The Java EE 5 Tutorial

User Interface Component Model

JavaServer Faces UI components are configurable, reusable elements that compose the user interfaces of JavaServer Faces applications. A component can be simple, such as a button, or compound, such as a table, which can be composed of multiple components.

JavaServer Faces technology provides a rich, flexible component architecture that includes the following:

This section briefly describes each of these pieces of the component architecture.

User Interface Component Classes

JavaServer Faces technology provides a set of UI component classes and associated behavioral interfaces that specify all the UI component functionality, such as holding component state, maintaining a reference to objects, and driving event handling and rendering for a set of standard components.

The component classes are completely extensible, allowing component writers to create their own custom components. See Chapter 13, Creating Custom UI Components for an example of a custom image map component.

All JavaServer Faces UI component classes extend UIComponentBase, which defines the default state and behavior of a UI component. The following set of UI component classes is included with JavaServer Faces technology:

In addition to extending UIComponentBase, the component classes also implement one or more behavioral interfaces, each of which defines certain behavior for a set of components whose classes implement the interface.

These behavioral interfaces are as follows:

UICommand implements ActionSource2 and StateHolder. UIOutput and component classes that extend UIOutput implement StateHolder and ValueHolder. UIInput and component classes that extend UIInput implement EditableValueHolder, StateHolder, and ValueHolder. UIComponentBase implements StateHolder. See the JavaServer Faces Technology 1.2 API Specification for more information on these interfaces.

Only component writers will need to use the component classes and behavioral interfaces directly. Page authors and application developers will use a standard UI component by including a tag that represents it on a JSP page. Most of the components can be rendered in different ways on a page. For example, a UICommand component can be rendered as a button or a hyperlink.

The next section explains how the rendering model works and how page authors choose how to render the components by selecting the appropriate tags.

Component Rendering Model

The JavaServer Faces component architecture is designed such that the functionality of the components is defined by the component classes, whereas the component rendering can be defined by a separate renderer. This design has several benefits, including:

A render kit defines how component classes map to component tags that are appropriate for a particular client. The JavaServer Faces implementation includes a standard HTML render kit for rendering to an HTML client.

The render kit defines a set of Renderer classes for each component that it supports. Each Renderer class defines a different way to render the particular component to the output defined by the render kit. For example, a UISelectOne component has three different renderers. One of them renders the component as a set of radio buttons. Another renders the component as a combo box. The third one renders the component as a list box.

Each JSP custom tag defined in the standard HTML render kit is composed of the component functionality (defined in the UIComponent class) and the rendering attributes (defined by the Renderer class). For example, the two tags in Table 10–1 represent a UICommand component rendered in two different ways.

Table 10–1 UICommand Tags


Rendered As 


Login button.



The command part of the tags shown in Table 10–1 corresponds to the UICommand class, specifying the functionality, which is to fire an action. The button and hyperlink parts of the tags each correspond to a separate Renderer class, which defines how the component appears on the page.

The JavaServer Faces implementation provides a custom tag library for rendering components in HTML. It supports all the component tags listed in Table 10–2. To learn how to use the tags in an example, see Adding UI Components to a Page Using the HTML Component Tags.

Table 10–2 The UI Component Tags



Rendered As 



Represents a column of data in a UIData component.

A column of data in an HTML table 

A column in a table


Submits a form to the application. 

An HTML <input type=type> element, where the type value can be submit, reset, or image

A button


Links to another page or location on a page. 

An HTML <a href> element

A hyperlink


Represents a data wrapper. 

An HTML <table> element

A table that can be updated dynamically


Represents an input form. The inner tags of the form receive the data that will be submitted with the form. 

An HTML <form> element

No appearance 


Displays an image. 

An HTML <img> element

An image 


Allows a page author to include a hidden variable in a page. 

An HTML <input type=hidden> element

No appearance


Allows a user to input a string without the actual string appearing in the field. 

An HTML <input type=password> element

A text field, which displays a row of characters instead of the actual string entered


Allows a user to input a string. 

An HTML <input type=text> element

A text field


Allows a user to enter a multiline string. 

An HTML <textarea> element

A multi-row text field


Displays a localized message. 

An HTML <span> tag if styles are used

A text string 


Displays localized messages. 

A set of HTML <span> tags if styles are used

A text string 


Displays a localized message. 

Plain text 

Plain text 


Displays a nested component as a label for a specified input field. 

An HTML <label> element

Plain text


Links to another page or location on a page without generating an action event. 

An HTML <a> element

A hyperlink 


Displays a line of text. 

Plain text 

Plain text


Displays a table. 

An HTML <table> element with <tr> and <td> elements

A table


Groups a set of components under one parent. 


A row in a table 


Allows a user to change the value of a Boolean choice. 

An HTML <input type=checkbox> element.

A check box


Represents one item in a list of items in a UISelectOne component.

An HTML <option> element

No appearance 


Represents a list of items in a UISelectOne component.

A list of HTML <option> elements

No appearance 


Displays a set of check boxes from which the user can select multiple values. 

A set of HTML <input> elements of type checkbox

A set of check boxes


Allows a user to select multiple items from a set of items, all displayed at once. 

An HTML <select> element

A list box


Allows a user to select multiple items from a set of items. 

An HTML <select> element

A scrollable combo box


Allows a user to select one item from a set of items, all displayed at once. 

An HTML <select> element

A list box


Allows a user to select one item from a set of items. 

An HTML <select> element

A scrollable combo box


Allows a user to select one item from a set of items. 

An HTML <input type=radio> element

A set of radio buttons

Conversion Model

A JavaServer Faces application can optionally associate a component with server-side object data. This object is a JavaBeans component, such as a backing bean. An application gets and sets the object data for a component by calling the appropriate object properties for that component.

When a component is bound to an object, the application has two views of the component’s data:

The JavaServer Faces implementation automatically converts component data between these two views when the bean property associated with the component is of one of the types supported by the component’s data. For example, if a UISelectBoolean component is associated with a bean property of type java.lang.Boolean, the JavaServer Faces implementation will automatically convert the component’s data from String to Boolean. In addition, some component data must be bound to properties of a particular type. For example, a UISelectBoolean component must be bound to a property of type boolean or java.lang.Boolean.

Sometimes you might want to convert a component’s data to a type other than a standard type, or you might want to convert the format of the data. To facilitate this, JavaServer Faces technology allows you to register a Converter implementation on UIOutput components and components whose classes subclass UIOutput. If you register the Converter implementation on a component, the Converter implementation converts the component’s data between the two views.

You can either use the standard converters supplied with the JavaServer Faces implementation or create your own custom converter.

To create and use a custom converter in your application, three things must happen:

Event and Listener Model

The JavaServer Faces event and listener model is similar to the JavaBeans event model in that it has strongly typed event classes and listener interfaces that an application can use to handle events generated by UI components.

An Event object identifies the component that generated the event and stores information about the event. To be notified of an event, an application must provide an implementation of the Listener class and must register it on the component that generates the event. When the user activates a component, such as by clicking a button, an event is fired. This causes the JavaServer Faces implementation to invoke the listener method that processes the event.

JavaServer Faces technology supports three kinds of events: value-change events, action events, and data-model events.

An action event occurs when the user activates a component that implements ActionSource. These components include buttons and hyperlinks.

A value-change event occurs when the user changes the value of a component represented by UIInput or one of its subclasses. An example is selecting a check box, an action that results in the component’s value changing to true. The component types that can generate these types of events are the UIInput, UISelectOne, UISelectMany, and UISelectBoolean components. Value-change events are fired only if no validation errors were detected.

Depending on the value of the immediate property (see The immediate Attribute) of the component emitting the event, action events can be processed during the invoke application phase or the apply request values phase, and value-change events can be processed during the process validations phase or the apply request values phase.

A data-model event occurs when a new row of a UIData component is selected. The discussion of data-model events is an advanced topic. It is not covered in this tutorial but may be discussed in future versions of this tutorial.

There are two ways to cause your application to react to action events or value-change events emitted by a standard component:

See Implementing an Event Listener for information on how to implement an event listener. See Registering Listeners on Components for information on how to register the listener on a component.

See Writing a Method to Handle an Action Event and Writing a Method to Handle a Value-Change Event for information on how to implement backing bean methods that handle these events.

See Referencing a Backing Bean Method for information on how to refer to the backing bean method from the component tag.

When emitting events from custom components, you must implement the appropriate Event class and manually queue the event on the component in addition to implementing an event listener class or a backing bean method that handles the event. Handling Events for Custom Components explains how to do this.

Validation Model

JavaServer Faces technology supports a mechanism for validating the local data of editable components (such as text fields). This validation occurs before the corresponding model data is updated to match the local value.

Like the conversion model, the validation model defines a set of standard classes for performing common data validation checks. The JavaServer Faces core tag library also defines a set of tags that correspond to the standard Validator implementations. See Table 11–7 for a list of all the standard validation classes and corresponding tags.

Most of the tags have a set of attributes for configuring the validator’s properties, such as the minimum and maximum allowable values for the component’s data. The page author registers the validator on a component by nesting the validator’s tag within the component’s tag.

The validation model also allows you to create your own custom validator and corresponding tag to perform custom validation. The validation model provides two ways to implement custom validation:

If you are implementing a Validator interface, you must also:

If you are implementing a backing bean method to perform validation, you also must reference the validator from the component tag’s validator attribute. See Referencing a Method That Performs Validation for more information.