Some notes about the Windows installer for Grails

This isn’t really a problem, but I don’t think it’s documented anywhere, so I thought I’d record it here.

(And by the way, if your reaction to my Windows-based comments is going to be “why not use something other than Windows,” my answer is (1) at least one of my machines is always running Windows, but more importantly (2) my clients overwhelmingly use Windows in their training rooms, so I can’t get away from it even if I wanted to.)

Like Groovy, the Grails downloads page includes a special installer for Windows. You don’t have to use it — it’s still fine to just download the zip file, unpack it, set the GRAILS_HOME variable and go on, but if you do decide to use the Windows installer you should know that a few details have changed.

First of all, when the installer runs, it creates a different directory structure than that found in the regular zip file. The installer creates a structure like:

… other files ..

which means the GRAILS_HOME variable needs to point to “c:\grails-1.0.2\grails” rather than “c:\grails-1.0.2” as the User Guide says. That also means that if you want to put Grails in your path for all command prompts, you need the “bin” directory under “grails”, not the one under “grails-1.0.2”. Personally, I assigned GRAILS_HOME to “c:\grails-1.0.2\grails” and put “%GRAILS_HOME%\bin” in my path, just be sure.

This also comes up if you’re using the JetGroovy plug-in for IntelliJ IDEA. The plug-in requires you to specify where the root of the Grails distribution is, which again is the “grails” subdirectory.

In principle, a lot of this isn’t even necessary. The installer creates a desktop shortcut called “Grails Environment” which is a configured command prompt. When I fire it up on my machine and check the path, I see that the directories


have all been prepended (i.e., they appear at the beginning, rather than the end) to my path. The first one is very likely just my “%JAVA_HOME%\bin”, which was already in there, but again that’s not really a problem.

The other interesting characteristic about the “Grails Environment” window is that inside it, you don’t need to type the word “grails” in front of each command. You can just type “create-domain-class myclass” or whatever, and it works automatically. The Grails command line interface is already running.

For the create-* commands to work correctly, of course, you need to be in the root of your Grails application. The environment prompt looks like this:


at it starts, which is in the root of the Grails distribution. I needed to change directories to my own application, so after a couple of “cd”s I wound up with


The environment supports all the normal DOS commands, like “dir” or “cd”.

Incidentally, there’s no problem firing up more than one instance of the “Grails Environment”. It creates a separate command window for each case.

There has also been a change to the documentation. In earlier versions, the User Guide (an excellent resource, getting better all the time) was stored in HTML form, and was basically a copy of the documentation found here. Now, using the installer, the documentation has been bundled inside a Windows help file, which has the file extension *.chm.

Finally, the installer adds entries under “Start->All Programs->Grails 1.0.2”. Those entries are:

API Documentation (a link to the included JavaDocs for Grails)
Grails Environment (discussed above)
Grails References (a link to the Windows help file)
Grails Web site (a link to http:\\
Uninstall Grails 1.0.2 (which does what it says)

As with most things in Grails, it’s very forgiving. You can use it, or not. If you prefer the older (or should I say, “classic”?) style, just download the zipped distribution and go from there. If you want the installer to do that extra work for you, that’s fine too. I think, though, that including a README file of some kind containing all this information might be helpful.

Still, I tend to like these sorts of installers. I spend more time running training classes than I do on my own systems doing development, so set-up is an ongoing challenge for me. I’m tempted to tell the person setting up a training room to just download and run the Windows installer and they’re done. I may do that for my upcoming Grails class, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

By the way, Groovy also comes with a Windows installer. I really like that one. It creates the same directory structure that the zip file contains, but it also offers to create a GROOVY_HOME variable and add its “bin” directory to either your path or the system path, installs a native environment (whatever that is, but it sounded good), and downloads and installs optional components like Scriptom and the Graphics environment. Using that one is a no-brainer for me, though I’ve found it to be a bit slow.

I hope this helps someone. The creator of the installer is Chanwit Kaewkasi, who is active on the Grails users list. He was kind enough to answer my questions about it there.

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