Container Extension Points

Typically, an application developer does not need to subclass ApplicationContext implementation classes. Instead, the Spring IoC container can be extended by plugging in implementations of special integration interfaces. The next few sections describe these integration interfaces.

Customizing Beans by Using a BeanPostProcessor

The BeanPostProcessor interface defines callback methods that you can implement to provide your own (or override the container’s default) instantiation logic, dependency resolution logic, and so forth. If you want to implement some custom logic after the Spring container finishes instantiating, configuring, and initializing a bean, you can plug in one or more custom BeanPostProcessor implementations.

You can configure multiple BeanPostProcessor instances, and you can control the order in which these BeanPostProcessor instances run by setting the order property. You can set this property only if the BeanPostProcessor implements the Ordered interface. If you write your own BeanPostProcessor, you should consider implementing the Ordered interface, too. For further details, see the javadoc of the BeanPostProcessor and Ordered interfaces. See also the note on programmatic registration of BeanPostProcessor instances.

BeanPostProcessor instances operate on bean (or object) instances. That is, the Spring IoC container instantiates a bean instance and then BeanPostProcessor instances do their work.

BeanPostProcessor instances are scoped per-container. This is relevant only if you use container hierarchies. If you define a BeanPostProcessor in one container, it post-processes only the beans in that container. In other words, beans that are defined in one container are not post-processed by a BeanPostProcessor defined in another container, even if both containers are part of the same hierarchy.

To change the actual bean definition (that is, the blueprint that defines the bean), you instead need to use a BeanFactoryPostProcessor, as described in Customizing Configuration Metadata with a BeanFactoryPostProcessor.

The org.springframework.beans.factory.config.BeanPostProcessor interface consists of exactly two callback methods. When such a class is registered as a post-processor with the container, for each bean instance that is created by the container, the post-processor gets a callback from the container both before container initialization methods (such as InitializingBean.afterPropertiesSet() or any declared init method) are called, and after any bean initialization callbacks. The post-processor can take any action with the bean instance, including ignoring the callback completely. A bean post-processor typically checks for callback interfaces, or it may wrap a bean with a proxy. Some Spring AOP infrastructure classes are implemented as bean post-processors in order to provide proxy-wrapping logic.

An ApplicationContext automatically detects any beans that are defined in the configuration metadata that implement the BeanPostProcessor interface. The ApplicationContext registers these beans as post-processors so that they can be called later, upon bean creation. Bean post-processors can be deployed in the container in the same fashion as any other beans.

Note that, when declaring a BeanPostProcessor by using an @Bean factory method on a configuration class, the return type of the factory method should be the implementation class itself or at least the org.springframework.beans.factory.config.BeanPostProcessor interface, clearly indicating the post-processor nature of that bean. Otherwise, the ApplicationContext cannot autodetect it by type before fully creating it. Since a BeanPostProcessor needs to be instantiated early in order to apply to the initialization of other beans in the context, this early type detection is critical.

Programmatically registering BeanPostProcessor instances
While the recommended approach for BeanPostProcessor registration is through ApplicationContext auto-detection (as described earlier), you can register them programmatically against a ConfigurableBeanFactory by using the addBeanPostProcessor method. This can be useful when you need to evaluate conditional logic before registration or even for copying bean post processors across contexts in a hierarchy. Note, however, that BeanPostProcessor instances added programmatically do not respect the Ordered interface. Here, it is the order of registration that dictates the order of execution. Note also that BeanPostProcessor instances registered programmatically are always processed before those registered through auto-detection, regardless of any explicit ordering.
BeanPostProcessor instances and AOP auto-proxying

Classes that implement the BeanPostProcessor interface are special and are treated differently by the container. All BeanPostProcessor instances and beans that they directly reference are instantiated on startup, as part of the special startup phase of the ApplicationContext. Next, all BeanPostProcessor instances are registered in a sorted fashion and applied to all further beans in the container. Because AOP auto-proxying is implemented as a BeanPostProcessor itself, neither BeanPostProcessor instances nor the beans they directly reference are eligible for auto-proxying and, thus, do not have aspects woven into them.

For any such bean, you should see an informational log message: Bean someBean is not eligible for getting processed by all BeanPostProcessor interfaces (for example: not eligible for auto-proxying).

If you have beans wired into your BeanPostProcessor by using autowiring or @Resource (which may fall back to autowiring), Spring might access unexpected beans when searching for type-matching dependency candidates and, therefore, make them ineligible for auto-proxying or other kinds of bean post-processing. For example, if you have a dependency annotated with @Resource where the field or setter name does not directly correspond to the declared name of a bean and no name attribute is used, Spring accesses other beans for matching them by type.

The following examples show how to write, register, and use BeanPostProcessor instances in an ApplicationContext.

Example: Hello World, BeanPostProcessor-style

This first example illustrates basic usage. The example shows a custom BeanPostProcessor implementation that invokes the toString() method of each bean as it is created by the container and prints the resulting string to the system console.

The following listing shows the custom BeanPostProcessor implementation class definition:

  • Java

  • Kotlin

package scripting;

import org.springframework.beans.factory.config.BeanPostProcessor;

public class InstantiationTracingBeanPostProcessor implements BeanPostProcessor {

	// simply return the instantiated bean as-is
	public Object postProcessBeforeInitialization(Object bean, String beanName) {
		return bean; // we could potentially return any object reference here...

	public Object postProcessAfterInitialization(Object bean, String beanName) {
		System.out.println("Bean '" + beanName + "' created : " + bean.toString());
		return bean;
package scripting

import org.springframework.beans.factory.config.BeanPostProcessor

class InstantiationTracingBeanPostProcessor : BeanPostProcessor {

	// simply return the instantiated bean as-is
	override fun postProcessBeforeInitialization(bean: Any, beanName: String): Any? {
		return bean // we could potentially return any object reference here...

	override fun postProcessAfterInitialization(bean: Any, beanName: String): Any? {
		println("Bean '$beanName' created : $bean")
		return bean

The following beans element uses the InstantiationTracingBeanPostProcessor:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns=""

	<lang:groovy id="messenger"
		<lang:property name="message" value="Fiona Apple Is Just So Dreamy."/>

	when the above bean (messenger) is instantiated, this custom
	BeanPostProcessor implementation will output the fact to the system console
	<bean class="scripting.InstantiationTracingBeanPostProcessor"/>


Notice how the InstantiationTracingBeanPostProcessor is merely defined. It does not even have a name, and, because it is a bean, it can be dependency-injected as you would any other bean. (The preceding configuration also defines a bean that is backed by a Groovy script. The Spring dynamic language support is detailed in the chapter entitled Dynamic Language Support.)

The following Java application runs the preceding code and configuration:

  • Java

  • Kotlin

import org.springframework.context.ApplicationContext;
import org.springframework.scripting.Messenger;

public final class Boot {

	public static void main(final String[] args) throws Exception {
		ApplicationContext ctx = new ClassPathXmlApplicationContext("scripting/beans.xml");
		Messenger messenger = ctx.getBean("messenger", Messenger.class);

   import org.springframework.beans.factory.getBean

fun main() {
	val ctx = ClassPathXmlApplicationContext("scripting/beans.xml")
	val messenger = ctx.getBean<Messenger>("messenger")

The output of the preceding application resembles the following:

Bean 'messenger' created : org.springframework.scripting.groovy.GroovyMessenger@272961

Example: The AutowiredAnnotationBeanPostProcessor

Using callback interfaces or annotations in conjunction with a custom BeanPostProcessor implementation is a common means of extending the Spring IoC container. An example is Spring’s AutowiredAnnotationBeanPostProcessor — a BeanPostProcessor implementation that ships with the Spring distribution and autowires annotated fields, setter methods, and arbitrary config methods.

Customizing Configuration Metadata with a BeanFactoryPostProcessor

The next extension point that we look at is the org.springframework.beans.factory.config.BeanFactoryPostProcessor. The semantics of this interface are similar to those of the BeanPostProcessor, with one major difference: BeanFactoryPostProcessor operates on the bean configuration metadata. That is, the Spring IoC container lets a BeanFactoryPostProcessor read the configuration metadata and potentially change it before the container instantiates any beans other than BeanFactoryPostProcessor instances.

You can configure multiple BeanFactoryPostProcessor instances, and you can control the order in which these BeanFactoryPostProcessor instances run by setting the order property. However, you can only set this property if the BeanFactoryPostProcessor implements the Ordered interface. If you write your own BeanFactoryPostProcessor, you should consider implementing the Ordered interface, too. See the javadoc of the BeanFactoryPostProcessor and Ordered interfaces for more details.

If you want to change the actual bean instances (that is, the objects that are created from the configuration metadata), then you instead need to use a BeanPostProcessor (described earlier in Customizing Beans by Using a BeanPostProcessor). While it is technically possible to work with bean instances within a BeanFactoryPostProcessor (for example, by using BeanFactory.getBean()), doing so causes premature bean instantiation, violating the standard container lifecycle. This may cause negative side effects, such as bypassing bean post processing.

Also, BeanFactoryPostProcessor instances are scoped per-container. This is only relevant if you use container hierarchies. If you define a BeanFactoryPostProcessor in one container, it is applied only to the bean definitions in that container. Bean definitions in one container are not post-processed by BeanFactoryPostProcessor instances in another container, even if both containers are part of the same hierarchy.

A bean factory post-processor is automatically run when it is declared inside an ApplicationContext, in order to apply changes to the configuration metadata that define the container. Spring includes a number of predefined bean factory post-processors, such as PropertyOverrideConfigurer and PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer. You can also use a custom BeanFactoryPostProcessor — for example, to register custom property editors.

An ApplicationContext automatically detects any beans that are deployed into it that implement the BeanFactoryPostProcessor interface. It uses these beans as bean factory post-processors, at the appropriate time. You can deploy these post-processor beans as you would any other bean.

As with BeanPostProcessors , you typically do not want to configure BeanFactoryPostProcessors for lazy initialization. If no other bean references a Bean(Factory)PostProcessor, that post-processor will not get instantiated at all. Thus, marking it for lazy initialization will be ignored, and the Bean(Factory)PostProcessor will be instantiated eagerly even if you set the default-lazy-init attribute to true on the declaration of your <beans /> element.

Example: The Class Name Substitution PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer

You can use the PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer to externalize property values from a bean definition in a separate file by using the standard Java Properties format. Doing so enables the person deploying an application to customize environment-specific properties, such as database URLs and passwords, without the complexity or risk of modifying the main XML definition file or files for the container.

Consider the following XML-based configuration metadata fragment, where a DataSource with placeholder values is defined:

<bean class="">
	<property name="locations" value="classpath:com/something/"/>

<bean id="dataSource" class="org.apache.commons.dbcp.BasicDataSource" destroy-method="close">
	<property name="driverClassName" value="${jdbc.driverClassName}"/>
	<property name="url" value="${jdbc.url}"/>
	<property name="username" value="${jdbc.username}"/>
	<property name="password" value="${jdbc.password}"/>

The example shows properties configured from an external Properties file. At runtime, a PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer is applied to the metadata that replaces some properties of the DataSource. The values to replace are specified as placeholders of the form ${property-name}, which follows the Ant and log4j and JSP EL style.

The actual values come from another file in the standard Java Properties format:


Therefore, the ${jdbc.username} string is replaced at runtime with the value, 'sa', and the same applies for other placeholder values that match keys in the properties file. The PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer checks for placeholders in most properties and attributes of a bean definition. Furthermore, you can customize the placeholder prefix and suffix.

With the context namespace introduced in Spring 2.5, you can configure property placeholders with a dedicated configuration element. You can provide one or more locations as a comma-separated list in the location attribute, as the following example shows:

<context:property-placeholder location="classpath:com/something/"/>

The PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer not only looks for properties in the Properties file you specify. By default, if it cannot find a property in the specified properties files, it checks against Spring Environment properties and regular Java System properties.

Only one such element should be defined for a given application with the properties that it needs. Several property placeholders can be configured as long as they have distinct placeholder syntax (${…​}).

If you need to modularize the source of properties used for the replacement, you should not create multiple properties placeholders. Rather, you should create your own PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer bean that gathers the properties to use.

You can use the PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer to substitute class names, which is sometimes useful when you have to pick a particular implementation class at runtime. The following example shows how to do so:

<bean class="org.springframework.beans.factory.config.PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer">
	<property name="locations">
	<property name="properties">

<bean id="serviceStrategy" class="${custom.strategy.class}"/>

If the class cannot be resolved at runtime to a valid class, resolution of the bean fails when it is about to be created, which is during the preInstantiateSingletons() phase of an ApplicationContext for a non-lazy-init bean.

Example: The PropertyOverrideConfigurer

The PropertyOverrideConfigurer, another bean factory post-processor, resembles the PropertySourcesPlaceholderConfigurer, but unlike the latter, the original definitions can have default values or no values at all for bean properties. If an overriding Properties file does not have an entry for a certain bean property, the default context definition is used.

Note that the bean definition is not aware of being overridden, so it is not immediately obvious from the XML definition file that the override configurer is being used. In case of multiple PropertyOverrideConfigurer instances that define different values for the same bean property, the last one wins, due to the overriding mechanism.

Properties file configuration lines take the following format:

The following listing shows an example of the format:


This example file can be used with a container definition that contains a bean called dataSource that has driver and url properties.

Compound property names are also supported, as long as every component of the path except the final property being overridden is already non-null (presumably initialized by the constructors). In the following example, the sammy property of the bob property of the fred property of the tom bean is set to the scalar value 123:

Specified override values are always literal values. They are not translated into bean references. This convention also applies when the original value in the XML bean definition specifies a bean reference.

With the context namespace introduced in Spring 2.5, it is possible to configure property overriding with a dedicated configuration element, as the following example shows:

<context:property-override location=""/>

Customizing Instantiation Logic with a FactoryBean

You can implement the org.springframework.beans.factory.FactoryBean interface for objects that are themselves factories.

The FactoryBean interface is a point of pluggability into the Spring IoC container’s instantiation logic. If you have complex initialization code that is better expressed in Java as opposed to a (potentially) verbose amount of XML, you can create your own FactoryBean, write the complex initialization inside that class, and then plug your custom FactoryBean into the container.

The FactoryBean<T> interface provides three methods:

  • T getObject(): Returns an instance of the object this factory creates. The instance can possibly be shared, depending on whether this factory returns singletons or prototypes.

  • boolean isSingleton(): Returns true if this FactoryBean returns singletons or false otherwise. The default implementation of this method returns true.

  • Class<?> getObjectType(): Returns the object type returned by the getObject() method or null if the type is not known in advance.

The FactoryBean concept and interface are used in a number of places within the Spring Framework. More than 50 implementations of the FactoryBean interface ship with Spring itself.

When you need to ask a container for an actual FactoryBean instance itself instead of the bean it produces, prefix the bean’s id with the ampersand symbol (&) when calling the getBean() method of the ApplicationContext. So, for a given FactoryBean with an id of myBean, invoking getBean("myBean") on the container returns the product of the FactoryBean, whereas invoking getBean("&myBean") returns the FactoryBean instance itself.