Creating and Using a Custom Converter
Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 8
The Java EE Tutorial

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Creating and Using a Custom Converter

A JavaServer Faces converter class converts strings to objects and objects to strings as required. Several standard converters are provided by JavaServer Faces for this purpose. See Using the Standard Converters for more information on these included converters.

As explained in Conversion Model, if the standard converters included with JavaServer Faces cannot perform the data conversion that you need, you can create a custom converter to perform this specialized conversion. This implementation, at a minimum, must define how to convert data both ways between the two views of the data described in Conversion Model.

All custom converters must implement the javax.faces.convert.Converter interface. This section explains how to implement this interface to perform a custom data conversion.

The Duke’s Bookstore case study uses a custom Converter implementation, located in tut-install`/examples/case-studies/dukes-bookstore/src/java/dukesbookstore/converters/CreditCardConverter.java`, to convert the data entered in the Credit Card Number field on the bookcashier.xhtml page. It strips blanks and hyphens from the text string and formats it so that a blank space separates every four characters.

Another common use case for a custom converter is in a list for a nonstandard object type. In the Duke’s Tutoring case study, the Student and Guardian entities require a custom converter so that they can be converted to and from a UISelectItems input component.

Creating a Custom Converter

The CreditCardConverter custom converter class is created as follows:

@FacesConverter("ccno")
public class CreditCardConverter implements Converter {
    ...
}

The @FacesConverter annotation registers the custom converter class as a converter with the name of ccno with the JavaServer Faces implementation. Alternatively, you can register the converter with entries in the application configuration resource file, as shown in Registering a Custom Converter.

To define how the data is converted from the presentation view to the model view, the Converter implementation must implement the getAsObject(FacesContext, UIComponent, String) method from the Converter interface. Here is the implementation of this method from CreditCardConverter:

@Override
public Object getAsObject(FacesContext context,
        UIComponent component, String newValue)
        throws ConverterException {

    if (newValue.isEmpty()) {
        return null;
    }
    // Since this is only a String to String conversion,
    // this conversion does not throw ConverterException.

    String convertedValue = newValue.trim();
    if ( (convertedValue.contains("-")) || (convertedValue.contains(" "))) {
        char[] input = convertedValue.toCharArray();
        StringBuilder builder = new StringBuilder(input.length);
        for (int i = 0; i < input.length; ++i) {
            if ((input[i] == '-') || (input[i] == ' ')) {
            } else {
                builder.append(input[i]);
            }
        }
        convertedValue = builder.toString();
    }
    return convertedValue;
}

During the Apply Request Values phase, when the components' decode methods are processed, the JavaServer Faces implementation looks up the component’s local value in the request and calls the getAsObject method. When calling this method, the JavaServer Faces implementation passes in the current FacesContext instance, the component whose data needs conversion, and the local value as a String. The method then writes the local value to a character array, trims the hyphens and blanks, adds the rest of the characters to a String, and returns the String.

To define how the data is converted from the model view to the presentation view, the Converter implementation must implement the getAsString(FacesContext, UIComponent, Object) method from the Converter interface. Here is an implementation of this method:

@Override
public String getAsString(FacesContext context,
        UIComponent component, Object value)
        throws ConverterException {

    String inputVal = null;
    if ( value == null ) {
        return "";
    }
    // value must be of a type that can be cast to a String.
    try {
        inputVal = (String)value;
    } catch (ClassCastException ce) {
        FacesMessage errMsg = new FacesMessage(CONVERSION_ERROR_MESSAGE_ID);
        FacesContext.getCurrentInstance().addMessage(null, errMsg);
        throw new ConverterException(errMsg.getSummary());
    }
    // insert spaces after every four characters for better
    // readability if they are not already present.
    char[] input = inputVal.toCharArray();
    StringBuilder builder = new StringBuilder(input.length + 3);
    for (int i = 0; i < input.length; ++i) {
        if ((i % 4) == 0 && (i != 0)) {
            if ({input[i] != ' ') || (input[i] != '-')){
                builder.append(" ");
                // if there are any "-"'s convert them to blanks.
            } else if (input[i] == '-') {
                builder.append(" ");
            }
         }
         builder.append(input[i]);
    }
    String convertedValue = builder.toString();
    return convertedValue;
}

During the Render Response phase, in which the components' encode methods are called, the JavaServer Faces implementation calls the getAsString method in order to generate the appropriate output. When the JavaServer Faces implementation calls this method, it passes in the current FacesContext, the UIComponent whose value needs to be converted, and the bean value to be converted. Because this converter does a String-to-String conversion, this method can cast the bean value to a String.

If the value cannot be converted to a String, the method throws an exception, passing an error message from the resource bundle that is registered with the application. Registering Application Messages explains how to register custom error messages with the application.

If the value can be converted to a String, the method reads the String to a character array and loops through the array, adding a space after every four characters.

You can also create a custom converter with a @FacesConverter annotation that specifies the forClass attribute, as shown in the following example from the Duke’s Tutoring case study:

@FacesConverter(forClass=Guardian.class, value="guardian")
public class GuardianConverter extends EntityConverter implements Converter { ...

The forClass attribute registers the converter as the default converter for the Guardian class. Therefore, whenever that class is specified by a value attribute of an input component, the converter is invoked automatically.

A converter class can be a separate Java POJO class, as in the Duke’s Bookstore case study. If it needs to access objects defined in a managed bean class, however, it can be a subclass of a JavaServer Faces managed bean, as in the address-book persistence example, in which the converters use an enterprise bean that is injected into the managed bean class.

Using a Custom Converter

To apply the data conversion performed by a custom converter to a particular component’s value, you must do one of the following.

  • Reference the converter from the component tag’s converter attribute.

  • Nest an f:converter tag inside the component’s tag and reference the custom converter from one of the f:converter tag’s attributes.

If you are using the component tag’s converter attribute, this attribute must reference the Converter implementation’s identifier or the fully-qualified class name of the converter. Creating and Using a Custom Converter explains how to implement a custom converter.

The identifier for the credit card converter class is ccno, the value specified in the @FacesConverter annotation:

@FacesConverter("ccno")
public class CreditCardConverter implements Converter {
    ...

Therefore, the CreditCardConverter instance can be registered on the ccno component as shown in the following example:

<h:inputText id="ccno"
             size="19"
             converter="ccno"
             value="#{cashierBean.creditCardNumber}"
             required="true"
             requiredMessage="#{bundle.ReqCreditCard}">
    ...
</h:inputText>

By setting the converter attribute of a component’s tag to the converter’s identifier or its class name, you cause that component’s local value to be automatically converted according to the rules specified in the Converter implementation.

Instead of referencing the converter from the component tag’s converter attribute, you can reference the converter from an f:converter tag nested inside the component’s tag. To reference the custom converter using the f:converter tag, you do one of the following.

  • Set the f:converter tag’s converterId attribute to the Converter implementation’s identifier defined in the @FacesConverter annotation or in the application configuration resource file. This method is shown in bookcashier.xhtml:

    <h:inputText id="ccno"
                 size="19"
                 value="#{cashierBean.creditCardNumber}"
                 required="true"
                 requiredMessage="#{bundle.ReqCreditCard}">
        <f:converter converterId="ccno"/>
        <f:validateRegex
           pattern="\d{16}|\d{4} \d{4} \d{4} \d{4}|\d{4}-\d{4}-\d{4}-\d{4}"/>
    </h:inputText>
  • Bind the Converter implementation to a managed bean property using the f:converter tag’s binding attribute, as described in Binding Converters, Listeners, and Validators to Managed Bean Properties.

The JavaServer Faces implementation calls the converter’s getAsObject method to strip spaces and hyphens from the input value. The getAsString method is called when the bookcashier.xhtml page is redisplayed; this happens if the user orders more than $100 worth of books.

In the Duke’s Tutoring case study, each converter is registered as the converter for a particular class. The converter is automatically invoked whenever that class is specified by a value attribute of an input component. In the following example, the itemValue attribute (highlighted in bold) calls the converter for the Guardian class:

<h:selectManyListbox id="selectGuardiansMenu"
                     title="#{bundle['action.add.guardian']}"
                     value="#{guardianManager.selectedGuardians}"
                     size="5"
                     converter="guardian">
    <f:selectItems value="#{guardianManager.allGuardians}"
                   var="selectedGuardian"
                   itemLabel="#{selectedGuardian.name}"
                   itemValue="#{selectedGuardian}" />
</h:selectManyListbox>

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