January 19, 2016 Jenkins Job DSL

Delving into Job DSL

Tips, tricks and notes on working with Jenkins Job DSL

A short blog post for those working or wanting to work with the popular Jenkins Job DSL. After migrating a fair number of jobs, I’ve decided to jot down some notes for future projects. Hopefully these notes will also prove helpful to other Job DSL enthusiasts out there.


The right tools for the job

Indiana Jones never went anywhere without his trusty hat and whip. Neither should we dive into Job DSL without our own trustworthy tools. Here’s a list of things that’ll definitely come in handy.

API viewer

The API viewer is your main reference point for DSL methods. You’ll find the majority of the methods you need right here. Refer to the wiki of individual plugins if you can’t find them in the API viewer, as it doesn’t list all plugins implementing Job DSL support through the new ContextExtensionPoint yet. If nothing is mentioned on the plugin’s wiki, it’s off to the configure block for a custom implementation.

Job DSL Playground

You can quickly test your DSL scripts on the Job DSL playground . It lets you write and run snippets of code and immediately inspect the resulting XML file. It’s perfect for tinkering away at configure blocks due to the short feedback loop.

Note that, just like the API viewer, the playground doesn’t support plugins implementing Job DSL support through the new ContextExtensionPoint yet. These plugins need to be installed on the server for their Job DSL implementation to work.

Target job/config.xml

Keep the job you’re converting and it’s config.xml close. Comparing configurations using the Jenkins UI is a very fast way of making sure you’re on the right path. If only the config.xml is provided, create a job from it!

It’s easy to sneak a quick peek at an existing job’s config.xml in Jenkins by simply browsing to it. http://myJenkins:8080/job/myJob/config.xml

Empty config.xml

It’s not uncommon for plugins to always have a small default block added to a job’s config.xml on job creation. There’s no point in writing giant configure blocks for these XML blocks as they’ll just be generated automatically anyway. Create or ask for an empty job’s config.xml and take note of what’s added automatically before churning out redundant code.

Groovy skills

Don’t forget that you are working with a Groovy DSL and have full access to the power of Groovy while writing your scripts. If you have no experience with Groovy (or it’s close relative Java), don’t hesitate to go through a tutorial!

Decent IDE

Get yourself an IDE with Groovy support. Code completion and a fabulous color scheme really help when you’re dealing with bigger scripts.

My personal recommendation would be IDEA.


You’ll often find yourself digging through big XML files while converting jobs to Job DSL. Don’t underestimate how much Regex can contribute to finding and transforming those XML blocks.

Job DSL mailing list

The Job DSL mailing list is the place to be when you’re having issues and questions you can’t seem to find an answer to. Don’t be afraid to ask your brothers-in-arms as they’re a helpful and friendly bunch.

Tips, tricks and warnings

Here’s a couple extra notes to keep in mind while you’re hacking away at your scripts.

Keeping it clean

It’s possible to put code in a separate script that’s shared with your other scripts. This is a great way to avoid duplicate code and minimize cluttering in your scripts. Again, remember you have Groovy’s toolkit at your disposal. Be creative!

A simple example

Shared script
package utilities

class Configures {
   static def CopyArtifactPermission (def job, String downstreamJobName) {
      job.with {
            'projectNameList' {
Job DSL script
import utilities.Configures

def myJob = job('step_one')
Configures.CopyArtifactPermission(myJob, 'step_two')
XML output

A fancier example

Shared script
package utilities

public class Defaults {
   static def getBaseJob(def job, Closure optionalClosure = null){
      job.with {
         description 'A default description.'
      if(optionalClosure) {
         optionalClosure.delegate = job
Job DSL script
import utilities.Defaults

   scm {
      git ('git@github.com/william/the-juggler.git')
XML output
   <description>A default description.</description>
   <scm class='hudson.plugins.git.GitSCM'>

Order of elements

The order of your job elements is often important, especially when it comes to build steps and publishers. Don’t worry though, the order in which you add elements to your script is the order in which they’re added to the config.xml and the Jenkins job.

Don’t DSLify defaults

Always check your empty config.xml before starting work on another configure block or plugin configuration. You don’t want to waste time by writing code to generate blocks that are added anyway at Job creation.

Don’t overdo it

A globally applicable creed that’s sadly often forgotten. Don’t burn hours churning out a fancy common library filled with helpful, reusable scripts when you really only have to migrate a simple job or two. Learning Job DSL and how to do it nicely is surprisingly fun, but don’t get too carried away.


Hopefully you picked up a trick or two while going through this. I hope to revisit this list and add to it whenever I’m working with Jenkins Job DSL. If you have tips and tricks of your own, feel free to suggest them and I’ll add them to the list (with due credit, of course!)