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Lately, I have exchanged with a member of the Camel community around configuration properties in Camel Quarkus. It’s really interesting to hear about situations people are facing out there, so please keep reaching out to the community. Thinking back about the case at hand, I think there is room for a refresher about some configuration tips.

Configuration via file

Among the multiple ways to define configurations in Camel Quarkus, the more common must be the file, as illustrated below:


There are few possibilities for a developer to use the defined configurations. One could use the @ConfigProperty annotation as beneath:

@ConfigProperty(name = "basic")
String basicPropertyFromAnnotation;

It’s also possible to access the configuration values programmatically via the following code:

String basicPropertyFromConfigProvider = ConfigProvider.getConfig().getValue("basic", String.class);

From the Camel side, the {{...}} notation could be issued, for instance, in a simple expression:


It’s worth noting that in a first pass the file is parsed thanks to java.util.Properties. And as such, the corresponding character escaping rules apply. For instance one could define a configuration using the mathematical square root sign \u221A as beneath:

unicode = a-value-with-unicode-character-(\u221A9=3)

Property expressions

But there is more processing happening in a second pass thanks to smallrye-common and it leads to more features. For instance, with property expressions one could define a configuration as below:

embedded = resolved-via-a
property-expression = a-value-${embedded}-property-expression

Notice how the property from the second line embeds the value from the first line. The resulting value at the end would be a-value-resolved-via-a-property-expression.

Environment variables

Another topic of interest is environment variable expansion. Look at the following property definition where the USERNAME environment variable is used:

environment-variable = a-value-with-environment-variable-${USERNAME}

So, it is possible to include references to environment variables. In case Camel Quarkus runs in an environment where the variable is not defined, it is even feasible to define a default value after the : character like this:

environment-variable-or-default = ${UNEXISTING_ENV_VAR:a-default-value}

Last but not least, it’s also possible to mix property expressions with environment variables as in the following lines:

default-value = a-default-value-resolved-via-a-property-expression
envvar-or-default-via-property-expression = ${UNEXISTING_ENV_VAR:${default-value}}

The more meaningful part is ${UNEXISTING_ENV_VAR:${default-value}}. If the environment variable UNEXISTING_ENV_VAR is not defined, we end up embedding the default-value configured one line above.

A tricky situation

The previous syntax ${VAR:default} may sound familiar for some Camel users. Indeed, it reminds us of some parts of the Camel simple language. For instance, some developers could end up defining a property like below:

date-expression = ${date:now}

And then using it in a Camel simple expression like that:


But when the simple expression {{date-expression}} is evaluated at runtime, the resulting body is… null

It could sound a bit strange at first, but let’s review this situation with what we have learned so far. On the first pass, the file is parsed with respect to the Properties file format. No special characters are used, so the parsing outcome would be ${date:now} as expected.

But in the second pass, it turns out that this property value is interpreted as the expansion of an environment variable named date with a default value. As such, Camel is wrongly provided with the value now. The expansion algorithm is detailed in io.smallrye.common.expression.Expression.parseString(…). Paying close attention, it appears that the environment value expansion could be avoided using $$:

date-expression = $${date:now}

Exactly what we needed, Camel is now provided with the simple expression ${date:now} and set the body to a value like Fri Jan 29 17:07:44 CET 2021 on execution.


At the end of the day, we had a refresher about, property expressions, and environment variables. We have seen how to deal with a tricky situation. There must be even more corner cases out there but we hope this article offered some pointers to help.

The source code for this example could be found here. And, the Quarkus configuration reference guide is located there.

Many thanks for reading.