JBoss Enterprise Web Platform 5

Hibernate Validator Reference Guide

for Use with JBoss Enterprise Web Platform 5

Edition 5.1.1

Red Hat Documentation Group

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June, 2011


The Hibernate Validator Reference Guide for JBoss Enterprise Web Platform 5 and its patch releases.


1. Document Conventions

This manual uses several conventions to highlight certain words and phrases and draw attention to specific pieces of information.
In PDF and paper editions, this manual uses typefaces drawn from the Liberation Fonts set. The Liberation Fonts set is also used in HTML editions if the set is installed on your system. If not, alternative but equivalent typefaces are displayed. Note: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and later include the Liberation Fonts set by default.

1.1. Typographic Conventions

Four typographic conventions are used to call attention to specific words and phrases. These conventions, and the circumstances they apply to, are as follows.
Mono-spaced Bold
Used to highlight system input, including shell commands, file names and paths. Also used to highlight keys and key combinations. For example:
To see the contents of the file my_next_bestselling_novel in your current working directory, enter the cat my_next_bestselling_novel command at the shell prompt and press Enter to execute the command.
The above includes a file name, a shell command and a key, all presented in mono-spaced bold and all distinguishable thanks to context.
Key combinations can be distinguished from an individual key by the plus sign that connects each part of a key combination. For example:
Press Enter to execute the command.
Press Ctrl+Alt+F2 to switch to a virtual terminal.
The first example highlights a particular key to press. The second example highlights a key combination: a set of three keys pressed simultaneously.
If source code is discussed, class names, methods, functions, variable names and returned values mentioned within a paragraph will be presented as above, in mono-spaced bold. For example:
File-related classes include filesystem for file systems, file for files, and dir for directories. Each class has its own associated set of permissions.
Proportional Bold
This denotes words or phrases encountered on a system, including application names; dialog box text; labeled buttons; check-box and radio button labels; menu titles and sub-menu titles. For example:
Choose SystemPreferencesMouse from the main menu bar to launch Mouse Preferences. In the Buttons tab, select the Left-handed mouse check box and click Close to switch the primary mouse button from the left to the right (making the mouse suitable for use in the left hand).
To insert a special character into a gedit file, choose ApplicationsAccessoriesCharacter Map from the main menu bar. Next, choose SearchFind… from the Character Map menu bar, type the name of the character in the Search field and click Next. The character you sought will be highlighted in the Character Table. Double-click this highlighted character to place it in the Text to copy field and then click the Copy button. Now switch back to your document and choose EditPaste from the gedit menu bar.
The above text includes application names; system-wide menu names and items; application-specific menu names; and buttons and text found within a GUI interface, all presented in proportional bold and all distinguishable by context.
Mono-spaced Bold Italic or Proportional Bold Italic
Whether mono-spaced bold or proportional bold, the addition of italics indicates replaceable or variable text. Italics denotes text you do not input literally or displayed text that changes depending on circumstance. For example:
To connect to a remote machine using ssh, type ssh username@domain.name at a shell prompt. If the remote machine is example.com and your username on that machine is john, type ssh john@example.com.
The mount -o remount file-system command remounts the named file system. For example, to remount the /home file system, the command is mount -o remount /home.
To see the version of a currently installed package, use the rpm -q package command. It will return a result as follows: package-version-release.
Note the words in bold italics above — username, domain.name, file-system, package, version and release. Each word is a placeholder, either for text you enter when issuing a command or for text displayed by the system.
Aside from standard usage for presenting the title of a work, italics denotes the first use of a new and important term. For example:
Publican is a DocBook publishing system.

1.2. Pull-quote Conventions

Terminal output and source code listings are set off visually from the surrounding text.
Output sent to a terminal is set in mono-spaced roman and presented thus:
books        Desktop   documentation  drafts  mss    photos   stuff  svn
books_tests  Desktop1  downloads      images  notes  scripts  svgs
Source-code listings are also set in mono-spaced roman but add syntax highlighting as follows:
package org.jboss.book.jca.ex1;

import javax.naming.InitialContext;

public class ExClient
   public static void main(String args[]) 
       throws Exception
      InitialContext iniCtx = new InitialContext();
      Object         ref    = iniCtx.lookup("EchoBean");
      EchoHome       home   = (EchoHome) ref;
      Echo           echo   = home.create();

      System.out.println("Created Echo");

      System.out.println("Echo.echo('Hello') = " + echo.echo("Hello"));

1.3. Notes and Warnings

Finally, we use three visual styles to draw attention to information that might otherwise be overlooked.


Notes are tips, shortcuts or alternative approaches to the task at hand. Ignoring a note should have no negative consequences, but you might miss out on a trick that makes your life easier.


Important boxes detail things that are easily missed: configuration changes that only apply to the current session, or services that need restarting before an update will apply. Ignoring a box labeled 'Important' will not cause data loss but may cause irritation and frustration.


Warnings should not be ignored. Ignoring warnings will most likely cause data loss.

2. Getting Help and Giving Feedback

2.1. Do You Need Help?

If you experience difficulty with a procedure described in this documentation, visit the Red Hat Customer Portal at http://access.redhat.com. Through the customer portal, you can:
  • search or browse through a knowledgebase of technical support articles about Red Hat products.
  • submit a support case to Red Hat Global Support Services (GSS).
  • access other product documentation.
Red Hat also hosts a large number of electronic mailing lists for discussion of Red Hat software and technology. You can find a list of publicly available mailing lists at https://www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo. Click on the name of any mailing list to subscribe to that list or to access the list archives.

2.2. Give us Feedback

If you find a typographical error, or know how this guide can be improved, we would love to hear from you. Submit a report in Bugzilla against the product JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 5 and the component doc-Hibernate_Validator_Ref_Guide. The following link will take you to a pre-filled bug report for this product: http://bugzilla.redhat.com/.
Fill out the following template in Bugzilla's Description field. Be as specific as possible when describing the issue; this will help ensure that we can fix it quickly.
Document URL:

Section Number and Name:

Describe the issue:

Suggestions for improvement:

Additional information:

Be sure to give us your name so that you can receive full credit for reporting the issue.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Annotations are a very convenient and elegant way to specify invariant constraints for a domain model. You can, for example, express that a property should never be null, that the account balance should be strictly positive, etc. These domain model constraints are declared in the bean itself by annotating its properties. A validator can then read them and check for constraint violations. The validation mechanism can be executed in different layers in your application without having to duplicate any of these rules (presentation layer, data access layer). Following the DRY principle, Hibernate Validator has been designed for that purpose.
Hibernate Validator works at two levels. First, it is able to check in-memory instances of a class for constraint violations. Second, it can apply the constraints to the Hibernate metamodel and incorporate them into the generated database schema.
Each constraint annotation is associated to a validator implementation responsible for checking the constraint on the entity instance. A validator can also (optionally) apply the constraint to the Hibernate metamodel, allowing Hibernate to generate DDL that expresses the constraint. With the appropriate event listener, you can execute the checking operation on inserts and updates done by Hibernate. Hibernate Validator is not limited to use with Hibernate. You can easily use it anywhere in your application as well as with any Java Persistence provider (entity listener provided).
When checking instances at runtime, Hibernate Validator returns information about constraint violations in an array of InvalidValue s. Among other information, the InvalidValue contains an error description message that can embed the parameter values bundle with the annotation (eg. length limit), and message strings that may be externalized to a ResourceBundle .

Chapter 2. Defining constraints

2.1. What is a constraint?

A constraint is a rule that a given element (field, property or bean) has to comply to. The rule semantic is expressed by an annotation. A constraint usually has some attributes used to parameterize the constraints limits. The constraint applies to the annotated element.

2.2. Built in constraints

Hibernate Validator comes with some built-in constraints, which covers most basic data checks. As we'll see later, you're not limited to them, you can literally in a minute write your own constraints.

Table 2.1. Built-in constraints

Annotation Apply on Runtime checking Hibernate Metadata impact
@Length(min=, max=) property (String) check if the string length match the range Column length will be set to max
@Max(value=) property (numeric or string representation of a numeric) check if the value is less than or equals to max Add a check constraint on the column
@Min(value=) property (numeric or string representation of a numeric) check if the value is more than or equals to min Add a check constraint on the column
@NotNull property check if the value is not null Column(s) are not null
@NotEmpty property check if the string is not null nor empty. Check if the connection is not null nor empty Column(s) are not null (for String)
@Past property (date or calendar) check if the date is in the past Add a check constraint on the column
@Future property (date or calendar) check if the date is in the future none
@Pattern(regex="regexp", flag=) or @Patterns( {@Pattern(...)} ) property (string) check if the property match the regular expression given a match flag (see java.util.regex.Pattern ) none
@Range(min=, max=) property (numeric or string representation of a numeric) check if the value is between min and max (included) Add a check constraint on the column
@Size(min=, max=) property (array, collection, map) check if the element size is between min and max (included) none
@AssertFalse property check that the method evaluates to false (useful for constraints expressed in code rather than annotations) none
@AssertTrue property check that the method evaluates to true (useful for constraints expressed in code rather than annotations) none
@Valid property (object) perform validation recursively on the associated object. If the object is a Collection or an array, the elements are validated recursively. If the object is a Map, the value elements are validated recursively. none
@Email property (String) check whether the string is conform to the email address specification none
@CreditCardNumber property (String) check whether the string is a well formated credit card number (derivative of the Luhn algorithm) none
@Digits(integerDigits=1) property (numeric or string representation of a numeric) check whether the property is a number having up to integerDigits integer digits and fractionalDigits fractonal digits define column precision and scale
@EAN property (string) check whether the string is a properly formated EAN or UPC-A code none

2.3. Error messages

Hibernate Validator comes with a default set of error messages translated in about ten languages (if yours is not part of it, please sent us a patch). You can override those messages by creating a ValidatorMessages.properties or ( ValidatorMessages_loc.properties ) and override the needed keys. You can even add your own additional set of messages while writing your validator annotations. If Hibernate Validator cannot resolve a key from your resourceBundle nor from ValidatorMessage, it falls back to the default built-in values.
Alternatively you can provide a ResourceBundle while checking programmatically the validation rules on a bean or if you want a completly different interpolation mechanism, you can provide an implementation of org.hibernate.validator.MessageInterpolator (check the JavaDoc for more informations).

2.4. Writing your own constraints

Extending the set of built-in constraints is extremely easy. Any constraint consists of two pieces: the constraint descriptor (the annotation) and the constraint validator (the implementation class). Here is a simple user-defined descriptor:
public @interface Capitalized {
    CapitalizeType type() default Capitalize.FIRST;
    String message() default "has incorrect capitalization"
type is a parameter describing how the property should to be capitalized. This is a user parameter fully dependant on the annotation business.
message is the default string used to describe the constraint violation and is mandatory. You can hard code the string or you can externalize part/all of it through the Java ResourceBundle mechanism. Parameters values are going to be injected inside the message when the {parameter} string is found (in our example Capitalization is not {type} would generate Capitalization is not FIRST ), externalizing the whole string in ValidatorMessages.properties is considered good practice. See Section 2.3, “Error messages” .
public @interface Capitalized {
    CapitalizeType type() default Capitalize.FIRST;
    String message() default "{validator.capitalized}";

#in ValidatorMessages.properties
validator.capitalized = Capitalization is not {type}
As you can see the {} notation is recursive.
To link a descriptor to its validator implementation, we use the @ValidatorClass meta-annotation. The validator class parameter must name a class which implements Validator<ConstraintAnnotation> .
We now have to implement the validator (ie. the rule checking implementation). A validation implementation can check the value of the a property (by implementing PropertyConstraint ) and/or can modify the hibernate mapping metadata to express the constraint at the database level (by implementing PersistentClassConstraint )
public class CapitalizedValidator
        implements Validator<Capitalized>, PropertyConstraint {
    private CapitalizeType type;

    //part of the Validator<Annotation> contract,
    //allows to get and use the annotation values
    public void initialize(Capitalized parameters) {
        type = parameters.type();

    //part of the property constraint contract
    public boolean isValid(Object value) {
        if (value==null) return true;
        if ( !(value instanceof String) ) return false;
        String string = (String) value;
        if (type == CapitalizeType.ALL) {
            return string.equals( string.toUpperCase() );
        else {
            String first = string.substring(0,1);
            return first.equals( first.toUpperCase();
The isValid() method should return false if the constraint has been violated. For more examples, refer to the built-in validator implementations.
We only have seen property level validation, but you can write a Bean level validation annotation. Instead of receiving the return instance of a property, the bean itself will be passed to the validator. To activate the validation checking, just annotated the bean itself instead. A small sample can be found in the unit test suite.
If your constraint can be applied multiple times (with different parameters) on the same property or type, you can use the following annotation form:
public @interface Patterns {
    Pattern[] value();

public @interface Pattern {
    String regexp();
Basically an annotation containing the value attribute as an array of validator annotations.

2.5. Annotating your domain model

Since you are already familiar with annotations now, the syntax should be very familiar
public class Address {
    private String line1;
    private String line2;
    private String zip;
    private String state;
    private String country;
    private long id;

    // a not null string of 20 characters maximum
    public String getCountry() {
        return country;

    // a non null string
    public String getLine1() {
        return line1;

    //no constraint
    public String getLine2() {
        return line2;

    // a not null string of 3 characters maximum
    @Length(max=3) @NotNull
    public String getState() {
        return state;

    // a not null numeric string of 5 characters maximum
    // if the string is longer, the message will
    //be searched in the resource bundle at key 'long'
    @Length(max=5, message="{long}")
    public String getZip() {
        return zip;

    // should always be true
    public boolean isValid() {
        return true;

    // a numeric between 1 and 2000
    @Id @Min(1)
    public long getId() {
        return id;
While the example only shows public property validation, you can also annotate fields of any kind of visibility
public class Dog {
    @AssertTrue private boolean isMale;
    @NotNull protected String getName() { ... };
You can also annotate interfaces. Hibernate Validator will check all superclasses and interfaces extended or implemented by a given bean to read the appropriate validator annotations.
public interface Named {
    @NotNull String getName();

public class Dog implements Named {

    @AssertTrue private boolean isMale;

    public String getName() { ... };

The name property will be checked for nullity when the Dog bean is validated.

Chapter 3. Using the Validator framework

Hibernate Validator is intended to be used to implement multi-layered data validation, where constraints are expressed in a single place (the annotated domain model) and checked in various different layers of the application.
This chapter will cover Hibernate Validator usage for different layers

3.1. Database schema-level validation

Out of the box, Hibernate Annotations will translate the constraints you have defined for your entities into mapping metadata. For example, if a property of your entity is annotated @NotNull, its columns will be declared as not null in the DDL schema generated by Hibernate.
Using hbm2ddl, domain model constraints will be expressed into the database schema.
If, for some reason, the feature needs to be disabled, set hibernate.validator.apply_to_ddl to false.

3.2. ORM integration

Hibernate Validator integrates with both Hibernate and all pure Java Persistence providers

3.2.1. Hibernate event-based validation

Hibernate Validator has two built-in Hibernate event listeners. Whenever a PreInsertEvent or PreUpdateEvent occurs, the listeners will verify all constraints of the entity instance and throw an exception if any constraint is violated. Basically, objects will be checked before any inserts and before any updates made by Hibernate. This includes changes applied by cascade! This is the most convenient and the easiest way to activate the validation process. On constraint violation, the event will raise a runtime InvalidStateException which contains an array of InvalidValues describing each failure.
If Hibernate Validator is present in the classpath, Hibernate Annotations (or Hibernate EntityManager) will use it transparently. If, for some reason, you want to disable this integration, set hibernate.validator.autoregister_listeners to false


If the beans are not annotated with validation annotations, there is no runtime performance cost.
In case you need to manually set the event listeners for Hibernate Core, use the following configuration in hibernate.cfg.xml:
    <event type="pre-update">
    <event type="pre-insert">

3.2.2. Java Persistence event-based validation

Hibernate Validator is not tied to Hibernate for event based validation: a Java Persistence entity listener is available. Whenever an listened entity is persisted or updated, Hibernate Validator will verify all constraints of the entity instance and throw an exception if any constraint is violated. Basically, objects will be checked before any inserts and before any updates made by the Java Persistence provider. This includes changes applied by cascade! On constraint violation, the event will raise a runtime InvalidStateException which contains an array of InvalidValues describing each failure.
Here is how to make a class validatable:
@EntityListeners( JPAValidateListener.class )
public class Submarine {


Compared to the Hibernate event, the Java Persistence listener has two drawbacks. You need to define the entity listener on every validatable entity. The DDL generated by your provider will not reflect the constraints.

3.3. Application-level validation

Hibernate Validator can be applied anywhere in your application code.
ClassValidator personValidator = new ClassValidator( Person.class );
ClassValidator addressValidator = new ClassValidator( Address.class, ResourceBundle.getBundle("messages", Locale.ENGLISH) );

InvalidValue[] validationMessages = addressValidator.getInvalidValues(address);
The first two lines prepare the Hibernate Validator for class checking. The first one relies upon the error messages embedded in Hibernate Validator (see Section 2.3, “Error messages”), the second one uses a resource bundle for these messages. It is considered a good practice to execute these lines once and cache the validator instances.
The third line actually validates the Address instance and returns an array of InvalidValues. Your application logic will then be able to react to the failure.
You can also check a particular property instead of the whole bean. This might be useful for property per property user interaction
ClassValidator addressValidator = new ClassValidator( Address.class, ResourceBundle.getBundle("messages", Locale.ENGLISH) );

//only get city property invalid values
InvalidValue[] validationMessages = addressValidator.getInvalidValues(address, "city");

//only get potential city property invalid values
InvalidValue[] validationMessages = addressValidator.getPotentialInvalidValues("city", "Paris");

3.4. Presentation layer validation

When working with JSF and JBoss Seam , one can triggers the validation process at the presentation layer using Seam's JSF tags <s:validate> and <s:validateAll/>, letting the constraints be expressed on the model, and the violations presented in the view
            <h:inputText value="#{location.country}" required="true"/>
            Zip code:
            <h:inputText value="#{location.zip}" required="true"/>
Going even further, and adding Ajax4JSF to the loop will bring client side validation with just a couple of additional JSF tags, again without validation definition duplication.
Check the JBoss Seam documentation for more information.

3.5. Validation informations

As a validation information carrier, hibernate provide an array of InvalidValue. Each InvalidValue has a buch of methods describing the individual issues.
getBeanClass() retrieves the failing bean type
getBean()retrieves the failing instance (if any ie not when using getPotentianInvalidValues())
getValue() retrieves the failing value
getMessage() retrieves the proper internationalized error message
getRootBean() retrieves the root bean instance generating the issue (useful in conjunction with @Valid), is null if getPotentianInvalidValues() is used.
getPropertyPath() retrieves the dotted path of the failing property starting from the root bean

Revision History

Revision History
Revision 5.1.1-104.4002013-10-31Rüdiger Landmann
Rebuild with publican 4.0.0
Revision 5.1.1-1042012-07-18Anthony Towns
Rebuild for Publican 3.0
Revision 5.1.1-100Mon Jul 18 2011Jared Morgan
Incorporated changes for JBoss Enterprise Web Platform 5.1.1 GA. For information about documentation changes to this guide, refer to Release Notes 5.1.1.