How to use Bootstrap themes with Spring Boot and gulp


To make an app elegant and pleasing to the eye we usually need a lot of javascript and css code. The times of templates cluttered with script and style tags, however, are long gone. Check out how to manage static resources with gulp.

What we are going to build

Our goal is to set up a Spring Boot application with a polished homepage. To keep everything organized and imposing we will use:

  • Material Design Bootstrap 4 – a free, good looking and responsive Material Design UI kit for Bootstrap 4,
  • jtwig – a template engine to keep our presentation logic isolated,
  • Gulp – a toolkit for automating time-consuming tasks, such as concatenation of external javascript files and stylesheets,
  • npm – a package manager for javascript libraries.


Install the theme

Create a new branch

We want to keep features in our project separated and merge them to the develop branch only when they are completely finished. Create a new branch in your repository:

Download the theme

You can install any theme of your choice. Bear in mind that the easiest to work with will be based on Bootstrap. In this example I will install Material Design for Bootstrap:

If the node_modules directory is already ignored by git, the status should be displayed like this:

In the package.json file you can see the dev dependency for the newly installed theme:

There is still some work to be done in order to handle our new assets properly. Let’s see how we can use gulp to build our resources.

Implement gulp

Install the tool and its libraries

We want all external assets to be concatenated into a file – vendor.css for css styles and vendor.js for javascript libraries. We will use already minified versions of the downloaded modules, but you can easily add gulp-minify to the tasks if you want to attach the extended versions.

We will install gulp globally, just for the benefit of its accessibility, and locally, for this project. From many plugins available for the asset management, we are going to install gulp-concat:

Check your package.json file:

We have now installed everything that we will need to complete our objective.

Make installed gulp modules available within gulpfile.js

We will build css, javascript and font resources from the installed material theme. Remember, that, for a Spring Boot project,  you need to be in the static resources location:

Here you can create a gulpfile.js file for storing all commands responsible for managing assets with gulp – you can specify what tasks should be performed to organize the resources you just downloaded into your project.

For our example, we will create three tasks: css, js and font, to run during the build process:

and have all assets neatly arranged.

We will start our gulpfile.js with code responsible for making downloaded gulp module and its plugins accessible. We can achieve this in two ways:

  1. Assign each required module to a variable:

    Every added gulp plugin will be accessible in the file by the variable’s name, e.g. concat.
  2. On the other hand, to get rid of many require declarations at the top of the file, we can use a gulp-load-plugins plugin to make every gulp module listed in package.json available for gulpfile.js. Add this plugin to your project:

    Put this code on the beginning of your gulpfile.js:

    Every added gulp plugin will be accessible in the file by e.g. plugins.concat(). No need of requiring every one of them separately.
For this post I will stick to the first option, with every required module listed on the top of the gulpfile.js.

Create gulp tasks for handling asset building

Gulp processes a task according to the following sequence:

  1. Stream listed source files with gulp.src.
  2. Transform the content of these files – every function modifying the files is called with .pipe.
  3. Save the changed code to a destination directory with gulp.dest.

We can proceed with our first task – gulp css. We want it to concatenate all css files of the downloaded theme into one file – vendor.css and save it in the public/css folder. Copy this code to your gulpfile:

To concatenate javascript files, add:

Make sure, that in your gulpfile.js you specified exactly those versions of modules that you have just downloaded, e.g the MDBoostrap version that I used utilizes jquery-3.3.1, but this may be changed in the future so don’t copy and paste carelessly.

The theme we used also requires access to the Roboto font, therefore add the following to gulpfile.js:

You can call all three commands now, just note the working directory from which you do it:

Check the commands’ results in the public/ folder – there should be three new directories with assets: css/, js/, font/roboto/.

To keep our repository clean and robust, update the  .gitignore  file by adding the files that are going to be created during the building process:

The git status should display:

Take care of the view layer

If you already have a template engine in your project, do not forget to declare the vendor.css and vendor.js files in a base view. If you still haven’t chosen a template engine, I recommend you the jtwig template engine in a Spring Boot application post.

The assets will be accessible across the whole app if you add them in a template that is common for all views – we are taking advantage of inheritance in jtwig. The base template can look like this:

Verify that the installed assets work

Now you can rebuild your project and check the outcome in a browser. Make sure you created a controller that fetches a view with:

To be sure that everything works smoothly, refresh your application page. You should notice that your page is now using the installed theme. If you haven’t created any controller or view yet, don’t worry, and, again, check out the jtwig template engine in a Spring Boot application post to see how quickly set up a landing page to test your view layer.

After completing this chunk of work, it’s time to commit our progress:

Merge this feature branch to develop

After you have successfully applied a new theme, built the assets with Gulp and created a testing view, feel free to merge this branch with develop:


  • Older versions of Material Design for Bootstrap needed Apache Commons to work properly. In case of problems try adding the folloiwng to the pom.xml file:

  • Make sure that in gulpfile.js you declared exactly the same module versions as those actually downloaded into the node_modules directory.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on StockSnap

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