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XNAT 1.7 supports customizing and extending its functionality through the use of plugins. A plugin is a compiled, self-contained package separate from your XNAT server but installed into the XNAT plugins folder. Once installed, the plugin runs in the same process space with XNAT as a fully integrated extension to the core XNAT server. The XNAT plugin framework gives you the tools to:
This documentation provides technical instruction and reference for working with the XNAT plugin framework, including:
This section describes the build files and infrastructure required for an XNAT plugin project.
Plugin metadata helps XNAT load your plugin when it starts up, as well as initialize and use any data models, services, and any other resources in your plugin package.
XNAT data types provide the framework for XNAT's primary domain model. This includes representations of medical imaging sessions, research subjects, clinical assessment instruments, and so on.
Services and scheduled tasks are the main way you can manage your custom data in the system, storing it in XNAT's archive and database, and maintaining and synchronizing data across the system.
Most services require some amount of configuration to allow users to adapt and tune the system to the requirements for their particular deployment and usage context. The XNAT preferences system provides an easy and intuitive way to create and maintain preference class implementations without having to deal with lots of database configuration and schema development.
Your plugin may want to expose features and configurations to your site admins or project owners, so they can set their own values. Or, in the case of the Container Service plugin, an Admin UI may be required to pull additional functionality into your XNAT.
Creating data models and writing software services is not very useful if you can't also interact with your target users. The XNAT plugin framework provides a number of ways to add UI elements to the application, inject elements into existing pages, and even override the functionality of default XNAT UI elements.
You could write the most extraordinary plugin for XNAT ever, but if you can't get the plugin where it needs to be no one will ever know. Deploying new plugins and updating your existing plugins are the final tasks in delivering your functionality to your users.
Much of the information in this documentation requires at least some knowledge of the Java programming language, as well as some familiarity with building and deploying Java libraries. There are some tasks that can be accomplished with little or no programming knowledge and using only common tools like zip and a text editor. Over the next few months, we will add descriptions of these tasks, as well as technical references and explanations to help non-programmers create workable plugins with a minimal investment of effort.
Until then, we will add explanations, glossary entries, and pointers to resources to explain technical subjects that may not be easily described in the flow of the documentation. Keep your eye out for footnotes1
and call-out boxes that may provide more information.
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