Hidden Gems in Apache Sling

One of my favorite open source projects that I’m currently following is Apache Sling. Its a RESTful interface to a Java Content Repository JCR (specifically Apache Jackrabbit out of the box) and also an application framework. I’m less excited about it for the application framework part, but mainly because RESTful content is just that exciting (I’m weird, I know).

Sling is still in the Apache incubator and in my opinion lacking in depth of documentation. Also don’t be fooled into thinking this is a Content Management System, its a system interface into your content which you could build a user interface to manage content on top of. I recently have been doing some searching for additional documentation and peaking around in the source and wanted to expose what I think are two real hidden gems that weren’t easy to find (for me): JSON Query Servlet and JQuery JCR Explorer.

JSON Query Servlet

When you first take a look at Sling you see the ability to be able to request and add specific content nodes RESTfully but no way to query for set of content. This was a real let down because I was interested if  Sling could almost eliminate server side code creation in creating a SOFEA style application. After doing some searching though I found a blog ( http://in-the-sling.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-to-use-json-query-servlet.html ) which detailed the JSON Query servlet which I did not find documentation for on the Sling site.

The query servlet allows you to do xpath or sql like queries on the content repository and get the content back in JSON format. An example xpath query URL would be http://localhost:8080/content.query.json?queryType=xpath&statement=//parentcontentnode/node/*

No install necessary its included within version 5 in the incubator. The drawback is without figuring out access controls it makes your content wide open to anyone who knows your using Sling.

JQuery JCR Explorer Bundle

One of the other things that isn’t included with Sling out of the box is the ability to browse the content repository. You could argue whether or not such a piece of functionality should belong to Sling itself, but it definitely be a nice to have. I looked else where for a quality Open Source JCR Repository explorer. From the explorers I found the best one was an Add-on bundle in the Sling SCM repository at  http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/sling/trunk/contrib/explorers/jquery. Its a pretty simply jQuery based repository browser which has some issues but overall works well.

To install you’ll need to first build the bundle with maven, ‘mvn package’ should do it. Then start Sling and visit the OSGi administrative interface for the container your running Sling in and install the bundle via the normal process. Once you have installed you’ll have a new ‘explorer’ selector available to visit each piece of content in your JCR. To see the root go to http://localhost:8080/.explorer.html

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