21. April 2015

View technologies for MVC 1.0

The MVC 1.0 (JSR371) specification has just released an early draft for review. I'm very happy to see that people are interested in this JSR and start to have a deeper look at how MVC 1.0 will look like. At this point any kind of feedback is very valuable and welcome.

One of the questions which is asked very frequently is which view technologies MVC 1.0 will support. The answer is that MVC has built-in support for JSP and Facelets. This seems to disappoint people. Especially because JSP isn't considered to be a "modern" view technology any more.

I want to note a few things here. First JSP isn't as bad as most people think. Sure, it has its weaknesses (like any other technology), but there are good arguments for using JSP. Every IDE for example supports JSP out of the box and I think that decent tooling is something that is lacking for many of the other view technologies. One of the major problems with JSP is that it allows you to do really really bad things like embedding Java code in the view. But if you use JSP in a reasonable way, it works very well. And if you don't like JSP, you can also choose Facelets which has been around in the JSF world for quite some time and offers many great templating concepts.

However, I agree that there are many other great view technologies out there. And I fully understand people who prefer libraries like Thymeleaf as they offer many great features you don't get with JSP or Facelets.

One of the things I like most about MVC 1.0 is that it actually doesn't matter what view technologies it supports out of the box. Why? Because it is so easy to integrate arbitrary view technologies with MVC. You don't believe me? Ok, here is an example to convince you.

Creating a custom view engine

One of the most popular template engines for node.js is Jade. Similar to Haml in the Ruby world it is based on the idea to use indention to define blocks which basically means that you don't need to manually close elements any more. There is even a Java implementation of the Jade language called jade4j. So let's have a look the required steps to use jade4j as the view technology for your MVC 1.0 based application.

To integrate a template engine with MVC, you have to implement the ViewEngine interface which consists of only two methods. MVC 1.0 uses CDI to discover all view engine implementations. There is no need to register the implementation anywhere. Just add @ApplicationScoped to your implementation and MVC will find it.

OK, let's have a look at the code:

public class JadeViewEngine implements ViewEngine {

  private ServletContext servletContext;

  public boolean supports(String view) {
    return view.endsWith(".jade");

  public void processView(ViewEngineContext context) throws ViewEngineException {

    try {

      String viewName = "/WEB-INF/views/" + context.getView();
      URL template = servletContext.getResource(viewName);

      String html = Jade4J.render(template, context.getModels(), true);


    } catch (IOException e) {
      throw new IllegalStateException(e);



That's all! Everything you need to integrate jade4j with MVC 1.0. That's not much code, isn't? Of cause this code can be (and should be) improved in regard to error handling, caching and so on. But it is a great example to demonstrate the basics.

The supports() method is used by the MVC implementation to find the view engine responsible for the view name returned by a controller method or specified with the @View annotation. In this example our view engine will process all views with the file extension .jade.

The processView() method is where all the magic happens. The purpose of this method is to render the view and write the result to the response stream. Everything you need for this is available from the ViewEngineContext. The code above uses the ServletContext to load the Jade template from the default view folder /WEB-INF/views. Jade4J provides simple static methods you can use to evaluate templates. All you need is the template and a model. After that you can write the resulting HTML page to the output stream.

Using the view engine

Now let's check if the view engine works as expected. First we will create a simple controller that uses the MVC 1.0 API:

public class HelloController {

  private Models models;

  public String controller() {
    models.put("name", "Christian");
    return "hello.jade";


As you see there is nothing special about this controller. It looks like every other MVC 1.0 controller. The only difference is that it returns the view name hello.jade instead of something like hello.jsp. Now let's have a look at the corresponding view:

!!! 5
    title Jade4J Demo
      Hello #{name}

I guess this looks very weird if you have never seen something like Jade or Haml before. This is a simple page that renders a h1 element containing a greeting. It uses EL-like expressions to reference values from the model. If you want to learn more about Jade, have a look at the Jade Language Reference.

So you see the Jade integration is working fine. And we had to create just a single class. Easy, isn't it? :)


I hope this example shows you how easy it is to integrate custom view technologies with MVC 1.0. Ozark, the reference implementation of MVC 1.0, already provides a number of extra view engine implementations for template engines like Thymeleaf, Freemarker, Velocity, Handlebars and Mustache. All of them are available from Maven Central.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you want to give MVC 1.0 a try, I recommend to have a look at todo-mvc, which is a small sample application I created to demonstrate how a typical application created with MVC 1.0 looks like.

Have fun!