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Portlets are pluggable user interface software components that are managed and displayed in a web portal, for example an enterprise portal or a web CMS. A portlet can aggregate (integrate) and personalize content from different sources within a web page. A portlet responds to requests from a web client with and generates dynamic content.

Portlets produce fragments of markup (HTML, XHTML, WML) that are aggregated into a portal. Typically, following the desktop metaphor, a portal page is displayed as a collection of non-overlapping portlet windows, where each portlet window displays a portlet. Hence a portlet (or collection of portlets) resembles a web-based application that is hosted in a portal.

Some examples of portlet applications are e-mail, weather reports, discussion forums, and news.

A portlet is managed by a portlet container. Portlet standards platform independent application programming interfaces that are intended to enable software developers to create portlets that can be plugged into any portal supporting the standards. An example is the Java Portlet Specification. A Java portlet resembles a Java Servlet, but produces fragments rather than complete documents, and is not bound by a URL.

Portlet-based solutions are an example of component-based software engineering.

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