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Unless you have been living under a rock or in a cave for the past few years, you have most likely heard of the Struts framework. Struts is the open source initiative sponsored by the Apache Software Foundation and was created to encourage the Model-View-Controller (MVC) design paradigm within a Web application's presentation layer. Struts implements the MVC pattern using the Service to Worker pattern. A well-designed architecture strives to be loosely coupled and highly cohesive. Struts provides the mechanism to achieve this design goal in the presentation layer of multitiered, enterprise Web applications.
One of the most daunting tasks facing enterprise application architects is the presentation layer's creation and maintenance. Users expect highly functional, robust, and elegant graphical user interfaces. Thus, the presentation layer's codebase winds up greatly outnumbering that of the application layer. In addition, the advent of different display platforms such as wireless phones and PDAs has made an already complex situation much more complex.
Various books and articles already cover Struts's inner workings and teach how to use the framework. This article elaborates on the issues facing Web application developers who use Struts and how to resolve them. Many of the following approaches can be abstracted and applied to different MVC frameworks such as the upcoming JavaServer Faces specification. Craig R. McClanahan, one of the original creators of Struts, leads that specification.
This discussion's topics cover those areas that present the most hurdles while building a J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) application using Struts with BEA WebLogic Server. We cover the following specific issues:
The Struts framework unarguably eases the development and maintenance of user interfaces for enterprise applications. However,
after working with Struts on even a simple application, one quickly realizes the nightmare that is
struts-config.xml. That file can quickly become unwieldy at best. When building an enterprise application,
struts-config.xml can grow in excess of 500 action mappings, making it virtually unmanageable.
We recommend two tools to help manage this headache. First, document your user interface flow using Microsoft Visio and StrutsGUI
from Alien-Factory. StrutsGUI is a Visio stencil that helps depict user interface flow diagrams using Struts nomenclature.
There is a hidden gem within the Struts stencil item: by right-clicking this option, selecting Edit Title Properties, and
then selecting the Tools option, you can generate a
struts-config.xml file based on this diagram. For example, the simple application shown in Figure 1 generates the following
struts-config.xml shown in the code below: