Chapter 13. Web MVC framework

13.1. Introduction

Spring's Web MVC framework is designed around a DispatcherServlet that dispatches requests to handlers, with configurable handler mappings, view resolution, locale and theme resolution as well as support for upload files. The default handler is a very simple Controller interface, just offering a ModelAndView handleRequest(request,response) method. This can already be used for application controllers, but you will prefer the included implementation hierarchy, consisting of, for example AbstractController, AbstractCommandController and SimpleFormController. Application controllers will typically be subclasses of those. Note that you can choose an appropriate base class: if you don't have a form, you don't need a form controller. This is a major difference to Struts.

[Tip]Tip

Since Spring 2.5, an annotated controller style is available for Java 5+ users. This is a compelling alternative to implementing traditional Controller (sub-)classes, allowing for flexible multi-action handling. See the Section 13.11, “Annotation-based controller configuration” section for details.

Spring Web MVC allows you to use any object as a command or form object - there is no need to implement a framework-specific interface or base class. Spring's data binding is highly flexible: for example, it treats type mismatches as validation errors that can be evaluated by the application, not as system errors. All this means that you don't need to duplicate your business objects' properties as simple, untyped strings in your form objects just to be able to handle invalid submissions, or to convert the Strings properly. Instead, it is often preferable to bind directly to your business objects. This is another major difference to Struts which is built around required base classes such as Action and ActionForm.

Compared to WebWork, Spring has more differentiated object roles. It supports the notion of a Controller, an optional command or form object, and a model that gets passed to the view. The model will normally include the command or form object but also arbitrary reference data; instead, a WebWork Action combines all those roles into one single object. WebWork does allow you to use existing business objects as part of your form, but only by making them bean properties of the respective Action class. Finally, the same Action instance that handles the request is used for evaluation and form population in the view. Thus, reference data needs to be modeled as bean properties of the Action too. These are (arguably) too many roles for one object.

Spring's view resolution is extremely flexible. A Controller implementation can even write a view directly to the response (by returning null for the ModelAndView). In the normal case, a ModelAndView instance consists of a view name and a model Map, which contains bean names and corresponding objects (like a command or form, containing reference data). View name resolution is highly configurable, either via bean names, via a properties file, or via your own ViewResolver implementation. The fact that the model (the M in MVC) is based on the Map interface allows for the complete abstraction of the view technology. Any renderer can be integrated directly, whether JSP, Velocity, or any other rendering technology. The model Map is simply transformed into an appropriate format, such as JSP request attributes or a Velocity template model.

13.1.1. Pluggability of other MVC implementations

There are several reasons why some projects will prefer to use other MVC implementations. Many teams expect to leverage their existing investment in skills and tools. In addition, there is a large body of knowledge and experience available for the Struts framework. Thus, if you can live with Struts' architectural flaws, it can still be a viable choice for the web layer; the same applies to WebWork and other web MVC frameworks.

If you don't want to use Spring's web MVC, but intend to leverage other solutions that Spring offers, you can integrate the web MVC framework of your choice with Spring easily. Simply start up a Spring root application context via its ContextLoaderListener, and access it via its ServletContext attribute (or Spring's respective helper method) from within a Struts or WebWork action. Note that there aren't any "plug-ins" involved, so no dedicated integration is necessary. From the web layer's point of view, you'll simply use Spring as a library, with the root application context instance as the entry point.

All your registered beans and all of Spring's services can be at your fingertips even without Spring's Web MVC. Spring doesn't compete with Struts or WebWork in this scenario, it just addresses the many areas that the pure web MVC frameworks don't, from bean configuration to data access and transaction handling. So you are able to enrich your application with a Spring middle tier and/or data access tier, even if you just want to use, for example, the transaction abstraction with JDBC or Hibernate.

13.1.2. Features of Spring Web MVC

Spring's web module provides a wealth of unique web support features, including:

  • Clear separation of roles - controller, validator, command object, form object, model object, DispatcherServlet, handler mapping, view resolver, etc. Each role can be fulfilled by a specialized object.

  • Powerful and straightforward configuration of both framework and application classes as JavaBeans, including easy referencing across contexts, such as from web controllers to business objects and validators.

  • Adaptability, non-intrusiveness. Use whatever controller subclass you need (plain, command, form, wizard, multi-action, or a custom one) for a given scenario instead of deriving from a single controller for everything.

  • Reusable business code - no need for duplication. You can use existing business objects as command or form objects instead of mirroring them in order to extend a particular framework base class.

  • Customizable binding and validation - type mismatches as application-level validation errors that keep the offending value, localized date and number binding, etc instead of String-only form objects with manual parsing and conversion to business objects.

  • Customizable handler mapping and view resolution - handler mapping and view resolution strategies range from simple URL-based configuration, to sophisticated, purpose-built resolution strategies. This is more flexible than some web MVC frameworks which mandate a particular technique.

  • Flexible model transfer - model transfer via a name/value Map supports easy integration with any view technology.

  • Customizable locale and theme resolution, support for JSPs with or without Spring tag library, support for JSTL, support for Velocity without the need for extra bridges, etc.

  • A simple yet powerful JSP tag library known as the Spring tag library that provides support for features such as data binding and themes. The custom tags allow for maximum flexibility in terms of markup code. For information on the tag library descriptor, see the appendix entitled Appendix D, spring.tld

  • A JSP form tag library, introduced in Spring 2.0, that makes writing forms in JSP pages much easier. For information on the tag library descriptor, see the appendix entitled Appendix E, spring-form.tld

  • Beans whose lifecycle is scoped to the current HTTP request or HTTP Session. This is not a specific feature of Spring MVC itself, but rather of the WebApplicationContext container(s) that Spring MVC uses. These bean scopes are described in detail in the section entitled Section 3.4.4, “The other scopes”

13.2. The DispatcherServlet

Spring's web MVC framework is, like many other web MVC frameworks, request-driven, designed around a central servlet that dispatches requests to controllers and offers other functionality facilitating the development of web applications. Spring's DispatcherServlet however, does more than just that. It is completely integrated with the Spring IoC container and as such allows you to use every other feature that Spring has.

The request processing workflow of the Spring Web MVC DispatcherServlet is illustrated in the following diagram. The pattern-savvy reader will recognize that the DispatcherServlet is an expression of the “Front Controller” design pattern (this is a pattern that Spring Web MVC shares with many other leading web frameworks).

The requesting processing workflow in Spring Web MVC (high level)

The DispatcherServlet is an actual Servlet (it inherits from the HttpServlet base class), and as such is declared in the web.xml of your web application. Requests that you want the DispatcherServlet to handle will have to be mapped using a URL mapping in the same web.xml file. This is standard J2EE servlet configuration; an example of such a DispatcherServlet declaration and mapping can be found below.

<web-app>

    <servlet>
        <servlet-name>example</servlet-name>
        <servlet-class>org.springframework.web.servlet.DispatcherServlet</servlet-class>
        <load-on-startup>1</load-on-startup>
    </servlet>

    <servlet-mapping>
        <servlet-name>example</servlet-name>
        <url-pattern>*.form</url-pattern>
    </servlet-mapping>

</web-app>

In the example above, all requests ending with .form will be handled by the 'example' DispatcherServlet. This is only the first step in setting up Spring Web MVC... the various beans used by the Spring Web MVC framework (over and above the DispatcherServlet itself) now need to be configured.

As detailed in the section entitled Section 3.8, “The ApplicationContext”, ApplicationContext instances in Spring can be scoped. In the web MVC framework, each DispatcherServlet has its own WebApplicationContext, which inherits all the beans already defined in the root WebApplicationContext. These inherited beans defined can be overridden in the servlet-specific scope, and new scope-specific beans can be defined local to a given servlet instance.

Context hierarchy in Spring Web MVC

The framework will, on initialization of a DispatcherServlet, look for a file named [servlet-name]-servlet.xml in the WEB-INF directory of your web application and create the beans defined there (overriding the definitions of any beans defined with the same name in the global scope).

Consider the following DispatcherServlet servlet configuration (in the 'web.xml' file.)

<web-app>

    <servlet>
        <servlet-name>golfing</servlet-name>
        <servlet-class>org.springframework.web.servlet.DispatcherServlet</servlet-class>
        <load-on-startup>1</load-on-startup>
    </servlet>

    <servlet-mapping>
        <servlet-name>golfing</servlet-name>
        <url-pattern>*.do</url-pattern>
    </servlet-mapping>

</web-app>

With the above servlet configuration in place, you will need to have a file called '/WEB-INF/golfing-servlet.xml' in your application; this file will contain all of your Spring Web MVC-specific components (beans). The exact location of this configuration file can be changed via a servlet initialization parameter (see below for details).

The WebApplicationContext is an extension of the plain ApplicationContext that has some extra features necessary for web applications. It differs from a normal ApplicationContext in that it is capable of resolving themes (see Section 13.7, “Using themes”), and that it knows which servlet it is associated with (by having a link to the ServletContext). The WebApplicationContext is bound in the ServletContext, and by using static methods on the RequestContextUtils class you can always lookup the WebApplicationContext in case you need access to it.

The Spring DispatcherServlet has a couple of special beans it uses in order to be able to process requests and render the appropriate views. These beans are included in the Spring framework and can be configured in the WebApplicationContext, just as any other bean would be configured. Each of those beans is described in more detail below. Right now, we'll just mention them, just to let you know they exist and to enable us to go on talking about the DispatcherServlet. For most of the beans, sensible defaults are provided so you don't (initially) have to worry about configuring them.

Table 13.1. Special beans in the WebApplicationContext

Bean typeExplanation
ControllersControllers are the components that form the 'C' part of the MVC.
Handler mappingsHandler mappings handle the execution of a list of pre- and post-processors and controllers that will be executed if they match certain criteria (for instance a matching URL specified with the controller)
View resolversView resolvers are components capable of resolving view names to views
Locale resolverA locale resolver is a component capable of resolving the locale a client is using, in order to be able to offer internationalized views
Theme resolverA theme resolver is capable of resolving themes your web application can use, for example, to offer personalized layouts
multipart file resolverA multipart file resolver offers the functionality to process file uploads from HTML forms
Handler exception resolver(s)Handler exception resolvers offer functionality to map exceptions to views or implement other more complex exception handling code

When a DispatcherServlet is set up for use and a request comes in for that specific DispatcherServlet, said DispatcherServlet starts processing the request. The list below describes the complete process a request goes through when handled by a DispatcherServlet:

  1. The WebApplicationContext is searched for and bound in the request as an attribute in order for the controller and other elements in the process to use. It is bound by default under the key DispatcherServlet.WEB_APPLICATION_CONTEXT_ATTRIBUTE.

  2. The locale resolver is bound to the request to let elements in the process resolve the locale to use when processing the request (rendering the view, preparing data, etc.) If you don't use the resolver, it won't affect anything, so if you don't need locale resolving, you don't have to use it.

  3. The theme resolver is bound to the request to let elements such as views determine which theme to use. The theme resolver does not affect anything if you don't use it, so if you don't need themes you can just ignore it.

  4. If a multipart resolver is specified, the request is inspected for multiparts; if multiparts are found, the request is wrapped in a MultipartHttpServletRequest for further processing by other elements in the process. (See the section entitled Section 13.8.2, “Using the MultipartResolver” for further information about multipart handling).

  5. An appropriate handler is searched for. If a handler is found, the execution chain associated with the handler (preprocessors, postprocessors, and controllers) will be executed in order to prepare a model (for rendering).

  6. If a model is returned, the view is rendered. If no model is returned (which could be due to a pre- or postprocessor intercepting the request, for example, for security reasons), no view is rendered, since the request could already have been fulfilled.

Exceptions that are thrown during processing of the request get picked up by any of the handler exception resolvers that are declared in the WebApplicationContext. Using these exception resolvers allows you to define custom behaviors in case such exceptions get thrown.

The Spring DispatcherServlet also has support for returning the last-modification-date, as specified by the Servlet API. The process of determining the last modification date for a specific request is straightforward: the DispatcherServlet will first lookup an appropriate handler mapping and test if the handler that is found implements the interface LastModified interface. If so, the value of the long getLastModified(request) method of the LastModified interface is returned to the client.

You can customize Spring's DispatcherServlet by adding context parameters in the web.xml file or servlet initialization parameters. The possibilities are listed below.

Table 13.2. DispatcherServlet initialization parameters

ParameterExplanation
contextClassClass that implements WebApplicationContext, which will be used to instantiate the context used by this servlet. If this parameter isn't specified, the XmlWebApplicationContext will be used.
contextConfigLocationString which is passed to the context instance (specified by contextClass) to indicate where context(s) can be found. The string is potentially split up into multiple strings (using a comma as a delimiter) to support multiple contexts (in case of multiple context locations, of beans that are defined twice, the latest takes precedence).
namespacethe namespace of the WebApplicationContext. Defaults to [servlet-name]-servlet.

13.3. Controllers

The notion of a controller is part of the MVC design pattern (more specifically, it is the 'C' in MVC). Controllers provide access to the application behavior which is typically defined by a service interface. Controllers interpret user input and transform such input into a sensible model which will be represented to the user by the view. Spring has implemented the notion of a controller in a very abstract way enabling a wide variety of different kinds of controllers to be created. Spring contains form-specific controllers, command-based controllers, and controllers that execute wizard-style logic, to name but a few.

Spring's basis for the controller architecture is the org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.Controller interface, the source code for which is listed below.

public interface Controller {

    /**
     * Process the request and return a ModelAndView object which the DispatcherServlet
     * will render.
     */
    ModelAndView handleRequest(
        HttpServletRequest request,
        HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception;

}

As you can see, the Controller interface defines a single method that is responsible for handling a request and returning an appropriate model and view. These three concepts are the basis for the Spring MVC implementation - ModelAndView and Controller. While the Controller interface is quite abstract, Spring offers a lot of Controller implementations out of the box that already contain a lot of the functionality you might need. The Controller interface just defines the most basic responsibility required of every controller; namely handling a request and returning a model and a view.

13.3.1. AbstractController and WebContentGenerator

To provide a basic infrastructure, all of Spring's various Controller inherit from AbstractController, a class offering caching support and, for example, the setting of the mimetype.

Table 13.3. Features offered by the AbstractController

FeatureExplanation
supportedMethodsindicates what methods this controller should accept. Usually this is set to both GET and POST, but you can modify this to reflect the method you want to support. If a request is received with a method that is not supported by the controller, the client will be informed of this (expedited by the throwing of a ServletException).
requireSessionindicates whether or not this controller requires a HTTP session to do its work. If a session is not present when such a controller receives a request, the user is informed of this by a ServletException being thrown.
synchronizeOnSessionuse this if you want handling by this controller to be synchronized on the user's HTTP session.
cacheSecondswhen you want a controller to generate a caching directive in the HTTP response, specify a positive integer here. By default the value of this property is set to -1 so no caching directives will be included in the generated response.
useExpiresHeadertweaks your controllers to specify the HTTP 1.0 compatible "Expires" header in the generated response. By default the value of this property is true.
useCacheHeadertweaks your controllers to specify the HTTP 1.1 compatible "Cache-Control" header in the generated response. By default the value of this property is true.

When using the AbstractController as the baseclass for your controllers you only have to override the handleRequestInternal(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse) method, implement your logic, and return a ModelAndView object. Here is short example consisting of a class and a declaration in the web application context.

package samples;

public class SampleController extends AbstractController {

    public ModelAndView handleRequestInternal(
        HttpServletRequest request,
        HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception {

        ModelAndView mav = new ModelAndView("hello");
        mav.addObject("message", "Hello World!");
        return mav;        
    }
}
<bean id="sampleController" class="samples.SampleController">
    <property name="cacheSeconds" value="120"/>
</bean>

The above class and the declaration in the web application context is all you need besides setting up a handler mapping (see the section entitled Section 13.4, “Handler mappings”) to get this very simple controller working. This controller will generate caching directives telling the client to cache things for 2 minutes before rechecking. This controller also returns a hard-coded view (which is typically considered bad practice).

13.3.2. Other simple controllers

Although you can extend AbstractController, Spring provides a number of concrete implementations which offer functionality that is commonly used in simple MVC applications. The ParameterizableViewController is basically the same as the example above, except for the fact that you can specify the view name that it will return in the web application context (and thus remove the need to hard-code the viewname in the Java class).

The UrlFilenameViewController inspects the URL and retrieves the filename of the file request and uses that as a viewname. For example, the filename of http://www.springframework.org/index.html request is index.

13.3.3. The MultiActionController

Spring offers a MultiActionController class that supports the aggregation of multiple request-handling methods into one controller, which then allows you to group related functionality together. (If you are a Struts veteran you might recognize the similarity between the Struts DispatchAction and the Spring MVC MultiActionController.) The MultiActionController class is defined in a distinct package - org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.multiaction - and it is capable of mapping requests to method names and then invoking the correct method to handle a particular request. Using the MultiActionController is especially handy when you have a lot of related functionality that would perhaps be nice to define all in a single class without having to implement one Controller for each bit of functionality. The MultiActionController typically is not appropriate for capturing very complex request-handling logic or use cases that address totally-different areas of functionality, and you are encouraged to stick with the standard 'one piece-of-functionality maps to one Controller' for such cases.

There are two usage-styles for the MultiActionController. Either you subclass the MultiActionController and specify the methods that will be resolved by the MethodNameResolver on your subclass, or you define a delegate object, on which methods resolved by the MethodNameResolver will be invoked. If you choose the former style, you do not need to set a delegate, but for the latter style, you will need to inject your delegate object into the MultiActionController as a collaborator (either as a single constructor argument or via the 'setDelegate' method).

The MultiActionController needs some strategy to determine which method to invoke when handling an incoming request: this strategy is defined by the MethodNameResolver interface. The MultiActionController class exposes the 'methodNameResolver' property so that you can inject a MethodNameResolver that is capable of doing that. The methods that you define on a MultiActionController (or on the class of the injected delegate object) must conform to the following signature:

// 'anyMeaningfulName' can be replaced by any method name
public [ModelAndView | Map | void] anyMeaningfulName(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse [,HttpSession] [,AnyObject])

The full details of this method signature are covered in the class-level Javadoc of the MultiActionController source itself. If you are planning to use the MultiActionController, you are highly encouraged to consult that Javadoc. However, below you will find some basic examples of valid MultiActionController method signatures.

The standard signature (mirrors the Controller interface method).

public ModelAndView displayCatalog(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)

This signature accepts a Login argument that will be populated (bound) with parameters retrieved from the request.

public ModelAndView login(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse, Login)

This signature requires that the request already have a valid session.

public ModelAndView viewCart(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse, HttpSession)

This signature accepts a Product argument that will be populated (bound) with parameters retrieved from the request and requires that the request already have a valid session. Note that the order of arguments is important: the session must be the third argument, and an object to be bound must always be the final argument (fourth when a session is specified, or third otherwise).

public ModelAndView updateCart(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse, HttpSession, Product)

This signature has a void return type indicating that the handler method assumes the responsibility of writing the response.

public void home(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)

This signature has a Map return type indicating that a view name translator will be responsible for providing the view name based upon the request, and the model will consist of the Map's entries (see the section entitled Section 13.10, “Convention over configuration” below).

public Map list(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)

The MethodNameResolver is responsible for resolving method names based on the specifics of the incoming HttpServletRequest. A number of MethodNameResolver implementations are provided for you, and of course you can always write your own. Please also note that the InternalPathMethodNameResolver is the default MethodNameResolver that will be used if you don't inject one explicitly.

  • InternalPathMethodNameResolver - interprets the final filename from the request path and uses that as the method name/

    For example, 'http://www.sf.net/testing.view' will result in the method testing(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse) being invoked.

  • ParameterMethodNameResolver - interprets a request parameter as the name of the method that is to be invoked.

    For example, 'http://www.sf.net/index.view?method=testIt' will result in the method testIt(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse) being invoked. The 'paramName' property specifies the name of the request parameter that is to be used.

  • PropertiesMethodNameResolver - uses a user-defined Properties object with request URLs mapped to method names. For example, when the Properties contain '/index/welcome.html=doIt' and a request to /index/welcome.html comes in, the doIt(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse) method will be invoked. This particular MethodNameResolver uses the Spring PathMatcher class internally, so if the Properties contained '/**/welcom?.html', the example would also have worked.

You may also declare custom methods for handling Exceptions that occur during request handling. The valid signature for such a method is similar to the request handling methods in that the HttpServletRequest and HttpServletResponse must be provided as the first and second parameters respectively. Unlike request handling methods however, the method's name is irrelevant. Instead, when determining which Exception handling method to invoke, the decision is based upon the most specific possible match among the methods whose third argument is some type of Exception. Here is an example signature for one such Exception handling method.

public ModelAndView processException(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse, IllegalArgumentException)

Let's look at an example showing the delegate-style of MultiActionController usage in conjunction with the ParameterMethodNameResolver.

<bean id="paramMultiController"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.multiaction.MultiActionController">

    <property name="methodNameResolver">
        <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.multiaction.ParameterMethodNameResolver">
            <property name="paramName" value="method"/>
        </bean>
    </property>

    <property name="delegate">
        <bean class="samples.SampleDelegate"/>
    </property>

</bean>
}
public class SampleDelegate {

    public ModelAndView retrieveIndex(HttpServletRequest req, HttpServletResponse resp) {
        return new ModelAndView("index", "date", new Long(System.currentTimeMillis()));
    }
}

When using the delegate shown above, we could also configure the PropertiesMethodNameResolver to match any number couple of URLs to the method we defined:

<bean id="propsResolver"
      class="org....mvc.multiaction.PropertiesMethodNameResolver">
    <property name="mappings">
        <value>
/index/welcome.html=retrieveIndex
/**/notwelcome.html=retrieveIndex
/*/user?.html=retrieveIndex
        </value>
    </property>
</bean>

<bean id="paramMultiController" class="org....mvc.multiaction.MultiActionController">

    <property name="methodNameResolver" ref="propsResolver"/>
    <property name="delegate">
        <bean class="samples.SampleDelegate"/>
    </property>

</bean>

13.3.4. Command controllers

Spring's command controllers are a fundamental part of the Spring Web MVC package. Command controllers provide a way to interact with data objects and dynamically bind parameters from the HttpServletRequest to the data object specified. They perform a somewhat similar role to the Struts ActionForm, but in Spring, your data objects don't have to implement a framework-specific interface. First, lets examine what command controllers are available straight out of the box.

  • AbstractCommandController - a command controller you can use to create your own command controller, capable of binding request parameters to a data object you specify. This class does not offer form functionality; it does however offer validation features and lets you specify in the controller itself what to do with the command object that has been populated with request parameter values.

  • AbstractFormController - an abstract controller offering form submission support. Using this controller you can model forms and populate them using a command object you retrieve in the controller. After a user has filled the form, the AbstractFormController binds the fields, validates the command object, and hands the object back to the controller to take the appropriate action. Supported features are: invalid form submission (resubmission), validation, and normal form workflow. You implement methods to determine which views are used for form presentation and success. Use this controller if you need forms, but don't want to specify what views you're going to show the user in the application context.

  • SimpleFormController - a form controller that provides even more support when creating a form with a corresponding command object. The SimpleFormController let's you specify a command object, a viewname for the form, a viewname for page you want to show the user when form submission has succeeded, and more.

  • AbstractWizardFormController - as the class name suggests, this is an abstract class - your wizard controller should extend it. This means you have to implement the validatePage(), processFinish() and processCancel() methods.

    You probably also want to write a contractor, which should at the very least call setPages() and setCommandName(). The former takes as its argument an array of type String. This array is the list of views which comprise your wizard. The latter takes as its argument a String, which will be used to refer to your command object from within your views.

    As with any instance of AbstractFormController, you are required to use a command object - a JavaBean which will be populated with the data from your forms. You can do this in one of two ways: either call setCommandClass() from the constructor with the class of your command object, or implement the formBackingObject() method.

    AbstractWizardFormController has a number of concrete methods that you may wish to override. Of these, the ones you are likely to find most useful are: referenceData(..) which you can use to pass model data to your view in the form of a Map; getTargetPage() if your wizard needs to change page order or omit pages dynamically; and onBindAndValidate() if you want to override the built-in binding and validation workflow.

    Finally, it is worth pointing out the setAllowDirtyBack() and setAllowDirtyForward(), which you can call from getTargetPage() to allow users to move backwards and forwards in the wizard even if validation fails for the current page.

    For a full list of methods, see the Javadoc for AbstractWizardFormController. There is an implemented example of this wizard in the jPetStore included in the Spring distribution: org.springframework.samples.jpetstore.web.spring.OrderFormController.

13.4. Handler mappings

Using a handler mapping you can map incoming web requests to appropriate handlers. There are some handler mappings you can use out of the box, for example, the SimpleUrlHandlerMapping or the BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping, but let's first examine the general concept of a HandlerMapping.

The functionality a basic HandlerMapping provides is the delivering of a HandlerExecutionChain, which must contain the handler that matches the incoming request, and may also contain a list of handler interceptors that are applied to the request. When a request comes in, the DispatcherServlet will hand it over to the handler mapping to let it inspect the request and come up with an appropriate HandlerExecutionChain. Then the DispatcherServlet will execute the handler and interceptors in the chain (if any).

The concept of configurable handler mappings that can optionally contain interceptors (executed before or after the actual handler was executed, or both) is extremely powerful. A lot of supporting functionality can be built into custom HandlerMappings. Think of a custom handler mapping that chooses a handler not only based on the URL of the request coming in, but also on a specific state of the session associated with the request.

This section describes two of Spring's most commonly used handler mappings. They both extend the AbstractHandlerMapping and share the following properties:

  • interceptors: the list of interceptors to use. HandlerInterceptors are discussed in Section 13.4.3, “Intercepting requests - the HandlerInterceptor interface”.

  • defaultHandler: the default handler to use, when this handler mapping does not result in a matching handler.

  • order: based on the value of the order property (see the org.springframework.core.Ordered interface), Spring will sort all handler mappings available in the context and apply the first matching handler.

  • alwaysUseFullPath: if this property is set to true, Spring will use the full path within the current servlet context to find an appropriate handler. If this property is set to false (the default), the path within the current servlet mapping will be used. For example, if a servlet is mapped using /testing/* and the alwaysUseFullPath property is set to true, /testing/viewPage.html would be used, whereas if the property is set to false, /viewPage.html would be used.

  • urlDecode: the default value for this property is true, as of Spring 2.5. If you prefer to compare encoded paths, switch this flag to false. However, note that the HttpServletRequest always exposes the servlet path in decoded form. Be aware that the servlet path will not match when compared with encoded paths.

  • lazyInitHandlers: allows for lazy initialization of singleton handlers (prototype handlers are always lazily initialized). Default value is false.

(Note: the last three properties are only available to subclasses of org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.AbstractUrlHandlerMapping).

13.4.1. BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping

A very simple, but very powerful handler mapping is the BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping, which maps incoming HTTP requests to names of beans, defined in the web application context. Let's say we want to enable a user to insert an account and we've already provided an appropriate form controller (see Section 13.3.4, “Command controllers” for more information on command- and form controllers) and a JSP view (or Velocity template) that renders the form. When using the BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping, we could map the HTTP request with the URL http://samples.com/editaccount.form to the appropriate form Controller as follows:

<beans>
  <bean id="handlerMapping" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping"/>

  <bean name="/editaccount.form" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.SimpleFormController">
    <property name="formView" value="account"/>
    <property name="successView" value="account-created"/>
    <property name="commandName" value="account"/>
    <property name="commandClass" value="samples.Account"/>
  </bean>
<beans>

All incoming requests for the URL /editaccount.form will now be handled by the form Controller in the source listing above. Of course we have to define a servlet-mapping in web.xml as well, to let through all the requests ending with .form.

<web-app>
    ...
    <servlet>
        <servlet-name>sample</servlet-name>
        <servlet-class>org.springframework.web.servlet.DispatcherServlet</servlet-class>
        <load-on-startup>1</load-on-startup>
    </servlet>

   <!-- maps the sample dispatcher to *.form -->
    <servlet-mapping>
        <servlet-name>sample</servlet-name>
        <url-pattern>*.form</url-pattern>
    </servlet-mapping>
    ...
</web-app>
[Note]Note

If you want to use the BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping, you don't necessarily have to define it in the web application context (as indicated above). By default, if no handler mapping can be found in the context, the DispatcherServlet creates a BeanNameUrlHandlerMapping for you!

13.4.2. SimpleUrlHandlerMapping

A further - and much more powerful handler mapping - is the SimpleUrlHandlerMapping. This mapping is configurable in the application context and has Ant-style path matching capabilities (see the Javadoc for the org.springframework.util.PathMatcher class). Here is an example:

<web-app>
    ...
    <servlet>
        <servlet-name>sample</servlet-name>
        <servlet-class>org.springframework.web.servlet.DispatcherServlet</servlet-class>
        <load-on-startup>1</load-on-startup>
    </servlet>

    <!-- maps the sample dispatcher to *.form -->
    <servlet-mapping>
        <servlet-name>sample</servlet-name>
        <url-pattern>*.form</url-pattern>
    </servlet-mapping>

    <!-- maps the sample dispatcher to *.html -->
    <servlet-mapping>
        <servlet-name>sample</servlet-name>
        <url-pattern>*.html</url-pattern>
    </servlet-mapping>
    ...
</web-app>

The above web.xml configuration snippet enables all requests ending with .html and .form to be handled by the sample dispatcher servlet.

<beans>
        
    <!-- no 'id' required, HandlerMapping beans are automatically detected by the DispatcherServlet -->
    <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.SimpleUrlHandlerMapping">
        <property name="mappings">
            <value>
                /*/account.form=editAccountFormController
                /*/editaccount.form=editAccountFormController
                /ex/view*.html=helpController
                /**/help.html=helpController
            </value>
        </property>
    </bean>

    <bean id="helpController"
          class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.UrlFilenameViewController"/>

    <bean id="editAccountFormController"
          class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.SimpleFormController">
        <property name="formView" value="account"/>
        <property name="successView" value="account-created"/>
        <property name="commandName" value="Account"/>
        <property name="commandClass" value="samples.Account"/>
    </bean>
<beans>

This handler mapping routes requests for 'help.html' in any directory to the 'helpController', which is a UrlFilenameViewController (more about controllers can be found in the section entitled Section 13.3, “Controllers”). Requests for a resource beginning with 'view', and ending with '.html' in the directory 'ex' will be routed to the 'helpController'. Two further mappings are also defined for 'editAccountFormController'.

13.4.3. Intercepting requests - the HandlerInterceptor interface

Spring's handler mapping mechanism has the notion of handler interceptors, that can be extremely useful when you want to apply specific functionality to certain requests, for example, checking for a principal.

Interceptors located in the handler mapping must implement HandlerInterceptor from the org.springframework.web.servlet package. This interface defines three methods, one that will be called before the actual handler will be executed, one that will be called after the handler is executed, and one that is called after the complete request has finished. These three methods should provide enough flexibility to do all kinds of pre- and post-processing.

The preHandle(..) method returns a boolean value. You can use this method to break or continue the processing of the execution chain. When this method returns true, the handler execution chain will continue, when it returns false, the DispatcherServlet assumes the interceptor itself has taken care of requests (and, for example, rendered an appropriate view) and does not continue executing the other interceptors and the actual handler in the execution chain.

The following example provides an interceptor that intercepts all requests and reroutes the user to a specific page if the time is not between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

<beans>
    <bean id="handlerMapping"
          class="org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.SimpleUrlHandlerMapping">
        <property name="interceptors">
            <list>
                <ref bean="officeHoursInterceptor"/>
            </list>
        </property>
        <property name="mappings">
            <value>
                /*.form=editAccountFormController
                /*.view=editAccountFormController
            </value>
        </property>
    </bean>

    <bean id="officeHoursInterceptor"
          class="samples.TimeBasedAccessInterceptor">
        <property name="openingTime" value="9"/>
        <property name="closingTime" value="18"/>
    </bean>
<beans>
package samples;

public class TimeBasedAccessInterceptor extends HandlerInterceptorAdapter {

    private int openingTime;
    private int closingTime;

    public void setOpeningTime(int openingTime) {
        this.openingTime = openingTime;
    }

    public void setClosingTime(int closingTime) {
        this.closingTime = closingTime;
    }

    public boolean preHandle(
            HttpServletRequest request,
            HttpServletResponse response,
            Object handler) throws Exception {

        Calendar cal = Calendar.getInstance();
        int hour = cal.get(HOUR_OF_DAY);
        if (openingTime <= hour < closingTime) {
            return true;
        } else {
            response.sendRedirect("http://host.com/outsideOfficeHours.html");
            return false;
        }
    }
}

Any request coming in, will be intercepted by the TimeBasedAccessInterceptor, and if the current time is outside office hours, the user will be redirected to a static html file, saying, for example, he can only access the website during office hours.

As you can see, Spring has an adapter class (the cunningly named HandlerInterceptorAdapter) to make it easier to extend the HandlerInterceptor interface.

13.5. Views and resolving them

All MVC frameworks for web applications provide a way to address views. Spring provides view resolvers, which enable you to render models in a browser without tying you to a specific view technology. Out of the box, Spring enables you to use JSPs, Velocity templates and XSLT views, for example. The section entitled Chapter 14, View technologies has details of how to integrate and use a number of disparate view technologies.

The two interfaces which are important to the way Spring handles views are ViewResolver and View. The ViewResolver provides a mapping between view names and actual views. The View interface addresses the preparation of the request and hands the request over to one of the view technologies.

13.5.1. Resolving views - the ViewResolver interface

As discussed in the section entitled Section 13.3, “Controllers”, all controllers in the Spring Web MVC framework return a ModelAndView instance. Views in Spring are addressed by a view name and are resolved by a view resolver. Spring comes with quite a few view resolvers. We'll list most of them and then provide a couple of examples.

Table 13.4. View resolvers

ViewResolverDescription
AbstractCachingViewResolverAn abstract view resolver which takes care of caching views. Often views need preparation before they can be used, extending this view resolver provides caching of views.
XmlViewResolverAn implementation of ViewResolver that accepts a configuration file written in XML with the same DTD as Spring's XML bean factories. The default configuration file is /WEB-INF/views.xml.
ResourceBundleViewResolverAn implementation of ViewResolver that uses bean definitions in a ResourceBundle, specified by the bundle basename. The bundle is typically defined in a properties file, located in the classpath. The default file name is views.properties.
UrlBasedViewResolverA simple implementation of the ViewResolver interface that effects the direct resolution of symbolic view names to URLs, without an explicit mapping definition. This is appropriate if your symbolic names match the names of your view resources in a straightforward manner, without the need for arbitrary mappings.
InternalResourceViewResolverA convenience subclass of UrlBasedViewResolver that supports InternalResourceView (i.e. Servlets and JSPs), and subclasses such as JstlView and TilesView. The view class for all views generated by this resolver can be specified via setViewClass(..). See the Javadocs for the UrlBasedViewResolver class for details.
VelocityViewResolver / FreeMarkerViewResolverA convenience subclass of UrlBasedViewResolver that supports VelocityView (i.e. Velocity templates) or FreeMarkerView respectively and custom subclasses of them.

As an example, when using JSP for a view technology you can use the UrlBasedViewResolver. This view resolver translates a view name to a URL and hands the request over to the RequestDispatcher to render the view.

<bean id="viewResolver"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.UrlBasedViewResolver">
    <property name="prefix" value="/WEB-INF/jsp/"/>
    <property name="suffix" value=".jsp"/>
</bean>

When returning test as a viewname, this view resolver will hand the request over to the RequestDispatcher that will send the request to /WEB-INF/jsp/test.jsp.

When mixing different view technologies in a web application, you can use the ResourceBundleViewResolver:

<bean id="viewResolver"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.ResourceBundleViewResolver">
    <property name="basename" value="views"/>
    <property name="defaultParentView" value="parentView"/>
</bean>

The ResourceBundleViewResolver inspects the ResourceBundle identified by the basename, and for each view it is supposed to resolve, it uses the value of the property [viewname].class as the view class and the value of the property [viewname].url as the view url. As you can see, you can identify a parent view, from which all views in the properties file sort of extend. This way you can specify a default view class, for example.

A note on caching - subclasses of AbstractCachingViewResolver cache view instances they have resolved. This greatly improves performance when using certain view technologies. It's possible to turn off the cache, by setting the cache property to false. Furthermore, if you have the requirement to be able to refresh a certain view at runtime (for example when a Velocity template has been modified), you can use the removeFromCache(String viewName, Locale loc) method.

13.5.2. Chaining ViewResolvers

Spring supports more than just one view resolver. This allows you to chain resolvers and, for example, override specific views in certain circumstances. Chaining view resolvers is pretty straightforward - just add more than one resolver to your application context and, if necessary, set the order property to specify an order. Remember, the higher the order property, the later the view resolver will be positioned in the chain.

In the following example, the chain of view resolvers consists of two resolvers, a InternalResourceViewResolver (which is always automatically positioned as the last resolver in the chain) and an XmlViewResolver for specifying Excel views (which are not supported by the InternalResourceViewResolver):

<bean id="jspViewResolver" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.InternalResourceViewResolver">
  <property name="viewClass" value="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.JstlView"/>
  <property name="prefix" value="/WEB-INF/jsp/"/>
  <property name="suffix" value=".jsp"/>
</bean>

<bean id="excelViewResolver" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.XmlViewResolver">
  <property name="order" value="1"/>
  <property name="location" value="/WEB-INF/views.xml"/>
</bean>

<!-- in views.xml -->

<beans>
  <bean name="report" class="org.springframework.example.ReportExcelView"/>
</beans>

If a specific view resolver does not result in a view, Spring will inspect the context to see if other view resolvers are configured. If there are additional view resolvers, it will continue to inspect them. If not, it will throw an Exception.

You have to keep something else in mind - the contract of a view resolver mentions that a view resolver can return null to indicate the view could not be found. Not all view resolvers do this however! This is because in some cases, the resolver simply cannot detect whether or not the view exists. For example, the InternalResourceViewResolver uses the RequestDispatcher internally, and dispatching is the only way to figure out if a JSP exists - this can only be done once. The same holds for the VelocityViewResolver and some others. Check the Javadoc for the view resolver to see if you're dealing with a view resolver that does not report non-existing views. As a result of this, putting an InternalResourceViewResolver in the chain in a place other than the last, will result in the chain not being fully inspected, since the InternalResourceViewResolver will always return a view!

13.5.3. Redirecting to views

As has been mentioned, a controller normally returns a logical view name, which a view resolver resolves to a particular view technology. For view technologies such as JSPs that are actually processed via the Servlet/JSP engine, this is normally handled via InternalResourceViewResolver / InternalResourceView which will ultimately end up issuing an internal forward or include, via the Servlet API's RequestDispatcher.forward(..) or RequestDispatcher.include(). For other view technologies, such as Velocity, XSLT, etc., the view itself produces the content on the response stream.

It is sometimes desirable to issue an HTTP redirect back to the client, before the view is rendered. This is desirable for example when one controller has been called with POSTed data, and the response is actually a delegation to another controller (for example on a successful form submission). In this case, a normal internal forward will mean the other controller will also see the same POST data, which is potentially problematic if it can confuse it with other expected data. Another reason to do a redirect before displaying the result is that this will eliminate the possibility of the user doing a double submission of form data. The browser will have sent the initial POST, will have seen a redirect back and done a subsequent GET because of that, and thus as far as it is concerned, the current page does not reflect the result of a POST, but rather of a GET, so there is no way the user can accidentally re-POST the same data by doing a refresh. The refresh would just force a GET of the result page, not a resend of the initial POST data.

13.5.3.1. RedirectView

One way to force a redirect as the result of a controller response is for the controller to create and return an instance of Spring's RedirectView. In this case, DispatcherServlet will not use the normal view resolution mechanism, but rather as it has been given the (redirect) view already, will just ask it to do its work.

The RedirectView simply ends up issuing an HttpServletResponse.sendRedirect() call, which will come back to the client browser as an HTTP redirect. All model attributes are simply exposed as HTTP query parameters. This does mean that the model must contain only objects (generally Strings or convertible to Strings) which can be readily converted to a string-form HTTP query parameter.

If using RedirectView and the view is created by the controller itself, it is preferable for the redirect URL to be injected into the controller so that it is not baked into the controller but configured in the context along with the view names.

13.5.3.2. The redirect: prefix

While the use of RedirectView works fine, if the controller itself is creating the RedirectView, there is no getting around the fact that the controller is aware that a redirection is happening. This is really suboptimal and couples things too tightly. The controller should not really care about how the response gets handled... it should generally think only in terms of view names that have been injected into it.

The special redirect: prefix allows this to be achieved. If a view name is returned which has the prefix redirect:, then UrlBasedViewResolver (and all subclasses) will recognize this as a special indication that a redirect is needed. The rest of the view name will be treated as the redirect URL.

The net effect is the same as if the controller had returned a RedirectView, but now the controller itself can deal just in terms of logical view names. A logical view name such as redirect:/my/response/controller.html will redirect relative to the current servlet context, while a name such as redirect:http://myhost.com/some/arbitrary/path.html will redirect to an absolute URL. The important thing is that as long as this redirect view name is injected into the controller like any other logical view name, the controller is not even aware that redirection is happening.

13.5.3.3. The forward: prefix

It is also possible to use a special forward: prefix for view names that will ultimately be resolved by UrlBasedViewResolver and subclasses. All this does is create an InternalResourceView (which ultimately does a RequestDispatcher.forward()) around the rest of the view name, which is considered a URL. Therefore, there is never any use in using this prefix when using InternalResourceViewResolver / InternalResourceView anyway (for JSPs for example), but it's of potential use when you are primarily using another view technology, but still want to force a forward to happen to a resource to be handled by the Servlet/JSP engine. (Note that you may also chain multiple view resolvers, instead.)

As with the redirect: prefix, if the view name with the prefix is just injected into the controller, the controller does not have to be aware that anything special is happening in terms of handling the response.

13.6. Using locales

Most parts of Spring's architecture support internationalization, just as the Spring web MVC framework does. DispatcherServlet enables you to automatically resolve messages using the client's locale. This is done with LocaleResolver objects.

When a request comes in, the DispatcherServlet looks for a locale resolver and if it finds one it tries to use it to set the locale. Using the RequestContext.getLocale() method, you can always retrieve the locale that was resolved by the locale resolver.

Besides the automatic locale resolution, you can also attach an interceptor to the handler mapping (see Section 13.4.3, “Intercepting requests - the HandlerInterceptor interface” for more information on handler mapping interceptors), to change the locale under specific circumstances, based on a parameter in the request, for example.

Locale resolvers and interceptors are all defined in the org.springframework.web.servlet.i18n package, and are configured in your application context in the normal way. Here is a selection of the locale resolvers included in Spring.

13.6.1. AcceptHeaderLocaleResolver

This locale resolver inspects the accept-language header in the request that was sent by the browser of the client. Usually this header field contains the locale of the client's operating system.

13.6.2. CookieLocaleResolver

This locale resolver inspects a Cookie that might exist on the client, to see if a locale is specified. If so, it uses that specific locale. Using the properties of this locale resolver, you can specify the name of the cookie, as well as the maximum age. Find below an example of defining a CookieLocaleResolver.

<bean id="localeResolver" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.i18n.CookieLocaleResolver">

    <property name="cookieName" value="clientlanguage"/>
    
    <!-- in seconds. If set to -1, the cookie is not persisted (deleted when browser shuts down) -->
    <property name="cookieMaxAge" value="100000">

</bean>

Table 13.5. CookieLocaleResolver properties

PropertyDefaultDescription
cookieNameclassname + LOCALEThe name of the cookie
cookieMaxAgeInteger.MAX_INTThe maximum time a cookie will stay persistent on the client. If -1 is specified, the cookie will not be persisted. It will only be available until the client shuts down his or her browser.
cookiePath/Using this parameter, you can limit the visibility of the cookie to a certain part of your site. When cookiePath is specified, the cookie will only be visible to that path, and the paths below it.

13.6.3. SessionLocaleResolver

The SessionLocaleResolver allows you to retrieve locales from the session that might be associated with the user's request.

13.6.4. LocaleChangeInterceptor

You can build in changing of locales using the LocaleChangeInterceptor. This interceptor needs to be added to one of the handler mappings (see Section 13.4, “Handler mappings”). It will detect a parameter in the request and change the locale (it calls setLocale() on the LocaleResolver that also exists in the context).

<bean id="localeChangeInterceptor"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.i18n.LocaleChangeInterceptor">
    <property name="paramName" value="siteLanguage"/>
</bean>

<bean id="localeResolver"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.i18n.CookieLocaleResolver"/>

<bean id="urlMapping"
      class="org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.SimpleUrlHandlerMapping">
    <property name="interceptors">
        <list>
            <ref bean="localeChangeInterceptor"/>
        </list>
    </property>
    <property name="mappings">
        <value>/**/*.view=someController</value>
    </property>
</bean>

All calls to all *.view resources containing a parameter named siteLanguage will now change the locale. So a request for the following URL, http://www.sf.net/home.view?siteLanguage=nl will change the site language to Dutch.

13.7. Using themes

13.7.1. Introduction

The theme support provided by the Spring web MVC framework enables you to further enhance the user experience by allowing the look and feel of your application to be themed. A theme is basically a collection of static resources affecting the visual style of the application, typically style sheets and images.

13.7.2. Defining themes

When you want to use themes in your web application you'll have to set up a org.springframework.ui.context.ThemeSource. The WebApplicationContext interface extends ThemeSource but delegates its responsibilities to a dedicated implementation. By default the delegate will be a org.springframework.ui.context.support.ResourceBundleThemeSource that loads properties files from the root of the classpath. If you want to use a custom ThemeSource implementation or if you need to configure the basename prefix of the ResourceBundleThemeSource, you can register a bean in the application context with the reserved name "themeSource". The web application context will automatically detect that bean and start using it.

When using the ResourceBundleThemeSource, a theme is defined in a simple properties file. The properties file lists the resources that make up the theme. Here is an example:

styleSheet=/themes/cool/style.css
background=/themes/cool/img/coolBg.jpg

The keys of the properties are the names used to refer to the themed elements from view code. For a JSP this would typically be done using the spring:theme custom tag, which is very similar to the spring:message tag. The following JSP fragment uses the theme defined above to customize the look and feel:

<%@ taglib prefix="spring" uri="http://www.springframework.org/tags"%>
<html>
   <head>
      <link rel="stylesheet" href="<spring:theme code="styleSheet"/>" type="text/css"/>
   </head>
   <body background="<spring:theme code="background"/>">
      ...
   </body>
</html>

By default, the ResourceBundleThemeSource uses an empty basename prefix. As a result the properties files will be loaded from the root of the classpath, so we'll have to put our cool.properties theme definition in a directory at the root of the classpath, e.g. in /WEB-INF/classes. Note that the ResourceBundleThemeSource uses the standard Java resource bundle loading mechanism, allowing for full internationalization of themes. For instance, we could have a /WEB-INF/classes/cool_nl.properties that references a special background image, e.g. with Dutch text on it.

13.7.3. Theme resolvers

Now that we have our themes defined, the only thing left to do is decide which theme to use. The DispatcherServlet will look for a bean named "themeResolver" to find out which ThemeResolver implementation to use. A theme resolver works in much the same way as a LocaleResolver. It can detect the theme that should be used for a particular request and can also alter the request's theme. The following theme resolvers are provided by Spring:

Table 13.6. ThemeResolver implementations

ClassDescription
FixedThemeResolverSelects a fixed theme, set using the "defaultThemeName" property.
SessionThemeResolverThe theme is maintained in the users HTTP session. It only needs to be set once for each session, but is not persisted between sessions.
CookieThemeResolverThe selected theme is stored in a cookie on the user-agent's machine.

Spring also provides a ThemeChangeInterceptor, which allows changing the theme on every request by including a simple request parameter.

13.8. Spring's multipart (fileupload) support

13.8.1. Introduction

Spring has built-in multipart support to handle fileuploads in web applications. The design for the multipart support is done with pluggable MultipartResolver objects, defined in the org.springframework.web.multipart package. Out of the box, Spring provides a MultipartResolver for use with Commons FileUpload (http://jakarta.apache.org/commons/fileupload). How uploading files is supported will be described in the rest of this chapter.

By default, no multipart handling will be done by Spring, as some developers will want to handle multiparts themselves. You will have to enable it yourself by adding a multipart resolver to the web application's context. After you have done that, each request will be inspected to see if it contains a multipart. If no multipart is found, the request will continue as expected. However, if a multipart is found in the request, the MultipartResolver that has been declared in your context will be used. After that, the multipart attribute in your request will be treated like any other attribute.

13.8.2. Using the MultipartResolver

The following example shows how to use the CommonsMultipartResolver:

<bean id="multipartResolver"
    class="org.springframework.web.multipart.commons.CommonsMultipartResolver">

    <!-- one of the properties available; the maximum file size in bytes -->
    <property name="maxUploadSize" value="100000"/>
</bean>

This is an example using the CosMultipartResolver:

<bean id="multipartResolver" class="org.springframework.web.multipart.cos.CosMultipartResolver">

    <!-- one of the properties available; the maximum file size in bytes -->
    <property name="maxUploadSize" value="100000"/>
</bean>

Of course you also need to put the appropriate jars in your classpath for the multipart resolver to work. In the case of the CommonsMultipartResolver, you need to use commons-fileupload.jar; in the case of the CosMultipartResolver, use cos.jar.

Now that you have seen how to set Spring up to handle multipart requests, let's talk about how to actually use it. When the Spring DispatcherServlet detects a multi-part request, it activates the resolver that has been declared in your context and hands over the request. What the resolver then does is wrap the current HttpServletRequest into a MultipartHttpServletRequest that has support for multipart file uploads. Using the MultipartHttpServletRequest you can get information about the multiparts contained by this request and actually get access to the multipart files themselves in your controllers.

13.8.3. Handling a file upload in a form

After the MultipartResolver has finished doing its job, the request will be processed like any other. To use it, you create a form with an upload field (see immediately below), then let Spring bind the file onto your form (backing object). To actually let the user upload a file, we have to create a (HTML) form:

<html>
    <head>
        <title>Upload a file please</title>
    </head>
    <body>
        <h1>Please upload a file</h1>
        <form method="post" action="upload.form" enctype="multipart/form-data">
            <input type="file" name="file"/>
            <input type="submit"/>
        </form>
    </body>
</html>

As you can see, we've created a field named after the property of the bean that holds the byte[]. Furthermore we've added the encoding attribute (enctype="multipart/form-data") which is necessary to let the browser know how to encode the multipart fields (do not forget this!).

Just as with any other property that's not automagically convertible to a string or primitive type, to be able to put binary data in your objects you have to register a custom editor with the ServletRequestDatabinder. There are a couple of editors available for handling files and setting the results on an object. There's a StringMultipartEditor capable of converting files to Strings (using a user-defined character set) and there is a ByteArrayMultipartEditor which converts files to byte arrays. They function just as the CustomDateEditor does.

So, to be able to upload files using a (HTML) form, declare the resolver, a url mapping to a controller that will process the bean, and the controller itself.

<beans>
  <!-- lets use the Commons-based implementation of the MultipartResolver interface -->
    <bean id="multipartResolver"
        class="org.springframework.web.multipart.commons.CommonsMultipartResolver"/>

    <bean id="urlMapping" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.handler.SimpleUrlHandlerMapping">
        <property name="mappings">
            <value>
                /upload.form=fileUploadController
            </value>
        </property>
    </bean>

    <bean id="fileUploadController" class="examples.FileUploadController">
        <property name="commandClass" value="examples.FileUploadBean"/>
        <property name="formView" value="fileuploadform"/>
        <property name="successView" value="confirmation"/>
    </bean>

</beans>

After that, create the controller and the actual class to hold the file property.

public class FileUploadController extends SimpleFormController {

    protected ModelAndView onSubmit(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response,
            Object command, BindException errors) throws ServletException, IOException {

         // cast the bean
        FileUploadBean bean = (FileUploadBean) command;

         let's see if there's content there
        byte[] file = bean.getFile();
        if (file == null) {
             // hmm, that's strange, the user did not upload anything
        }

         // well, let's do nothing with the bean for now and return
        return super.onSubmit(request, response, command, errors);
    }

    protected void initBinder(HttpServletRequest request, ServletRequestDataBinder binder)
        throws ServletException {
        // to actually be able to convert Multipart instance to byte[]
        // we have to register a custom editor
        binder.registerCustomEditor(byte[].class, new ByteArrayMultipartFileEditor());
        // now Spring knows how to handle multipart object and convert them
    }
}

public class FileUploadBean {

    private byte[] file;

    public void setFile(byte[] file) {
        this.file = file;
    }

    public byte[] getFile() {
        return file;
    }
}

As you can see, the FileUploadBean has a property typed byte[] that holds the file. The controller registers a custom editor to let Spring know how to actually convert the multipart objects the resolver has found to properties specified by the bean. In this example, nothing is done with the byte[] property of the bean itself, but in practice you can do whatever you want (save it in a database, mail it to somebody, etc).

An equivalent example in which a file is bound straight to a String-typed property on a (form backing) object might look like:

public class FileUploadController extends SimpleFormController {

    protected ModelAndView onSubmit(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response,
            Object command, BindException errors) throws ServletException, IOException {

         // cast the bean
        FileUploadBean bean = (FileUploadBean) command;

         let's see if there's content there
        String file = bean.getFile();
        if (file == null) {
             // hmm, that's strange, the user did not upload anything
        }

         // well, let's do nothing with the bean for now and return
        return super.onSubmit(request, response, command, errors);
    }

    protected void initBinder(HttpServletRequest request, ServletRequestDataBinder binder)
        throws ServletException {
        // to actually be able to convert Multipart instance to a String
        // we have to register a custom editor
        binder.registerCustomEditor(String.class, new StringMultipartFileEditor());
        // now Spring knows how to handle multipart object and convert them
    }

}

public class FileUploadBean {

    private String file;

    public void setFile(String file) {
        this.file = file;
    }

    public String getFile() {
        return file;
    }
}

Of course, this last example only makes (logical) sense in the context of uploading a plain text file (it wouldn't work so well in the case of uploading an image file).

The third (and final) option is where one binds directly to a MultipartFile property declared on the (form backing) object's class. In this case one does not need to register any custom PropertyEditor because there is no type conversion to be performed.

public class FileUploadController extends SimpleFormController {

    protected ModelAndView onSubmit(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response,
            Object command, BindException errors) throws ServletException, IOException {

         // cast the bean
        FileUploadBean bean = (FileUploadBean) command;

         let's see if there's content there
        MultipartFile file = bean.getFile();
        if (file == null) {
             // hmm, that's strange, the user did not upload anything
        }

         // well, let's do nothing with the bean for now and return
        return super.onSubmit(request, response, command, errors);
    }
}

public class FileUploadBean {

    private MultipartFile file;

    public void setFile(MultipartFile file) {
        this.file = file;
    }

    public MultipartFile getFile() {
        return file;
    }
}

13.9. Handling exceptions

Spring provides HandlerExceptionResolvers to ease the pain of unexpected exceptions occurring while your request is being handled by a controller which matched the request. HandlerExceptionResolvers somewhat resemble the exception mappings you can define in the web application descriptor web.xml. However, they provide a more flexible way to handle exceptions. They provide information about what handler was executing when the exception was thrown. Furthermore, a programmatic way of handling exception gives you many more options for how to respond appropriately before the request is forwarded to another URL (the same end result as when using the servlet specific exception mappings).

Besides implementing the HandlerExceptionResolver interface, which is only a matter of implementing the resolveException(Exception, Handler) method and returning a ModelAndView, you may also use the SimpleMappingExceptionResolver. This resolver enables you to take the class name of any exception that might be thrown and map it to a view name. This is functionally equivalent to the exception mapping feature from the Servlet API, but it's also possible to implement more finely grained mappings of exceptions from different handlers.

13.10. Convention over configuration

For a lot of projects, sticking to established conventions and having reasonable defaults is just what they (the projects) need... this theme of convention-over-configuration now has explicit support in Spring Web MVC. What this means is that if you establish a set of naming conventions and suchlike, you can substantially cut down on the amount of configuration that is required to set up handler mappings, view resolvers, ModelAndView instances, etc. This is a great boon with regards to rapid prototyping, and can also lend a degree of (always good-to-have) consistency across a codebase should you choose to move forward with it into production.

This convention over configuration support address the three core areas of MVC - namely, the models, views, and controllers.

13.10.1. The Controller - ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping

The ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping class is a HandlerMapping implementation that uses a convention to determine the mapping between request URLs and the Controller instances that are to handle those requests.

An example; consider the following (simplistic) Controller implementation. Take especial notice of the name of the class.

public class ViewShoppingCartController implements Controller {

    public ModelAndView handleRequest(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) {
        // the implementation is not hugely important for this example...
    }
}

Here is a snippet from the attendent Spring Web MVC configuration file...

<bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.support.ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping"/>
                
<bean id="viewShoppingCart" class="x.y.z.ViewShoppingCartController">
    <!-- inject dependencies as required... -->
</bean>

The ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping finds all of the various handler (or Controller) beans defined in its application context and strips 'Controller' off the name to define its handler mappings.

Let's look at some more examples so that the central idea becomes immediately familiar.

  • WelcomeController maps to the '/welcome*' request URL

  • HomeController maps to the '/home*' request URL

  • IndexController maps to the '/index*' request URL

  • RegisterController maps to the '/register*' request URL

  • DisplayShoppingCartController maps to the '/displayshoppingcart*' request URL

    (Notice the casing - all lowercase - in the case of camel-cased Controller class names.)

In the case of MultiActionController handler classes, the mappings generated are (ever so slightly) more complex, but hopefully no less understandable. Some examples (all of the Controller names in this next bit are assumed to be MultiActionController implementations).

  • AdminController maps to the '/admin/*' request URL

  • CatalogController maps to the '/catalog/*' request URL

If you follow the pretty standard convention of naming your Controller implementations as xxxController, then the ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping will save you the tedium of having to firstly define and then having to maintain a potentially looooong SimpleUrlHandlerMapping (or suchlike).

The ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping class extends the AbstractHandlerMapping base class so you can define HandlerInterceptor instances and everything else just like you would with many other HandlerMapping implementations.

13.10.2. The Model - ModelMap (ModelAndView)

The ModelMap class is essentially a glorified Map that can make adding objects that are to be displayed in (or on) a View adhere to a common naming convention. Consider the following Controller implementation; notice that objects are added to the ModelAndView without any associated name being specified.

public class DisplayShoppingCartController implements Controller {

    public ModelAndView handleRequest(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) {
        
        List cartItems = // get a List of CartItem objects
        User user = // get the User doing the shopping
        
        ModelAndView mav = new ModelAndView("displayShoppingCart"); <-- the logical view name

        mav.addObject(cartItems); <-- look ma, no name, just the object
        mav.addObject(user); <-- and again ma!

        return mav;
    }
}

The ModelAndView class uses a ModelMap class that is a custom Map implementation that automatically generates a key for an object when an object is added to it. The strategy for determining the name for an added object is, in the case of a scalar object such as User, to use the short class name of the object's class. Find below some examples of the names that are generated for scalar objects put into a ModelMap instance.

  • An x.y.User instance added will have the name 'user' generated

  • An x.y.Registration instance added will have the name 'registration' generated

  • An x.y.Foo instance added will have the name 'foo' generated

  • A java.util.HashMap instance added will have the name 'hashMap' generated (you'll probably want to be explicit about the name in this case because 'hashMap' is less than intuitive).

  • Adding null will result in an IllegalArgumentException being thrown. If the object (or objects) that you are adding could potentially be null, then you will also want to be explicit about the name).

The strategy for generating a name after adding a Set, List or array object is to peek into the collection, take the short class name of the first object in the collection, and use that with 'List' appended to the name. Some examples will make the semantics of name generation for collections clearer...

  • An x.y.User[] array with one or more x.y.User elements added will have the name 'userList' generated

  • An x.y.Foo[] array with one or more x.y.User elements added will have the name 'fooList' generated

  • A java.util.ArrayList with one or more x.y.User elements added will have the name 'userList' generated

  • A java.util.HashSet with one or more x.y.Foo elements added will have the name 'fooList' generated

  • An empty java.util.ArrayList will not be added at all (i.e. the addObject(..) call will essentially be a no-op).

13.10.3. The View - RequestToViewNameTranslator

The RequestToViewNameTranslator interface is responsible for determining a logical View name when no such logical view name is explicitly supplied. It has just one implementation, the rather cunningly named DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator class.

The DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator maps request URLs to logical view names in a fashion that is probably best explained by recourse to an example.

public class RegistrationController implements Controller {
                
    public ModelAndView handleRequest(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) {
        // process the request...
        ModelAndView mav = new ModelAndView();
        // add data as necessary to the model...
        return mav;
        // notice that no View or logical view name has been set
    }
}
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE beans PUBLIC "-//SPRING//DTD BEAN 2.0//EN"
        "http://www.springframework.org/dtd/spring-beans-2.0.dtd">
<beans>

    <!-- this bean with the well known name generates view names for us -->
    <bean id="viewNameTranslator" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator"/>

    <bean class="x.y.RegistrationController">
        <!-- inject dependencies as necessary -->
    </bean>
    
    <!-- maps request URLs to Controller names -->
    <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.support.ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping"/>

    <bean id="viewResolver" class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.InternalResourceViewResolver">
        <property name="prefix" value="/WEB-INF/jsp/"/>
        <property name="suffix" value=".jsp"/>
    </bean>

</beans>

Notice how in the implementation of the handleRequest(..) method no View or logical view name is ever set on the ModelAndView that is returned. It is the DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator that will be tasked with generating a logical view name from the URL of the request. In the case of the above RegistrationController, which is being used in conjunction with the ControllerClassNameHandlerMapping, a request URL of 'http://localhost/registration.html' will result in a logical view name of 'registration' being generated by the DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator. This logical view name will then be resolved into the '/WEB-INF/jsp/registration.jsp' view by the InternalResourceViewResolver bean.

[Tip]Tip

You don't even need to define a DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator bean explicitly. If you are okay with the default settings of the DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator, then you can rely on the fact that the Spring Web MVC DispatcherServlet will actually instantiate an instance of this class if one is not explicitly configured.

Of course, if you need to change the default settings, then you do need to configure your own DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator bean explicitly. Please do consult the quite comprehensive Javadoc for the DefaultRequestToViewNameTranslator class for details of the various properties that can be configured.

13.11. Annotation-based controller configuration

There is a current trend to favor annotations over XML files for some types of configuration data. To facilitate this, Spring is now (since 2.5) providing support for configuring the MVC framework components using annotations.

Spring 2.5 introduces an annotation-based programming model for MVC controllers, using annotations such as @RequestMapping, @RequestParam, @ModelAttribute, etc. This annotation support is available for both Servlet MVC and Portlet MVC. Controllers implemented in this style do not have to extend specific base classes or implement specific interfaces. Furthermore, they do not usually have direct dependencies on Servlet or Portlet API's, although they can easily get access to Servlet or Portlet facilities if desired.

[Tip]Tip

The Spring distribution ships with the PetClinic sample, which is a web application that takes advantage of the annotation support described in this section, in the context of simple form processing. You can find the PetClinic application in the 'samples/petclinic' directory.

For a further sample application that builds on annotation-based Web MVC, check out imagedb. The focus in that sample is on stateless multi-action controllers, including the processing of multipart file uploads. You can find the imagedb application in the 'samples/imagedb' directory.

The following sections document these annotations and how they are most commonly used in a Servlet environment.

13.11.1. Setting up the dispatcher for annotation support

@RequestMapping will only be processed if a corresponding HandlerMapping (for type level annotations) and/or HandlerAdapter (for method level annotations) is present in the dispatcher. This is the case by default in both DispatcherServlet and DispatcherPortlet.

However, if you are defining custom HandlerMappings or HandlerAdapters, then you need to make sure that a corresponding custom DefaultAnnotationHandlerMapping and/or AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter is defined as well - provided that you intend to use @RequestMapping.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans"
    xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
    xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans
        http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans/spring-beans-2.5.xsd">

    <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.annotation.DefaultAnnotationHandlerMapping"/>

    <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.annotation.AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter"/>

    // ... (controller bean definitions) ...

</beans>

Defining a DefaultAnnotationHandlerMapping and/or AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter explicitly also makes sense if you would like to customize the mapping strategy, e.g. specifying a custom PathMatcher or WebBindingInitializer (see below).

13.11.2. Defining a controller with @Controller

The @Controller annotation indicates that a particular class serves the role of a controller. There is no need to extend any controller base class or reference the Servlet API. You are of course still able to reference Servlet-specific features if you need to.

The basic purpose of the @Controller annotation is to act as a stereotype for the annotated class, indicating its role. The dispatcher will scan such annotated classes for mapped methods, detecting @RequestMapping annotations (see the next section).

Annotated controller beans may be defined explicitly, using a standard Spring bean definition in the dispatcher's context. However, the @Controller stereotype also allows for autodetection, aligned with Spring 2.5's general support for detecting component classes in the classpath and auto-registering bean definitions for them.

To enable autodetection of such annotated controllers, you have to add component scanning to your configuration. This is easily achieved by using the spring-context schema as shown in the following XML snippet:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans" 
    xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
    xmlns:p="http://www.springframework.org/schema/p" 
    xmlns:context="http://www.springframework.org/schema/context"
    xsi:schemaLocation="
        http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans 
        http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans/spring-beans-2.5.xsd
        http://www.springframework.org/schema/context 
        http://www.springframework.org/schema/context/spring-context-2.5.xsd">

    <context:component-scan base-package="org.springframework.samples.petclinic.web"/>

    // ...

</beans>

13.11.3. Mapping requests with @RequestMapping

The @RequestMapping annotation is used to map URLs like '/editPet.do' onto an entire class or a particular handler method. Typically the type-level annotation maps a specific request path (or path pattern) onto a form controller, with additional method-level annotations 'narrowing' the primary mapping for a specific HTTP method request method ("GET"/"POST") or specific HTTP request parameters.

[Tip]Tip

@RequestMapping at the type level may be used for plain implementations of the Controller interface as well. In this case, the request processing code would follow the traditional handleRequest signature, while the controller's mapping would be expressed through an @RequestMapping annotation. This works for pre-built Controller base classes, such as SimpleFormController, too.

In the following discussion, we'll focus on controllers that are based on annotated handler methods.

The following is an example of a form controller from the PetClinic sample application using this annotation:

@Controller
@RequestMapping("/editPet.do")
@SessionAttributes("pet")
public class EditPetForm {

    private final Clinic clinic;

    @Autowired
    public EditPetForm(Clinic clinic) {
        this.clinic = clinic;
    }

    @ModelAttribute("types")
    public Collection<PetType> populatePetTypes() {
        return this.clinic.getPetTypes();
    }

    @RequestMapping(method = RequestMethod.GET)
    public String setupForm(@RequestParam("petId") int petId, ModelMap model) {
        Pet pet = this.clinic.loadPet(petId);
        model.addAttribute("pet", pet);
        return "petForm";
    }

    @RequestMapping(method = RequestMethod.POST)
    public String processSubmit(
            @ModelAttribute("pet") Pet pet, BindingResult result, SessionStatus status) {

        new PetValidator().validate(pet, result);
        if (result.hasErrors()) {
            return "petForm";
        }
        else {
            this.clinic.storePet(pet);
            status.setComplete();
            return "redirect:owner.do?ownerId=" + pet.getOwner().getId();
        }
    }
}

For a traditional multi-action controller the URLs are typically mapped directly on the methods since the controller responds to multiple URLs. The following is an example of a multi-action controller from the PetClinic sample application using @RequestMapping:

@Controller
public class ClinicController {

    private final Clinic clinic;

    @Autowired
    public ClinicController(Clinic clinic) {
        this.clinic = clinic;
    }

    /**
     * Custom handler for the welcome view.
     * Note that this handler relies on the RequestToViewNameTranslator to
     * determine the logical view name based on the request URL: "/welcome.do"
     * -> "welcome".
     */
    @RequestMapping("/welcome.do")
    public void welcomeHandler() {
    }

    /**
     * Custom handler for displaying vets.
     * Note that this handler returns a plain [email protected] ModelMap} object instead of
     * a ModelAndView, thus leveraging convention-based model attribute names.
     * It relies on the RequestToViewNameTranslator to determine the logical
     * view name based on the request URL: "/vets.do" -> "vets".
     * @return a ModelMap with the model attributes for the view
     */
    @RequestMapping("/vets.do")
    public ModelMap vetsHandler() {
        return new ModelMap(this.clinic.getVets());
    }

    /**
     * Custom handler for displaying an owner.
     * Note that this handler returns a plain [email protected] ModelMap} object instead of
     * a ModelAndView, thus leveraging convention-based model attribute names.
     * It relies on the RequestToViewNameTranslator to determine the logical
     * view name based on the request URL: "/owner.do" -> "owner".
     * @param ownerId the ID of the owner to display
     * @return a ModelMap with the model attributes for the view
     */
    @RequestMapping("/owner.do")
    public ModelMap ownerHandler(@RequestParam("ownerId") int ownerId) {
        return new ModelMap(this.clinic.loadOwner(ownerId));
    }
}

13.11.3.1. Advanced @RequestMapping options

Ant-style path patterns are supported (e.g. "/myPath/*.do"). At the method level, relative paths (e.g. "edit.do") are supported within the primary mapping expressed at the type level.

The handler method names are taken into account for narrowing if no path was specified explicitly, according to the specified org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.multiaction.MethodNameResolver (by default an org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.multiaction.InternalPathMethodNameResolver). Note that this only applies in case of ambiguous annotation mappings that do not specify a path mapping explicitly. In other words, the method name is only used for narrowing among a set of matching methods; it does not constitute a primary path mapping itself.

If you have a single default method (without explicit path mapping), then all requests without a more specific mapped method found will be dispatched to it. If you have multiple such default methods, then the method name will be taken into account for choosing between them.

Path mappings can be narrowed through parameter conditions: a sequence of "myParam=myValue" style expressions, with a request only mapped if each such parameter is found to have the given value. "myParam" style expressions are also supported, with such parameters having to be present in the request (allowed to have any value). Finally, "!myParam" style expressions indicate that the specified parameter is not supposed to be present in the request.

13.11.4. Supported handler method arguments and return types

Handler methods which are annotated with @RequestMapping are allowed to have very flexible signatures. They may have arguments of the following types, in arbitrary order (except for validation results, which need to follow right after the corresponding command object, if desired):

  • Request and/or response objects (Servlet API). You may choose any specific request/response type, e.g. ServletRequest / HttpServletRequest.

  • Session object (Servlet API): of type HttpSession. An argument of this type will enforce the presence of a corresponding session. As a consequence, such an argument will never be null. Note that session access may not be thread-safe, in particular in a Servlet environment: Consider switching the AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter's "synchronizeOnSession" flag to "true" if multiple requests are allowed to access a session concurrently.

  • org.springframework.web.context.request.WebRequest or org.springframework.web.context.request.NativeWebRequest. Allows for generic request parameter access as well as request/session attribute access, without ties to the native Servlet/Portlet API.

  • java.util.Locale for the current request locale (determined by the most specific locale resolver available, i.e. the configured LocaleResolver in a Servlet environment).

  • java.io.InputStream / java.io.Reader for access to the request's content. This will be the raw InputStream/Reader as exposed by the Servlet API.

  • java.io.OutputStream / java.io.Writer for generating the response's content. This will be the raw OutputStream/Writer as exposed by the Servlet API.

  • @RequestParam annotated parameters for access to specific Servlet request parameters. Parameter values will be converted to the declared method argument type.

  • java.util.Map / org.springframework.ui.Model / org.springframework.ui.ModelMap for enriching the implicit model that will be exposed to the web view.

  • Command/form objects to bind parameters to: as bean properties or fields, with customizable type conversion, depending on @InitBinder methods and/or the HandlerAdapter configuration - see the "webBindingInitializer" property on AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter. Such command objects along with their validation results will be exposed as model attributes, by default using the non-qualified command class name in property notation (e.g. "orderAddress" for type "mypackage.OrderAddress"). Specify a parameter-level ModelAttribute annotation for declaring a specific model attribute name.

  • org.springframework.validation.Errors / org.springframework.validation.BindingResult validation results for a preceding command/form object (the immediate preceding argument).

  • org.springframework.web.bind.support.SessionStatus status handle for marking form processing as complete (triggering the cleanup of session attributes that have been indicated by the @SessionAttributes annotation at the handler type level).

The following return types are supported for handler methods:

  • A ModelAndView object, with the model implicitly enriched with command objects and the results of @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods.

  • A Model object, with the view name implicitly determined through a RequestToViewNameTranslator and the model implicitly enriched with command objects and the results of @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods.

  • A Map object for exposing a model, with the view name implicitly determined through a RequestToViewNameTranslator and the model implicitly enriched with command objects and the results of @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods.

  • A View object, with the model implicitly determined through command objects and @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods. The handler method may also programmatically enrich the model by declaring a Model argument (see above).

  • A String value which is interpreted as view name, with the model implicitly determined through command objects and @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods. The handler method may also programmatically enrich the model by declaring a Model argument (see above).

  • void if the method handles the response itself (e.g. by writing the response content directly).

  • Any other return type will be considered as single model attribute to be exposed to the view, using the attribute name specified through @ModelAttribute at the method level (or the default attribute name based on the return type's class name otherwise). The model will be implicitly enriched with command objects and the results of @ModelAttribute annotated reference data accessor methods.

13.11.5. Binding request parameters to method parameters with @RequestParam

The @RequestParam annotation is used to bind request parameters to a method parameter in your controller.

The following code snippet from the PetClinic sample application shows the usage:

@Controller
@RequestMapping("/editPet.do")
@SessionAttributes("pet")
public class EditPetForm {

    // ...

    @RequestMapping(method = RequestMethod.GET)
    public String setupForm(@RequestParam("petId") int petId, ModelMap model) {
        Pet pet = this.clinic.loadPet(petId);
        model.addAttribute("pet", pet);
        return "petForm";
    }

    // ...

Parameters using this annotation are required by default, but you can specify that a parameter is optional by setting @RequestParam's required attribute to false (e.g., @RequestParam(value="id", required="false")).

13.11.6. Providing a link to data from the model with @ModelAttribute

@ModelAttribute has two usage scenarios in controllers. When placed on a method parameter, @ModelAttribute is used to map a model attribute to the specific, annotated method parameter (see the processSubmit() method below). This is how the controller gets a reference to the object holding the data entered in the form. In addition, the parameter can be declared as the specific type of the form backing object rather than as a generic java.lang.Object, thus increasing type safety.

@ModelAttribute is also used at the method level to provide reference data for the model (see the populatePetTypes() method below). For this usage the method signature can contain the same types as documented above for the @RequestMapping annotation.

Note: @ModelAttribute annotated methods will be executed before the chosen @RequestMapping annotated handler method. They effectively pre-populate the implicit model with specific attributes, often loaded from a database. Such an attribute can then already be accessed through @ModelAttribute annotated handler method parameters in the chosen handler method, potentially with binding and validation applied to it.

The following code snippet shows these two usages of this annotation:

@Controller
@RequestMapping("/editPet.do")
@SessionAttributes("pet")
public class EditPetForm {

    // ...

    @ModelAttribute("types")
    public Collection<PetType> populatePetTypes() {
        return this.clinic.getPetTypes();
    }

    @RequestMapping(method = RequestMethod.POST)
    public String processSubmit(
            @ModelAttribute("pet") Pet pet, BindingResult result, SessionStatus status) {

        new PetValidator().validate(pet, result);
        if (result.hasErrors()) {
            return "petForm";
        }
        else {
            this.clinic.storePet(pet);
            status.setComplete();
            return "redirect:owner.do?ownerId=" + pet.getOwner().getId();
        }
    }
}

13.11.7. Specifying attributes to store in a Session with @SessionAttributes

The type-level @SessionAttributes annotation declares session attributes used by a specific handler. This will typically list the names of model attributes which should be transparently stored in the session or some conversational storage, serving as form-backing beans between subsequent requests.

The following code snippet shows the usage of this annotation:

@Controller
@RequestMapping("/editPet.do")
@SessionAttributes("pet")
public class EditPetForm {
    // ...
}

13.11.8. Customizing WebDataBinder initialization

To customize request parameter binding with PropertyEditors, etc. via Spring's WebDataBinder, you can either use @InitBinder-annotated methods within your controller or externalize your configuration by providing a custom WebBindingInitializer.

13.11.8.1. Customizing data binding with @InitBinder

Annotating controller methods with @InitBinder allows you to configure web data binding directly within your controller class. @InitBinder identifies methods which initialize the WebDataBinder which will be used for populating command and form object arguments of annotated handler methods.

Such init-binder methods support all arguments that @RequestMapping supports, except for command/form objects and corresponding validation result objects. Init-binder methods must not have a return value. Thus, they are usually declared as void. Typical arguments include WebDataBinder in combination with WebRequest or java.util.Locale, allowing code to register context-specific editors.

The following example demonstrates the use of @InitBinder for configuring a CustomDateEditor for all java.util.Date form properties.

@Controller
public class MyFormController {

    @InitBinder
    public void initBinder(WebDataBinder binder) {
        SimpleDateFormat dateFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyy-MM-dd");
        dateFormat.setLenient(false);
        binder.registerCustomEditor(Date.class, new CustomDateEditor(dateFormat, false));
    }

    // ...
}

13.11.8.2. Configuring a custom WebBindingInitializer

To externalize data binding initialization, you can provide a custom implementation of the WebBindingInitializer interface, which you then enable by supplying a custom bean configuration for an AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter, thus overriding the default configuration.

The following example from the PetClinic application shows a configuration using a custom implementation of the WebBindingInitializer interface, org.springframework.samples.petclinic.web.ClinicBindingInitializer, which configures PropertyEditors required by several of the PetClinic controllers.

<bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.mvc.annotation.AnnotationMethodHandlerAdapter">
    <property name="cacheSeconds" value="0" />
    <property name="webBindingInitializer">
        <bean class="org.springframework.samples.petclinic.web.ClinicBindingInitializer" />
    </property>
</bean>

13.12. Further Resources

Find below links and pointers to further resources about Spring Web MVC.

  • The Spring distribution ships with a Spring Web MVC tutorial that guides the reader through building a complete Spring Web MVC-based application using a step-by-step approach. This tutorial is available in the 'docs' directory of the Spring distribution. An online version can also be found on the Spring Framework website.

  • The book entitled “Expert Spring Web MVC and Web Flow” by Seth Ladd and others (published by Apress) is an excellent hardcopy source of Spring Web MVC goodness.