Reference » Spring Integration

Spring Integration

Last modified by Andreas Hahn on 2011/06/10 16:20

Spring MVC and Shept - what's the deal ?

The base idee behind shept is that its pages are composed of segments like the elements in an array.
Rendering the page means that all parts of the page (at least that portion that is controlled by shept) will be rendered in a single request. This is a contrast to todays RIA frameworks which have a tendency to break down page rendering into many fine grained roundtrips to server - often one for each ui component. The shept approach is supposed to be more resource-friendly to your backend although there are exceptions to this of course - autocompletion for one example. There are a couple of other existing implementations with a similar approach - tiles for one example - but shept is better integrated and there is one main difference:

Shept pages are composed dynamically. A page can grow infinetely to the bottom of your browsing viewport. 

The number of visible elements is controlled by your form backing object and the number of segments it contains. There is no predefined layout and for each segment you can define a collection of follow-up candidates. So the user is aware of his full browsing history.

Hope this abstract concept is more clear with some online showcases.

It's important to note that shept driven forms don't lock you in at any point.

You have the full freedom to mix shept forms with any other spring supported Controller architecture.
It should be pretty straightforward to add experimental shept support for existing spring mvc applications.

Implementation scope

  • a Controller that is inspired by Springs MultiActionController
  • a couple of Handlers to support page segment actions (paging, sorting, filtering, create-update-save transactions, ...)
  • a set of form backing objects to be used for datagrids
  • several view templates (jsp- tagx- templates) designed to complement springs 'spring' and 'form' tag libraries with the provided form elements
  • default stylesheets illustrated by silk icons
  • a set of utility classes and default configurations


Shepts controllers are inspired by springs MultiActionController. Its base implementation DelegatingController pl.png introduces delegates to support handlers for segmented command objects. Request processing involves a WebActionResolver pl.png transforming form submissions into a WebActionToken pl.png which contains submission details. The DelegatingController configures the databindings for all involved segments by delegations to ComponentDataBinder pl.png and their postprocessors ComponentPostprocessor pl.png in a way only the pages dynamic segments contribute to the effective page processing.

Next in shepts controller hierarchy is its own MultiActionController pl.png that adds a session form cache to the controller. Well actually today one might imagine other implementations that use session scoped beans - anyway it serves its purpose.

The last controller in the hierarchy and actually the one to be used by default in shept driven pages is the SheptController pl.png. The shept controller provides a page with one segment which is build from a TargetConfiguration pl.png. We'll later see what constitues a chain between segments from origin to destination ('target') and a TargetConfiguration pl.png is the simplest form of a ChainConfiguration pl.png without origin (predecessor).

Documentation of the controller hierarchy is sparse but usually you won't bother to dive into details when using shepts higher level abstractions.


While the controller takes care about the whole page the handlers care about an aspect of page handling. There are handlers for pagination and sorting pl.png, simple persistence pl.png and list persistence pl.png, filtering pl.png and chaining pl.png. Handlers are located in the component package pl.png and interact with one segments form backing object at a time.


While in general its up to the application to provide its own 'command objects' (or 'form backing objects') this can require quite an effort for anything beyond trivial value holding beans. Shept delivers a couple of beans to interact with its infrastructure that can be found in the support package pl.png.

Page level objects

The SubCommandProvider with its single implementation DefaultCommandObject pl.png delivers the segments of a page - each wrapped into a CommandWrapper pl.png. The purpose of this additional wrapping is to have a level that can be used for additional information, most important the tagName of the segment but also status information e.g. that can be used to hide/show the segment.

DataGrid backing objects

For the datagrids there is a hierarchy of PageListHolder pl.png -> ChoiceListHolder pl.png -> FilteredListHolder pl.png.

Note that all handlers don't deal with these concrete implementations but with their interface definitions PageableList pl.png, MultiChoice pl.png and Refreshable pl.png preserving your freedom for own implementations of datagrid form backing objects.

The basic PagedListHolder is a modified version of the PageListHolder provided by the spring framework. The modification preserves all of the original characteristics but it was unfortunately necessary to overcome extendibility limitations (aka private definition 'sortUsed' and no accessors defined). ChoiceListHolder pl.png extends the PageListHolder with the MultiChoice interface to let the user select one or more items (usually provided with checkboxes on the ui level). FilteredListHolder pl.png is an extension to it implementing Refreshable providing list reloading functionality from a backing datasource. The FilteredListHolder is the 'swiss knife' for backing datagrids and is used in all default configurations.


Viewing is supported through 2 taglibs shept and table. Form fields and random objects are bound in the usual spring style via spring pl.png
and form pl.png taglibs. 

Setup and Initialization

Shept provides a default configuration shept.xml pl.png that contains a lot of templates and initializations for a Shept controller and its component handlers. It needs to be included in web.xml along with your segment and chain definitions. There is a naming convention applied to its definitions with suffix template which are defined abstract="true" thus you'll declare concrete definitions by using parent="...template". If you are unhappy with shept.xml predefinitions you always have the freedom to copy and paste it into your projects classpath and apply your individual modifications to it. However this should rarely be necessary as almost everything is extendible through spring bean definitions. Have a look at the demo implementations at github. pl.png. A typical web.xml will look like this:


During app container startup shept.xmls configuration configures resource copy operations to your projects /WEB-INF/images and WEB-INF/includes folder. Resource copying checks for existing resources first and will not override any of your individual settings. While this isn't strictly necessary any more since springs <mvc:resource /> tags there is still the advantage of mixing the provided defaults with your individual settings. 

Utility and support classes

There are a couple of support and utility classes to mention the most important ones: ComponentUtils pl.png provides access to command objects, their segments and all sorts of conversions between configurations, segments and pathNames. ModelUtils pl.png contains a couple of model related features as copying, wrapping and template retrieval.

Created by Andreas Hahn on 2011/06/08 10:59

© 2011 - Andreas Hahn