Using Spring 2.0’s WebAppRootListener to access your web application root

Categories Development, Java, Spring Framework

Spring 2.0 includes a special ServletContextListener implementation that can save you a lot of time and get you out of trouble when developing Spring-enabled Java web applications.

What does WebAppRootListener offer?

Well, not that much. WebAppRootListener just sets a system property that points to your web application root, making it available for your never-ending pleasure, enabling you to not hardcode the webapp root or write mangling code to find it.
Really, it’s a lifesaver sometimes.

How can I use it?

First, some info that you don’t find that often:
Some web containers and application servers don’t isolate web applications, which can cause property (and a lot of other) clashes. Tomcat doesn’t while Resin for example does.
If you want to use WebAppRootListener in multiple web applications running on the same Tomcat instance, read the webAppRootKey section. I recommend doing this regardless.

The first step in enabling your WebAppRootListener is adding it to web xml.

You do this by adding a new listener to your web.xml with listener-class set to org.springframework.web.util.WebAppRootListener.


After adding the listener, you must add a PPC (PropertyPlaceholderConfigurer) to access system properties to your application context.

<bean id="systemPlaceholderConfigurer"
class="org.springframework.beans.factory.config.PropertyPlaceholderConfigurer" />

This step just enabled the use of your web app root inside your application context, just by using ${webapp.root} in your properties. Example from a velocityConfig bean:

<prop key="file.resource.loader.path">${webapp.root}/WEB-INF/velocity</prop>

The webapp root is available inside bean properties as ${webapp.root} and inside Java code as System.getProperty(“webapp.root”);.

What is webAppRootKey?

If you want to use this in Tomcat, in multiple web applications, you must redefine the key by using a special context-param called webAppRootKey.
To do this, in each webapp, in your web.xml you must use webAppRootKey, to define a new name for the webapp.root key.



Now, the webapp root is available inside bean properties as ${myWebApp.root} and inside Java code as System.getProperty(“myWebApp.root”);.

Happy web application coding!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *