Custom Tags in JSP Pages

The standard JSP tags simplify JSP page development and maintenance. JSP technology also provides a mechanism for encapsulating other types of dynamic functionality in custom tags, which are extensions to the JSP language. Some examples of tasks that can be performed by custom tags include operating on implicit objects, processing forms, accessing databases and other enterprise services such as email and directories, and implementing flow control. Custom tags increase productivity because they can be reused in more than one application.

Custom tags are distributed in a tag library, which defines a set of related custom tags and contains the objects that implement the tags. The object that implements a custom tag is called a tag handler. JSP technology defines two types of tag handlers: simple and classic. Simple tag handlers can be used only for tags that do not use scripting elements in attribute values or the tag body. Classic tag handlers must be used if scripting elements are required. Simple tag handlers are covered in this chapter, and classic tag handlers are discussed in Chapter 8.

You can write simple tag handlers using the JSP language or using the Java language. A tag file is a source file containing a reusable fragment of JSP code that is translated into a simple tag handler by the web container. Tag files can be used to develop custom tags that are presentation-centric or that can take advantage of existing tag libraries, or by page authors who do not know Java. When the flexibility of the Java programming language is needed to define the tag, JSP technology provides a simple API for developing a tag handler in the Java programming language.

This chapter assumes that you are familiar with the material in Chapter 4, especially the section Using Custom Tags (page 136). For more information about tag libraries and for pointers to some freely available libraries, see