Debugging Your Widgetset Components With SuperDevMode For Dummies

When trying to fix some browser-side issue in your GWT components, it is often useful to modify those component sources while your app is running, then refresh your browser with F5 and immediately see the changes done in Vaadin Button. This blogpost describes how to configure Intellij to do just that.

Note: Here I’m assuming that you’re using your own custom widgetset. If you’re using Vaadin default pre-compiled com.vaadin.DefaultWidgetSet widgetset located in vaadin-client-compiled.jar, please read Debugging Built-in Vaadin 8 Components With SuperDevMode For Dummies

We will need two things:

  • Your Vaadin WAR project, Maven or Gradle, doesn’t matter. If you want to experiment on a fresh project, you can easily generate one at - in the “Create an empty project” select “Vaadin 8 LTS” and run the Maven archetype command.
  • Your widgetset sources. They can either be present in the WAR project above, or in a separate jar artifact, doesn’t matter.

First, start by running your Vaadin-based WAR application from your IDE as you usually do.

Now that your app is up and running and accessible via the browser at, say, http://localhost:8080, we are going to employ GWT superdevmode. Generally, the idea here is that once a special Vaadin switch is activated (?superdevmode added to your url), the browser will be configured by the Vaadin Framework to serve widgetset javascript not from your project’s WAR, but instead from a GWT so-called codeserver which we will launch in a minute. The codeserver does two things:

  • when you press F5 in your Chrome, the codeserver will perform a hot javascript recompilation of Vaadin client-side widgets modified by you, and it will feed the compiled javascript to your Chrome.
  • the codeserver will also provide so-called sourcesets for Chrome browser so that you will see an actual original Java sources in Chrome and you will be able to debug them from Chrome.

In order to run the codeserver, go into the project which contains your widgetset sources and run this from the command-line:

$ mvn vaadin:run-codeserver

Note: Maven Vaadin plugin doesn’t have a documentation page, but it inherits goals from the GWT Maven Plugin. For example, here is the documentation on the vaadin:run-codeserver Maven goal and here is the documentation on all GWT Maven Plugin Goals.

The codeserver should eventually print something like this to the console:

[INFO] --- vaadin-maven-plugin:8.1-SNAPSHOT:run-codeserver (default-cli) @ vaadin-client-compiled ---
[INFO] Turning off precompile in incremental mode.
[INFO] Super Dev Mode starting up
[INFO]    workDir: /tmp/gwt-codeserver-1604961084994240944.tmp
[INFO]    [WARN] Deactivated PrecompressLinker
[ERROR] SLF4J: Failed to load class "org.slf4j.impl.StaticLoggerBinder".
[ERROR] SLF4J: Defaulting to no-operation (NOP) logger implementation
[ERROR] SLF4J: See for further details.
[INFO]    Loading Java files in com.vaadin.DefaultWidgetSet.
[INFO]    Module setup completed in 14374 ms
[INFO] The code server is ready at

Now that the codeserver is running, let us use it. In your Chrome, navigate to http://localhost:8080?superdevmode (or http://localhost:8080?superdevmode#!someview if you are using views + Navigator). The browser should say that it is recompiling the widgetset, and after a while, your app should appear as usual.

To prove that the app is indeed using the codeserver, you can modify any of your component, e.g. by adding the following Java code to its constructor:


Save and hit recompile CTRL+F9. All widgetset components will be hot-redeployed to the codeserver.

Now, head to the browser, press F5, then inspect your component and observe that it now has the woot-my-style class.

This concludes the hot-compilation part. Now for the debugging part. Press F12 in Chrome and head to the Sources tab. Now patiently unpack / / sourcemaps/ / foo / baz / You see java sources in a browser. Cool. Now place a breakpoint at the addStyleName("woot-my-style") and press F5. Chrome should now stop at that line. You can use leftmost debugger buttons to fiddle with the execution flow.


Q: The codeserver fails to start with

[INFO] [ERROR] cannot start web server
[INFO] Address already in use

A: CodeServer loves to stay running even when killed by Intellij. Just do netstat -tnlp|grep 9876 and then kill the offending java CodeServer process.

Q: The codeserver does not pick up the changes I made

A: Make sure you are launching the codeserver in Debug mode. Then, make sure you saved the java file and hit CTRL+F9.

Q: The codeserver fails to compile widgetset because of some ridiculous compilation error

Just let me know if you find a workaround, I’ll update this tutorial.

Q: Skipping over asserts

Use the -da JVM switch: run MAVEN_OPTS="-da" mvn vaadin:codeserver.

Q: Breakpoints do not work in Safari

I don’t know why yet. As a workaround, you can enforce breakpoints by adding GWT.debugger(); call to your java code. According to GWT docs:

Emits a JavaScript “debugger” statement on the line that called this method. If the user has the browser’s debugger open, the debugger will stop when the GWT application executes that line. There is no effect in Dev Mode or in server-side code.

Written on August 20, 2019