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Kees van Oosterhout
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Has anybody seen the JavaServer pages Standard Tag Library? The goal is: "..to simplify a jsp page for a Web Author". I think this is not accomplished with the current implementation, using a expression language. What is your opinion?
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Kees van Oosterhout:
Has anybody seen the JavaServer pages Standard Tag Library? The goal is: "..to simplify a jsp page for a Web Author". I think this is not accomplished with the current implementation, using a expression language. What is your opinion?

As the RI lead for JSTL, I'm probably somewhat biased, but why don't you think that the expression language simplifies things for page authors? If nothing else, the EL lets you write something like
${user.name}
instead of
<%= ((User) pageContext.getAttribute("user")).getName() %>
More generally, it lets you refer to data without knowing Java; a nonprogrammer can use ${user.name} but probably not construct the appropriate series of method calls, type casts, and other syntax in Java.
Keep in mind that the EL is just plumbing; it lets you pass data to tags. The real features of JSTL are the tags it provides.
If you let us know specifically what problems you've got with JSTL, perhaps I can address them and explain the design decisions that we made in the JSR-052 expert group. By and large, I think it's accurate to say that JSTL has been extremely well received by those who have looked at it closely.
 
Lasse Koskela
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In my opinion, taglibs are usually of no use -- except for the most basic loop tags perhaps.
But. I also know why I do have this mind set... I'm a Java coder, not a web developer. With a history in web development, I've learned that it really is frustrating for html/javascript guys to use the strict Java syntax.
We should keep in mind that we really aren't required to use all the technologies starting with "J". Some of them are just not suitable for all.
 
Tiago Nodari
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A few days ago I started to try to learn to use the JSTL and my first opinion was really bad, the examples were all using the EL, which might be great for ppl that don�t know Java, but personally I didnt like at first. A lot of ppl have been telling that EL is great and etc. They might be right, maybe its just weird to see a JSP with tons of $
As for the taglib, its looks really powerful, and useful, that is what got me looking for material and examples, but with no examples or material on using the JSTL without EL, I my learning at a halt
As for the books that are coming out, hopefully they are not using EL in the entire book. Maybe Shawn can tell us about his book
I loved Web Development with JavaServer Pages�
I dont know if the EL will bridge the gap between non-java coders and JSP, I think it will just drive the java coders nuts, since java coders are going to be bugged the entire time to provide variables with content in this format, or that and etc... I see a lot o ppl in lists asking who to format date, how to manipulate strings and etc and I don�t think the EL is going to solve all that. I Know the JSTL has some taglibs that will help with some of these things, but the bottom line is JSP will still need Java coders and now with EL, is one more thing for us to learn
But to the JSTL team, I have to say congratulations, since the Taglib looks really useful...
And note that my opinions are of someone that isn�t involved with JSTL and want to learn�
that is just my two cents, kind big so maybe my 2 dollars
Tiago nodari
 
Paulo Lima
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I agree that TAGLIB is useful to avoid java code inside a JSP page. This enforces presentation layer separation and is a MVC (Model View Controller Design Pattern) guideline.
But I'm not sure if JSTL is better that TAGLIB.
What the advantage in using
${user.name}
instead of
<jsp:getProperty name="user" property="name" />
The latter is XML syntax-like. I know that the former is shorter.
Regards,
Paulo Lima.
 
ComputerSage
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I haven't read the book yet, but i look forward to reading it.
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Tiago Nodari:
As for the taglib, its looks really powerful, and useful, that is what got me looking for material and examples, but with no examples or material on using the JSTL without EL, I my learning at a halt
As for the books that are coming out, hopefully they are not using EL in the entire book. Maybe Shawn can tell us about his book

I do describe how to use traditional 'rtexprvalues' in my book, but the majority of the book uses the expression language. Note that there's a one-to-one correspondence between EL expressions and scriptlets; in other words, you'll easily be able to follow the book, substituting an appropriate <%= ... %> for expression you see. Either way, the tags function the same.
The expression language was one of the most-requested features of JSTL. I haven't said this much publically for a while, but I, too, originally had serious misgivings about the expression language; in the expert group about a year and a half ago, I argued a somewhat conservative position calling for no addition of a standard EL.
However, over time, I came to see that those who advocated the EL were correct. It addresses many of JSP's problems by providing a cleaner syntax than rtexprvalues; it makes JSP more accessible to nonprogrammers; and it saves tedium for programmers (in that it lets us avoid excessive type casting, verbose syntax, and other irritations).
In my own pages, I now use the EL nearly all the time, and I don't regret it for a moment.
If you get ahold of a copy of my book, I strongly suggest reading through chapter 3 -- or reading the appendix in the JSTL specification that describes the EL. Many people have questioned it but changed their minds once they've learned more about it.

I loved Web Development with JavaServer Pages�

Thanks! It was great working as a coauthor with Duane and Mark on the second edition of that book.
While "JSTL in Action" is a solo effort, you'll probably find some of the style similar to "Web Development with JavaServer Pages." I think you'll find that "JSTL in Action" shares WDJSP's practical focus, attention to detail, and emphasis on examples. And one of the reasons that Manning paired me up with Duane and Mark was that our writing styles were moderately similar. (I think I probably include a little more random humor throughout "JSTL in Action," though. )
I dont know if the EL will bridge the gap between non-java coders and JSP, I think it will just drive the java coders nuts, since java coders are going to be bugged the entire time to provide variables with content in this format, or that and etc... I see a lot o ppl in lists asking who to format date, how to manipulate strings and etc and I don�t think the EL is going to solve all that. I Know the JSTL has some taglibs that will help with some of these things, but the bottom line is JSP will still need Java coders and now with EL, is one more thing for us to learn

Hmm... Could you elaborate on this point? The EL was designed to be even simpler than ECMAScript or, say, Unix shell scripting; it should take a Java programmer a few minutes to learn ninety percent of it. (And the rest doesn't matter!)
Note that there isn't any first-class concept of "EL variables," so it's not hard to provide data in a form that the EL can understand. The EL just accesses request parameters, scoped attributes, and so on.
But to the JSTL team, I have to say congratulations, since the Taglib looks really useful...

Thanks again for your comments! We on the JSTL team worked very hard to ensure that the taglib was usable and helpful; I think it paid off!
Please let me know if you've got any follow-up questions,
[ August 20, 2002: Message edited by: Shawn Bayern ]
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Paulo Lima:
What the advantage in using
${user.name}
instead of
<jsp:getProperty name="user" property="name" />
The latter is XML syntax-like. I know that the former is shorter.

Hi Paulo,
That's not really the distinction. In JSTL 1.0, the EL does not replace tags like <jsp:getProperty>. The EL is used to provided data to tags, replacing rtepxrvalues that were meant to do the same. For instance, instead of
<fmt:formatNumber value="<%= ((User)pageContext.getAttribute("user")).getCurrency() %>" />
you would write
<fmt:formatNumber value="${user.currency}" />
In this case, the latter JSTL usage is XML-compliant, while the former is not. This is an important consideration, as is the simplicity and the ability for a nonprogrammer to understand the latter usage more easily.
Note that JSTL is indeed much more than the EL; the EL is just the plumbing that connects data to tags. The real power of JSTL is in the new standard tags it provides.
 
JohnJohn SmithSmith
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Hi Shawn, Congratulations on your book coming out. I have a copy on order.
Jay Sissom
 
John Wetherbie
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I've started playing around with JSTL and mostly like what I see so far. I'm a little worried about the SQL tags, though. I really like having a layer between my presentation and my database but there may be cases where using these tags is the best approach.
One complaint I do have is documentation, or the lack thereof. I started out by reading Sun's Web Services tutorial and apparently the JSTL syntax in there is rather outdated. I need help from Shawn (in this forum!) and the JSTL spec to get going in the right direction.
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by John Wetherbie:
One complaint I do have is documentation, or the lack thereof. I started out by reading Sun's Web Services tutorial and apparently the JSTL syntax in there is rather outdated. I need help from Shawn (in this forum!) and the JSTL spec to get going in the right direction.

Yeah - JSTL is still quite new, so there's little official documentation from Sun yet available. The specification is quite readable for a specification, but its job is still to describe what implementors -- not users -- of JSTL need to know.
I'm hoping that JSTL in Action helps to fill the gap. We've made the first few chapters of it available for free at http://TheCoderCoop.com in case that helps. The many examples in JSTL in Action should help keep things grounded.
[ August 20, 2002: Message edited by: Shawn Bayern ]
 
John Wetherbie
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Shawn,
Thanks for making those chapters available. I'll check them out.
 
sonyabraham
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Hi ,
I had a brief look at the JSTL stuff and believe me, the whole idea looks impressive and especially the concept of EL I found very powerful.
As a JSP developer , I see most of the issues created by using non-standard custom tags will get resolved with JSTL.
The tags like "<forEach>" and "<forTokens>" helps JHTML developers very much as we have similar tags from ATG ( <DROPLET forEach> and <DROPLET Switch> ) .
It would be really helpful if JSTL provides standard tags for pagination and sorting .
The bottom line is that, JSTL makes the job
easier for JSP developers and there by enabling Solutions providers to deliver high quality web applications in very short timelines.

-Sony
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by sonyabraham:
The tags like "<forEach>" and "<forTokens>" helps JHTML developers very much as we have similar tags from ATG ( <DROPLET forEach> and <DROPLET Switch> ) .

I agree. ATG was one of the great contributors to and supporters of JSTL. (It really got great, broad support from most of the major players.)

It would be really helpful if JSTL provides standard tags for pagination and sorting.

There isn't a tag that does this alone, but in chapter 5 of JSTL in Action, I have a detailed example of how to handle pagination with the core JSTL tags.

The bottom line is that, JSTL makes the job
easier for JSP developers and there by enabling Solutions providers to deliver high quality web applications in very short timelines.

Thanks for the feedback! It's great to hear.
Best,
Shawn
 
Tiago Nodari
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Thanks Shawn for your honest answer, my guess is that a lot of Java programmers will be opposed to the EL, as its only natural when you change the way you do things, but like you said, there are benefits.
Your book is in my wish list but the current situation in Brasil is making it almost impossible to buy books, the currency exchange is killing us
plus I am in between jobs, waiting for a response from an interview, its a J2EE project, maybe they decide to use the JSTL and that will give a chance to learn more
thanks for the chapters, I will take a look at them. I also saw a few posting about JSTL and struts, that is another subject I want to learn a little bit more about...
[ August 21, 2002: Message edited by: Tiago Nodari ]
 
chanoch wiggers
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actually, I was one of those people that hated the EL originally but Simon Brown to convince me.
Its a little difficult at first to get into it when you;ve been used to scripting and your productivity reduces as you are grappling with the idea, however, even with a strongly MVC structure such as struts, I've found tags invaluable.
 
Andrew Perepelytsya
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> The real power of JSTL is in the new standard >tags it provides.
Guys, I hope everybody understands, that those tags are NOT new. Eventually all of them are re-implementation of the well-working third-party tags. Though, in a standard way, which helps a lot.
> the latter JSTL usage is XML-compliant
I agree this is a long-expected step forward, but real benefits of this will arise with the proliferation of automatic JSP parsing/generation tools, which is NOT now.
I'd like somebody to clear out some questions for me (preferrably in a grounded professional way).
There are now 2 implementations of JSTL - from SUN and Jakarta Apache project. What are the real differences? (if there are any known). I know Apache takes very active part in JCP, so...
Next, does the EL really help in MVC applications? I'd like to hear from people who had some practical experience with that. (Though it's quite possible, none are available yet
I used Struts framework for my last project (it was quite an ambitious one, and it's still going on BTW). And I do not see ANY advantage in using (sorry for some possible mistakes in JSTL syntax, but the idea is clear here):
<c:set var="XXX" value="${UserView.sortingOrder}"/>
over (Struts version)
<bean efine id="XXX" name="UserView" property="sortingOrder"/>
IMO, the Struts version is still looks more native to JSP author.
What's your opinion?
In, general, JSTL effort is great. On the other side, is it really that great to switch from the solutions where you already have a broad expertise? And in some aspects, Struts framework is more robust and well-designed (but this can be explained by its relative maturity over JSTL).
And finally, the question that interests me most today. With the emerging Java Server Faces technology what place will the JSTL have? How well will it be integrated with JSF?
There are some issues with JSF specs now (the problem is the same: re-implemetation of parts of the framework, which are _already_ available and are in _open source_ domain). When those clashes are resolved, we'll have a better picture, but not now.
Any feedback is welcome
==============================
Andrew,
SCJP, 2 mins to SCWCD
 
Andrew Perepelytsya
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Follow-up:
By the way, in my project I didn't use a single line of scriptlet - everything was implemented in feature-rich Struts custom tags. I didn't have to write my own teags even. )
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Andrew Perepelytsya:
> The real power of JSTL is in the new standard >tags it provides.
Guys, I hope everybody understands, that those tags are NOT new. Eventually all of them are re-implementation of the well-working third-party tags. Though, in a standard way, which helps a lot.

That's only partially true. The JSTL expert group started from first principles in developing the tags that JSTL provides. For JSTL to standardize something, there had to be a reason -- so it's true that there's usually at least a single third-party tag library that performs each individual feature of JSTL.
JSTL combines all of these features, however, and it often presents them in a very new way. "Reimplementation" is not an accurate description; "rethinking" would be a better word.

I'd like somebody to clear out some questions for me (preferrably in a grounded professional way).
There are now 2 implementations of JSTL - from SUN and Jakarta Apache project. What are the real differences? (if there are any known). I know Apache takes very active part in JCP, so...

Ah, it's natural that I answer this question since I was the reference-implementation lead for JSTL (that is, the project lead for both the Sun and Apache implementations). The implementations are identical in terms of code; they are split only for technical reasons. In other words, while the implementations function identically, Sun took a snapshot and turned it into the official JSTL Reference Implementation, available as part of the Web Services Developer's Pack. Similarly, I took a snapshot (which happened to be the same snapshot Sun took) and released it through Apache.
This might seem silly, but Sun, as the spec lead for JSTL, needed to be the party that officially provides the JSTL reference implementation. In practice, though, it doesn't matter which implementation you download; they're the same. We do our best to keep each minor release in sync as well, so there shouldn't ever be any noticeable difference between the separate releases.
Note that other vendors' eventual releases of JSTL can be based on entirely different code. It's just the Apache and Sun versions that are the same.

Next, does the EL really help in MVC applications? I'd like to hear from people who had some practical experience with that. (Though it's quite possible, none are available yet
I used Struts framework for my last project (it was quite an ambitious one, and it's still going on BTW). And I do not see ANY advantage in using (sorry for some possible mistakes in JSTL syntax, but the idea is clear here):

The main difference is simply expressiveness. The Struts tags let you identify a bean and a single property of that bean; the EL lets you walk property chains, and it consolidates the syntax for variable reference. (That is, you use similar expressions to refer to request parameters, context-initialization parameters, and so forth -- and wherever you can access one, you can access the other.)
Note that Struts is moving to use the EL, so they evidently agree that it provides a more convenient (or at least more standard) means for referencing data.

In, general, JSTL effort is great. On the other side, is it really that great to switch from the solutions where you already have a broad expertise? And in some aspects, Struts framework is more robust and well-designed (but this can be explained by its relative maturity over JSTL).

Well, JSTL isn't really an alternative to Struts; they complement one another. JSTL is just a tool you use in the presentation tier; over time, Struts has focused more and more on its core goals (building controllers) and less on the things only tangentially related to that. See http://jakarta.apache.org/struts/kickstart.html#jsf for Struts's view on JSTL.

And finally, the question that interests me most today. With the emerging Java Server Faces technology what place will the JSTL have? How well will it be integrated with JSF?

Faces will interoperate with JSTL, and it looks as if Faces will use an amplified version of the JSTL expression language. That is, in addition to more familiar uses of the EL, it may also use the EL for assigning data (rather than just retrieving it).
Please let me know if you have any followup questions.
 
Jayson Falkner
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Originally posted by Paulo Lima:
But I'm not sure if JSTL is better that TAGLIB.
What the advantage in using
${user.name}
instead of
<jsp:getProperty name="user" property="name" />
The latter is XML syntax-like. I know that the former is shorter.
Regards,
Paulo Lima.

The JSTL is not a replacement of a JSP taglib, rather it is a taglib which implements many helpful features. The JSTL EL compliments existing custom tags because it makes it very easy to set attribute values. For example, you pointed out the useBean action is XML syntax-like. That is good but most helpful when you are using JSP in XML syntax. Take for example:
<a href="${foo}">Click Here</a>
That is XML compatible code, however, without the EL it would be:
<a href="<jsp:getProperty name="user" property="name" />">Click Here</a>
Which is not XML syntax. To make it XML syntax it would require putting CDATA sections all over the place and making things quite ugly.
So if you are using XML syntax to make JSP the JSTL EL is very helpful because it greatly simplifies code. If you are not, it is still helpful because it still simplifies the code. By 'simplify' I also mean clean, which directly relates to the amount of time it takes to make and maintain the page.
In general a JSP-specific EL is very helpful. Java works(and default JSP actions do too), but makes a mess in many cases such as setting attribute values in XML. However, this doesn't mean the EL is good for everything. In some cases the useBean and getProperty actions work equally as well or even better.
 
Andrew Perepelytsya
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2 Shawn Bayern:
Thanx Shawn, it's really exciting to hear the answers from the first hand. I'll be keeping my eye on the JSTL/JSF progress.
 
Reda Mokrane
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Thanks Shawn for the quick answer and for the sample chapter, now I have a pretty good grasp of JSLT and this seems to be a great book.
Thanks again
 
Pete Cassetta
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Originally posted by Shawn Bayern:

Faces will interoperate with JSTL, and it looks as if Faces will use an amplified version of the JSTL expression language. That is, in addition to more familiar uses of the EL, it may also use the EL for assigning data (rather than just retrieving it).
Please let me know if you have any followup questions.

Shawn,
Are you in on the JSF specification? You seem to have some information that I haven't seen publicly released yet.
Basically, my question is when will the JSF spec become public, or is it already published somewhere I haven't found? Their Web site indicates that the community has already voted on the spec:
JSF Community Ballot
I would anticipate a public release of the spec right after voting, but to the best of my knowledge that hasn't happened yet.
My question is not just academic. I'm working on a long-term project which I anticipate using JSF on, and I want to avoid spending any time building things which JSF will offer.
Thanks a bunch.
Pete Cassetta
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Pete Cassetta:

Are you in on the JSF specification? You seem to have some information that I haven't seen publicly released yet.

Yeah, I'm on the JavaServer Faces expert group, but mainly as a liaison to JSTL. I'm not nearly as active there as I am for JSTL or JSP.

Basically, my question is when will the JSF spec become public

Unfortunately, I don't have any good information about scheduling. The latest public info I've heard is that the release is aimed for sometime this year (the current public web site says Fall '02), but that's always flexible; under the Java Community Process's rules, the expert group can alter the schedule as it sees fit.
Note that the Community Draft Ballot is just one milestone of many under the rules of the Java Community Process. Following Community Draft, there's a Public Draft and a Proposed Final Draft; then, the FCS specification is released.
Sorry not to be able to be more helpful with this question.
 
Anselme Bender
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Hello Shawn,
What is the overread of using JSTL compared to JSP only ?
Does JSTL need an additional pass of compilation or something like that ?

Thanks in advance
 
Shawn Bayern
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Originally posted by Anselme Bender:
Hello Shawn,
What is the overread of using JSTL compared to JSP only ?
Does JSTL need an additional pass of compilation or something like that ?

No, each JSTL tag can be implemented using the JSP tag-extension protocol, so by default, they act like custom tags. As with all JSP pages, only a single pass for translation (i.e., compilation) is required.
As a side note, an advantage of having standard JSTL tags is that containers can recognize them and optimize their implementation. I haven't looked recently, but I believe Caucho's implementation uses this approach. The idea is that if you know how the tags need to behave, you need not call them by rote; you can instead write the appropriate logic directly into the compiled servlet.
So to summarize, JSTL at worst acts like any other taglibs, and at best acts better than they do. (From the perspective of translation-time behavior, that is.)
Hope that helps,
 
Pete Cassetta
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Originally posted by Shawn Bayern:
Note that the Community Draft Ballot is just one milestone of many under the rules of the Java Community Process. Following Community Draft, there's a Public Draft and a Proposed Final Draft; then, the FCS specification is released.

Shawn,
I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I was really wondering when the Public Draft would come out. I just want to see something a bit more substantive than the original proposal. That proposal indicated that during the Public Draft stage some reference implementation code would begin to be released. It seems like we should be close to seeing that now. But nobody's talking...
Thanks for all the good info you're sharing in these forums, and for the sample chapters and code you've released (not to mention the JSTL itself, which is a great step forward for JSP).
 
Kees van Oosterhout
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Few, I would not expect this much response. Apparantly, JSTL is HOT .
Shawn: Considering my first post and reading the posts on this thread, I do not think I have given JSTL a fair chance. I will read the mentioned chapters and will come back to you later. Thanx for you replies.
 
Kees van Oosterhout
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Can anybody help me? I have tried to call the size() method of a LinkedList to get number of items with:
<c ut value="${sessionScope.shoppingCart.size}"/>
This does not seem to work. To put it more generally; Can I call method with EL?
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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