Thymeleaf live reload with Spring Boot DevTools

Posted at — Jul 4, 2022
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In my blog post of yesterday, I explained how to use Thymeleaf live reload with npm scripts. Quickly after announcing the blog post on Twitter, Oliver Drotbohm asked me why I didn’t just use Spring Boot DevTools instead. A valid question and one I will address in this follow-up post.

This is how live reload with Spring Boot DevTools can be used:

  1. To get started, create a new Spring Boot application at and be sure to include Spring Web, Thymeleaf, and Spring Boot DevTools as dependencies.

  2. Add some Thymeleaf template and a bit of CSS to have something to play with.

  3. Now run the Spring Boot application from IntelliJ IDEA (or use mvn spring-boot:run if you want to use the command line).

  4. Next, open your browser at http://locahost:8080 and enable the Live Reload extension in your browser.

Finally, edit a template or some CSS.

The kind of tricky part now is that you need to run a build of your project. Just saving is not enough.

You should now see the change reflected in the browser.

If you compare this setup to the one I have in Thymeleaf live reload with npm scripts, then I have to admit that this is simpler to get started with.

However, I see a few drawbacks with this approach:

  1. You need to build your project. This is slower then saving the file and just run the relevant NPM script for the thing that has changed.

  2. You can’t run CSS transformers (SASS or LESS for example) or use Tailwind CSS or minification as Spring Boot DevTools just copies the files as is. A possible workaround would be to have a Maven plugin that does those natively to stay out of the NPM ecosystem and run a Maven goal after each change you make. There is no such Maven plugin, and this would probably be slower compared to the NPM script targetted at the actual change.

  3. You can’t run JavaScript tools like babel to use modern JavaScript and transpile it back to something older browsers understand. Although, this is a less critical point now that we have all those evergreen browsers.

  4. Spring Boot DevTools disables all kinds of caches when it is active. I once had a hard time trying to set cache headers on my web resources. Nothing I tried seemed to work until I realized Spring Boot DevTools overrides everything I tried. Be sure to disable it when you want to test your caching headers.


Spring Boot DevTools allows us to quickly set up live reloading for a Spring Boot Thymeleaf project. However, be aware of the consequences and consider Thymeleaf live reload with npm scripts as well.

See live-reload-dev-tools on GitHub for the full sources of this example.

If you have any questions or remarks, feel free to post a comment at GitHub discussions.

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