Documentation versions (currently viewingVaadin 7)

Using Hibernate with Vaadin

Using Hibernate in Toolkit application, Basic CRUD actions for persistent POJO

Check out related source code with subversion (svn co or view it with trac Download the latest version as a Vaadin add-on from the Vaadin Directory (

The project in incubator currently has a prototype of using associations. The article is outdated on that part.

Hibernate is the de facto standard when it comes to Java and Object Relational Mapping. Since version 3 onwards one can actually drop the de facto part as Hibernate 3 implements Java Persistency API with some optional packages. Hibernate is backed by a strong support from both commercial players and open source community. It is an important part of popular JBoss Application Server.

As an open source project with an industry proven maturity, Hibernate makes a perfect combo with IT Mill Toolkit. Hibernate is in a key role in many projects built or supported by IT Mill. The way Hibernate is used varies a lot due different kinds of architectures and requirements. Largest questions are usually how to work with Hibernate session, transactions and how to tie entity beans into toolkit components.

In this article and example application I’ll show you how to implement session-per-request pattern for Hibernate session handling and present some patterns to do CRUD actions of a simple entity bean. As I’m a sport fanatic, instead of storing cats and other mammals to DB we’ll build a simple WorkoutLog application to store the details of our jogging sessions. Download the source package to see full source code.

Note that this is not trying to be a yet another Hibernate tutorial. Although we’ll stay in rather basic tricks, I expect the reader to have some experience on ORM and IT Mill Toolkit. The purpose of this tutorial is to show an example how to do simple Hibernate session handling in Toolkit application and explain some patterns how to entity objects can be tied into GUI.

Preparing the project

If you want want to learn by doing, it is time to put your hands on dirt. Create a new web application project in your favorite IDE, throw in latest toolkit.jar and all needed Hibernate related libraries. Prepare your database and configure Hibernate. Combo I chose when writing this article was Eclipse, WTP and MySQL 5, but any option should be fine.

If you want to get started really easily, check out the Eclipse project from svn repository. This is done simply with subclipse plugin or via command line svn co The project containtains embedded database( HSQLDB ), all needed required libraries and the source code for the example project itself. That is an easy way to start experimenting with Toolkit and Hibernate. You will also need a servlet container, Tomcat is a good option.

As I hate all xml configuration I created DB mappings with annotations. Below is the one and only entity class we’ll be using in this example. Create it in and possibly test your Hibernate configuration with a simple test application.

public class Workout {
  private Long id;
  private Date date = new Date();
  private String title = " -- new workout -- ";
  private float kilometers;

  public Workout() {}

  public Long getId() {
    return id;

  private void setId(Long id) { = id;

  public Date getDate() {
    return date;

  public void setDate(Date date) { = date;

  public String getTitle() {
    return title;

  public void setTitle(String title) {
    this.title = title;

  public float getKilometers() {
    return kilometers;

  public void setKilometers(float kilometers) {
    this.kilometers = kilometers;

Also create a new Tookit application, configure it in web.xml.

Using session-per-request pattern

Proper session handling in Hibernate backed applications is often the most difficult problem. Use cases vary from by architecture and load. Hibernate is known to be quite strict on session and transaction handling, so to save yourself from a headache, I’d suggest you to make it right. There is a lot’s of good documentation about different session handling patterns in

Using session-per-request pattern is often a safe bet for Toolkit application. It is maybe the most common pattern among all Servlet based applications. When doing data manipulation we’ll use the same session during the whole request and in the end of the request make sure that session and transaction is properly finalized. When implemented properly, session-per-request pattern guarantees that number of Hibernate sessions is in control, sessions are properly closed and sessions are flushed regularly. A good combo of characteristics for a multi-user web application.

By Toolkits nature, session-per-request pattern is actually kind of wrong. Toolkit is a general purpose GUI framework and programmer does not need to think about requests and responses at all. Actually Toolkit applications and components don’t know nothing about requests. It its the web terminal that does all the web magic. Another option is to use session-per-application or even session-per-transaction like one would do with SWING or other destop application. Always evaluate your requirements, use cases and available computing resources to have the optimal session handling pattern.

To ensure that we are using only one Hibernate session per http request is the easy part. We can use Hibernates getCurrentSession() to retrieve thread local session instance. As we always want to actually use the session I build a helper method that will also begin a database transaction. In our WorkoutLog we will always be using this method to get session reference.

 * Used to get current Hibernate session. Also ensures an open Hibernate
 * transaction.
public Session getSession() {
  Session currentSession = HibernateUtil.getSessionFactory()
  if(!currentSession.getTransaction().isActive()) {
  return currentSession;

Closing is bit more tricky. One way around would be to use a servlet filter. You can find examples of this from But we’ll keep toolkits terminal independence in mind and don’t pollute our program with servlet specific code. To properly implement session-per-request pattern we’ll need to familiarize ourselves to a feature in Toolkits terminal. Ideally toolkit programmer don’t need to care about terminal at all, but now we need to hook some logic into the end of (http) request that don’t exist for the application. For the pattern it is essential that session finalization is done always and and after all hibernate related stuff is done. With event based programming model there is no way we can detect the last database action in the actual program code.

The feature we need is TransactionListeners. TransactionListeners are attached to ApplicationContext which corresponds to http session in our current web terminal. TransactionListeners are notified right before and right after the clients state is synchronized with server. The transaction end is what we need here. I’ll attach the transaction listener in the applications init() like this:

getContext().addTransactionListener(new TransactionListener() {
  public void transactionEnd(Application application,
      Object transactionData) {
    // Transaction listener gets fired for all contexts
    //  (HttpSessions) toolkit applications, checking to be this one.
    if (application == WorkoutLog.this) {

  public void transactionStart(Application application, Object transactionData) {

In closeSession() the usual Hibernate sessions finalization is done.

private void closeSession() {
  Session sess = HibernateUtil.getSessionFactory().getCurrentSession();
  if(sess.getTransaction().isActive()) {

The sequence diagram below shows how Session handling works with this pattern during one (http) request. It is an imaginary server visit that fires to event listeners. The first one does some listing and the latter re-attaches detached pojo. Note that the second database/Hibernate action uses the same Session object as the first one. Note that function names are not real ones, but trying to describe the process better.

Session handling sequence diagram

Due Toolkit applications do have state, pattern can be defined more strictly as a session-per-request-with-detached-objects pattern. As the session closes quite often, our entity objects are most likely detached by the time we are updating them. So when we have our changes to entity object done, it is time to re-attach it to current session to persist changes into database. An example of that is below:

run.setDate((Date) date.getValue());
run.setTitle((String) title.getValue());

Attaching POJO’s UI

In this chapter I’ll discuss briefly some options to implement basic CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) actions for our DB backed Workout objects.

Listing Objects

If you are learning by doing, I’d suggest that you manually insert some rows to your db at this point. Listing an empty database will be quite boring.

The most natural way to list our simple Workout object is to put them into Table component. To do this there is an easy way and an the right way. We’ll start with the easy one, but I suggest to use the latter in real applications. The code below (the "easy" way) is not in the WorkoutLog app at all, but you can try it if you want.

// prepare tables container
table.addContainerProperty("date", Date.class, null);
table.addContainerProperty("kilometers", Float.class, null);
table.addContainerProperty("title", String.class, null);

// list all Workouts
List workouts = getSession().createCriteria(Workout.class).list();
for (Iterator iterator = workouts.iterator(); iterator.hasNext();) {
  Workout wo = (Workout);
  // add item to table and set properties from POJO
  Item woItem = table.addItem(wo.getId());

In the above example we are using Table’s default container, IndexedContainer. It is a good general purpose container, but using it always is not a good option. You have to load the data into it by yourself and configure properties etc. It also stores everything in memory. In our example it may start to be a problem if you do three workouts everyday, live 100 years old and memory chips don’t get cheaper in the future. But in real application we might really have millions of records in DB. I really wouldn’t suggest to load that table into memory anymore.

As you may guess the way is to build our own container for Workouts. Building good containers is one of the most difficult tasks in Toolkit programming. There are number of different sub interfaces one might want to implement and a whole bunch of methods code. Luckily one can’t safely throw UnsupportedOperationExeception for many of those. It is a boring tasks, but it often pays it back later. When you have your container ready, it hides lots of DB access from program logic and can be used for many components (Selects, Trees, Tables etc). With your own customized container you can also tune it to work as you want (memory-consumption versus speed etc).

As building a full-featured is not in the scope of this article, it is time to throw in a nice helper class called HbnContainer. It takes a Hibernate entity class and a strategy to get Hibernate session in its constructor. It is indexed, ordered, sortable, had a limited supports adding/removing items and even ought to be fairly well scalable (by number of rows in DB). It is not part of Toolkit as we don’t consider it ready for framework yet, but we hope to have something similar in the core Toolkit in later releases. But feel free to use it in you own projects.

With HbnContainer loading table with Workouts simplifies quite a bit. We need to implement HbnContainer.SessionManager interface, but it is rather easy task as we already have getSession named function in our WorkoutLog. Create and add table to your application, load its content with following code snippet and you should have a Workout listing on your screen.

table.setContainerDataSource(new HbnContainer(Workout.class, this));

Creating workouts

Now that we have listing we might want to add some rows via our web interface. To create a new Workout instance and store it in to DB we have to do the usual Hibernate stuff: instantiate POJO and attach it to session. But as I hinted earlier, having a good container will help us to do it even simpler. HbnContainer supports adding items with the most simplest method addItem().

If you look into the implementation, it does all the usual Hibernates stuff and returns items generated identifier. In addition this it also notifies appropriate listeners that the content of table has changed. So by using containers addItem() method instead of doing DB persist ourselves we don’t need to worry about UI updates. Table listens to its container changes and changes gets sent to web browsers.

Updates and deletes

Building an editor for our Workout object is a straight forwarded coding task. You may organize your code just like you want. WorkoutEditor class is a simple example implementation that shows and editor in floating window. It has fields for workouts properties and it can be loaded with Workout instance or with an identifier. In WorkoutLog I attached a ValueChangeListener into table to open editor when user clicks a row in table. Save and delete buttons in WorkoutEditor delegates work back to methods in main application. Delete uses containers method and behind the scenes a normal Hibernate object deletion. When saving we just reattach detached object using merge().

To avoid "monkey-coding" I’ll show one can to use toolkits advanced features to automatically create editable fields for items. The WorkoutEditor class could have created its fields automatically by using appropriate Item and a Form component. Also Table supports automatic field generation, so why not edit workouts directly in our main object listing?

All we need to do is to use setEditable() method. In WorkoutLog there is a button that toggles this feature. Clicking it make table editable, clicking it again shows data only. Can’t imagine any simpler way to do the 'U' part of CRUD.

Both Form and Table components use FieldFactory interface to automatically create fields for Items properties. There is a simple default factory that you almost certainly want to modify for your needs. As an example I extended it to set proper resolution for date field and also did some other fine tuning.

If you investigate the code a bit you might wonder how the database is updated now as we don’t seem to call merge() or any other method to re-attached POJO. When field is updated it knows only about its underlaying Property. In this case it is EntityItemProperty built by HbnContainer. Field calls its setValue() method and that is where the underlaying POJO is re-attached into Hibernate session.

Adding custom columns to HbnContainer

This last bonus chapter is bit out of scope of the article. But as updating is so easy in Table we could ditch our WorkoutEditor. But then arises a question how to implement deletion. An option is to use Tables selection feature and "Delete selected" button. Another one is to use context menu option. This is also done in WorkoutLog. Both are good options, but someday someone will be asking how to add delete button on each row. So lets discuss that right away.

Ideologically this is adding a new property to our items. We definitely don’t want to pollute our entity object by adding public Button getDelete() to our Workout object. The right place to implement this is in custom Container and Item. I implemented an example of this by extending HbnContainer to WorkoutListingWithSteroids. It adds a column "actions" (or container property if we are talking "Toolkit") which is a layout containing two buttons.

Another possibly little bit easier method is to use recently introduced feature in Table component called ColumnGenerator. WorkoutLog (in svn) has an example of this method too.

Check out the example code if you want this kind of behavior.


Popular open source ORM tool Hibernate is a perfect companion for IT Mill Toolkit. Finding the right way to handle session in your application is a often the most critical task. Session-per-request pattern is a safe choice for Toolkit application, but not the only option. DB backed entity objects are used in a usual manner. To use more advanced features of toolkit, you’ll want to use a custom built container-item-property set. ORM is never easy, but it is not a rocket science if you use tested industry proven patterns. And if your application is going to be a big or old, I can guarantee that you will have a nice ROI for hours you spend on it (ORM).