Chapter 1. Introducing JavaServer Pages

The Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) has taken the once-chaotic task of building an Internet presence and transformed it to the point where developers can use Java to efficiently create multitier, server-side applications. Today, the Java Enterprise APIs have expanded to encompass a number of areas: RMI and CORBA for remote object handling, JDBC for database interaction, JNDI for accessing naming and directory services, Enterprise JavaBeans for creating reusable business components, JMS™ (Java Messaging Service) for message-oriented middleware, JAXP™ for XML processing, and JTA™ (Java Transaction API) for performing atomic transactions. In addition, J2EE also supports servlets, an extremely popular Java substitute for CGI scripts. The combination of these technologies allows programmers to create distributed business solutions for a variety of tasks.

In late 1999, Sun Microsystems added a new element to the collection of Enterprise Java tools: JavaServer Pages (JSP). JavaServer Pages are built on top of Java servlets and are designed to increase the efficiency in which programmers, and even nonprogrammers, can create web content. This book is primarily about JavaServer Pages, covering the latest version of this technology, JSP 1.2, as well as the related JSP Standard Tag Library (JSTL) Version 1.0. It also covers other J2EE technologies, such as servlets and JDBC, with focus on how to combine them with JSP in the most efficient way.

What Is JavaServer Pages?

Put succinctly, JavaServer Pages is a technology for developing web pages that include dynamic content. Unlike a plain HTML page, which contains static content that always remains the same, a JSP page can change its content based on any number of variable items, including the identity of the user, the user’s browser type, information provided by the user, and selections made by the user. As you’ll see later in the book, this functionality is key to web applications such as online shopping and employee directories, as well as for personalized and internationalized content.

A JSP page contains standard markup language elements, such as HTML tags, just like a regular web page. However, a JSP page also contains special JSP elements that allow the server to insert dynamic content in the page. JSP elements can be used for a variety of purposes, such as retrieving information from a database or registering user preferences. When a user asks for a JSP page, the server executes the JSP elements, merges the results with the static parts of the page, and sends the dynamically composed page back to the browser, as illustrated in Figure 1-1.

Generating dynamic content with JSP elements

Figure 1-1. Generating dynamic content with JSP elements

JSP defines a number of standard elements that are useful for any web application, such as accessing JavaBeans components, passing control between pages and sharing information between requests, pages, and users. Programmers can also extend the JSP syntax by implementing application-specific elements that perform tasks such as accessing databases and Enterprise JavaBeans, sending email, and generating HTML to present application-specific data. One such set of commonly needed custom elements is defined by a specification related to the JSP specification: the JSP Standard Tag Library (JSTL) specification. The combination of standard elements and custom elements allows for the creation of powerful web applications.

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