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Twelve Best Practices For Spring XML Configurations

by Jason Zhicheng Li

Spring is a powerful Java application framework, used in a wide range of Java applications. It provides enterprise services to Plain Old Java Objects (POJOs). Spring uses dependency injection to achieve simplification and increase testability. Spring beans, dependencies, and the services needed by beans are specified in configuration files, which are typically in an XML format. The XML configuration files, however, are verbose and unwieldy. They can become hard to read and manage when you are working on a large project where many Spring beans are defined.

In this article, I will show you 12 best practices for Spring XML configurations. Some of them are more necessary practices than best practices. Note that other factors, such as domain model design, can impact the XML configuration, but this article focuses on the XML configuration's readability and manageability.

1. Avoid using autowiring

Spring can autowire dependencies through introspection of the bean classes so that you do not have to explicitly specify the bean properties or constructor arguments. Bean properties can be autowired either by property names or matching types. Constructor arguments can be autowired by matching types. You can even specify the autodetect autowiring mode, which lets Spring choose an appropriate mechanism. As an example, consider the following:

    <bean id="orderService"

The property names of the OrderService class are used to match a bean instance in the container. Autowiring can potentially save some typing and reduce clutter. However, you should not use it in real-world projects because it sacrifices the explicitness and maintainability of the configurations. Many tutorials and presentations tout autowiring as a cool feature in Spring without mentioning this implication. In my opinion, like object-pooling in Spring, it is more a marketing feature. It seems like a good idea to make the XML configuration file smaller, but this will actually increase the complexity down the road, especially when you are working on a large project where many beans are defined. Spring allows you mix autowiring and explicit wiring, but the inconsistency will make the XML configurations even more confusing.

2. Use naming conventions

This is the same philosophy as for Java code. Using clear, descriptive, and consistent name conventions across the project is very helpful for developers to understand the XML configurations. For bean ID, for example, you can follow the Java class field name convention. The bean ID for an instance of OrderServiceDAO would be orderServiceDAO.For large projects, you can add the package name as the prefix of the bean ID.

3. Use shortcut forms

The shortcut form is less verbose, since it moves property values and references from child elements into attributes. For example, the following:

    <bean id="orderService"
        <property name="companyName">
            <ref bean="orderDAO">

can be rewritten in the shortcut form as:

    <bean id="orderService"
        <property name="companyName"
        <constructor-arg ref="orderDAO"/>

The shortcut form has been available since version 1.2. Note that there is no shortcut form for <ref local="...">.

The shortcut form not only saves you some typing, but also makes the XML configuration files less cluttered. It can noticeably improve readability when many beans are defined in a configuration file.

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