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Re: [grouper-dev] Comments on customizing the grouper UI

Chronological Thread 
  • From: "GW Brown, Information Systems and Computing" <>
  • To: Joy Veronneau <>,
  • Subject: Re: [grouper-dev] Comments on customizing the grouper UI
  • Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 10:08:27 +0000

Thanks for the feedback Joy. I've added comments below.


--On 18 November 2005 16:32 -0500 Joy Veronneau


I promised some comments on my experience customizing the grouper UI for
Cornell so here they are. I've attached an image of how the grouper
help page looks with our customizations.

Our web group at Cornell provided me with style sheets and sample
templates which were easily integrated following Gary's instructions. I
haven't fine tuned things yet, there are a few things missing from our
style sheets that I need to define - you will notice the font that
"Login" is written with in the screen shot example is a little small,
for example.

I used the Eclipse development environment (with which I was only
somewhat familiar) with the myEclipse add-on and haven't had previous
experience with struts and tiles, so I was no expert going in to this...
which I think since I was able to get this far means that things are
well organized and documented :)

I worked with the grouper-ui (0.6) version, as opposed to the grouper- qs
version, building a war file and deploying under Tomcat 5.5.7.

I created a directory called "cornell" under the "webapp" directory and
put all my style sheets and customizations there. I copied several
grouper templates, such as "footer.jsp", "header.jsp", "template.jsp" to
this directory and renamed them "cornellFooter.jsp" and so forth. Then
I created an additional build file which is called from the main build
file after you edit the file. I also created a
tiles-def-cornell.xml file.

It seemed necessary to disable the grouper.css and signet.css styles in
head.jsp (actually cornellHead.jsp) (not sure if that was the correct
way to disable these stylesheets) because my templates didn't have some
of the definitions for buttons and headers that those files do, and I
was getting some blue tones mixed in with the red which was not pretty
:) After commenting out those two style sheets, the page picked up the
defaults for the headers and buttons which was a little prettier. I
suppose the other option would be to redefine those items in my own
style sheets.
I envisaged that sites would 're-define' styles in their own stylesheet. It ought to be possible to override any behaviours that come with Grouper in this way, however, I can see that this can be quite challenging depending on the level of CSS experience. Based on this I will make some changes:

1)Have a configuration setting to 'remove' the signet and grouper css files
2)Allow a list of site-defined CSS files to be added. This would allow for more flexibility - keeping the usual site CSS 'pristine' whilst allowing other changes to be incorporated in separate files
3)I will rework template.jsp to insert a body.jsp which controls content between the HTML body tags. This should reduce the need to modify template.jsp.

BTW Firefox has various plugins which allow you to see where different style elements are inherited from.

Gary and I exchanged some email about some questions I had defining the
tabs "My Memberships", "My Groups", etc across the top - he mentioned
that he had some ideas for improving this in the next release.
Currently menu items are 'hard-coded'. I am making changes to make them more dynamic so sites can add their own items / remove others and customize according to the user who is logged in. A site will still want to make their own version of the menu file but it should be less work to modify

One question is how easy it will be to port the customization from
release to release. It seems that there are less than five files that
need to be edited outside of the "cornell" directory (web.core.xml,, etc.)
There is a mechanism for merging web.xml fragments designed to make changes to web.core.xml unnecessary, however, the first release was buggy and I doubt it will work in all cases, however, if you send me the modifications I'll have a go at getting them to work by merging.

If you can let me know all the changes you had to make to files outside of your cornell directory. I'll try and figure out if the changes could have been accommodated a different way or if there are other changes I can make so that the files do not need to be modified in future.

and then I will want to compare the jsp
templates I have copied for Cornell with the new versions to check for
any new functionality that I might want to incorporate. So I'm thinking
it's not too much trouble. Any other comments/ideas on this?

Hopefully, this is the information you were looking for when you asked
for my comments :) Feel free to write with questions etc.
This is all very useful. I'm sure that taking account of your feedback and that of others will help us fine tune the UI architecture and implementation so that it is easier for future adopters of Grouper.


GW Brown, Information Systems and Computing

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