Shadow Components

ZK 8 introduces a new set of components: shadow components. Shadow components, which are similar to shadow DOM, neither create a corresponding component on the server side nor a widget on the client side. They simply inject their child components into the current page. If we use them with data binding, a page can dynamically change upon a ViewModel's data. Since shadow components have flow control and iteration function, if you identify a repeating view pattern appearing in your application, you can implement that view pattern with shadow components to modulize your view. Hence, their most powerful feature is making the view reusable.

Below is the list of shadow components:

  • <apply>: allows you to choose which template to be applied. It will look up the template inside-out recursively.
  • <forEach>: allows you to iterate over a collection of objects. Specify the collection by using the items attribute, and you can access the current item through a variable specified at the var attribute.
  • <if>: allows the conditional execution of its body according to the value of the test attribute.
  • <choose>/<when>/<otherwise>: they are used for logic and flow control like Java's switch/case/default statement.

We can use shadow components anywhere on a zul. For example, we can create a component based on a condition:

<if test="@load(vm.readonly)">
    <button label="Edit"/>

Or create a collection of components:

<forEach begin="0" end="3">
    <button label="${'Button'+=each}"/>


Before using shadow elements, make sure you include the required jar - zuti.jar. With maven, you should add the dependency below:


In this chapter, we will demonstrate the power of shadow components with a navigation menu example shown below:

The menu is made by templates containing shadow components, and it can render different menu hierarchies without any change. You can switch 2 sets of menu hierarchy via the radio group on the right hand side. This example demonstrates how to reuse a common view pattern.

We store a menu hierarchical structure in a linked list, and each node in the list may have sub-menus.

package org.zkoss.essentials.chapter5.template;

import java.util.*;
import org.zkoss.bind.annotation.*;
import org.zkoss.zk.ui.event.SelectEvent;
import org.zkoss.zkmax.zul.Navitem;

public class MenuViewModel {

    private List<MenuNode> menuHierarchy = null;
package org.zkoss.essentials.chapter5.template;

import java.util.List;

public class MenuNode {

    private String label;
    private String iconSclass;
    private List<MenuNode> subMenus;