Struts 2 AJAX Tutorial – Dojo Autocompleter Example


This tutorial was written for Struts 2.1.2. A lot has changed in newer versions. The Dojo Plugin is no longer officially supported by the Struts 2 team. Also, please see Muhammad’s comment in the comment section if you’re using the latest version of Struts 2.  You may want to check out Google Closure if you’re looking for a good JS library.

Struts 2 comes with a Dojo Toolkit plugin which makes developing an AJAX application easier than ever.  In addition, the AJAX plugin I would most recommend is the Struts 2 JSON plugin.  In this example, we will use the two side-by-side to create an autocompleter.  In order to use the Ajax support provided in Struts 2, I would recommend Struts 2.1.2 or later.  Include struts2-dojo-plugin-2.1.2.jar and jsonplugin-0.30.jar in your WEB-INF/lib directory.

First, we will create the action for the field that we wish to autocomplete:

package com.lumidant.tutorial.struts2.action;

import java.util.HashMap;
import java.util.Map;

import com.opensymphony.xwork2.ActionSupport;
import com.lumidant.tutorial.struts.dao.*;

public class AutocompleteField extends ActionSupport {

    private String city;
    private Map<String,String> json;

    public String execute() throws Exception() {
        return SUCCESS;

    public String getCities() throws Exception() {
        json = new HashMap<String,String>();

        if(city != null && city.length() > 0) {
            CityDao dao = new CityDao();
            List<City> cities = dao.getCitiesStartingWith(city);
            for(City city : cities) {
                json.put(city.getId(), city.getName() + ", " + city.getState().getAbbreviation());

        return SUCCESS;

    public void setCity(String city) { = city;

    public Map<String,String> getJson() {
        return json;


The getCities method in our action acts on the input String city that we’re given and creates a Map of cities starting with that text.  The key of our Map is going to be the hidden option value while the value of our Map is going to be our option text.

Next, we will modify our struts.xml configuration file to utilize the JSON plugin by extending json-default:

<package name="example" extends="json-default">
  <action name="AutocompleteField" class="com.lumidant.tutorial.struts2.action.AutocompleteField">
    <result type="json><param name="root">json</param></result>

The root parameter that we specify is the name of the variable from our Action that we want to have converted and serialized to a JSON output.

If instead of serializing a Java object to JSON you wish to create the JSON string directly yourself, you can instead use a result type of “stream”:

<action name="jsondata" class="com.lumidant.tutorial.struts2.action.JsonDataAction">
  <result type="stream">
    <param name="contentType">application/json</param>

And finally, we get to create our .jsp view:

<%@ taglib prefix="s" uri="/struts-tags" %>
<%@ taglib prefix="sx" uri="/struts-dojo-tags" %>

    <sx:head />
    <s:url id="cityList" action="AutocompleteField" method="getCities" />
    <sx:autocompleter name="city" theme="ajax" href="%{cityList}" size="24" />

For any of the Dojo plug-in features that you use, you will need to include the <sx:head /> tag, which includes the relevant JavaScript tags into your page’s head tag.  Then you can see that the autocompleter’s name attribute aligns with the city field in our Action and the url’s method attribute aligns with our Action’s getCities method.  Now, when you visit your new page and start typing in the text box, you should see the field autocompleting.  There are some other cool built-in Dojo tags that you should look at as well like the datetimepicker, which provides a really nice calendar.

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