Apollo Configuration

Apollo includes some basic configuration parameters that are specified in configuration files. The most important parameters are the database parameters in order to get Apollo up and running. Other options besides the database parameters can be configured via the config files, but note that many parameters can also be configured via the web interface.

Note: Configuration options may change over time, as more configuration items are integrated into the web interface.

Main configuration

The main configuration settings for Apollo are stored in grails-app/conf/Config.groovy, but you can override settings in your apollo-config.groovy file (i.e. the same file that contains your database parameters). Here are the defaults that are defined in the Config.groovy file:

// default apollo settings
apollo {
    gff3.source = "." // also for GPAD
    // other translation codes are of the form ncbi_KEY_translation_table.txt
    // under the web-app/translation_tables  directory
    // to add your own add them to that directory and over-ride the translation code here
    get_translation_code = 1
    proxies = [
                    referenceUrl : 'http://golr.geneontology.org/select',
                    targetUrl    : 'http://golr.geneontology.org/solr/select',
                    active       : true,
                    fallbackOrder: 0,
                    replace      : true
                    referenceUrl : 'http://golr.geneontology.org/select',
                    targetUrl    : 'http://golr.berkeleybop.org/solr/select',
                    active       : false,
                    fallbackOrder: 1,
                    replace      : false
    fa_to_twobit_exe = "/usr/local/bin/faToTwoBit" // get from https://genome.ucsc.edu/goldenPath/help/blatSpec.html
    sequence_search_tools = [
            blat_nuc : [
                    search_exe  : "/usr/local/bin/blat",
                    search_class: "org.bbop.apollo.sequence.search.blat.BlatCommandLineNucleotideToNucleotide",
                    name        : "Blat nucleotide",
                    params      : ""
            blat_prot: [
                    search_exe  : "/usr/local/bin/blat",
                    search_class: "org.bbop.apollo.sequence.search.blat.BlatCommandLineProteinToNucleotide",
                    name        : "Blat protein",
                    params      : ""
                    //tmp_dir: "/opt/apollo/tmp" optional param

These settings are essentially the same familiar parameters from a config.xml file from previous Apollo versions. The defaults are generally sufficient, but as noted above, you can override any particular parameter in your apollo-config.groovy file, e.g. you can add override configuration any given parameter as follows:

grails {
  apollo.get_translation_code = 1
  apollo {
    use_cds_for_new_transcripts = true
    default_minimum_intron_size = 1
    get_translation_code = 1  // identical to the dot notation

Suppress calculation of non-canonical splice sites

By default we calculate non-canonical splice sites. For some organisms this is undesirable.

apollo.calculate_non_canonical_splice_sites = false 

Count annotations

By default annotations are counted, but in some cases this can be come prohibitive for performance if a lot of annotations. This can be shut off by setting this to false. This can over-ridden as below in the apollo-config.groovy file:

grails {
  apollo.count_annotations = false
  apollo {
    count_annotations = false

Suppress add merged comments

By default, when you merge two isoforms, it will automatically create a comment indicating the name and unique ID from the consumed isoform that was used as a comment.

grails {
  apollo.add_merged_comment = false
  apollo {
    add_merged_comment = false

JBrowse Plugins and Configuration

You can configure the installed Apollo JBrowse by modifying the jbrowse section of your apollo-config.groovy that overrides the JBrowse configuration file.

There are two sections, plugins and git, which specifies the JBrowse version.

 git {
        url = "https://github.com/gmod/jbrowse"
        branch = "1.16.11-release"

If a git block a tag or branch can be specified.

In the plugins section, options are included (part of the JBrowse release), url (requiring a url parameter), or git, which can include a tag or branch as above.

Options for alwaysRecheck and alwaysRepull always check the branch and tag and always pull respectiviely.

See sample-*.groovy for example sections: https://github.com/GMOD/Apollo/blob/develop/sample-h2-apollo-config.groovy#L112-L146

Translation tables

The default translation table is 1

To use a different table from this list of NCBI translation tables set the number in the apollo-config.groovy file as:

apollo {
  get_translation_code = "11"

You may also add a custom translation table in the web-app/translation_tables directory as follows:


Specify the customname in apollo-config.groovy as follows:

apollo {
  get_translation_code = "customname"

As well, translation tables can be set per organism using the ‘Details’ panel located in the ‘Organism’ tab of the Annotator panel in the Apollo window: to replace the translation table (default or set by admin) for any given organism, use the field labeled as ‘Non-default Translation Table’ to enter a different table identifier as needed.

Configuring Transcript Overlapper

Apollo, by default, uses a CDS overlapper which treats two overlapping transcripts as isoforms of each other if and only if they share the same in-frame CDS.

You can also configure Apollo to use an exon overlapper, which would treat two overlapping transcripts as isoforms of each other if one or more exon overlaps with each other they share the same splice acceptor and splice donor sites.

apollo {
    transcript_overlapper = "exon"

Logging configuration

To over-ride the default logging, you can look at the logging configurations from Config.groovy and override or modify them in apollo-config.groovy.

log4j.main = {
    error 'org.codehaus.groovy.grails.web.servlet',  // controllers
          'org.codehaus.groovy.grails.web.pages',    // GSP
          'org.codehaus.groovy.grails.web.sitemesh', // layouts
    warn 'grails.app'

To add debug-level logging you would replace warn 'grails.app' with two lines debug 'grails.app' and debug 'org.bbop.apollo'. To see database-level logging you would also add: trace 'org.hibernate.type' and debug 'org.hibernate.SQL'.

Additional links for log4j:

  • Advanced log4j configuration: http://blog.andresteingress.com/2012/03/22/grails-adding-more-than-one-log4j-configurations/
  • Grails log4j guide: http://grails.github.io/grails-doc/2.4.x/guide/single.html#logging

Add attribute for the original id of the object

In the apollo store_orig_id=true is set to true by default. To store an orid_id attribute on the top-level feature that represents the original id from the genomic evidence. This is useful for re-merging code as Apollo will generate its own IDs because annotations will be based on multiple evidence sources. To turn this off, override it by setting it to false store_orig_id = false.

Canned Elements

Canned comments, canned keys (tags), and canned values are configured using the Admin tab from the Annotator Panel on the web interface; these can no longer be created or edited using the configuration files. For more details on how to create and edit Canned Elements see Canned Elements.

View your instances page for more details. For example

  • http://localhost:8080/apollo/cannedComment/
  • http://localhost:8080/apollo/cannedKey/
  • http://localhost:8080/apollo/cannedValue/

Search tools

Apollo can be configured to work with various sequence search tools. UCSC’s BLAT tool is configured by default and you can customize it as follows by making modifications in the apollo-config.groovy file. Here we replace blat with blast (there is an existing wrapper for Blast). The database for each file will be passed in via params (globally) or using the Blat database field in the organism tab. For blast the database will be the root name of the blast database files without the suffix. Retrieve blat binaries from ucsc.

    fa_to_twobit_exe = "/usr/local/bin/faToTwoBit" // get from https://genome.ucsc.edu/goldenPath/help/blatSpec.html
	sequence_search_tools {
        blat_nuc {
            search_exe = "/usr/local/bin/blastn"
            search_class = "org.bbop.apollo.sequence.search.blast.BlastCommandLine"
            name = "Blast nucleotide"
            params = ""
        blat_prot {
            search_exe = "/usr/local/bin/tblastn"
            search_class = "org.bbop.apollo.sequence.search.blast.BlastCommandLine"
            name = "Blast protein to translated nucleotide"
            params = ""
            //tmp_dir: "/opt/apollo/tmp" optional param
        your_custom_search_tool {
          search_exe = "/usr/local/customtool"
          search_class = "org.your.custom.Class"
          name: "Custom search"

When you setup your organism in the web interface, you can then enter the location of the sequence search database for BLAT.

If you setup fa_to_twobit_exe with the proper path, fasta uploads for new genomes will automatically be indexed and populated.

Note: If the BLAT binaries reside elsewhere on your system, edit the search_exe location in the config to point to your BLAT executable.

Data adapters

Data adapters for Apollo provide the methods for exporting annotation data from the application. By default, GFF3 and FASTA adapters are supplied. They are configured to query your IOService URL e.g. http://localhost:8080/apollo/IOService with the customizable query

data_adapters = [[
  permission: 1,
  key: "GFF3",
  data_adapters: [[
    permission: 1,
    key: "Only GFF3",
    options: "output=file&format=gzip&type=GFF3&exportGff3Fasta=false"
    permission: 1,
    key: "GFF3 with FASTA",
    options: "output=file&format=gzip&type=GFF3&exportGff3Fasta=true"
  permission: 1,
  key : "FASTA",
  data_adapters :[[
    permission : 1,
    key : "peptide",
    options : "output=file&format=gzip&type=FASTA&seqType=peptide"
    permission : 1,
    key : "cDNA",
    options : "output=file&format=gzip&type=FASTA&seqType=cdna"
    permission : 1,
    key : "CDS",
    options : "output=file&format=gzip&type=FASTA&seqType=cds"

Default data adapter options

The options available for the data adapters are configured as follows

  • type: GFF3 or FASTA
  • output: can be file or text. file exports to a file and provides a UUID link for downloads, text just outputs to stream.
  • format: can by gzip or plain. gzip offers gzip compression of the exports, which is the default.
  • exportSequence: true or false, which is used to include FASTA sequence at the bottom of a GFF3 export

Supported annotation types

Many configurations will require you to define which annotation types the configuration will apply to. Apollo supports the following “higher level” types (from the Sequence Ontology):

  • sequence:gene
  • sequence:pseudogene
  • sequence:transcript
  • sequence:mRNA
  • sequence:tRNA
  • sequence:snRNA
  • sequence:snoRNA
  • sequence:ncRNA
  • sequence:rRNA
  • sequence:miRNA
  • sequence:repeat_region
  • sequence:transposable_element

Modify CORS

We are using the grails-cors plugin. To configure it specifically or turn it off override the options:

cors.url.pattern = '*'
cors.enable.logging = true
cors.enabled = true
cors.headers = ['Access-Control-Allow-Origin': '*']

Set the default biotype for dragging up evidence

By default dragged up evidence is treated as mRNA. However, you can specify the default biotype within trackList.json in order to specify default types for tracks.

For example, specifying ncRNA as the default type:

    'key' : 'Official Gene Set v3.2 Canvas',
    'storeClass' : 'JBrowse/Store/SeqFeature/NCList',
    'urlTemplate' : 'tracks/Official Gene Set v3.2/{refseq}/trackData.json',

If you specify auto instead then it will automatically try to infer based on a feature’s type.

Other non-transcript types repeat_region and transposable_element are also supported.

Apache / Nginx configuration

Oftentimes, admins will put use Apache or Nginx as a reverse proxy so that the requests to a main server can be forwarded to the tomcat server. This setup is not necessary, but it is a very standard configuration as is making modification to iptables.

Note that we use the SockJS library, which will downgrade to long-polling if websockets are not available, but since websockets are preferable, it helps to take some extra steps to ensure that the websocket calls are proxied or forwarded in some way too. Using Tomcat 8 or above is recommended.

If using a separate Oauth2 provider, a more detailed example of handling both the proxy and the authentication with OpenID Connect has also been provided.

Installing secure certificates.

Free certificates can be found by using certbot.

Follow the instructions to install your appropriate certificate if users are going to potentially be sending passwords across.

Apache Proxy

Here is the most basic configuration for a reverse proxy with Apache 2.4 (will probably work for 2.2 as well).

Enable proxy_pass and proxy_wstunnel:

sudo a2enmod proxy proxy_wstunnel proxy_connect proxy_http
sudo service apache2 restart

In the apache conf directory edit proxy.conf

   <Proxy *>
      # if using Apache 2.2 use Order, Allow directives
      Order Deny,Allow
      Allow from all

      # if using Apache 2.4 use Require directive
      Require all granted

    ProxyPass /apollo/stomp/info http://localhost:8080/apollo/stomp/info
    ProxyPassReverse /apollo/stomp/info http://localhost:8080/apollo/stomp/info

    ProxyPass /apollo/stomp ws://localhost:8080/apollo/stomp
    ProxyPassReverse /apollo/stomp ws://localhost:8080/apollo/stomp

    ProxyPass           /apollo  http://localhost:8080/apollo
    ProxyPassReverse    /apollo  http://localhost:8080/apollo

If Tomcat is running SSL

If the secure certificate is on Apollo and you’re running via apache use https and wss protocols instead or just change the tomcat server port explicitly:

    ProxyPass /apollo/stomp/info https://site:8443/apollo/stomp/info
    ProxyPassReverse /apollo/stomp/info https://localhost:8443/apollo/stomp/info

    ProxyPass /apollo/stomp wss://localhost:8443/apollo/stomp
    ProxyPassReverse /apollo/stomp wss://localhost:8443/apollo/stomp

    ProxyPass           /apollo  https://localhost:8443/apollo
    ProxyPassReverse    /apollo  https://localhost:8443/apollo

Note: that a reverse proxy does not use ProxyRequests On (which turns on forward proxying, which is dangerous)

Also note: This setup will downgrade (but will still function) to use AJAX long-polling without the websocket proxy being configured.

Debugging proxy issues

Note: if your webapp is accessible but it doesn’t seem like you can login, you may need to customize the ProxyPassReverseCookiePath

For example, if you proxied to a different path, you might have something like this

ProxyPass  /testing http://localhost:8080
ProxyPassReverse  /testing http://localhost:8080
ProxyPassReverseCookiePath / /testing

Then your application might be accessible from http://localhost/testing/apollo

Nginx Proxy (from version 1.4 on)

Your setup may vary, but setting the upgrade headers can be used for the websocket configuration http://nginx.org/en/docs/http/websocket.html

    map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
        default upgrade;
        ''      close;
    server {
        # Main
        listen   80; server_name  myserver;
        # http://nginx.org/en/docs/http/websocket.html
        location /ApolloSever {
            proxy_http_version 1.1;
            proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
            proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;

Adding extra tabs

Extra tabs can be added to the side panel by over-riding the apollo configuration extraTabs:

    extraTabs = [
            ['title': 'extra1', 'url': 'http://localhost:8080/apollo/annotator/report/'],
            ['title': 'extra2', 'content': '<b>Apollo</b> documentation <a href="https://genomearchitect.readthedocs.io/" target="_blank">linked here</a>']

Upgrading existing instances

There are several scripts for migrating from older instances. See the migration guide for details. Particular notes:

Note: Apollo does not require using the add-webapollo-plugin.pl because the plugin is loaded implicitly by including the client/apollo/json/annot.json file at run time.

Upgrading existing JBrowse data stores

It is not necessary to change your existing JBrowse data directories to use Apollo 2.x, you can just point to existing data directories from your previous instances.

More information about JBrowse can also be found in their FAQ.

Adding custom CSS for track styling for JBrowse

There are a variety of different ways to include new CSS into the browser, but the easiest might be the following

Add the following statement to your trackList.json:

    "css" : "data/yourfile.css"

Then just place your CSS file in your organism’s data directory.

Adding custom CSS globally for JBrowse

If you want to add CSS that is used globally for JBrowse, you can edit the CSS in the client/apollo/css folder, but since you need to re-deploy the app every time for updates, it is easier to just edit the data directories for your organisms (you do not need to re-deploy the app when you are editing organism specific data, since this is outside of the webapp directory and is not deployed with the WAR file)

Adding custom CSS globally for the GWT app

If you want to style the GWT sidebar, generally the bootstrap theme is used but extra CSS is also included from web-app/annotator/theme.css which overrides the bootstrap theme

Adding / using proxies

If you are https, or choose to use separate services rather than the default provided, you can setup a pass-through proxy or modify a particular URL.

This service is only available to logged-in users.

The internal proxy URL is:

<apollo url>/proxy/request/<encoded_proxy_url>/

For example if your URL the URL we want to proxy:




If you user is logged-in and you pass in:


This will get proxied to:


If you choose to use another proxy service, you can go to the “Proxy” page (as administrator). Internally used proxies are provided by default. The order the final URL is chosen in is ‘active’ and then ‘fallbackOrder’.

Register admin in configuration

If you want to register your admin user in the configuration, you can add a section to your apollo-config.groovy like:

// other stuff
        username = "super@duperadmin.com"
        password = System.getenv("APOLLO_ADMIN_PASSWORD")?:"demo"
        firstName = "Super"
        lastName = "Admin"

It should only add the user a single time. User details can be retrieved from passed in text or from the environment depending on user preference.

Admin users will be added on system startup. Duplicate additions will be ignored.

Other authentication strategies

By default Apollo uses a username / password to authenticate users. However, additional strategies may be used.

To configure them, add them to the apollo-config.groovy and set active to true for the ones you want to use to authenticate.

    // other stuff
    authentications = [
        ["name":"Username Password Authenticator",
        ["name":"Remote User Authenticator",
         "params":["default_group": "annotators"]

The Username Password Authenticator is the default method for storing username passwords, where databases are stored secured within the database.

The Remote User Authentication method uses a separate Apache authorization proxy, which is used by the Galaxy Community.Furthermore, users and groups can be inserted / updated via web services, which are wrapped by the Apollo python library. The default_group parameter adds a user to a default group on login so that a user has access to at least some genomes.

A more detailed guide using OpenIDConnect authorization explains usage of both the proxy and an authentication strategy.

URL modifications

You should be able to pass in most JBrowse URL modifications to the loadLink URL.

You should use tracklist=1 to force showing the native tracklist (or use the checkbox in the Track Tab in the Annotator Panel).

Use openAnnotatorPanel=0 to close the Annotator Panel explicitly on startup.

Linking to annotations

You can find a link to your current location by clicking the “chain link” icon in the upper, left-hand corner of the Annotator Panel.

It will provide a popup that gives you a public URL to view while not logged in and a one to use while logged in.

####Public URL


  • location = :..
  • organism is the organism id or common name if unique.
  • tracks are url-encoded tracks separated by a comma


####Logged in URL


  • location = :.. it can also be the annotated feature name if an organims is provided or the uniqueName (see the ID in the annotation detail window), which is typically a UUID and does not require an organism.
  • organism is the organism id or common name if unique.
  • tracks are url-encoded tracks separated by a comma


  • http://demo.genomearchitect.io/Apollo2/annotator/loadLink?loc=Group1.31:287765..336436&organism=3836&tracks=Official%20Gene%20Set%20v3.2,GeneID
  • http://demo.genomearchitect.io/Apollo2/annotator/loadLink?loc=GB51936-RA&organism=3836&tracks=Official%20Gene%20Set%20v3.2,GeneID
  • http://demo.genomearchitect.io/Apollo2/annotator/loadLink?uuid=355617c7-f8c1-4105-bb11-755cee1855df&tracks=Official%20Gene%20Set%20v3.2,GeneID

Setting default track list behavior

By default the native tracklist is off, but can be added. For new users if you want the default to be on, you can add this to the apollo-config.groovy:

   native_track_selector_default_on = true

Set Common Data Directory in the config

The common_data_directory is where uploaded and processed jbrowse tracks will go.

This should be server-writable space on your system that is not deleted (note /tmp is deleted periodically on most unix systems).

common_data_directory = "/opt/temporary/apollo"

If you don’t plan to use these features, then /tmp might be fine.

In general it will create a directory for you at $HOME/apollo_data if not otherwise specified or will allow you to set one from the command-line.

Adding tracks via addStores

The JBrowse Configuration Guide describes in detail on how to add tracks to JBrowse using addStores. The configuration relies on sending track config JSON through the URL which can be problematic, especially with new versions of Tomcat.

Instead we recommend using the dot notation to add track configuration through the URL.





Following are a few recommendations for adding tracks via dot notation in Apollo:

  • avoid {dataRoot} in your urlTemplate
  • avoid specifying data folder name in your urlTemplate
  • avoid specifying baseUrl

Since Apollo is aware of the organism data folder, specifying it explicitly in the urlTemplate can cause issues with URL redirects.

Setting Track Style by type

For the default track type (FeatureTrack) to set the feature style by type (for example, if you have multiple feature types on a single track and you want to distinguish them, you have to set the track className as {type} in the style section of the trackList.json file for that track:

 "style": {
        "className": "{type}",

You then have to specify a custom CSS file for that type in the trackList.json:


And that file has to go at the same level as trackList.json.

An example CSS entry to specify the feature type lnc_RNA might be:

 .minus-lnc_RNA .neat-UTR,
 .plus-lnc_RNA .neat-UTR,
 .lnc_RNA .neat-UTR{
         height: 12px;
         margin-top: 2px;
         color: rgb(200,2,3);
         background-color: rgb(5,4,255) !important;

For Canvas and HTML track configuration options, please see the JBrowse documentation for additional details.

Hiding JBrowse tracks from the public

To hide public tracks from public organisms add apollo.permission.level.private line to your JBrowse track:

         "compress" : 0,
         "key" : "GeneData_hidden",
         "label" : "GeneData_hidden",
         "storeClass" : "JBrowse/Store/SeqFeature/NCList",
         "trackType" : null,
         "type" : "FeatureTrack",
         "urlTemplate" : "tracks/GeneData/{refseq}/trackData.json"

Only owners can edit

Restricts deletion and reverting to original editor or admin user by setting:

apollo.only_owners_delete = true