Above, Below, and Beyond Tech Talk

by Rahel Lüthy

October 31, 2007

Simple JAXB

At work, we use the Java Architecture for XML Binding (JAXB) for almost all of our XML input/output. Our approach consists of the following steps:

  1. We start with the definition of a schema
  2. Use ant to compile Java classes from this schema (via xjc)
  3. Have a dedicated conversion layer where we translate back and forth between the generated Java classes and our business objects.

We have deliberately chosen this architecture because we need total control over XML format changes (1.), want to automate the process as much as possible (2.), and want to keep all xml-related code in a dedicated layer (3.).

This approach works really well for a big project. However, if all you need is reading a simple xml and accessing its data from your java classes (or vice-versa: dumping parts of your java objects to xml), you’d probably want to use something less heavy-weight.

what’s quite cool, is that you can also use jaxb for such simple tasks. when the jaxb compiler generates java classes, it uses annotations like @XmlRootElement to map from java types to xml elements. manually annotating your java classes can thus serve as a very simple marshalling/unmarshalling strategy, which doesn’t involve a schema, nor an xjc task, nor any further manual work.

Here is an example of a simple Java → XML → Java round-trip:

JAXBContext context = JAXBContext.newInstance(Foo.class);

Foo foo = new Foo();
System.out.println("Original: " + foo);

StringWriter result = new StringWriter();
Marshaller marshaller = context.createMarshaller();
marshaller.marshal(foo, result);
String xml = new String(result.getBuffer());
System.out.println("Marshalled: " + xml);

Unmarshaller um = context.createUnmarshaller();
Object o = um.unmarshal(new StringReader(xml));
System.out.println("Unmarshalled: " + o);

private static class Foo {

    private String text;

    public void setText(String text) {
        this.text = text;

    public String toString() {
        return "["
          + Foo.class.getSimpleName()
          + "] " + text;

The fact that JAXB 2.0 is part of Java 6 makes this approach even more attractive.