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<document url="./newbie.xml">
<author>Anthony Kay</author>
<title>How Does Struts Work? - Apache Struts</title>
<section href="how" name="How does Struts work?">
Java Servlets are designed to handle requests made by Web browsers.
Java ServerPages are designed to create dynamic Web pages that can turn billboard sites into live applications.
Struts uses a special Servlet as a switchboard to route requests from Web browsers to the appropriate ServerPage.
This makes Web applications much easier to design, create, and maintain.
Here is some more detail on the mechanisms and dependencies of Struts:
The web application that you develop has a deployment descriptor
(<code>WEB-INF/web.xml</code>) which you must write. This file describes
the configuration of your web application, including welcome pages (the
file that is shown in a directory when none is specified by the request),
mappings to servlets (path or extension name), and parameters to those
In this file, you configure the Struts
<a href="../api/org/apache/struts/action/ActionServlet.html"><code>ActionServlet</code></a>
as the servlet that will handle all requests for a given mapping (usually
the extension <code>.do</code>). This is the "switchboard" mentioned
In this same file, you configure the <code>ActionServlet</code> to use
one or more configuration files for Struts itself.<br/>
For this text, assume we are installing the web application on the server
at <code>/myapp</code>, and are using the simplest possible configuration
from there.<br/>
If you need more details on deployment descriptors, read
the Servlet Specification available from Sun Microsystem's
<a href="">Java site</a>.<br/>
In the Struts configuration file(s), you associate paths with
the controller components of your application, known as
<a href="../api/org/apache/struts/action/Action.html"><code>Action</code></a>
classes (i.e. "login" ==&gt; LoginAction class). This tells the Struts
<code>ActionServlet</code> that when the incoming request is
<code>http://myhost/myapp/</code> it should invoke your
controller component <code>LoginAction</code>.<br/>
Note the extension <code>.do</code> in this URL. The extension causes
your container (i.e. Tomcat) to call the <code>ActionServlet</code>,
which sees the word "login" as the thing you want to do. The
configuration is referenced, and your <code>LoginAction</code> is
For each <code>Action</code>, you also configure Struts with the names of
the resulting page(s) that can be shown as a result of that action. There
can be more than one view as the result of an action (often, there are at
least two: one for success, and one for failure).<br/>
Your <code>Action</code> (the controller component you write) is based on
these <em>logical</em> result mapping names. It reports back to the
<code>ActionServlet</code> using words like "success", "failure",
"ready", "ok", "UserIsIncompetent", etc. The Struts system (through the
configuration that you wrote) knows how to forward to the proper
<em>specific</em> page. This has the added advantage of reconfiguration of
the view layer by simply editing the Struts XML configuration file.<br/>
At this point Struts knows how to delegate to your controller components,
and what to show as a result of your controller processing. The "model"
part of the application is completely up to you, and is called from
within your controller components.
You may also associate a Java Bean with an action (or set of actions) in
the Struts configuration file. The Java Bean is used as a repository for
form or display data that can be communicated between the view and
controller layer.<br/>
These Beans are automatically made visible to your controller components
(like <code>LoginAction</code>) and any view page that is associated with
that controller. <br/>
These Beans can also be validated with the help of the Struts system to
help insure that the user is putting good data in the form. They can be
carried along with a session, allowing forms to span multiple pages of
the view, and Actions in the controller.<br/>
<strong>Note</strong>: You must be using some sort of server-side
technology (JSP, Velocity, XSLT) for the view layer (going <em>to</em> the
client) to see this data (plain HTML won't work). Struts works on the
server side, so the client's view has to be composed there.<br/>
The client feeds the data back through normal form submission (POST/GET)
methods, and the Struts system updates that data in the Bean before
calling your controller components.
Within your web application will be pages that represent the view your
users will see. These can be JSP pages, Velocity Templates,
XSLT pages, and so forth.
A set of JSP tags is bunded with the Struts distribution so that you
can get started right away, but any standard presentation technology
can be used with Struts.<br/>
Even plain HTML files can be used within your Struts application,
although they will not take full advantage of all of the dynamic
Following the example of the Struts JSP taglibs, several other
packages are available to make the framework easy to use with your
favorite presentation technology.
For Velocity templates, there are the
<a href="">Velocity</a> ViewTools
for Struts.
If you want to use XSLT in you application, you can choose between
<a href="">stxx</a> and
<a href="">
These packages make the standard Struts framework elements look and
feel like a seamless part of the original presentation technology.
Struts also makes it easy to mix and match.
If need be, you can use JSP, Velocity templates, and XSLT all in
the same application!<br/>
Since Struts relies on standard Servlet technologies, you should be
able to use any Java presentation technology with Struts.
While the focus of the Struts framework is on the controller,
the presentation layer is a significant part of any application.
The Struts JSP taglibs include a number of generic and Struts-specific
tags to help you use dynamic data in your view. <br/>
The custom JSP tags account for a good deal of the Struts code base. It
is educational to note that as of version 1.1b3 the Java code for the
core of Struts was about 28,000 lines, and the Java code for the tag
libraries (including tiles) was about 41,000 lines.<br/>
These tags help you glue your view layer to the controller layer without
having to embed a lot of Java in the JSP. This gives the page an XML
look, and can be easier for web designers to deal with than a plain JSP. It
also helps minimize dependencies between the controller and view.<br/>
The custom tags are used to create forms (and invisibly interact with the
Bean mentioned previously), logically forward to other pages, and invoke
other actions of the web application.<br/>
There are also tags that help you with internationalization, error
messages, etc.<br/>
All of these abilities depend in some way on the configuration files you
supplied to Struts.
It is important for you to remember that the mechanism described here is
only in effect when the <code>ActionServlet</code> is handling the
Since this only happens when a request is submitted that causes your
container (i.e. Tomcat, WebSphere, etc.) to call <code>ActionServlet</code>,
you must be sure that any page that relies on Struts is done through a
request that will map to the <code>ActionServlet</code> (i.e. has a
<code>.do</code> extension).