrl = '/rest';
    // window.__env.apiUrl = 'http://localhost:8000/rest';

For the local development, uncomment the second line and adjust the port where the backend is running on. If you want to build ALEX later, the variable has to point to /rest again.

Authentication with the REST API

At the moment, the REST interface supports authentication via JSON Web Tokens (JWT).

  1. Make a POST request to /rest/users/login with a HTTP body that contains a serialized user object which looks like {"email":"<yourEmail>", "password":"<yourPassword>"}.
  2. You should receive a base64 encoded JWT. Save it somewhere and send it with each HTTP request to the API in the HTTP-Authorization header as follows: Authorization: Bearer <theEncodedToken>

The token provides information about the user as a base64 encoded JSON object as payload. It looks like {"email": "<yourEmail>", "id": <ID> "role": "<ROLE>"} where the role is either ADMIN or REGISTERED.

That's it. Currently, the password is transferred in plain text since there is no HTTPS connection available.

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