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An Overview of JavaServer Faces Technology

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This sample chapter explains some of the primary benefits of using JavaServer Faces technology and what a JavaServer Faces application is. It describes a simple application and specifies which part the developers of each role work on, then describes the UI component model, the navigation model, and the backing bean features supported by JavaServer Faces technology. Finally, this chapter uses a page from a simple application to summarize the life cycle of a JavaServer Faces page.

JavaServer Faces technology is a server-side user interface component framework for Java technology-based web applications.

The main components of JavaServer Faces technology are as follows:

  • An API for representing UI components and managing their state; handling events, server-side validation, and data conversion; defining page navigation; supporting internationalization and accessibility; and providing extensibility for all these features
  • Two JavaServer Pages (JSP) custom tag libraries for expressing UI components within a JSP page and for wiring components to server-side objects

The well-defined programming model and tag libraries significantly ease the burden of building and maintaining web applications with server-side UIs. With minimal effort, you can

  • Drop components onto a page by adding component tags
  • Wire component-generated events to server-side application code
  • Bind UI components on a page to server-side data
  • Construct a UI with reusable and extensible components
  • Save and restore UI state beyond the life of server requests

As shown in Figure 9–1, the user interface you create with JavaServer Faces technology (represented by myUI in the graphic) runs on the server and renders back to the client.

Figure 9-1

Figure 9–1 The UI Runs on the Server

The JSP page, myform.jsp, is a JavaServer Faces page, which is a JSP page that includes JavaServer Faces tags. It expresses the user interface components by using custom tags defined by JavaServer Faces technology. The UI for the web application (represented by myUI in the figure) manages the objects referenced by the JSP page. These objects include

  • The UI component objects that map to the tags on the JSP page
  • Any event listeners, validators, and converters that are registered on the components
  • The JavaBeans components that encapsulate the data and application-specific functionality of the components

This chapter gives an overview of JavaServer Faces technology. After going over some of the primary benefits of using JavaServer Faces technology and explaining what a JavaServer Faces application is, it describes a simple application and specifies which part of the application the developers of each role work on. It then describes the UI component model, the navigation model, and the backing bean features supported by JavaServer Faces technology. Finally, this chapter uses a page from a simple application to summarize the life cycle of a JavaServer Faces page.

JavaServer Faces Technology Benefits

One of the greatest advantages of JavaServer Faces technology is that it offers a clean separation between behavior and presentation. Web applications built using JSP technology achieve this separation in part. However, a JSP application cannot map HTTP requests to component-specific event handling nor manage UI elements as stateful objects on the server, as a JavaServer Faces application can. JavaServer Faces technology allows you to build web applications that implement the finer-grained separation of behavior and presentation that is traditionally offered by client-side UI architectures.

The separation of logic from presentation also allows each member of a web application development team to focus on his or her piece of the development process, and it provides a simple programming model to link the pieces. For example, page authors with no programming expertise can use JavaServer Faces technology UI component tags to link to server-side objects from within a web page without writing any scripts.

Another important goal of JavaServer Faces technology is to leverage familiar UI-component and web-tier concepts without limiting you to a particular scripting technology or markup language. Although JavaServer Faces technology includes a JSP custom tag library for representing components on a JSP page, the JavaServer Faces technology APIs are layered directly on top of the Servlet API, as shown in Figure 2–2. This layering of APIs enables several important application use cases, such as using another presentation technology instead of JSP pages, creating your own custom components directly from the component classes, and generating output for various client devices.

Most importantly, JavaServer Faces technology provides a rich architecture for managing component state, processing component data, validating user input, and handling events.

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