Introduction to Plugin Prefix Resolution

When you execute Maven using a standard lifecycle phase, resolving the plugins that participate in that lifecycle is a relatively simple process. However, when you directly invoke a mojo from the command line, as in the case of clean, Maven must have some way of reliably resolving the clean plugin prefix to the maven-clean-plugin. This provides brevity for command-line invocations, while preserving the descriptiveness of the plugin's real artifactId.

To complicate matters even more, not all plugins should be forced to have the same groupId in the repository. Since groupIds are presumed to be controlled by one project, and multiple projects may release plugins for Maven, it follows that plugin-prefix mappings must also accommodate multiple plugin groupIds.

To address these concerns, Maven provides a new piece of repository-level metadata (not associated with any single artifact) for plugin groups, along with a plugin mapping manager to organize multiple plugin groups and provide search functionality.

Specifying a Plugin's Prefix

In order to give users a convenient prefix with which to reference your plugin a prefix must be associated with your plugin when it is built. By default, Maven will make a guess at the plugin-prefix to be used, by removing any instances of "maven" or "plugin" surrounded by hyphens in the plugin's artifact ID. The conventional artifact ID formats to use are:

  • maven-${prefix}-plugin - for official plugins maintained by the Apache Maven team itself (you must not use this naming pattern for your plugin, see this note for more informations)
  • ${prefix}-maven-plugin - for plugins from other sources

If your plugin's artifactId fits this pattern, Maven will automatically map your plugin to the correct prefix in the metadata stored within your plugin's groupId path on the repository. However, if you want to customize the prefix used to reference your plugin, you can specify the prefix directly through a configuration parameter on the maven-plugin-plugin in your plugin's POM:


The above configuration will allow users to refer to your plugin by the prefix somePrefix, as in the following example:

mvn somePrefix:goal

Mapping Prefixes to Plugins

For each groupId configured for searching, Maven will:

  1. Download maven-metadata.xml from each remote repository into the local repository, and name it maven-metadata-${repoId}.xml within the path of ${groupId}.
  2. Load these metadata files, along with maven-metadata-local.xml (if it exists), within the path of ${groupId}. Merge them.
  3. Lookup the plugin prefix in the merged metadata. If it's mapped, it should refer to a concrete groupId-artifactId pair. Otherwise, go on to #1 for the next groupId in the user's plugin-groups.

These metadata files consist of the groupId it represents (for clarity when the file is opened outside the context of the directory), and a group of plugin elements. Each plugin in this list contains a prefix element denoting the plugin's command-line prefix, and an artifactId element, which provides the other side of the prefix mapping and provides enough information to lookup and use the plugin. When a plugin is installed or deployed, the appropriate metadata file is located - and if the prefix mapping is missing - modified to include the plugin-prefix mapping.

Configuring Maven to Search for Plugins

By default, Maven will search the groupId org.apache.maven.plugins for prefix-to-artifactId mappings for the plugins it needs to perform a given build. However, as previously mentioned, the user may have a need for third-party plugins. Since the Maven project is assumed to have control over the default plugin groupId, this means configuring Maven to search other groupId locations for plugin-prefix mappings.

As it turns out, this is simple. In the Maven settings file (per-user: ${user.home}/.m2/settings.xml; global: ${maven.home}/conf/settings.xml), you can provide a custom pluginGroups section, listing the plugin groupIds you want to search (each groupId goes in its own pluginGroup sub-element). For example, if my project uses a Modello model file, I might have the following in my settings:


This allows me to execute the following, which will generate Java classes from the model:

mvn -Dversion=4.0.0 -Dmodel=maven.mdo modello:java

Maven will always search the following groupId's after searching any plugin groups specified in the user's settings:

  • org.apache.maven.plugins
  • org.codehaus.mojo

NOTE: When specifying plugin groups to be used in searching for a prefix mapping, order is critical! By specifying a pluginGroup of com.myco.plugins with a prefix of clean, I can override the usage of the maven-clean-plugin when clean:clean is invoked.

NOTE2: For more information on settings.xml, see [1].


1 Guide to Configuring Maven