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Content Inheritance

CrafterCMS support content inheritance out of the box, and supports it via a pluggable mechanism that allows developers to augment or override what’s out of the box.

Content Inheritance Basics

Content objects in CrafterCMS are essentially structured markup, XML by default, and house data authored via Crafter Studio by content authors. Content objects are typically structured as a tree which naturally suits the notion of inheriting from a parent (not to say that the inheritance mechanics are limited to that topology). Inheritance works as follows:

Assume we have two objects, one called Parent and one called Child and they’re set up as follows:

Parent: Below you’ll see a typical level descriptor which will be the parent of another object. You’ll note the level descriptor defines multiple elements that are common to everything at this level in the hierarchy and below it. This level descriptor defines a primary CSS file main.css, a common header component default-header.xml and a common footer component default-footer.xml.

 1    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 2    <component>
 3  <content-type>/component/level-descriptor</content-type>
 4  <display-template/>
 5  <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
 6  <objectGroupId>4123</objectGroupId>
 7  <objectId>41d1c0c5-bfc9-8fe8-2461-dc57a82b6cab</objectId>
 8  <file-name>crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml</file-name>
 9  <folder-name/>
10  <cssGroup>
11    <item>
12      <key>/static-assets/css/main.css</key>
13      <value>/static-assets/css/main.css</value>
14      <fileType_s>css</fileType_s>
15    </item>
16  </cssGroup>
17  <jsGroup/>
18  <createdDate>2/7/2016 19:40:03</createdDate>
19  <lastModifiedDate>10/8/2016 19:58:30</lastModifiedDate>
20  <defaultHeader>
21    <item>
22      <key>/site/components/components/header/default-header.xml</key>
23      <value>Default Header</value>
24      <include>/site/components/components/header/default-header.xml</include>
25      <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
26    </item>
27  </defaultHeader>
28  <defaultFooter>
29    <item>
30      <key>/site/components/components/footer/default-footer.xml</key>
31      <value>Default Footer</value>
32      <include>/site/components/components/footer/default-footer.xml</include>
33      <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
34    </item>
35  </defaultFooter>
36  <lastModifiedDate_dt>10/8/2016 19:58:30</lastModifiedDate_dt>
37    </component>

Child: Below is the XML file of a page residing under the above level descriptor and is setup to inherit from it. You’ll note the definition of the merge-strategy as inherit-levels, this invokes the level-based inheritance mechanics that require CrafterCMS to look at current and higher levels for files named crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml (this is configurable). You’ll also note that this page doesn’t specify the CSS file/group of files to include, nor will it need to specify the header nor footer components.

 1    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 2    <page>
 3  <content-type>/page/one-col-parallax</content-type>
 4  <display-template>/templates/web/pages/one-col-parallax.ftl</display-template>
 5  <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
 6  <objectGroupId>9cef</objectGroupId>
 7  <objectId>001f0955-6da3-8b7a-4e6b-6b373139d0ba</objectId>
 8  <file-name>index.xml</file-name>
 9  <folder-name>child-page</folder-name>
10  <internal-name>Child</internal-name>
11  <navLabel>CHILD</navLabel>
12  <title>Child Page</title>
13  <headerOverlap>no-overlap</headerOverlap>
14  <placeInNav>true</placeInNav>
15  <orderDefault_f>12000</orderDefault_f>
16  <description>This is the Child page.</description>
17  <disabled>false</disabled>
18  <createdDate>7/31/2016 16:52:39</createdDate>
19  <lastModifiedDate>8/1/2016 18:55:09</lastModifiedDate>
20  <body>
21    <h1>Hello World</h1>
22  </body>

CrafterCMS will invoke the inheritance mechanics implemented in the merge strategy inherit-levels to merge the page and the level descriptor and the merge strategy will pull in the elements defined in the level descriptor into the child page before handing the new model (XML) to the rendering system. This means that when the page renders, the model will automatically contain the meta-data defined in the parent level descriptor. In our example above, the page will automatically inherit the meta-data fields cssGroup, defaultHeader, and defaultFooter.


When an element is defined by the level descriptor and then subsequently defined by a child, the child’s definition overrides the level descriptor.

This mechanism allows you to define meta-data that flows down the information architecture of the site such that an entire site can have defaults and those defaults can be overwritten by sections individual page. Some examples of real-life use of inheritance:

  • Site logo

  • Global stylesheet and JS includes

  • Global headers and footers

  • Section meta-data (flows to all pages/subsections)


The inherit-levels mechanism allows you to set level descriptors at various levels of the information architecture with lower levels overriding upper levels.

What we discussed thus far is a single inheritance strategy implementation, inherit-levels, the code to which is available here: InheritLevelsMergeStrategy.java. There are more inheritance strategies implemented out of the box with CrafterCMS and you can build your own to suit your needs.

Out of the Box Strategies

No content should be inherited.

Content from Crafter level descriptors (crafter-level-descriptor.xml)
in the current and upper levels should be inherited.

The parent descriptor to inherit is specified explicitly in the XML
tag parent-descriptor.

The page will be merged with other pages in a targeted content
hierarchy, including level descriptors. For example,
/en_US/about-us will generate the following merging list:
/about-us/index.xml, /about-us/crafter-level-descriptor.xml,

Example of Out of the Box Strategy “inherit-levels”

Let’s take a look at an example of the out of the box strategy inherit-levels used in the Website Editorial blueprint.

Let’s begin by looking at the home page of a site created using the Website Editorial blueprint. Take note of the top (header) and left (left-rail) side of the page.

Content Inheritance - Home Page

Click on one of the category, say Entertainment and again take note of the top (header) and left (left-rail)side of the page.

Content Inheritance - Home Page

The top part of the page is the header and the left side is the left-rail. As shown above, the two pages we previewed uses the same information for the header, while the left-rail uses the same information on the top part of it, but different information on the bottom part.

Content Inheritance - Home Page

The Website Editorial blueprint uses a Section Defaults component content type (the level descriptor) to provide inherited values to all children and sibling content items, which for the example we are working on, is the header and the left-rail. Below is the Section Defaults content type, showing us the content type as /component/level-descriptor with the merge strategy inherit-levels used, and two components, the header and the left-rail:

Content Inheritance - Section Defaults Content Type

In the site tree below, we have two Section Defaults used, one residing under the Home folder (upper level in the site tree), and another residing under articles (lower level in the site tree in relation with the other Section Defaults defined).

Content Inheritance - Site tree showing section defaults

As you preview the pages under Home, (Style, Health, Techonology, Entertainment, Search Results) you’ll notice that the header and left-rail displayed is the same for all the pages. Once you preview pages, under articles, we can see the left-rail displayed is now different. This shows us how the Section Defaults under articles has overridden the Section Defaults under Home.

Here’s the Section Defaults under Home

Section Defaults under Home
 2  <content-type>/component/level-descriptor</content-type>  <display-template/>
 3  <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
 4  <placeInNav>false</placeInNav>
 5  <file-name>crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml</file-name>
 6  <objectGroupId>0a68</objectGroupId>
 7  <objectId>0a68e8ad-77d8-0a58-e7bf-09a71fb3077b</objectId>
 8  <folder-name/>
 9  <header_o>        <item>  <key>/site/components/headers/header.xml</key>
10  <value>Header</value>
11  <include>/site/components/headers/header.xml</include>
12  <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
13  </item></header_o>
14  <createdDate>2017-3-13T20:26:50.000Z</createdDate>
15  <createdDate_dt>2017-3-13T20:26:50.000Z</createdDate_dt>
16  <lastModifiedDate>2017-5-18T15:38:58.000Z</lastModifiedDate>
17  <lastModifiedDate_dt>2017-5-18T15:38:58.000Z</lastModifiedDate_dt>
18  <left-rail_o>     <item>  <key>/site/components/left-rails/left-rail-with-no-articles.xml</key>
19  <value>Left Rail with No Articles</value>
20  <include>/site/components/left-rails/left-rail-with-no-articles.xml</include>
21  <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
22  </item></left-rail_o>

Here’s the Section Defaults under articles

Section Defaults under Home
 2  <content-type>/component/level-descriptor</content-type>  <display-template/>
 3  <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
 4  <objectGroupId>d210</objectGroupId>
 5  <objectId>d210349e-3f77-95c1-37b3-cab10816347f</objectId>
 6  <file-name>crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml</file-name>
 7  <folder-name/>
 8  <header/>
 9  <left-rail_o>     <item>  <key>/site/components/left-rails/left-rail-with-related-articles.xml</key>
10  <value>Left Rail with Related Articles</value>
11  <include>/site/components/left-rails/left-rail-with-related-articles.xml</include>
12  <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
13  </item></left-rail_o>
14  <createdDate>2017-3-17T18:56:59.000Z</createdDate>
15  <createdDate_dt>2017-3-17T18:56:59.000Z</createdDate_dt>
16  <lastModifiedDate>2017-5-18T15:38:1.000Z</lastModifiedDate>
17  <lastModifiedDate_dt>2017-5-18T15:38:1.000Z</lastModifiedDate_dt>

As we can see from above, the left-rail component used for the Section Defaults under Home is different compared to the left-rail component used for the Section Defaults under articles. If a new article page is created under articles/2019/10/27, it will inherit the Section Defaults under articles.

Create Your Own Level Descriptor

Let’s take a look at how to add another level descriptor to the Website Editorial blueprint.

Create a new content type with name such as custom-level-descriptor:

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor content type

Add file-name with default value crafter-level-descriptor.level and check Readonly option. You can also add more fields to the content type as needed. In this example, a Custom Headline text is added.

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor content type form

Go to the Sidebar site tree, create a new folder articles2 under Home, then copy some articles to this new location:

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor create folder

Create a new content with type /component/custom-level-descriptor under articles2:

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor create folder

Update article.ftl template to include a new variable:

1<#if contentModel.customHeadline_s??>
2    <h1>${contentModel.customHeadline_s}</h1>

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor update template

Click to preview article from articles2 folder, confirm that new variable from the level descriptor has been included:

Content Inheritance - New level descriptor preview