devdar devdar - 7 months ago 16
Java Question

Spring MVC: How to perform validation?

I would like to know what is the cleanest and best way to perform form validation of user inputs. I have seen some developers implement

org.springframework.validation.Validator
. A question about that: I saw it validates a class. Does the class have to be filled manually with the values from the user input, and then passed to the validator?

I am confused about the cleanest and best way to validate the user input. I know about the traditional method of using
request.getParameter()
and then manually checking for
nulls
, but I don't want to do all the validation in my
Controller
. Some good advice on this area will be greatly appreciated. I am not using Hibernate in this application.

Answer

With Spring MVC, there are 3 different ways to perform validation : using annotation, manually, or a mix of both. There is not a unique "cleanest and best way" to validate, but there is probably one that fits your project/problem/context better.

Let's have a User :

public class User {

    private String name;

    ...

}

Method 1 : If you have Spring 3.x+ and simple validation to do, use javax.validation.constraints annotations (also known as JSR-303 annotations).

public class User {

    @NotNull
    private String name;

    ...

}

You will need a JSR-303 provider in your librairies, like Hibernate Validator who is the reference implementation (this library has nothing to do with databases and relational mapping, it just does validation :-).

Then in your controller you would have something like :

@RequestMapping(value="/user", method=RequestMethod.POST)
public createUser(Model model, @Valid @ModelAttribute("user") User user, BindingResult result){
    if (result.hasErrors()){
      // do something
    }
    else {
      // do something else
    }
}

Notice the @Valid : if the user happens to have a null name, result.hasErrors() will be true.

Method 2 : If you have complex validation (like big business validation logic, conditional validation across multiple fields, etc.), or for some reason you cannot use method 1, use manual validation. It is a good practice to separate the controller’s code from the validation logic. Don't create your validation class(es) from scratch, Spring provides a handy org.springframework.validation.Validator interface (since Spring 2).

So let's say you have

public class User {

    private String name;

    private Integer birthYear;
    private User responsibleUser;
    ...

}

and you want to do some "complex" validation like : if the user's age is under 18, responsibleUser must not be null and responsibleUser's age must be over 21.

You will do something like this

public class UserValidator implements Validator {

    @Override
    public boolean supports(Class clazz) {
      return User.class.equals(clazz);
    }

    @Override
    public void validate(Object target, Errors errors) {
      User user = (User) target;

      if(user.getName() == null) {
          errors.rejectValue("name", "your_error_code");
      }

      // do "complex" validation here

    }

}

Then in your controller you would have :

@RequestMapping(value="/user", method=RequestMethod.POST)
    public createUser(Model model, @ModelAttribute("user") User user, BindingResult result){
        UserValidator userValidator = new UserValidator();
        userValidator.validate(user, result);

        if (result.hasErrors()){
          // do something
        }
        else {
          // do something else
        }
}

If there are validation errors, result.hasErrors() will be true.

Note : You can also set the validator in a @InitBinder method of the controller, with "binder.setValidator(...)" (in which case a mix use of method 1 and 2 would not be possible, because you replace the default validator). Or you could instantiate it in the default constructor of the controller. Or have a @Component/@Service UserValidator that you inject (@Autowired) in your controller : very useful, because most validators are singletons + unit test mocking becomes easier + your validator could call other Spring components.

Method 3 : Why not using a combination of both methods? Validate the simple stuff, like the "name" attribute, with annotations (it is quick to do, concise and more readable). Keep the heavy validations for validators (when it would take hours to code custom complex validation annotations, or just when it is not possible to use annotations). I did this on a former project, it worked like a charm, quick & easy.

Warning : you must not mistake validation handling for exception handling. Read this post to know when to use them.

References :

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