Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 8
The Java EE Tutorial

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Using Alternatives in CDI Applications

When you have more than one version of a bean that you use for different purposes, you can choose between them during the development phase by injecting one qualifier or another, as shown in The simplegreeting CDI Example.

Instead of having to change the source code of your application, however, you can make the choice at deployment time by using alternatives.

Alternatives are commonly used for purposes such as the following:

  • To handle client-specific business logic that is determined at runtime

  • To specify beans that are valid for a particular deployment scenario (for example, when country-specific sales tax laws require country-specific sales tax business logic)

  • To create dummy (mock) versions of beans to be used for testing

To make a bean available for lookup, injection, or EL resolution using this mechanism, give it a javax.enterprise.inject.Alternative annotation and then use the alternatives element to specify it in the beans.xml file.

For example, you might want to create a full version of a bean and also a simpler version that you use only for certain kinds of testing. The example described in The encoder Example: Using Alternatives contains two such beans, CoderImpl and TestCoderImpl. The test bean is annotated as follows:

public class TestCoderImpl implements Coder { ... }

The full version is not annotated:

public class CoderImpl implements Coder { ... }

The managed bean injects an instance of the Coder interface:

Coder coder;

The alternative version of the bean is used by the application only if that version is declared as follows in the beans.xml file:

<beans ...>

If the alternatives element is commented out in the beans.xml file, the CoderImpl class is used.

You can also have several beans that implement the same interface, all annotated @Alternative. In this case, you must specify in the beans.xml file which of these alternative beans you want to use. If CoderImpl were also annotated @Alternative, one of the two beans would always have to be specified in the beans.xml file.

The alternatives that you specify in the beans.xml file apply only to classes in the same archive. Use the @Priority annotation to specify alternatives globally for an application that consists of multiple modules, as in the following example:

public class TestCoderImpl implements Coder { ... }

The alternative with higher priority value is selected if several alternative beans that implement the same interface are annotated with @Priority. You do not need to specify the alternative in the beans.xml file when you use the @Priority annotation.

Using Specialization

Specialization has a function similar to that of alternatives in that it allows you to substitute one bean for another. However, you might want to make one bean override the other in all cases. Suppose you defined the following two beans:

@Default @Asynchronous
public class AsynchronousService implements Service { ... }

public class MockAsynchronousService extends AsynchronousService { ... }

If you then declared MockAsynchronousService as an alternative in your beans.xml file, the following injection point would resolve to MockAsynchronousService:

@Inject Service service;

The following, however, would resolve to AsynchronousService rather than MockAsynchronousService, because MockAsynchronousService does not have the @Asynchronous qualifier:

@Inject @Asynchronous Service service;

To make sure that MockAsynchronousService was always injected, you would have to implement all bean types and bean qualifiers of AsynchronousService. However, if AsynchronousService declared a producer method or observer method, even this cumbersome mechanism would not ensure that the other bean was never invoked. Specialization provides a simpler mechanism.

Specialization happens at development time as well as at runtime. If you declare that one bean specializes another, it extends the other bean class, and at runtime the specialized bean completely replaces the other bean. If the first bean is produced by means of a producer method, you must also override the producer method.

You specialize a bean by giving it the javax.enterprise.inject.Specializes annotation. For example, you might declare a bean as follows:

public class MockAsynchronousService extends AsynchronousService { ... }

In this case, the MockAsynchronousService class will always be invoked instead of the AsynchronousService class.

Usually, a bean marked with the @Specializes annotation is also an alternative and is declared as an alternative in the beans.xml file. Such a bean is meant to stand in as a replacement for the default implementation, and the alternative implementation automatically inherits all qualifiers of the default implementation as well as its EL name, if it has one.

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