Creating a Web Application on JBoss AS 5

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Wonder what was the first message sent through Internet? At 22:30 hours on October 29, 1969, a message was transmitted using ARPANET (the predecessor of the global Internet) on a host-to-host connection. It was meant to transmit “login”. However, it transmitted just “lo” and crashed.

Developing web layout

The basic component of any Java web application is the servlet. Born in the middle of the 90s, servlets quickly gained success against their competitors, the CGI scripts. This was because of some innovative features, especially the ability to execute requests concurrently, without the overhead of creating a new process for each request. However, a few things were missing, for example, the servlet API did not address any APIs specifically for creating the client GUI. This resulted in multiple ways of creating the presentation tier, generally with tag libraries that differed from job to job and from individual developers.

The second thing that was missing in the servlet specification was a clear distinction between the presentation tier and the backend. A plethora of web frameworks tried to fill this gap; particularly the Struts framework effectively realized a clean separation of the model (application logic that interacts with a database) from the view (HTML pages presented to the client) and the controller (instance that passes information between view and model).

However, the limitation of these frameworks was that even if they realized a complete modular abstraction, they still failed as they always exposed theHttpServletRequest and HttpServletSessionobjects to their action(s). Their actions, in turn, needed to accept the interface contracts such as ActionForm, ActionMapping, and so on.

The JavaServer Faces that emerged on the stage a few years later pursued a different approach. Unlike request-driven Model–View–Controller (MVC) web frameworks, JSF chose a component-based approach that ties the user interface component to a well-defined request processing lifecycle. This greatly simplifies the development of web applications.

The JSF specification allows you to have presentation components be POJOs. This creates a cleaner separation from the servlet layer and makes it easier to do testing by not requiring the POJOs to be dependent on the servlet classes.

In the following sections, we will describe how to create a web layout for our application store using the JSF technology. For an exhaustive explanation of the JSF framework, we suggest you to surf the JSF homepage at

Installing JSF on JBoss AS

JBoss AS already ships with the JSF libraries, so the good news is that you don’t need to download or install them in the application server. There are different implementations of the JSF libraries. Earlier JBoss releases adopted the Apache MyFaces library. JBoss AS 4.2 and 5.x ship with the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) implementation (now called “Project Mojarra”) of the JSF 1.2 specification that is available from the open source community.

Switching to another JSF implementation is anyway possible. All you have to do is package your JSF libraries with your web application and configure your web.xml to ignore the JBoss built-in implementation:


We will start by creating a new JSF project. From the File menu, select New | Other | JBoss Tools Web | JSF | JSF Web project. The JSF applet wizard will display, requesting the Project Name, the JSF Environment, and the default starting Template.

JBoss AS 5 Development

Choose AppStoreWeb as the project name, and check that the JSF Environment used is JSF 1.2. You can leave all other options to the defaults and click Finish. Eclipse will now suggest that you switch to the Web Projects view that logically assembles all JSF components. (It seems that the current release of the plugin doesn’t understand your choice, so you have to manually click on the Web Projects tab.)

JBoss AS 5 Development

The key configuration file of a JSF application is faces-config.xml contained in the Configuration folder. Here you declare all navigation rules of the application and the JSF managed beans. Managed beans are simple POJOs that provide the logic for initializing and controlling JSF components, and for managing data across page requests, user sessions, or the application as a whole.

Adding JSF functionalities also requires adding some information to your web.xml file so that all requests ending with a certain suffix are intercepted by the Faces Servlet. Let’s have a look at the web.xml configuration file:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<web-app version="2.5"

<context-param> [1]<param-name>com.sun.faces.
<!-- Faces Servlet -->
<servlet-name>Faces Servlet</servlet-name>
<!-- Faces Servlet Mapping -->
<servlet-name>Faces Servlet</servlet-name>

The context-param pointed out here [1] is not added by default when you create a JSF application. However, it needs to be added, else you’ll stumble into an annoying ViewExpiredException when your session expires (JSF 1.2).

Setting up navigation rules

In the first step, we will define the navigation rules for our AppStore. A minimalist approach would require a homepage that displays the orders, along with two additional pages for inserting new customers and new orders respectively.

Let’s add the following navigation rule to the faces-config.xml:

<from-view-id>/home.jsp</from-view-id> [1]<navigation-case>
<from-outcome>newCustomer</from-outcome> [2]<to-view-id>/newCustomer.jsp</to-view-id>
<from-outcome>newOrder</from-outcome> [3]<to-view-id>/newOrder.jsp</to-view-id>
<from-view-id></from-view-id> [4]<navigation-case>

In a navigation rule, you can have one from-view-id that is the (optional) starting page, and one or more landing pages that are tagged as to-view-id. The from-outcome determines the navigation flow. Think about this parameter as a Struts forward, that is, instead of embedding the landing page in the JSP/servlet, you’ll simply declare a virtual path in your JSF beans.

Therefore, our starting page will be home.jsp [1] that has two possible links—the newCustomer.jsp form [2] and the newOrder.jsp form [3]. At the bottom, there is a navigation rule that is valid across all pages [4]. Every page requesting the home outcome will be redirected to the homepage of the application.

The above JSP will be created in a minute, so don’t worry if Eclipse validator complains about the missing pages. This configuration can also be examined from the Diagram tab of your faces-config.xml:

JBoss AS 5 Development

The next piece of code that we will add to the confi guration is the JSF managed bean declaration. You need to declare each bean here that will be referenced by JSF pages. Add the following code snippet at the top of your faces-config.xml (just before navigation rules):

<managed-bean-name>manager</managed-bean-name> [1]<managed-bean-class>
</managed-bean-class> [2]<managed-bean-scope>request</managed-bean-scope> [3]</managed-bean>

The <managed-bean-name> [1] element will be used by your JSF page to reference your beans. The <managed-bean-class> [2] is obviously the corresponding class. The managed beans can then be stored within the request, session, or application scopes, depending on the value of the <managed-bean-scope> element [3].


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