Struts 2 Interceptors

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Interceptors are conceptually the same as servlet filters or the JDKs Proxy class. Interceptors allow for crosscutting functionality to be implemented separately from the action as well as the framework. You can achieve the following using interceptors:

  • Providing preprocessing logic before the action is called.

  • Providing postprocessing logic after the action is called.

  • Catching exceptions so that alternate processing can be performed.

Many of the features provided in the Struts2 framework are implemented using interceptors; examples include exception handling, file uploading, lifecycle callbacks and validation etc. In fact, as Struts2 bases much of its functionality on interceptors, it is not unlikely to have 7 or 8 interceptors assigned per action.

Struts2 Framework Interceptors:

Struts 2 framework provides a good list of out-of-the-box interceptors that come preconfigured and ready to use. Few of the important interceptors are listed below:

SN Interceptor & Description
1alias
Allows parameters to have different name aliases across requests.
2checkbox
Assists in managing check boxes by adding a parameter value of false for check boxes that are not checked.
3conversionError
Places error information from converting strings to parameter types into the action's field errors.
4createSession
Automatically creates an HTTP session if one does not already exist.
5debugging
Provides several different debugging screens to the developer.
6execAndWait
Sends the user to an intermediary waiting page while the action executes in the background.
7exception
Maps exceptions that are thrown from an action to a result, allowing automatic exception handling via redirection.
8fileUpload
Facilitates easy file uploading.
9i18n
Keeps track of the selected locale during a user's session.
10logger
Provides simple logging by outputting the name of the action being executed.
11params
Sets the request parameters on the action.
12prepare
This is typically used to do pre-processing work, such as setup database connections.
13profile
Allows simple profiling information to be logged for actions.
14scope
Stores and retrieves the action's state in the session or application scope.
15ServletConfig
Provides the action with access to various servlet-based information.
16timer
Provides simple profiling information in the form of how long the action takes to execute.
17token
Checks the action for a valid token to prevent duplicate formsubmission.
18validation
Provides validation support for actions

Please loook into Struts 2 documentation for complete detail on above mentioned interceptors. But I will show you how to use an interceptor in general in your Struts application.

How to use Interceptors?

Let us see how to use an already existing interceptor to our "Hello World" program. We will use the timer interceptor whose purpose is to measure how long it took to execute an action method. Same time I'm using params interceptor whose purpose is to send the request parameters to the action. You can try your example without using this interceptor and you will find that name property is not being set because parameter is not able to reach to the action.

We will keep HelloWorldAction.java, web.xml, HelloWorld.jsp and index.jsp files as they have been created in Examples chapter but let us modify the struts.xml file to add an interceptor as follows

 
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE struts PUBLIC
   "-//Apache Software Foundation//DTD Struts Configuration 2.0//EN"
   "http://struts.apache.org/dtds/struts-2.0.dtd">
<struts>
   <constant name="struts.devMode" value="true" />
   <package name="helloworld" extends="struts-default">
      <action name="hello" 
         class="com.tutorialspoint.struts2.HelloWorldAction"
         method="execute">
         <interceptor-ref name="params"/>
         <interceptor-ref name="timer" />
         <result name="success">/HelloWorld.jsp</result>
      </action>
   </package>
</struts>

Right click on the project name and click Export > WAR File to create a War file. Then deploy this WAR in the Tomcat's webapps directory. Finally, start Tomcat server and try to access URL http://localhost:8080/HelloWorldStruts2/index.jsp. This will give you following screen:

Hello World Input

Now enter any word in the given text box and click Say Hello button to execute the defined action. Now if you will check the log generated, you will find following text:

 
INFO: Server startup in 3539 ms
27/08/2011 8:40:53 PM 
com.opensymphony.xwork2.util.logging.commons.CommonsLogger info
INFO: Executed action [//hello!execute] took 109 ms.

Here bottom line is being generated because of timer interceptor which is telling that action took total 109ms to be executed.

Create Custom Interceptors

Using custom interceptors in your application is an elegant way to provide cross-cutting application features. Creating a custom interceptor is easy; the interface that needs to be extended is the following Interceptor interface:

 
public interface Interceptor extends Serializable{
   void destroy();
   void init();
   String intercept(ActionInvocation invocation)
   throws Exception;
}

As the names suggest, the init() method provides a way to initialize the interceptor, and the destroy() method provides a facility for interceptor cleanup. Unlike actions, interceptors are reused across requests and need to be thread-safe, especially the intercept() method.

The ActionInvocation object provides access to the runtime environment. It allows access to the action itself and methods to invoke the action and determine whether the action has already been invoked.

If you have no need for initialization or cleanup code, the AbstractInterceptor class can be extended. This provides a default no-operation implementation of the init() and destroy() methods.

Create Interceptor Class:

Let us create following MyInterceptor.java in Java Resources > src folder:

 
package com.tutorialspoint.struts2;

import java.util.*;
import com.opensymphony.xwork2.ActionInvocation;
import com.opensymphony.xwork2.interceptor.AbstractInterceptor;

public class MyInterceptor extends AbstractInterceptor {

   public String intercept(ActionInvocation invocation)throws Exception{

      /* let us do some pre-processing */
      String output = "Pre-Processing"; 
      System.out.println(output);

      /* let us call action or next interceptor */
      String result = invocation.invoke();

      /* let us do some post-processing */
      output = "Post-Processing"; 
      System.out.println(output);

      return result;
   }
}

As you notice, actual action will be executed using the interceptor by invocation.invoke() call. So you can do some pre-processing and some post-processing based on your requirement.

The framework itself starts the process by making the first call to the ActionInvocation object's invoke(). Each time invoke() is called, ActionInvocation consults its state and executes whichever interceptor comes next. When all of the configured interceptors have been invoked, the invoke() method will cause the action itself to be executed. Following digram shows the same concept through a request flow:

ActionInvocation

Create Action Class:

Let us create a java file HelloWorldAction.java under Java Resources > src with a package name com.tutorialspoint.struts2 with the contents given below.

package com.tutorialspoint.struts2;

import com.opensymphony.xwork2.ActionSupport;

public class HelloWorldAction extends ActionSupport{
   private String name;

   public String execute() throws Exception {
      System.out.println("Inside action....");
      return "success";
   }  

   public String getName() {
      return name;
   }

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

This is a same class which we have seen in previous examples. We have standard getters and setter methods for the "name" property and an execute method that returns the string "success".

Create a View

Let us create the below jsp file HelloWorld.jsp in the WebContent folder in your eclipse project.

<%@ page contentType="text/html; charset=UTF-8" %>
<%@ taglib prefix="s" uri="/struts-tags" %>
<html>
<head>
<title>Hello World</title>
</head>
<body>
   Hello World, <s:property value="name"/>
</body>
</html>

Create main page:

We also need to create index.jsp in the WebContent folder. This file will serve as the initial action URL where a user can click to tell the Struts 2 framework to call the a defined method of the HelloWorldAction class and render the HelloWorld.jsp view.

<%@ page language="java" contentType="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1"
   pageEncoding="ISO-8859-1"%>
<%@ taglib prefix="s" uri="/struts-tags"%>
   <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" 
"http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">
<html>
<head>
<title>Hello World</title>
</head>
<body>
   <h1>Hello World From Struts2</h1>
   <form action="hello">
      <label for="name">Please enter your name</label><br/>
      <input type="text" name="name"/>
      <input type="submit" value="Say Hello"/>
   </form>
</body>
</html>

The hello action defined in the above view file will be mapped to the HelloWorldAction class and its execute method using struts.xml file.

Configuration Files

Now we need to register our interceptor and then call it as we had called default interceptor in previous example. To register a newly defined interceptor, the <interceptors>...</interceptors> tags are placed directly under the <package> tag ins struts.xml file. You can skip this step for a default interceptors as we did in our previous example. But here let us register and use it as follows:

 
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE struts PUBLIC
    "-//Apache Software Foundation//DTD Struts Configuration 2.0//EN"
    "http://struts.apache.org/dtds/struts-2.0.dtd">

<struts>
   <constant name="struts.devMode" value="true" />
   <package name="helloworld" extends="struts-default">

      <interceptors>
         <interceptor name="myinterceptor"
            class="com.tutorialspoint.struts2.MyInterceptor" />
      </interceptors>

      <action name="hello" 
         class="com.tutorialspoint.struts2.HelloWorldAction" 
         method="execute">
         <interceptor-ref name="params"/>
         <interceptor-ref name="myinterceptor" />
         <result name="success">/HelloWorld.jsp</result>
      </action>

   </package>
</struts>

It should be noted that you can register more than one interceptors inside <package> tag and same time you can call more than one interceptors inside the <action> tag. You can call same interceptor with the different actions.

The web.xml file needs to be created under the WEB-INF folder under WebContent as follows:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<web-app xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
   xmlns="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee" 
   xmlns:web="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_2_5.xsd"
   xsi:schemaLocation="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee 
   http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_3_0.xsd"
   id="WebApp_ID" version="3.0">
   
   <display-name>Struts 2</display-name>
   <welcome-file-list>
      <welcome-file>index.jsp</welcome-file>
   </welcome-file-list>
   <filter>
      <filter-name>struts2</filter-name>
      <filter-class>
         org.apache.struts2.dispatcher.FilterDispatcher
      </filter-class>
   </filter>

   <filter-mapping>
      <filter-name>struts2</filter-name>
      <url-pattern>/*</url-pattern>
   </filter-mapping>
</web-app>

Right click on the project name and click Export > WAR File to create a War file. Then deploy this WAR in the Tomcat's webapps directory. Finally, start Tomcat server and try to access URL http://localhost:8080/HelloWorldStruts2/index.jsp. This will give you following screen:

Hello World Input

Now enter any word in the given text box and click Say Hello button to execute the defined action. Now if you will check the log generated, you will find following text at the bottom:

 
Pre-Processing
Inside action....
Post-Processing

Stacking multiple Interceptors:

As you can imagine, having to configure multiple interceptor for each action would quickly become extremely unmanageable. For this reason, interceptors are managed with interceptor stacks. Here is an example, directly from the struts-default.xml file:

 
<interceptor-stack name="basicStack">
   <interceptor-ref name="exception"/>
   <interceptor-ref name="servlet-config"/>
   <interceptor-ref name="prepare"/>
   <interceptor-ref name="checkbox"/>
   <interceptor-ref name="params"/>
   <interceptor-ref name="conversionError"/>
</interceptor-stack>

The above stake is called basicStack and can be used in your configuration as shown below. This configuration node is placed under the <package .../> node. Each <interceptor-ref .../> tag references either an interceptor or an interceptor stack that has been configured before the current interceptor stack. It is therefore very important to ensure that the name is unique across all interceptor and interceptor stack configurations when configuring the initial interceptors and interceptor stacks.

We have already seen how to apply interceptor to the action, applying interceptor stacks is no different. In fact, we use exactly the same tag:

 
<action name="hello" class="com.tutorialspoint.struts2.MyAction">
   <interceptor-ref name="basicStack"/>
   <result>view.jsp</result>
</action

The above registration of "basicStack" will register complete stake of all the six interceptors with hello action. This should be noted that interceptors are executed in the order, in which they have been configured. For example, in above case, exception will be executed first, second would be servlet-config and so on.



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