Monday, 26 December 2011

Accessing Parameters from a Spring AOP 2 Pointcut

I recently had a question from one of our customers, asking how you can access and modify the parameters in Spring AOP 2 - we didn't refer to this on the course as we concentrated on the most common uses of AOP - so here's a quick blog post showing how to do this.

If you haven't used our Spring Fundamentals training course, the full chapter covering AOP is available as a preview below (you can play this at full screen to see the full detail):

Modifying parameters in advice is a very powerful thing thing to do (be careful - powerful means dangerous!), but it can be achieved easily in Spring AOP 2, using the AspectJ syntax.

On the course, we write a performance timing advice class, using Around advice. I've taken the annotation based version from the course, and I've modified it to take one of the incoming parameters (the customerId) and to change it's value before passing it on to the target method.
public class ModifyIncomingParameterAdvice
 @Pointcut("execution(* com.virtualpairprogrammers.calls.CallHandlingService.recordCall(..)) && args (customerid, call, actions)")
 public void trapRecordCall(String customerid, Call call, Collection actions) {}
 @Around("trapRecordCall(customerid, call, actions)")
 public Object changeTheIncomingCustomerId(ProceedingJoinPoint method, String customerid, Call call, Collection actions) throws Throwable
  System.out.println("Asked to record a call for customer id " + customerid);
  // run the target code - but with a different customer id!
  String newCustomerId = customerid + "NEW";
  // we can pass parameters as an object array - you must get the correct number of 
  // parameters as the target is expecting, or you get a runtime exception.
  Object returnValue = method.proceed(new Object[] {newCustomerId, call, actions});
  return returnValue;

Notice the use of the args() in the pointcut. This is the important part of this technique. It is applying the pointcut only to invocations of methods called recordCall that have exactly three incoming parameters. And these three parameters are given names which we can use as parameters to the Around advice.

If you want to use the XML form of AOP (I prefer XML for AOP in Spring), then you would just change the pointcut in your Spring XML - a rough example follows:
Notice that I had to escape the ampersands (&) in the pointcut, as you will get an XML error otherwise.

Now, this is a made up and probably useless example, but I hope you can see the power of this. I guess that most projects will very rarely want to use this technique, but I'd be very interested if you've used this on your real world projects - do tell me if you have some examples.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Eclipse WTP Tools - Free Module Available to All

We have a new short module for download, at

When we write our training courses at VirtualPairProgrammers, we are careful to make as much of the course as possible "IDE Neutral". In other words, we want the courses to be useful whether you're using Eclpse, or NetBeans, or IntelliJ, or some other environment (and some still use command line compilers).

We manage this by using a simple Ant script to build and deploy our code to an application server (Glassfish on the JavaEE course, Tomcat on the other courses) - and we've made it so you don't even need to understand Ant to make it work (although I'd recommend any Java developer get to know Ant - it's old and clunky but it still has a lot of value).

In avoiding using particular development environments, it does mean that the courses miss out on showing you how plugins can help. As a kind of appendix to our courses, we've produced a short module (2 sessions of 30 minutes each) showing how the WTP plugins for Eclipse work. There's nothing very complicated in the module, but it does show you how easy it can be to run a Tomcat instance inside Eclipse, whilst automatically deploying your code each time you make a change.

The modules are designed with existing customers in mind, but if you haven't used a course before, and you're curious, you can download the entire module for free at Just add the product to your cart, go to the checkout and then you'll get access to the course for free.

Do let me know if you find this short module useful - if there's enough interest I'll create a module for NetBeans and maybe IntelliJ.