Posts Tagged ‘custom’

Discover Spring authoring

December 29th, 2009 No comments

In this article, I will describe a useful but much underused feature of Spring, the definition of custom tags in the Spring beans definition files.

Spring namespaces

I will begin with a simple example taken from Spring’s documentation. Before version 2.0, only a single XML schema was available. So, in order to make a constant available as a bean, and thus inject it in other beans, you had to define the following:

Spring made it possible, but realize it’s only a trick to expose the constant as a bean. However, since Spring 2.0, the framework let you use the util namespace so that the previous example becomes:

In fact, there are many namespaces now available:

Prefix Namespace Description
bean Original bean schema
util Utilities: constants, property paths and collections
util JNDI lookup
lang Use of other languages
tx Transactions
aop AOP
context ApplicationContext manipulation

Each of these is meant to reduce verbosity and increase readibility like the first example showed.


What is still unknown by many is that this feature is extensible that is Spring API provides you with the mean to write your own. In fact, many framework providers should take advantage of this and provide their own namespaces so that integrating thier product with Spring should be easier. Some already do: CXF with its many namespaces comes to mind but there should be others I don’t know of.

Creating you own namespace is a 4 steps process: 2 steps about the XML validation, the other two for creating the bean itself. In order to illustrate the process, I will use a simple example: I will create a schema for EhCache, the Hibernate’s default caching engine.

The underlying bean factory will be the existing EhCacheFactoryBean. As such, it won’t be as useful as a real feature but it will let us focus on the true authoring plumbing rather than EhCache implementation details.

Creating the schema

Creating the schema is about describing XML syntax and more importantly restrictions. I want my XML to look something like the following:


Since I won’t presume to teach anyone about XML, here’s the schema. Just notice the namespace declaration:


And for those, like me, that prefer a graphic display:

Mapping the schema

The schema creation is only the first part. Now, we have to make Spring aware of it. Create the file META-INF/spring.schemas and write in the following line is enough:


Just take care to insert the backslash, otherwise it won’t work. It maps the schema declaration in the XML to the real file that will be used from the jar!

Before going further, and for the more curious, just notice that in spring-beans.jar (v3.0), there’s such a file. Here is it’s content:


It brings some remarks:

  • Spring eat their own dogfood (that’s nice to know)
  • I didn’t look into the code but I think that’s why XML validation of Spring’s bean files never complain about not finding the schema over the Internet (a real pain in production environment because of firewall security issues). That’s because the XSD are looked inside the jar
  • If you don’t specify the version of the Spring schema you use (2.0, 2.5, 3.0, etc.), Spring will automatically upgrade it for you with each major/minor version of the jar. If you want this behaviour, fine, if not, you’ll have to specify version

Creating the parser

The previous steps are only meant to validate the XML so that the eternal attribute will take a boolean value, for example. We still did not wire our namespace into Spring factory. This is the goal of this step.

The first thing to do is create a class that implement org.springframework.beans.factory.xml.BeanDefinitionParser. Looking at its hierarchy, it seems that the org.springframework.beans.factory.xml.AbstractSimpleBeanDefinitionParser is a good entry point since:

  • the XML is not overly complex
  • there will be a single bean definition

Here’s the code:

public class EhCacheBeanDefinitionParser extends AbstractSimpleBeanDefinitionParser {

  private static final List<String> PROP_TAG_NAMES;

  static {

  PROP_TAG_NAMES = new ArrayList();


  protected Class getBeanClass(Element element) {

    return EhCacheFactoryBean.class;

  protected boolean shouldGenerateIdAsFallback() {

    return true;

  protected void doParse(Element element, ParserContext parserContext, BeanDefinitionBuilder builder) {

    for (String name : PROP_TAG_NAMES) {

      String value = element.getAttribute(name);

      if (StringUtils.hasText(value)) {

        builder.addPropertyValue(name, value);

    NodeList nodes = element.getElementsByTagNameNS("", "manager");

    if (nodes.getLength() > 0) {


    String msep = element.getAttribute("memoryStoreEvictionPolicy");

    if (StringUtils.hasText(msep)) {

      MemoryStoreEvictionPolicy policy = MemoryStoreEvictionPolicy.fromString(msep);

      builder.addPropertyValue("memoryStoreEvictionPolicy", policy);

That deserves some explanations. The static block fills in what attributes are valid. The getBeanClass() method returns what class will be used, either directly as a bean or as a factory. The shouldGenerateIdAsFallback() method is used to tell Spring that when no id is supplied in the XML, it should generate one. That makes it possible to create pseudo-anonymous beans (no bean is really anonymous in the Spring factory).

The real magic happen in the doParse() method: it just adds every simple property it finds in the builder. There are two interesting properties though: cacheManager and memoryStoreEvictionPolicy.

The former, should it exist, is a reference on another bean. Therefore, it should be added to the builder not as a value but as a reference. Of course, the code doesn’t check if the developer declared the cache manager as an anonymous bean inside the ehcache but the schema validation took already care of that.

The latter just uses the string value to get the real object behind and add it as a property to the builder. Likewise, since the value was enumerated on the schema, exceptions caused by a bad syntax cannot happen.

Registering the parser

The last step is to register the parser in Spring. First, you just have to create a class that extends org.springframework.beans.factory.xml.NamespaceHandlerSupport and register the handler under the XML tag name in its init() method:

public class EhCacheNamespaceHandler extends NamespaceHandlerSupport {

  public void init() {

    registerBeanDefinitionParser("cache", new EhCacheBeanDefinitionParser());

Should you have more parsers, just register them in the same method under each tag name.

Second, just map the formerly created namespace to the newly created handler in a file META-INF/spring.handlers:


Notice that you map the declared schema file to the real schema but the namespace to the handler.


Now, when faced by overly verbose bean configuration, you have the option to use this nifty 4-steps techniques to simplify it. This technique is of course more oriented toward product providers but can be used by projects, provided the time taken to author a namespace is a real time gain over normal bean definitions.

You will find the sources for this article here in Maven/Eclipse format.

To go further

  • Spring authoring: version 2.0 is enough since nothing changed much (at all?) with following versions
  • Spring’s Javadoc relative to authoring
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Hibernate hard facts part 3

December 13th, 2009 1 comment

Hibernate LogoIn the third article of this serie, I will show how to tweak Hibernate so as to convert any database data types to and from any Java type and thus decouple your database model from your object model.

Custom type mapping

Hibernate is a very powerful asset in any application needing to persist data. As an example, I was tasked this week to generate the Object-Oriented model for a legacy database. It seemed simple enough, at first glance. Then I discovered a big legacy design flaw: for historical reasons, dates were stored as number in the YYYYMMDD format. For example, 11th december 2009 was 20091211. I couldn’t or rather wouldn’t change the database and yet, I didn’t want to pollute my neat little OO model with Integer instead of java.util.Date.

After browsing through Hibernate documentation, I was confident it made this possible in a very simple way.

Creating a custom type mapper

The first step, that is also the biggest, consist in creating a custom type. This type is not a real “type” but a mapper that knows how to convert from the database type to the Java type and vice-versa. In order to do so, all you have is create a class that implements org.hibernate.usertype.UserType. Let’s have a look at each implemented method in detail.

The following method gives away what class will be returned at the end of read process. Since I want a Date instead of an Integer, I naturally return the Date class.

public Class returnedClass() {

  return Date.class;

The next method returns what types (in the Types constants) the column(s) that will be read fromhave. It is interesting to note that Hibernate let you map more than one column, thus having the same feature as the JPA @Embedded annotation. In my case, I read from a single numeric column, so I should return a single object array filled with Types.INTEGER.

public int[] sqlTypes() {

  return new int[] {Types.INTEGER};


This method will check whether returned class instances are immutable (like any normal Java types save primitive types and Strings) or mutable (like the rest). This is very important because if false is returned, the field using this custom type won’t be checked to see whether an update should be performed or not. It will be of course if the field is replaced, in all cases (mutable or immutable). Though there’s is a big controversy in the Java API, the Date is mutable, so the method should return true.

public boolean isMutable() {

  return true;


I can’t guess how the following method is used but the API states:

Return a deep copy of the persistent state, stopping at entities and at collections. It is not necessary to copy immutable objects, or null values, in which case it is safe to simply return the argument.

Since we just said Date instances were mutable, we cannot just return the object but we have to return a clone instead: that’s made possible because Date‘s clone() method is public.

public Object deepCopy(Object value) throws HibernateException {

  return ((Date) value).clone();

The next two methods do the real work to respectively read from and to the database. Notice how the API exposes ResultSet object to read from and PreparedStatement object to write to.

public Object nullSafeGet(ResultSet rs, String[] names, Object owner) throws HibernateException, SQLException {

  Date result = null;

  if (!rs.wasNull()) {

    Integer integer = rs.getInt(names[0]);

    if (integer != null) {

      try {

        result = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyyMMdd").parse(String.valueOf(integer));

      } catch (ParseException e) {

        throw new HibernateException(e);

  return result;

public void nullSafeSet(PreparedStatement statement, Object value, int index) throws HibernateException, SQLException {

  if (value == null) {

    statement.setNull(index, Types.INTEGER);

  } else {

    Integer integer = Integer.valueOf(new SimpleDateFormat("yyyyMMdd").format((String) value));

    statement.setInt(index, integer);

The next two methods are implementations of equals() and hasCode() from a persistence point-of-view.

public int hashCode(Object x) throws HibernateException {

  return x == null ? 0 : x.hashCode();

public boolean equals(Object x, Object y) throws HibernateException {

  if (x == null) {

    return y == null;

  return x.equals(y);

For equals(), since Date is mutable, we couldn’t just check for object equality since the same object could have been changed.

The replace() method is used for merging purpose. It couldn’t be simpler.

public Object replace(Object original, Object target, Object owner) throws HibernateException {

  Owner o = (Owner) owner;


  return ((Date) original).clone();

My implementation of the replace() method is not reusable: both the owning type and the name of the setter method should be known, making reusing the custom type a bit hard. If I wished to reuse it, the method’s body would need to use the lang.reflect package and to make guesses about the method names used. Thus, the algorithm for creating a reusable user type would be along the lines of:

  1. list all the methods that are setter and take the target class as an argument
    1. if no method matches, throw an error
    2. if a single method matches, call it with the target argument
    3. if more than one method matches, call the associated getter to check which one returns the original object

The next two methods are used in the caching process, respectively in serialization and deserialization. Since Date instances are serializable, it is easy to implement them.

public Serializable disassemble(Object value) throws HibernateException

  return (Date) ((Date) value).clone();

public Object assemble(Serializable cached, Object owner) throws HibernateException {

  return ((Date) cached).clone();

Declare the type on entity

Once the custom UserType is implemented, you need to make it accessible it for the entity.

@TypeDef(name="dateInt", typeClass = DateIntegerType.class)
public class Owner {


Use the type

The last step is to annotate the field.

@TypeDef(name="dateInt", typeClass = DateIntegerType.class)

public class Owner {

  private Date date;

  public Date getDate() {

    return date;

  public void setDate(Date date) { = date;

You can download the sources for this article here.

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Customize your JAXB bindings

June 17th, 2009 17 comments

JAXB is a bridge between the Java and the XML worlds, enabling your code to transparently marshalls and unmarshalls your Java objects to and from XML. In order to do this, you should have a class representing your XML-Schema. This class is created by the xjc. In most cases, xjc creates a class that won’t suit your needs. In this article, we’ll see why it does so and what we can do to customize this behaviour.


This article suppose you use a Java Development Kit 6.0. Be wary that different updates of this same JDK 6 use different JAXB versions:

Update JAXB version
3 2.0.3
4 2.1.3

Concurrent technologies

Before diving into JAXB, one should ask oneself whether using JAXB is necessary. There’s a plethora of frameworks whose goal is to serialize/deserialize Java objects to and from XML:

  • Historically speaking (and from my humble knowledge), Castor XML was the first widely used framework to manage Java XML serialization.
  • Since Java 1.4, two classes XMLEncoder and XMLDecoder are available. Their are respectively equivalent to ObjectOutputStream and ObjectInputStream, only they produce XML instead of bytes.
  • Finally, XStream is a 3rd party framework that is fast to run and easy to use.

All these solutions are very good in reading/producing XML, yet they completely ignore the binding part. Binding is the creation of the Java class from the schema. Of course, JAXB has this feature.


xjc is the executable used to create Java classes from XML schemas. Available syntax are DTD, XML-Schema, RELAX NG, RELAX NG Compact and WSDL. Since I now exclusively use Maven to build my projects, I won’t use xjc directly but I’ll configure the Maven POM to use it. The first thing to do is to add the repository to your POM (or your settings file, but I prefer the former):

    Maven 2 Repository

    Maven 2 Repository

Now, you’re ready to use the plugin:


Use the plugin with the following command line: mvn org.jvnet.jaxb2.maven2:maven-jaxb2-plugin:generate.

Common configuration

The previous command line will fail since we didn’t specify any configuration yet. The following should be assumed a good default:


This tells xjc to look for all xsd files under the src/main/schema directory and generate the classes under src/main/generated. It will use the binding files (*.xjb) under the former directory.

I sincerely advise you to set the removeOldOutput to false since xjc will erase all the directory content. If you use a source code management tool, this will include the directories used by your SCM (.cvs or .svn), a very bad idea.

You need two things still. The first is to set the the compiler level to at least 1.5 in order to annotations to work:


Maven only accepts a single source directory. The second thing to do is to make the  src/main/generated directory to Maven when building the project. It can be done with the help of the builder plugin:


Now using the previous command line will produce something useful! Try it and you will have some nice surprise.


In order to customize your bindings, you basically have 2 options:

  • polluting your XML Schema with foreign namespaces,
  • or keeping your XML Schema pure and putting all your bindings into a external file.

From the terms I used, you can guess I prefer option 2. This is the right time to use a binding file. Create a file named binding.xjb under src/main/resources/schema.

Package name

Of  course, the package name is not something desirable: by default, it is the XML-Schema namespace minus http:// plus _package. The first customization is to change this behaviour. Put the following content into your binding file:


If you have the following error, you should use update 14 from JDK 6:

java.lang.LinkageError: JAXB 2.0 API is being loaded from the bootstrap classloader, but this RI (from jar:file:/C:/${user.home}/.m2/repository/com/sun/xml/bind/jaxb-impl/2.1.10/jaxb-impl-2.1.10.jar!/com/sun/xml/bind/v2/model/impl/ModelBuilder.class) needs 2.1 API. Use the endorsed directory mechanism to place jaxb-api.jar in the bootstrap classloader. (See

If not, chances are your classes will have been generated under the suitable package name.


Managing your entities will probably require you to have them serializable. In order to achieve this, you’ll have to modify your binding file to add the interface to your classes along with a serialVersionUID. Every class generated will now be serializable and have the specified uid: a limitation of this process is that each of your generated class will have the same uid.


It is sometimes beneficial that all your bound classes inherit from a common class, one that is not described in the XSD. This may happen if this superclass is entirely for technical purpose (sucha as strong typing) and shouldn’t clutter the schema.

In order to do so, two actions are necessary:

  • enable the extended mode for the xjc compiler. Just add true under your configuration in the POM
  • use the superClass tag in the namespace

This class won’t be generated by xjc so you are free to create it as you please (making it abstract, adding methods and so on).


Data type

By default, xjc will bind the schema to the most precise data type available. For example, a XML-Schema date type will be bound to a Java javax.xml.datatype.XMLGregorianCalendar. This has the drawback of coupling your bound classes to the JAXB API and forcing you to use classes you don’t really need. For purpose of example, check how to convert a java.sql.Date from the database to your entity javax.xml.datatype.XMLGregorianCalendar: have fun!

To ease your development, you can provide both during binding and marshalling/unmarshalling adapters meant to pass to and from XML. This is declared as such in the bindings file:


Notice you got another namespace to manage. This will generate an adapter class under the org.w3._2001.xmlschema package you’ll have to use during marshalling/unmarshalling process.

Tweaking the output

Not every information you’ll need in Java will be provided by the XML-Schema. What about compairing our objects with equals()?

Not every schema you’ll use will have been designed by you or your team. Some will be legacy, some will be standards… That doesn’t mean you should suffer for other’s lack of good practice. What if the schema uses uppercase tags? Surely, you want your generated classes to follow Sun coding conventions.

The Sun JAXB team provides plugins to the XJC compiler that resolve the above problems. Have a look at them.

For our example, we choose to add hashCode(), equals() and toString() methods to our generated class. A plugin exists to do just that. You only have to configure this generation in the POM, adding the wanted arguments to the compiler and adding the plugins needed to manage these arguments:


In this specific case, you’ll have to add two more dependencies (Commons Lang and JAXB Basics runtime) to your POM since the generated classes will depend on them:


JAXB Persistence Bindings

To go even further and have a single entity able to be marshalled by JAXB and managed by your persistence layer, you can use the HyperJaxb product.

HyperJaxb2 cares about Hibernate managed persistence whereas HyperJaxb3 focuses on JPA managed persistence. The latter seems to be suffering from a lack of documentation, but the objective looks promising.


When reading from and writing to XML, one may be provided with a XML Schema. In this case, it is a good practice to bind the schema to Java. JAXB is the standard solution to achieve this. Yet, in many cases, the generated Java classes will be lacking some features: this shouldn’t be considered the end of the world, since the binding process can be customized to take many parameters into account.

You’ll find the sources for this article here.

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