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17 Mar 2010

Customising collection binding in Grails

Following up on my earlier post about using custom PropertyEditor implementations to bind association properties I started looking into the options for custom binding one-to-many associations.

For example, tags, as seen on many sites (including Blogger) would typically be modelled as a Set of either String or some kind of Tag domain object. With tag functionality we really don't want to be selecting tags using a multi-select combo box. It would be ridiculously huge and hard to find anything in it. An auto-completer that recognises commas as delimiters would be the way to go. Script.aculo.us has an AJAX Autocompleter that can handle this kind of tokenised input. Similarly, the Grails RichUI plugin offers an autocomplete tag that uses a Yahoo! UI component. There are comparable controls available if you're using jQuery or some other Javascript library. What you will end up with is the browser submitting a single parameter containing a comma-separated String of tag names. The trick is to turn that into a collection of String or Tag domain instances.

For the former case binding is pretty easy. All you need is a property editor that converts a comma-separated String into a Set of String and vice-versa:
Then just register the editor in your PropertyEditorRegistrar implementation:
registry.registerCustomEditor List, "tags", new TagListEditor()

If you've gone the latter route and used a domain object to represent a tag things have been trickier. Grails didn't allow you to register custom property editors against one-to-many association properties as it considered it knew how to handle such binding.

I raised and fixed a Grails issue to allow for registering custom editors on one-to-many properties so from 1.2.2 and 1.3-M2 you will be able to use a property editor something like this:

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