An alternative pattern for creating custom Grails GSP tags

I’ve been working with Grails for a while now, and while I like the framework there are a few things that I find annoying. The default recommended way of creating custom GSP (Groovy Server Pages) tags is one of them.

If you read the Grails documentation the instructions for creating a custom GSP tag involve creating the HTML to be rendered within the Groovy code. While this works, to me this just feels a bit clumbsy as compared to being able to create HTML within a GSP file. The method of creating custom tags that I describe in this article is a hybrid approach that I’ve been using that seems to work quite well.

To start out with this method we need to change the Grails Config.groovy file. By default any content output from a scriptlet (i.e. <%= expression %>) in a GSP page will be escaped to use XML entities rather than being rendered as HTML. The setting for scriptlet under the gsp/codes block should be changed to “none” to disable output escaping. After being updated the file will look something like the one below:

grails {
  views {
    gsp {
      encoding = 'UTF-8'
      htmlcodec = 'xml' // use xml escaping instead of HTML4 escaping
      codecs {
        expression = 'html' // escapes values inside ${}
        scriptlet = 'none' // escapes output from scriptlets in GSPs
        taglib = 'none' // escapes output from taglibs
        staticparts = 'none' // escapes output from static template parts
    // escapes all not-encoded output at final stage of outputting
    filteringCodecForContentType {
        //'text/html' = 'html'

Once this setting has been changed we can move on to creating our GSP page. Under the “Views” section of your Grails project create a “templates” directory. This is where you will create the GSP files for your custom tags. For this example we will create a file called “_myTemplate.gsp”. All template GSP files must start with an underscore. The template GSP file is just like any other GSP and can consist of normal HTML, scriptlets, or espressions. Our example template is pretty simple as shown below:

  <hr />

Now we need to create our TagLib Groovy file. This file is just like any other standard Grails TagLib with the exception of the last line where we render our GSP template with a model with have populated with any values needed. Note that in the name of the template file the underscore and “.gsp” file extension are left off.

package myapp.tags

class MyTagLib {
  static namespace = "my"

  def tag = { attrs, body ->
    def model = [
      body: body(), //Gets the body of the GSP tag
      title: attrs.title //Gets the title attribute of the GSP tag

    //Render our template file with the model created above.
    out << render(template:"/templates/myTemplate", model:model)

Finally, we can use our newly created tag within our other GSP pages. For example:

<my:tag title=”Some Value>
    <!-- Content Here -->

That’s it! Once you get used to creating templates using this pattern it works quite well. Hopefully you will find this useful in your own projects.