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Eclipse JavaServer Faces Tooling Development Guide
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Implementing a New Tag-Based EL Variable Contributor for JSP


In this tutorial we will write a plugin that supplies a symbol factory for a fictious JSF tag called "locallyDefinedBean" and see how it works at design time.  Our fictious tag adds bean variables to a JSP-JSF page at runtime and we will implemented the logic necessary to simulate this behaviour at design time using the JSF EL framework. Once you finish this tutorial, you should have a basic grasp of what is required to add tooling support for JSF-JSP tags that contribute variables to JSF EL for you own real JSF tag libraries..

Getting Started

To begin, create a blank plugin project by using File > New > Project... and selecting Plug-in Project.  Create the project with all of the defaults:

plugin project

Next, open the plug-in dependencies for your project:


Add the plugin dependencies highlighted in yellow below:


Now we are ready to construct our factory and meta-data extensions.

Constructing the Factory

The symbol factory is delegated the task of constructing your custom design time variables.  First, we will create the factory class.

Create a new java class in your project by clicking on the src folder and clicking File > New > Class.  Call the class "LocallyDeclaredBeanFactory" and make sure it extends org.eclipse.jst.jsf.context.symbol.source.AbstractContextSymbolFactory.  Also be sure enable the check box, Inherited abstract methods:


Open the new class in the Java editor.  You will see two methods automatically generated from the abstract parent class.  For the supports method, replace the method with the following:

	public boolean supports(IAdaptable context) {
		return context.getAdapter(IStructuredDocumentContext.class) != null;

This code tells the framework to only call this factory when the context is adaptable to a structured document context.

Next, replace the internalCreate code with the following:

	protected ISymbol internalCreate(String symbolName, int scope, IAdaptable context, List problems) 
		// get the context
		final IStructuredDocumentContext sContext =

		// construct a dom resolver for this context
		final IDOMContextResolver domResolver = 


		// if resolver can be constructed
		if (domResolver != null)
			// get the current node
			// this	is the node marked by our meta-data as contributing an el variable
			final Node curNode = domResolver.getNode();

			// node must be an XML attribute
			if (curNode instanceof Attr)
				final Attr attr = (Attr) curNode;

				final Node owningElement = attr.getOwnerElement();

				//attribute must have a owningElement
				if (owningElement != null)

					IWorkspaceContextResolver workspaceResolver =


					IProject iProject = workspaceResolver.getProject();

					if (iProject != null)

						handleSymbolCreation(symbolName, sContext, attr, owningElement,

		return null;


You also need to add this private method that does the symbol creation:

	private ISymbol handleSymbolCreation(final String symbolName, 
			final IStructuredDocumentContext context,
			final Attr attr, 
			final Node owningElement,
			final IProject project)
		// create tag lib resolver for this context
		final ITaglibContextResolver resolver = IStructuredDocumentContextResolverFactory.INSTANCE

		if (resolver == null || !resolver.canResolveContext(context)) {
			return null;

		final String uri = resolver.getTagURIForNodeName(owningElement);
		IBeanInstanceSymbol beanSymbol = null;

		// process core taglib
		if ("".equals(uri)) {
			final String elementName = owningElement.getLocalName();
			final String attrName = attr.getName();

			// protect ourselves by ensuring we are in the var attribute of 
			// a locallyDeclaredBean
			if ("locallyDeclaredBean".equals(elementName)) {
				if ("var".equals(attrName)) {

					final NamedNodeMap attrMap =

					final Node baseNameNode =

					if (baseNameNode instanceof Attr)

						// get the name of the bean's class

						final String
						className = ((Attr)baseNameNode).getValue();

						// create a new empty bean instance symbol
						// this will encapsulate all of the design time information
						// about our new variable
						beanSymbol = 

						// name the new variable after the value of the var attribute
						// in the tag


						// next, we	will ask JDT to resolve the class name to a type

							IJavaProject javaProject = JavaCore.create(project);
							IType type = javaProject.findType(className);

							// don't bother setting a type descriptor if we
							// can't find a type
							if (type != null)
								// now we must create a type descriptor that encapsulates 
								// the specific type information about our bean
								IJavaTypeDescriptor2 javaTypeDescriptor =
						catch (JavaModelException jme)
							// could not construct
							// fall-through
						// finally, add a description that will appear in the content assis
						// drop-down, to prove that it really worked
						beanSymbol.setDetailedDescription("Hello world, this is my first tag variable factory");

		return beanSymbol;

You may need to hit Ctrl-O to organize your imports.

Save the class and check that it compiles.

Adding the Meta-data

Our ultimate goal is to make a tag like this:
<t:locallyDeclaredBean var="x" classname="beans.MyBean"/>

declare a variable called "x" to the tooling which corresponds to a bean of type "beans.MyBean".  In order to tell the framework this, we must use meta-data to annotate the t:locallyDeclaredBean. 

First we create a new folder in our project called metadata:


Next use right-click on the project click File > New > File to create a new meta-data xml file:


Open the file as source and copy the following markup into the editor:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
	<entity id="locallyDeclaredBean">
		<entity id="var">
			<trait id="contributes-value-binding">
			<trait id="value-binding-scope">
			<trait id="value-binding-symbol-factory">

Notice the entities and traits. The "var" attribute entity is a child of the "locallyDeclaredBean" entity. The property "value-binding-symbol-factory" is what points the framework to our factory.  However the value here is not the factory itself, but an id for its extension, which we'll define in the next section.

Implementing the extensions

Two extension points work together to declare our symbol factory.  First we will extend an extension point  to declare the meta-data that we just defined to the framework.  Second, we will register the factory id.

Open the plugin.xml editor for the project and select the Extensions tab, click Add... and select org.eclipse.jst.jsf.common.standardMetaDataFiles.  Right click on the new extension element in the tree on the left and add a new standardMetaDataFile entry.  Enter the uri and location information as shown.

annotation ext point

Adding this extension point tells the framework to look in our tutorial-metadata.xml file when queried for metadata about a tag library with the identifying uri  Note the strange name of the uri in this case.  That is to emphasize that they tag library we are creating a tag variable for doesn't really exist -- it's just for this tutorial.

Next, we need to declare an extension to org.eclipse.jst.jsf.common.contextSymbolFactory that declares our factory and gives it a unique id:

add symbol factory

Notice that the value we put in the factory property matches what is in the "value-binding-symbol-factory" metadata property.  These values must match so that the framework can find our factory.

We are now finished with defining our tag contributor (easy huh?).  But we're not quite finished.  We need to construct a dynamic web project complete with our fake tag library to test out what we've done.

Setting Up the Dynamic Web Project

First we need to launch a new runtime workbench with our plugin installed.  To do this, execute Run > Run... to create a new launch profile.  Create a new Eclipse Application and launch it with the defaults:

run workbench

Once the workbench has loaded, go to New > Project > Other and select Web > Dynamic Web Project and hit Next.

Name the project and hit next.  From the Project Facets wizard page, enable the JavaServer Faces facet and click Next.   Click Next at the Web Modules  page leaving the defaults unchanged.  Last you will come to the JSF Capabilities page.  Here you need to set up your JSF Libraries (see user's guide for more details on JSF Libraries).  When you are done, click Finish.  This should create a skeletal JSF project.  Next we will add the "fake" tag library.

Adding the demonstration tag library

Right-click on the META-INF folder under the WebContent folder in your new Dynamic Web Project and select New > File and name the file tutorial.tld and save the following into it:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?>

<!DOCTYPE taglib
PUBLIC "-//Sun Microsystems, Inc.//DTD JSP Tag Library 1.2//EN"


<!-- ========== Tag Library Description Elements ========================= -->

An tld to help demonstrate how to implemented tag contributed EL variables.
NOTE: this is a taglib for demonstration purposes: it is not fully or correctly
implemented and it is not intended to be run in real JSP applications

Tag declares a new bean variable at request scope based on the name
and classname provided.

The name of the locally declared variable. This name will be added
to the EL variable namespace for the JSP in which it is used at request scope

The fully qualified name of the Java class that will be instantiated as
the backing bean for the locally declared bean.


and save and close the file.

Create a simple bean called beans.MyBean in the src folder and paste in the following code:
package beans;

public class MyBean
public String getFooProperty()
return "foo!";

Create the Test JSP

Now we will create a test JSP file by right-clicking on the WebContent folder and clicking New > Other and in the tree selecting Web > JSP.  Select the defaults and click finish.  Then, open the file and replace the contents with the following:

<%@page contentType="text/html"%>
<%@page pageEncoding="UTF-8"%>
>The taglib directive below imports the JSTL library. If you uncomment it,<br/>you must also add the JSTL library to the project. The Add Library... action on Libraries node in Projects view can be used to add the JSTL 1.1 library.

<%@taglib uri="" prefix="f"%>
<%@taglib uri="" prefix="h"%>
<%@taglib uri="" prefix="t" %>

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">
<title>JSP Page</title>
		<h1>JSP Page</h1>
		<!--  no errors -->
		<t:locallyDeclaredBean var="x" classname="beans.MyBean"/>
		<h:outputText value="#{}"/>

Note a few things.  First, we have a taglib declared for our "fake" tag library with prefix "t".  Second, we have declared a bean using the locallyDeclaredBean tag to declare a variable "x" of the type "beans.MyBean" that we created above.

So now let's test it.  Position your cursor inside the empty "{}" braces in the value attribute of the outputText tag.  Type Ctrl-Space to request content assist.  You should see your bean "x" in the list:

content assist

You can try requesting content assist for the property we added in the bean by typing a period after the "x":

content assist 2

Select the property so that the EL text reads "x.fooProperty".  Finally, right-click on the JSP file in the File Explorer and select Validate to prove that your variable and property are recognized correctly by the validation framework.


We hope this tutorial has helped you understand how to use the JSF tooling to add design time support for your JSF component tag libraries that contribute EL variables.  If you need further help or have trouble with this tutorial please post to our web forum on  Putting "EL Variable Contributor" in the subject will ensure speedier response from knowledgeable parties.

  Published under the terms of the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0 ("EPL") Design by Interspire