(Quick Reference)

8 Validation - Reference Documentation

Authors: Graeme Rocher, Peter Ledbrook, Marc Palmer, Jeff Brown, Luke Daley, Burt Beckwith

Version: 2.1.0.RC3

8 Validation

Grails validation capability is built on Spring's Validator API and data binding capabilities. However Grails takes this further and provides a unified way to define validation "constraints" with its constraints mechanism.

Constraints in Grails are a way to declaratively specify validation rules. Most commonly they are applied to domain classes, however URL Mappings and Command Objects also support constraints.

8.1 Declaring Constraints

Within a domain class constraints are defined with the constraints property that is assigned a code block:

class User {
    String login
    String password
    String email
    Integer age

static constraints = { … } }

You then use method calls that match the property name for which the constraint applies in combination with named parameters to specify constraints:

class User {
    ...

static constraints = { login size: 5..15, blank: false, unique: true password size: 5..15, blank: false email email: true, blank: false age min: 18 } }

In this example we've declared that the login property must be between 5 and 15 characters long, it cannot be blank and must be unique. We've also applied other constraints to the password, email and age properties.

By default, all domain class properties are not nullable (i.e. they have an implicit nullable: false constraint).

A complete reference for the available constraints can be found in the Quick Reference section under the Constraints heading.

Note that constraints are only evaluated once which may be relevant for a constraint that relies on a value like an instance of java.util.Date.

class User {
    ...

static constraints = { // this Date object is created when the constraints are evaluated, not // each time an instance of the User class is validated. birthDate max: new Date() } }

A word of warning - referencing domain class properties from constraints

It's very easy to attempt to reference instance variables from the static constraints block, but this isn't legal in Groovy (or Java). If you do so, you will get a MissingPropertyException for your trouble. For example, you may try

class Response {
    Survey survey
    Answer answer

static constraints = { survey blank: false answer blank: false, inList: survey.answers } }

See how the inList constraint references the instance property survey? That won't work. Instead, use a custom validator:

class Response {
    …
    static constraints = {
        survey blank: false
        answer blank: false, validator: { val, obj -> val in obj.survey.answers }
    }
}

In this example, the obj argument to the custom validator is the domain instance that is being validated, so we can access its survey property and return a boolean to indicate whether the new value for the answer property, val, is valid.

8.2 Validating Constraints

Validation Basics

Call the validate method to validate a domain class instance:

def user = new User(params)

if (user.validate()) { // do something with user } else { user.errors.allErrors.each { println it } }

The errors property on domain classes is an instance of the Spring Errors interface. The Errors interface provides methods to navigate the validation errors and also retrieve the original values.

Validation Phases

Within Grails there are two phases of validation, the first one being data binding which occurs when you bind request parameters onto an instance such as:

def user = new User(params)

At this point you may already have errors in the errors property due to type conversion (such as converting Strings to Dates). You can check these and obtain the original input value using the Errors API:

if (user.hasErrors()) {
    if (user.errors.hasFieldErrors("login")) {
        println user.errors.getFieldError("login").rejectedValue
    }
}

The second phase of validation happens when you call validate or save. This is when Grails will validate the bound values againts the constraints you defined. For example, by default the save method calls validate before executing, allowing you to write code like:

if (user.save()) {
    return user
}
else {
    user.errors.allErrors.each {
        println it
    }
}

8.3 Sharing Constraints Between Classes

A common pattern in Grails is to use command objects for validating user-submitted data and then copy the properties of the command object to the relevant domain classes. This often means that your command objects and domain classes share properties and their constraints. You could manually copy and paste the constraints between the two, but that's a very error-prone approach. Instead, make use of Grails' global constraints and import mechanism.

Global Constraints

In addition to defining constraints in domain classes, command objects and other validateable classes, you can also define them in grails-app/conf/Config.groovy:

grails.gorm.default.constraints = {
    '*'(nullable: true, size: 1..20)
    myShared(nullable: false, blank: false)
}

These constraints are not attached to any particular classes, but they can be easily referenced from any validateable class:

class User {
    ...

static constraints = { login shared: "myShared" } }

Note the use of the shared argument, whose value is the name of one of the constraints defined in grails.gorm.default.constraints. Despite the name of the configuration setting, you can reference these shared constraints from any validateable class, such as command objects.

The '*' constraint is a special case: it means that the associated constraints ('nullable' and 'size' in the above example) will be applied to all properties in all validateable classes. These defaults can be overridden by the constraints declared in a validateable class.

Importing Constraints

Grails 2 introduced an alternative approach to sharing constraints that allows you to import a set of constraints from one class into another.

Let's say you have a domain class like so:

class User {
    String firstName
    String lastName
    String passwordHash

static constraints = { firstName blank: false, nullable: false lastName blank: false, nullable: false passwordHash blank: false, nullable: false } }

You then want to create a command object, UserCommand, that shares some of the properties of the domain class and the corresponding constraints. You do this with the importFrom() method:

class UserCommand {
    String firstName
    String lastName
    String password
    String confirmPassword

static constraints = { importFrom User

password blank: false, nullable: false confirmPassword blank: false, nullable: false } }

This will import all the constraints from the User domain class and apply them to UserCommand. The import will ignore any constraints in the source class (User) that don't have corresponding properties in the importing class (UserCommand). In the above example, only the 'firstName' and 'lastName' constraints will be imported into UserCommand because those are the only properties shared by the two classes.

If you want more control over which constraints are imported, use the include and exclude arguments. Both of these accept a list of simple or regular expression strings that are matched against the property names in the source constraints. So for example, if you only wanted to import the 'lastName' constraint you would use:

static constraints = {
    importFrom User, include: ["lastName"]
    …
}

or if you wanted all constraints that ended with 'Name':

static constraints = {
    importFrom User, include: [/.*Name/]
    …
}

Of course, exclude does the reverse, specifying which constraints should not be imported.

8.4 Validation on the Client

Displaying Errors

Typically if you get a validation error you redirect back to the view for rendering. Once there you need some way of displaying errors. Grails supports a rich set of tags for dealing with errors. To render the errors as a list you can use renderErrors:

<g:renderErrors bean="${user}" />

If you need more control you can use hasErrors and eachError:

<g:hasErrors bean="${user}">
  <ul>
   <g:eachError var="err" bean="${user}">
       <li>${err}</li>
   </g:eachError>
  </ul>
</g:hasErrors>

Highlighting Errors

It is often useful to highlight using a red box or some indicator when a field has been incorrectly input. This can also be done with the hasErrors by invoking it as a method. For example:

<div class='value ${hasErrors(bean:user,field:'login','errors')}'>
   <input type="text" name="login" value="${fieldValue(bean:user,field:'login')}"/>
</div>

This code checks if the login field of the user bean has any errors and if so it adds an errors CSS class to the div, allowing you to use CSS rules to highlight the div.

Retrieving Input Values

Each error is actually an instance of the FieldError class in Spring, which retains the original input value within it. This is useful as you can use the error object to restore the value input by the user using the fieldValue tag:

<input type="text" name="login" value="${fieldValue(bean:user,field:'login')}"/>

This code will check for an existing FieldError in the User bean and if there is obtain the originally input value for the login field.

8.5 Validation and Internationalization

Another important thing to note about errors in Grails is that error messages are not hard coded anywhere. The FieldError class in Spring resolves messages from message bundles using Grails' i18n support.

Constraints and Message Codes

The codes themselves are dictated by a convention. For example consider the constraints we looked at earlier:

package com.mycompany.myapp

class User { ...

static constraints = { login size: 5..15, blank: false, unique: true password size: 5..15, blank: false email email: true, blank: false age min: 18 } }

If a constraint is violated Grails will by convention look for a message code of the form:

[Class Name].[Property Name].[Constraint Code]

In the case of the blank constraint this would be user.login.blank so you would need a message such as the following in your grails-app/i18n/messages.properties file:

user.login.blank=Your login name must be specified!

The class name is looked for both with and without a package, with the packaged version taking precedence. So for example, com.mycompany.myapp.User.login.blank will be used before user.login.blank. This allows for cases where your domain class message codes clash with a plugin's.

For a reference on what codes are for which constraints refer to the reference guide for each constraint.

Displaying Messages

The renderErrors tag will automatically look up messages for you using the message tag. If you need more control of rendering you can handle this yourself:

<g:hasErrors bean="${user}">
  <ul>
   <g:eachError var="err" bean="${user}">
       <li><g:message error="${err}" /></li>
   </g:eachError>
  </ul>
</g:hasErrors>

In this example within the body of the eachError tag we use the message tag in combination with its error argument to read the message for the given error.

8.6 Applying Validation to Other Classes

Domain classes and command objects support validation by default. Other classes may be made validateable by defining the static constraints property in the class (as described above) and then telling the framework about them. It is important that the application register the validateable classes with the framework. Simply defining the constraints property is not sufficient.

The Validateable Annotation

Classes which define the static constraints property and are annotated with @Validateable can be made validateable by the framework. Consider this example:

// src/groovy/com/mycompany/myapp/User.groovy
package com.mycompany.myapp

import grails.validation.Validateable

@Validateable class User { ...

static constraints = { login size: 5..15, blank: false, unique: true password size: 5..15, blank: false email email: true, blank: false age min: 18 } }

Registering Validateable Classes

If a class is not marked with Validateable, it may still be made validateable by the framework. The steps required to do this are to define the static constraints property in the class (as described above) and then telling the framework about the class by assigning a value to the grails.validateable.classes property in Config.groovy@:

grails.validateable.classes = [com.mycompany.myapp.User, com.mycompany.dto.Account]