Wednesday Apr 11, 2012

How to Plug a Small Hole in NetBeans JSF (Join Table) Code Generation

I was asked recently to provide an assist with designing and building a small-but-vital application that had at its heart some basic CRUD (Create, Read, Update, & Delete) functionality, built upon an Oracle database, to be accessible from various locations. Working from the stated requirements, I fleshed out the basic application and database designs and, once validated, set out to complete the first iteration for review.

Using SQL Developer, I created the requisite tables, indices, and sequences for our first run. One of the tables was a many-to-many join table with three fields: one a primary key for that table, the other two being primary keys for the other tables, represented as foreign keys in the join table. Here is a simplified example of the trio of tables:

Once the database was in decent shape, I fired up NetBeans to let it have first shot at the code. NetBeans does a great job of generating a mountain of essential code, saving developers what must be millions of hours of effort each year by building a basic foundation with a few clicks and keystrokes. Lest you think it (or any tool) can do everything for you, however, occasionally something tosses a paper clip into the delicate machinery and makes you open things up to fix them. Join tables apparently qualify.  :-)

In the case above, the entity class generated for the join table (New Entity Classes from Database) included an embedded object consisting solely of the two foreign key fields as attributes, in addition to an object referencing each one of the "component" tables. The Create page generated (New JSF Pages from Entity Classes) worked well to a point, but when trying to save, we were greeted with an error: Transaction aborted. Hmm.

A quick debugger session later and I'd identified the issue: when trying to persist the new join-table object, the embedded "foreign-keys-only" object still had null values for its two (required value) attributes...even though the embedded table objects had populated key attributes. Here's the simple fix:

In the join-table controller class, find the public String create() method. It will look something like this:

    public String create() {
        try {
            return prepareCreate();
        } catch (Exception e) {
            JsfUtil.addErrorMessage(e, ResourceBundle.getBundle("/Bundle").getString("PersistenceErrorOccured"));
            return null;

To restore balance to the force, modify the create() method as follows (changes in red):

    public String create() {

        try {
            // Add the next two lines to resolve:
            return prepareCreate();
        } catch (Exception e) {
            JsfUtil.addErrorMessage(e, ResourceBundle.getBundle("/Bundle").getString("PersistenceErrorOccured"));
            return null;

I'll be refactoring this code shortly, but for now, it works. Iteration one is complete and being reviewed, and we've met the milestone. Here's to happy endings (and customers)!

All the best,

Sunday Mar 25, 2012

NetBeans, JSF, and MySQL Primary Keys using AUTO_INCREMENT

I recently had the opportunity to spin up a small web application using JSF and MySQL. Having developed JSF apps with Oracle Database back-ends before and possessing some small familiarity with MySQL (sans JSF), I thought this would be a cakewalk. Things did go pretty smoothly...but there was one little "gotcha" that took more time than the few seconds it really warranted.

The Problem

Every DBMS has its own way of automatically generating primary keys, and each has its pros and cons. For the Oracle Database, you use a sequence and point your Java classes to it using annotations that look something like this:

@GeneratedValue(strategy=GenerationType.SEQUENCE, generator="POC_ID_SEQ")

@SequenceGenerator(name="POC_ID_SEQ", sequenceName="POC_ID_SEQ", allocationSize=1)

Between creating the actual sequence in the database and making sure you have your annotations right (watch those typos!), it seems a bit cumbersome. But it typically "just works", without fuss.

Enter MySQL. Designating an integer-based field as PRIMARY KEY and using the keyword AUTO_INCREMENT makes the same task seem much simpler. And it is, mostly. But while NetBeans cranks out a superb "first cut" for a basic JSF CRUD app, there are a couple of small things you'll need to bring to the mix in order to be able to actually (C)reate records. The (RUD) performs fine out of the gate.

The Solution

Omitting all design considerations and activity (!), here is the basic sequence of events I followed to create, then resolve, the JSF/MySQL "Primary Key Perfect Storm":

  1. Fire up NetBeans.
  2. Create JSF project.
  3. Create Entity Classes from Database.
  4. Create JSF Pages from Entity Classes.
  5. Test run. Try to create record and hit error.

It's a simple fix, but one that was fun to find in its completeness. :-) Even though you've told it what to do for a primary key, a MySQL table requires a gentle nudge to actually generate that new key value. Two things are needed to make the magic happen.

First, you need to ensure the following annotation is in place in your Java entity classes:

@GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.IDENTITY)

All well and good, but the real key is this: in your controller class(es), you'll have a create() function that looks something like this, minus the comment line and the setId() call in bold red type:

    public String create() {

        try {

            // Assign 0 to ID for MySQL to properly auto_increment the primary key.




            return prepareCreate();

        } catch (Exception e) {

            JsfUtil.addErrorMessage(e, ResourceBundle.getBundle("/Bundle").getString("PersistenceErrorOccured"));

            return null;



Setting the current object's primary key attribute to zero (0) prior to saving it tells MySQL to get the next available value and assign it to that record's key field. Short and simpleā€¦but not inherently obvious if you've never used that particular combination of NetBeans/JSF/MySQL before. Hope this helps!

All the best,



The Java Jungle addresses topics from mobile to enterprise Java, tech news to techniques, and anything even remotely related. The goal is to help us all do our work better with Java, however we use it.

Your Java Jungle guide is Mark Heckler, an Oracle Java/Middleware/Core Engineer with development experience in numerous environments. Mark's current work pursuits and passions all revolve around Java and leave little time to blog or tweet - but somehow, he finds time to do both anyway.

Mark lives with his very understanding wife, three kids, and dog in the St. Louis, MO area.

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