Top 5 Java frameworks in 2022

July 19, 2022
top 5 java framework

Decades after its initial release, Java is still one of the most popular high-level, object-oriented programming languages out there. The language is designed to have as few dependencies as possible while simultaneously enabling developers to write their code once and run it anywhere. Java is secure, fast, and reliable when it comes to developing enterprise applications, mobile applications, network applications, microservices, and web-based applications. 

Java owes at least part of its popularity to its expansive ecosystem of frameworks and other tools that allow developers to focus on writing the business logic of their applications.

What is a Java Framework?

A software framework, in general, can be defined as a package that consists of pre-bundled pieces of software that enables developers to develop applications quickly. Frameworks act as templates that developers can leverage to create entirely new applications by selectively extending some code instead of writing everything from scratch. Frameworks shorten the time it takes to build and ship an application to production while ensuring that the software you’re building is secure, scalable, and reliable.

Java frameworks consist of pre-written classes and functions that perform low-level functionalities such as managing input, output, and how the hardware interacts with the software. Java frameworks may also include code libraries, compilers, APIs, and other essential support programs when building applications.

A developer’s efficiency is determined by their understanding of the programming language and the framework they have chosen. Other considerations when selecting the right Java framework will be the cost, the learning curve, the long-term support, and whether or not it has the appropriate features to develop the solution you want.

Java is a mature language with a vast ecosystem of frameworks and libraries, each with varying business use cases. This article will examine some of the most popular Java frameworks, their use cases, and their advantages.

Spring

Spring is an open-source, well-established, and prominent web framework for developing Java applications. Spring is one of the oldest and most popular Java EE frameworks that allow developers to build high-performing, scalable, and secure enterprise applications using plain old java objects (POJO).

Spring presents many advantages for both novice and experienced developers. One of the reasons why Spring is so famous is the usability aspect of the framework. Developers can effortlessly create stand-alone Spring applications with minimal configuration through tools such as Spring boot. Spring boot also eliminates the need for an external web server by providing you with an embedded web server such as Netty or Tomcat. Refer to this article to learn more about securely developing Spring applications with Spring Boot.

The maturity of any framework can also be measured by the degree of testability. The Spring framework supports end-to-end unit and integration testing of its applications, and is known to advocate for Test-Driven-Development as the best approach for developing enterprise applications. Using POJOs in Spring also makes it easier to test using JUnit or TestNG. Spring also provides mock objects and testing support classes to make unit testing even better.

Being a mature and stable framework also means that Spring is actively maintained and updated. A large community of independent developers and organizations also supports and uses this framework. 

Spring is a modular framework with over 20 modules. In its layered architecture, Spring gives developers the flexibility to use only the modules they require. These modules are divided into the following major groups: the spring core container, data access/integration, the web module, AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), and Testing. The core container is the most fundamental module in the Spring framework. It is responsible for instantiating objects, configuring, wiring them together, and managing their complete life cycle. The Spring IoC container uses dependency injection to manage objects, which can be achieved through setter-based or constructor-based injection.

Dependency injection is a design pattern that implements inversion of control. It allows developers to do away with tight coupling and achieve a loosely coupled architecture. Loose coupling reduces dependency and improves your code’s testability, readability, and maintainability. Building loosely coupled systems can also improve your ability to reuse code.

The Spring framework is much more than just a dependency injection framework. But to get the most out of Spring, just like any other tool, you’ll need to learn how to use it properly. Some of the best practices when using the Spring framework include:

  1.  Avoid tackling low-level implementation details that have already been abstracted.
  2.  Be sure to stick to conventional naming across your configuration files.
  3. Remember to add header comments to your configuration files.
  4. To improve readability, use setter injection when the number of dependencies is high.
  5. Avoid overusing/abusing dependency injection.

Spring has many more conventional practices than these. Good practices can significantly improve your team’s workflow, while ignoring them often leads to substandard software.

Hibernate

Hibernate is an open-source, lightweight ORM (Object Relational Mapping) tool for Java applications. Hibernate simplifies the process of interacting with relational databases when developing Java applications. One of the common ways Hibernate simplifies the process is by automatically mapping both java classes and java data types to database tables and SQL data types, respectively. Automatic mapping can be achieved using an XML configuration file or Java annotations.

Besides mapping capabilities, Hibernate also supports data querying and retrieval, relieving the developer from having to handle object conversion to the result set. Object-relational impedance mismatch is a common problem that occurs when the object and relational models do not work well together. Hibernate is one of the best frameworks for handling impedance mismatch as well as other mismatches that may occur.

Relationships commonly exist between classes as well as associations between objects. Hibernate provides facilities to easily manage relations (one to one, many to many) and associations between objects. The Hibernate Query Language (HQL) is an object-oriented query language similar to SQL that allows developers to write queries against data objects. It is database-independent, easy to learn, and also supports polymorphic queries. With HQL, you can write database-independent queries, meaning that if you switch to another database, you won’t have to rewrite your SQL queries.

Other Hibernate features that make it stand out include: the transparent persistence for POJOs, scalability in any environment, reliability, extensibility, and easy configurability. Notably, Hibernate also supports custom value types, making it possible to map Java Enums as regular properties. Hibernate also guarantees performance through lazy initialization, time stamping, and other fetching strategies.

Some of the best practices to enhance your experience with Hibernate include: using queries that only fit your use case, adopting bind parameters as query parameters as opposed to adding values directly to the query string, using static Strings for parameter names and query names as well as using the static JP metamodel if you’re creating a query at runtime through the Criteria API. Finally, Hibernate encourages the use of surrogate keys whenever possible. However, consider specifying a natural identifier if you want to perform lookups.

Apache Struts 2 Framework

The Struts Framework is an open-source framework by the Apache Software Foundation that extends the Java Servlet API and conforms to the Model View Controller (MVC) design pattern. Using the Struts framework, you can develop maintainable, flexible, and interactive web applications based on technologies such as XML, JSTL, JSP Pages, and JavaBeans.

The Struts framework was designed to inherit features of the Java Servlet APIs to reduce the development time and encourage developers to adopt the MVC design pattern. In this architecture, the ActionServlet class plays the controller role, and it is responsible for deciding the model that will receive the request from the user. The model is responsible for holding the data and the business logic; this can be handled using Hibernate, JDBC, etc. On the other hand, the View is used to present data from the model; typically, the JSP is used for this purpose. However, other technologies with a simpler syntax, such as Velocity and JSTL, can also be helpful.

Two files play an important role in linking the components in the MVC architecture. The web.xml file, also known as the deployment descriptor, is where the FileDispatcher and the servlet filter class are defined. In Struts2, the struts.xml is the core configuration file where resources such as Action classes, Action Forms, Interceptors, and results are initialized. 

Apart from Struts2 being a simple framework, it is also well tested and stable. The framework also works well with REST APIs and AJAX. Furthermore, the framework integrates well with other technologies such as Hibernate and Spring. Struts2 supports view layer technologies and is also easy to profile and debug.

Google Web Kit (GWT) Framework

GWT is a technology developed by Google. It includes tools that allow developers to create and debug Ajax applications in Java and use Java development tools. Apart from being open source, GWT also enables developers to develop complex applications in Java and deploy them as cross-browser applications in JavaScript. 

Getting started with GWT is easy, especially for Java developers who also have some knowledge of JavaScript. GWT is the go-to framework for developers looking to develop high-performance web applications without expert knowledge in browser technologies such as HTML, XMLHttpRequest, and JavaScript.

The GWT SDK contains tools such as Java API libraries, widgets, a development server, and a compiler that makes it easy to create cross-platform AJAX applications. With these tools, developers can harness the true power of AJAX using GWT. Thanks to various GWT plugins, developers can leverage Java’s mature IDEs to develop and debug AJAX applications. Most Java IDEs have excellent debugging and refactoring capabilities alongside other features such as syntax highlighting, error checking, and code completion. This means you can develop and debug AJAX applications using the GWT framework in your favorite Java IDE. 

The GWT compiler is also an excellent tool for developing optimized applications. The GWT compiler ensures that your code is well optimized by running optimization tasks like string optimization, in-lining methods, and removing dead code. On the browser, you can also leverage a Chrome extension such as Speed Tracer to diagnose performance issues. 

There are thousands of developers around the world that rely on the GWT framework. Therefore, it is easy to find resources online besides the documentation that can help you get started. When you get stuck, it is also easy to reach out for help from the community. Apart from cross-browser support, other notable features of the GWT framework include: the GWT UI library that offers UI abstraction, internationalization, history management, and other features.

Jakarta Server Faces (JSF)

Jakarta Server Faces, formerly known as JavaServer Faces, is a technology by Oracle that simplifies the process of building component-based and event-oriented interfaces for server-based applications in Java.

The JSF is a framework based on the MVC design pattern whereby the View enables and simplifies the creation of the User Interfaces. JSF has a wide range of reusable UI components. However, it is also possible to create custom components by extending standard components and connecting them to data sources. Other tasks you can accomplish with this framework include: state management of components, page navigation, event handling, support for internationalization, input validation, and accessibility. 

Other advantages of the JSF framework include: a variety of excellent tools and rich libraries, an enriched user experience that leverages Ajax events, and the ability to extend existing Java code using web interfaces. For JSF2.0 and subsequent versions, Facelets was adopted as the default templating technology. Following these developments, life-cycle conflicts witnessed with JSP have been eliminated alongside other features such as the accessibility to Java annotations. Additionally, the need for faces-config.xml has been eliminated, making navigation even more straightforward. 

Jakarta Server Faces was first released back in 2004, making it a stable framework with a huge community that has grown over the years. However, before settling on JSF as your preferred framework, it is worth considering whether it is best suited for your needs and whether you have the necessary expertise to solve problems that you may run into.

Conclusion

Selecting the right Java framework is one of the most crucial decisions in developing software. A good framework is not necessarily the most popular one in the market, but rather the one that meets most, if not all, of your needs as a team. Most importantly, however, an optimal choice must match your team’s experience and skills. Other important considerations include the learning curve, performance, security, extendability, interoperability, and the cost if you need to use a premium version. Regardless of the programming language you’re using, frameworks are essential tools for quickly building secure and standard software products.

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