This guide walks you through the process of configuring a web application form to support validation.

What You Will Build

You will build a simple Spring MVC application that takes user input and checks the input by using standard validation annotations. You will also see how to display the error message on the screen so that the user can re-enter input to make it be valid.

What You Need

How to complete this guide

Like most Spring Getting Started guides, you can start from scratch and complete each step or you can bypass basic setup steps that are already familiar to you. Either way, you end up with working code.

To start from scratch, move on to Starting with Spring Initializr.

To skip the basics, do the following:

When you finish, you can check your results against the code in gs-validating-form-input/complete.

Starting with Spring Initializr

For all Spring applications, you should start with the Spring Initializr. The Initializr offers a fast way to pull in all the dependencies you need for an application and does a lot of the setup for you. This example needs the Spring Web and Thymeleaf dependencies.

The following listing shows the pom.xml file that is created when you choose Maven:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project xmlns="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
	xsi:schemaLocation="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0 https://maven.apache.org/xsd/maven-4.0.0.xsd">
	<modelVersion>4.0.0</modelVersion>
	<parent>
		<groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
		<artifactId>spring-boot-starter-parent</artifactId>
		<version>2.3.2.RELEASE</version>
		<relativePath/> <!-- lookup parent from repository -->
	</parent>
	<groupId>com.example</groupId>
	<artifactId>validating-form-input</artifactId>
	<version>0.0.1-SNAPSHOT</version>
	<name>validating-form-input</name>
	<description>Demo project for Spring Boot</description>

	<properties>
		<java.version>1.8</java.version>
	</properties>

	<dependencies>
		<dependency>
			<groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
			<artifactId>spring-boot-starter-thymeleaf</artifactId>
		</dependency>
		<dependency>
			<groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
			<artifactId>spring-boot-starter-web</artifactId>
		</dependency>

		<dependency>
			<groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
			<artifactId>spring-boot-starter-test</artifactId>
			<scope>test</scope>
			<exclusions>
				<exclusion>
					<groupId>org.junit.vintage</groupId>
					<artifactId>junit-vintage-engine</artifactId>
				</exclusion>
			</exclusions>
		</dependency>
	</dependencies>

	<build>
		<plugins>
			<plugin>
				<groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
				<artifactId>spring-boot-maven-plugin</artifactId>
			</plugin>
		</plugins>
	</build>

</project>

The following listing shows the build.gradle file that is created when you choose Gradle:

plugins {
	id 'org.springframework.boot' version '2.3.2.RELEASE'
	id 'io.spring.dependency-management' version '1.0.8.RELEASE'
	id 'java'
}

group = 'com.example'
version = '0.0.1-SNAPSHOT'
sourceCompatibility = '1.8'

repositories {
	mavenCentral()
}

dependencies {
	implementation 'org.springframework.boot:spring-boot-starter-thymeleaf'
	implementation 'org.springframework.boot:spring-boot-starter-web'
	testImplementation('org.springframework.boot:spring-boot-starter-test') {
		exclude group: 'org.junit.vintage', module: 'junit-vintage-engine'
	}
}

test {
	useJUnitPlatform()
}

Create a PersonForm Object

The application involves validating a user’s name and age, so you first need to create a class that backs the form used to create a person. The following listing (from src/main/java/com/example/validatingforminput/PersonForm.java) shows how to do so:

package com.example.validatingforminput;

import javax.validation.constraints.Min;
import javax.validation.constraints.NotNull;
import javax.validation.constraints.Size;

public class PersonForm {

	@NotNull
	@Size(min=2, max=30)
	private String name;

	@NotNull
	@Min(18)
	private Integer age;

	public String getName() {
		return this.name;
	}

	public void setName(String name) {
		this.name = name;
	}

	public Integer getAge() {
		return age;
	}

	public void setAge(Integer age) {
		this.age = age;
	}

	public String toString() {
		return "Person(Name: " + this.name + ", Age: " + this.age + ")";
	}
}

The PersonForm class has two attributes: name and age. It is flagged with a few standard validation annotations:

  • @Size(min=2, max=30): Allows names between 2 and 30 characters long.

  • @NotNull: Does not allow a null value, which is what Spring MVC generates if the entry is empty.

  • @Min(18): Does not allow the age to be less than 18.

In addition to that, you can also see getters and setters for name and age and a convenient toString() method.

Create a Web Controller

Now that you have defined a form-backing object, it is time to create a simple web controller. The following listing (from src/main/java/com/example/validatingforminput/WebController.java) shows how to do so:

package com.example.validatingforminput;

import javax.validation.Valid;

import org.springframework.stereotype.Controller;
import org.springframework.validation.BindingResult;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.GetMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.PostMapping;
import org.springframework.web.servlet.config.annotation.ViewControllerRegistry;
import org.springframework.web.servlet.config.annotation.WebMvcConfigurer;


@Controller
public class WebController implements WebMvcConfigurer {

	@Override
	public void addViewControllers(ViewControllerRegistry registry) {
		registry.addViewController("/results").setViewName("results");
	}

	@GetMapping("/")
	public String showForm(PersonForm personForm) {
		return "form";
	}

	@PostMapping("/")
	public String checkPersonInfo(@Valid PersonForm personForm, BindingResult bindingResult) {

		if (bindingResult.hasErrors()) {
			return "form";
		}

		return "redirect:/results";
	}
}

This controller has a GET method and a POST method. Both methods are mapped to /.

The showForm method returns the form template. It includes a PersonForm in its method signature so that the template can associate form attributes with a PersonForm.

The checkPersonFormInfo method accepts two arguments:

  • A personForm object marked with @Valid to gather the attributes filled out in the form.

  • A bindingResult object so that you can test for and retrieve validation errors.

You can retrieve all the attributes from the form, which is bound to the PersonForm object. In the code, you test for errors. If you encounter an error, you can send the user back to the original form template. In that situation, all the error attributes are displayed.

If all of the person’s attribute are valid, it redirects the browser to the final results template.

Build an HTML Front End

Now build the “main” page, as the following listing (from src/main/resources/templates/form.html) shows:

<html>
    <body>
        <form action="#" th:action="@{/}" th:object="${personForm}" method="post">
            <table>
                <tr>
                    <td>Name:</td>
                    <td><input type="text" th:field="*{name}" /></td>
                    <td th:if="${#fields.hasErrors('name')}" th:errors="*{name}">Name Error</td>
                </tr>
                <tr>
                    <td>Age:</td>
                    <td><input type="text" th:field="*{age}" /></td>
                    <td th:if="${#fields.hasErrors('age')}" th:errors="*{age}">Age Error</td>
                </tr>
                <tr>
                    <td><button type="submit">Submit</button></td>
                </tr>
            </table>
        </form>
    </body>
</html>

The page contains a simple form, with each of its field in a separate cell in a table. The form is geared to post to /. It is marked as being backed up by the personForm object that you saw in the GET method in the web controller. This is known as a “bean-backed form”. There are two fields in the PersonForm bean, and you can see that they are tagged with th:field="{name}" and th:field="{age}". Next to each field is a secondary element that is used to show any validation errors.

Finally, you have a button that submits the form. In general, if the user enters a name or age that violates the @Valid constraints, it bounces back to this page with the error message displayed. If a valid name and age is entered, the user is routed to the next web page.

The following example (from src/main/resources/templates/results.html) shows the results page:

<html>
	<body>
		Congratulations! You are old enough to sign up for this site.
	</body>
</html>
In this simple example, these web pages do not have any sophisticated CSS or JavaScript.

Run the Application

For this application, you are using the template language of Thymeleaf. This application needs more than raw HTML. The Spring Initializr created an application class for you. The following listing (from src/main/java/com/example/validatingforminput/ValidatingFormInputApplication.java) shows that class:

package com.example.validatingforminput;

import org.springframework.boot.SpringApplication;
import org.springframework.boot.autoconfigure.SpringBootApplication;

@SpringBootApplication
public class ValidatingFormInputApplication {

	public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
		SpringApplication.run(ValidatingFormInputApplication.class, args);
	}

}

To activate Spring MVC, you would normally add @EnableWebMvc to the Application class. But Spring Boot’s @SpringBootApplication already adds this annotation when it detects spring-webmvc on your classpath. This same annotation lets it find the annotated @Controller class and its methods.

The Thymeleaf configuration is also taken care of by @SpringBootApplication. By default, templates are located in the classpath under templates/ and are resolved as views by stripping the '.html' suffix off the file name. (Thymeleaf settings can be changed and overridden in a variety of ways, depending on what you need to achieve, but the details are not relevant to this guide.)

Build an executable JAR

You can run the application from the command line with Gradle or Maven. You can also build a single executable JAR file that contains all the necessary dependencies, classes, and resources and run that. Building an executable jar makes it easy to ship, version, and deploy the service as an application throughout the development lifecycle, across different environments, and so forth.

If you use Gradle, you can run the application by using ./gradlew bootRun. Alternatively, you can build the JAR file by using ./gradlew build and then run the JAR file, as follows:

java -jar build/libs/gs-validating-form-input-0.1.0.jar

If you use Maven, you can run the application by using ./mvnw spring-boot:run. Alternatively, you can build the JAR file with ./mvnw clean package and then run the JAR file, as follows:

java -jar target/gs-validating-form-input-0.1.0.jar
The steps described here create a runnable JAR. You can also build a classic WAR file.

The application should be up and running within a few seconds.

If you visit http://localhost:8080/, you should see something like the following image:

valid 01

The following pair of images show what happens if you enter A for the name and 15 for your age and click on Submit:

valid 02
valid 03

The preceding images show that, because the values violated the constraints in the PersonForm class, you get bounced back to the “main” page. Note that, if you click on Submit with nothing in the entry box, you get a different error, as the following image shows:

valid 04

If you enter a valid name and age, you end up on the results page, as the following image shows:

valid 05

Summary

Congratulations! You have coded a simple web application with validation built into a domain object. This way, you can ensure that the data meets certain criteria and that the user correctly inputs the data.

See Also

The following guides may also be helpful:

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