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

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Immediate and Deferred Evaluation Syntax

The EL supports both immediate and deferred evaluation of expressions. Immediate evaluation means that the expression is evaluated and the result returned as soon as the page is first rendered. Deferred evaluation means that the technology using the expression language can use its own machinery to evaluate the expression sometime later during the page’s lifecycle, whenever it is appropriate to do so.

Those expressions that are evaluated immediately use the ${} syntax. Expressions whose evaluation is deferred use the #{} syntax.

Because of its multiphase lifecycle, JavaServer Faces technology uses mostly deferred evaluation expressions. During the lifecycle, component events are handled, data is validated, and other tasks are performed in a particular order. Therefore, a JavaServer Faces implementation must defer evaluation of expressions until the appropriate point in the lifecycle.

Other technologies using the EL might have different reasons for using deferred expressions.

Immediate Evaluation

All expressions using the ${} syntax are evaluated immediately. These expressions can appear as part of a template (static) text or as the value of a tag attribute that can accept runtime expressions.

The following example shows a tag whose value attribute references an immediate evaluation expression that updates the quantity of books retrieved from the backing bean named catalog:

<h:outputText value="${catalog.bookQuantity}" />

The JavaServer Faces implementation evaluates the expression ${catalog.bookQuantity}, converts it, and passes the returned value to the tag handler. The value is updated on the page.

Deferred Evaluation

Deferred evaluation expressions take the form #{expr} and can be evaluated at other phases of a page lifecycle as defined by whatever technology is using the expression. In the case of JavaServer Faces technology, its controller can evaluate the expression at different phases of the lifecycle, depending on how the expression is being used in the page.

The following example shows a JavaServer Faces h:inputText tag, which represents a field component into which a user enters a value. The h:inputText tag’s value attribute references a deferred evaluation expression that points to the name property of the customer bean:

<h:inputText id="name" value="#{}" />

For an initial request of the page containing this tag, the JavaServer Faces implementation evaluates the #{} expression during the render-response phase of the lifecycle. During this phase, the expression merely accesses the value of name from the customer bean, as is done in immediate evaluation.

For a postback request, the JavaServer Faces implementation evaluates the expression at different phases of the lifecycle, during which the value is retrieved from the request, validated, and propagated to the customer bean.

As shown in this example, deferred evaluation expressions can be

  • Value expressions that can be used to both read and write data

  • Method expressions

Value expressions (both immediate and deferred) and method expressions are explained in the next section.

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