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Revision as of 16:02, 12 April 2018 by John Layt (talk | contribs) (Build Tooling)

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ARK2 has imposed a clear separation between the backend and front-end, allowing the front-end to operate completely independently. ARK2 provides a number of standard front-end implementations, but sites can adapt or implement their own. This also supports multi-tenant mode where a single ARK2 install can be configured to run multiple ARK2 sites using different frontends.

The standard frontends are implemented in Bootstrap, jQuery, and Twig, the most popular and well-supported front-end ui component and template systems. Frontends can be cloned and modified for a specific site, allowing for easier customisation of ARK's appearance by third party designers. Frontends can also be implemented in other technologies such as React and Vue using the ARK2 API.

The standard front-ends shipped with ARK2 are:

  • api - The absolute minimal front-end required to run an API-only server, all admin is performed via the admin console.
  • admin - A minimal Web Admin front-end for configuring an API-only server
  • ark2 - The default front-end supporting the full ARK2 feature set
  • bootstrap3 - A minimal Bootstrap 3 frontend designed as a base for custom frontends
  • bootstrap4 - A minimal Bootstrap 4 frontend designed as a base for custom frontends
  • flat - A simple, non-js, read-only front-end designed for scraping, e.g. for static archiving or web-bots


Frontend source is saved in the src directory by Namespace and Name:


For example, the main ark2 frontend in the ARK name space is stored in:


Within each frontend source folder, the source is organised by general type:

 |- <frontend>/
   |- assets/
     |- fonts/
     |- images/
     |- scripts/
     |- styles/
   |- bin/
     |- console
   |- config/
     |- credentials.json
     |- database.json
     |- site.json
   |- public/
     |- .htaccess
     |- index.php
   |- templates/
   |- translations/

The following source types generally use the default source and remain unchanged:

  • bin - Any executables used by the frontend, including the site console
  • config - The default config files for the frontend
  • public - The default contents of the public webroot folder, including the index.php file

The following source types are usually modified for a custom frontend and rebuilt using the build tooling when changed:

  • assets - The public assets for the frontend that get included under the public webroot, i.e. fonts, images, scripts and stylesheets
  • templates - The twig templates used to render the html
  • translations - Vendor provided translation files

Customising the scripts and stylesheets requires various tooling which is covered in the next section.

Build Tooling

Build tooling for frontend assets is required for a number of reasons:

  • Bootstrap can be customised most easily by changing variables used in the Sass templates, which then requires a build step to compile them into CSS
  • Production deployment is more efficient if CSS and JS is stripped, merged and minified, while development is easier if a map is generated for the original code
  • Multiple versions and combinations of assets may be required for performance reasons
  • NPM library management downloads the entire package, not just the assets required, an extra step is required to copy just the required assets into the web root folder
  • All the steps required for packaging and release management can be automated, e.g. clean, compile, tag, package, etc
  • The build tooling for the default ARK bootstrap and twig theme can be generalised to allow clients to build and deploy their own customised themes with minimal effort

The build tooling works as follows:

  • All build tooling is isolated in the /build folder so it can be excluded from any release packages or production deployments
  • Nothing in the /build folder may be depended on by any code outside the /build folder or required for running ARK itself
  • Node, npm, Gulp and Symfony Console are used to run the tooling
  • NPM is used to manage the Node vendor libraries which are installed into /build/node_packages
  • Gulp is used to ensure the build scripts run cross-platform
  • Symfony Console is used to manage and run the build tasks
  • Running tasks will only work inside the /build folder, trying to run outside the build folder will fail
  • The assets required to be built for a frontend are define in a manifest.json file
  • The built frontend assets are then installed into the frontend src directory


The front end build is managed by the Build Console. The Build console is in the 'build/' folder and is used to build/rebuild/install a front-end if required. To run the console you must be in the build folder:

 cd build

Running the console without a chosen command will show the list of available commands:

ARK Build Console 1.9.80

  command [options] [arguments]

  -h, --help            Display this help message
  -q, --quiet           Do not output any message
  -V, --version         Display this application version
      --ansi            Force ANSI output
      --no-ansi         Disable ANSI output
  -n, --no-interaction  Do not ask any interactive question
  -v|vv|vvv, --verbose  Increase the verbosity of messages: 1 for normal output, 2 for more verbose output and 3 for debug

Available commands:
  help                Displays help for a command
  list                Lists commands
  cache:clear         Clear the system cache
  database:reverse    Reverse engineer an existing database as DoctrineXML
  frontend:all        Build an ARK frontend. (Args: frontend)
  frontend:assets     Build the frontend assets (Fonts, Images, Scripts, Styles). (Args: frontend)
  frontend:base       Build the frontend base (Bin, Config, Templates, Translations, Web). (Args: frontend)
  frontend:create     Create a new ARK frontend (Args: namespace, frontend).
  frontend:scripts    Build the frontend scripts (JavaScript). (Args: frontend)
  frontend:styles     Build the frontend styles (CSS and SASS). (Args: frontend)
  frontend:templates  Build the frontend templates (Twig). (Args: frontend)

The first time you need to build/rebuild a frontend, you need to install the required Node packages. You will need to have installed Node and NPM on your system first.

 npm install

To update an existing installation, especially after an ARK upgrade:

 npm update

To check the status of your Node environment (including available updates), run:

 npm doctor

To build a frontend run the frontend command with the name of the frontend:

 ./build frontend:all <frontend>

This will install the built front end into 'src/<namespace>/frontend/<frontend>'.

You can also choose to build just one type of asset to save time, e.g. if you only changed a template and don't want to wait for the js to be rebuilt as well:

 ./build frontend:styles <frontend>
 ./build frontend:scripts <frontend>
 ./build frontend:templates <frontend>
 ./build frontend:assets <frontend>
 ./build frontend:base <frontend>


The assets built into a frontend are defined by the build manifest.json file.


The front-end is built from the source assets files in the 'build/' folder and installed in the 'src/' folder. The individual site folders then symlink to the required front-end in 'src/', or copy if they wish to edit in place. (See the FileLayout section below for more on this).

To clone the build assets for a new front end from the Core front-end, run the create command. You must provide a name for your new front end, and the source code Namespace it will use, e.g. ARK, Wibble, or Foo. Only use the ARK namespace if the front end is intended for the main ARK project. This Namespace will be remembered by the system.

 ./build frontend:create <namespace> <frontend>

To use a front end for a site, run the System Console in the '<install>/bin' folder.

To create an entirely new site, use the create command. This will create a new database, site folder, config and web subfolders, and link/copy the chosen front-end.

 cd ../bin
 ./sysadmin database:server:add <server>
 ./sysadmin site:create <site> <frontend=core>

You will be asked if you want to link or copy the front-end. It is recommended to use the default link option as you will not need to update the site folder when the front-end changes. Only copy the front-end if you want to make small changes to the front-end without having to build a new namespaced front-end. This however is discouraged, you should build a namespaced front-end instead.

To enable a front-end other than core, you will need to edit the '<site>/config/site.json' file to set the name of the front-end. [TODO: Write a command for this!]

To add another front-end to a site, or to refresh a copied front-end:

 site:frontend <site> <frontend>

File Layout


|- build/
  |- .jsbeautifyrc
  |- .jshintrc
  |- build
  |- gulpfile.js
  |- packages.json
  |- assets/
    |- <name>/
      |- bin/
      |- config/
      |- css/
      |- fonts/
      |- img/
      |- js/
      |- less/
      |- scss/
      |- twig/
      |- xliff/
  |- node_packages/
  |- vendor/


|- sites/
  |- <site>/
    |- config/
    |- files/
    |- schema/
    |- src/
      |- <frontend>/
        |- php/
        |- templates/
        |- translations/
    |- web/
      |- .htaccess
      |- index.php
      |- assets/
        |- <frontend>/
          |- fonts/
          |- images/
          |- scripts/
          |- styles/

Useful References