Scott Frederick's humble blog

on sofware development and technology

Introducing SpringDoclet

As the Spring Framework evolves, one of the areas that gets better with each release is annotation-based application configuration and wiring. Using Spring annotations in Java classes along with component scanning helps fight the XML bloat that can make some applications difficult to work with.

However, one downside to annotation-based configuration is that there is no central place to find all Spring-managed beans in an application. With XML Spring configuration, all the bean definitions and their injected dependencies can be seen in one or more XML files (if you have the patience to wade through all the XML required for a larger system).

Reducing the XML bloat and moving the wiring closer to the code is worth the loss of visibility in my opinion.

IDEs can help with the visibility issue. SpringSource Tool Suite (or STS, available as a stand-alone Eclipse distribution or as a set of Eclipse plugins) provides a Spring Explorer view which shows components, MVC request mappings, AOP advices, auto-wired dependencies, and more. IntelliJ IDEA has some nice Spring-related features, including navigation between beans and their auto-wired dependencies via gutter icons, but (as far as I know) it doesn’t have one view to show all Spring-managed components and mappings in an application.

On the Spring Framework community forums, the user @petrp suggested a tool to generate documentation for controllers and request mappings in a Spring MVC application. The more I thought about this idea the more I liked it. Generating an HTML report from the source code would be another good way to mitigate the visibility issue.

And so, SpringDoclet was born. SpringDoclet is a Javadoc doclet designed to generate an HTML report as part of a project’s build process. The report lists all classes decorated with any of the annotations from the org.springframework.stereotype package (@Component, @Service, @Repository, @Controller). It also lists all @RequestMappings with the HTTP method, URL template, and implementing class. Classes listed on the report can be cross-linked to standard Javadoc HTML reports or other source code reports like JXR.

I decided to implement this as doclet so I could get the source code scanning for free, along with integration with Maven, Ant, and other tools that already support Javadoc.

I also chose to implement the doclet in Groovy. I knew the code would need to generate HTML, and Groovy’s MarkupBuilder makes that chore a breeze compared to Java. I’m still fairly new to Groovy, and using a new language on a real project (even if it is a small one) is the best way for me to really learn it. I tried to do everything the Groovy way, learned a few tricks along the way, and became much more comfortable with the language.

The code for SpringDoclet is at http://github.com/scottfrederick/springdoclet. For now, you will have to build the doclet before using it. Instructions for building and using SpringDoclet are in the README file on GitHub.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. Please comment on this post with any feedback, suggestions for enhancements, or (gasp!) bugs.