17 Popular Java Frameworks for 2022: Pros, cons, and morePosted Nov 26, 2021 | 23 min. (4758 words)
Heading into 2022, Java is still the third most popular programming language in the world. It encompasses a vast ecosystem and more than 9 million Java developers worldwide. Java has many advantages; most importantly, it’s a platform-independent language (write once, run anywhere) that follows the object-oriented programming paradigm and is straightforward to understand, write, and debug.
Thanks to the maturity and popularity of the language, you don’t have to write Java programs from scratch. There are many excellent Java frameworks to write web and mobile applications, microservices, and REST APIs that run on the Java Virtual Machine.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll look into 17 popular Java frameworks mainly used in web development.
What are Java frameworks?
Java frameworks are software libraries created to make building Java applications easier and faster. They consist of pre-written code, classes, templates, components, and other structures that you can use as a basis for your Java application.
The best Java frameworks are well-tested and enforce the use of coding best practices. They let you focus on the business logic of your apps instead of writing basic functionality such as making database connections or handling exceptions.
However, not all Java frameworks serve the same purpose, so choosing between them is not just a matter of preference. Some let you create full-stack Java web applications, while others focus on either the frontend or the backend, and there are also frameworks for additional tasks such as handling database operations. In some cases, you might want to use more than one framework together, so it’s important to understand how these Java frameworks compare to and integrate with each other.
Top 17 Java frameworks
We’ve chosen to list our top 17 Java frameworks alphabetically instead of ranking them by “quality”, as they’re different in structure and purpose.
We’ve included Java frontend frameworks that let you create the view layer, ORM and persistence frameworks that allow you to interact with your database, Java backend frameworks that help with creating microservices and REST APIs, Java frameworks built on top of other Java frameworks, and more.
This article focuses on web development, so it’s important to note that this isn’t an exhaustive list and there are other types of Java frameworks as well e.g logging frameworks.
Let’s get started with B for Blade.
Blade: Simple application framework with a minimal footprint
Blade: Simple application framework with a minimal footprint
Blade is a lightweight and high-performance Java framework that allows you to build fast web applications in an efficient way. The creators aim for users to understand the whole framework in a single day. To achieve this, Blade focuses on simplicity and elegance.
The Blade framework follows the MVC (Model-View-Controller) software design pattern. It has an easy-to-understand design, not depending on any third-party libraries or introducing too many layers. Blade is based on Java 8, and the Netty web server and template engine are built into the framework. It has a minimal footprint; the source code is less than 500kb in total.
With Blade, you have access to a RESTful-style routing interface and can deploy your app as a basic Maven or Gradle project. Blade has built-in security features too; for instance, it comes with CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) and XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) defense. It’s a versatile framework with support for plugin extensions and webjar resources.
- no dependencies
- easy to deploy
- small, lightweight framework
- embedded web server - template engine support - flat learning curve
Cons: - not many tutorials and example projects - development is less active these days
Dropwizard: Production-ready RESTful web services
Dropwizard: Production-ready RESTful web services
Dropwizard is a high-performance but straightforward Java framework for rapid development of RESTful web services. It’s especially suitable for creating Java microservices.
The Dropwizard framework pulls together several well-established Java libraries to provide you with a fast and distraction-free development platform. It comes with an embedded Jetty server, Google Guava, Logback, Hibernate Validator, Joda Time, and many other popular Java libraries. Dropwizard also contains Jersey which you can use to build RESTful web services and Jackson for processing JSON. You can think of Dropwizard as a separate ecosystem that contains all the dependencies mentioned above bundled into a single package.
If you choose Dropwizard, you don’t have to spend much time on secondary functionalities such as having to write your code for configuration, metrics, or logging. Instead, you can focus on the primary business logic of your app and achieve maximum productivity. That’s why Dropwizard is often referred to as an operations-friendly Java framework.
Pros: - simple to set up and get started with - lightweight - consists of mature Java libraries - good conventions - scalable - extensive documentation
Cons: - you might find it a bit too opinionated
Grails: Groovy-based web application framework
Grails is a web application framework that uses the Groovy programming language. Groovy is an object-oriented language for the Java platform that aims to enhance developer productivity. Its syntax is compatible with Java, and it’s compiled to JVM (Java Virtual Machine) bytecode.
Although you have to write your code in Groovy, Grails works well with other Java-related technologies such as the Java Development Kit, Java EE containers, Hibernate, or Spring. Under the hood, Grails is built on top of Spring Boot to make use of its productivity-friendly features such as Spring’s dependency injection. The best thing about Grails is that you can achieve the same results with much less code—thanks to the power of the Groovy language.
Grails follows a handful of modern software development principles such as convention over configuration, opinionated APIs to enforce best practices, and sensible defaults. It’s also very developer-friendly, as it comes with detailed and easy-to-read documentation, step-by-step guides, and an extensive plugin library. You can also build your own plugins and make use of Grails’ IDE support for Eclipse, Sublime, Textmate, IntelliJ IDEA, and other platforms.
Pros: - built on top of Spring Boot (see below as part of Spring framework) - seamless integration with Java libraries and tools - convention over configuration (with sensible defaults) - async capabilities - application profiles for React and Angular - high-quality documentation and tons of learning materials
Cons: - you need to know Groovy to write Grails apps
GWT (pronounced “gwit”) is a stable and well-maintained Java framework. Nothing demonstrates that better than its presence in several Google products such as AdWords, AdSense, Blogger, and Google Wallet. Google Web Toolkit also has an information-heavy website with tutorials, developer guides, and a starter application.
Pros: - handles browser compatibility (including mobile browsers) - integrated debugging functionality - code optimization features - lets you unit test your frontend code - flat learning curve (for Java developers)
Hibernate: Object-relational mapping framework for a better database communication
Hibernate: Object-relational mapping framework for a better database communication
Hibernate is a stable object-relational mapping framework that makes better communication possible between the Java programming language and relational database management systems (RDBMSs).
When you work with object-oriented (OO) languages such as Java, you’ll encounter a problem called Object-Relational Impedance Mismatch (sometimes also called Paradigm Mismatch). OO languages and RDBMSs handle data differently, which can lead to mismatch problems. While OO languages structure data as a hierarchy of objects, relational databases represent data in a tabular format. One of these mismatch problems is when the object model has more classes than the number of available tables in the relational database.
Hibernate provides you with a framework that overcomes the mismatch problems of Java. It aims to achieve persistence, meaning that the data created/used by the application should outlive the process that generated it. While Hibernate was built for relational databases, its newer versions provide support for NoSQL datastores as well. It also has excellent developer tools such as a mapping editor, a Hibernate console, and a database reverse engineering tool.
Pros: - object-oriented interface (no need for SQL interfaces) - enables any class or data structure to be persistent - supports multiple fetching strategies - automatic versioning and time stamping - scales well - highly extensible and configurable
Cons: - lower performance for complex queries - steep learning curve
Jakarta Server Faces (JSF): Component-based UI framework
Jakarta Server Faces (JSF), formerly known as JavaServer Faces, is developed by Oracle as a specification for building user interfaces for Java-based web applications. It’s also an official standard of the Java Community Process (JCP) initiative.
The first version of Jakarta Server Faces was released back in 2004, so it’s a stable framework. It follows the MVC software design pattern and has a component-based architecture. With Jakarta Server Faces, you can build user interfaces consisting of reusable components, manage the state of your components, connect them to data sources, and bind user-generated events to event handlers on the server side.
The default templating system of JSF is Facelets that was created explicitly for the project. With Facelets, you can use XML instead of Java for view handling. However, you can also create views with other technologies such as XUL (XML User Interface Language) and plain Java. Web applications created with Jakarta Server Faces are portable across different Jakarta (Java) EE application servers.
Pros: - reliability (code developed and maintained by Oracle) - built on top of the Servlet API - cross-browser compatibility - automatic state management - supports graceful degradation and multiple output formats - relatively low learning curve (for Java developers)
Cons: - hard to debug - not many tutorials or learning materials
JHipster: Web apps and microservices with Spring Boot and Angular/React
JHipster brings Spring Boot and popular frontend frameworks (Vue, Angular, React, and others) together in one handy web application generator. It’s used by leading brands such as Adobe, Siemens, Bosch, HBO, and Google. With JHipster, you can quickly create modern Java-based web applications and microservices.
Spring Boot allows you to create production-grade Spring-based applications (see more about the Spring Framework below) that work with minimal configuration. JHipster combines this with Angular, React, Vue, and Bootstrap on the client side to provide you with a full-stack architecture. If you want to see how a JHipster app looks in real life, check out the sample apps for Angular, React, and Vue, created by the JHipster team.
JHipster lets you choose between two architectural styles. You can opt for a monolithic architecture where the frontend and backend are combined into a single application. Or, you can go with the microservice architecture that splits the frontend and backend. JHipster also integrates with several tools, and offers a ton of options for client- and server-side coding, bundling, and different DevOps tasks.
Pros: - significantly speeds up development - support for many frontend frameworks and technologies - support for mobile app development (Ionic and React Native) - built on top of Spring Boot (so you can use dependency injection and other features of Spring Boot) - multiple deployment options - active community and extensive documentation with sample projects
Cons: - a huge amount of auto-generated code can be confusing for beginners
MyBatis: Persistence framework for easier SQL management
MyBatis is a persistence framework for Java applications that makes it easier and faster to work with relational (SQL) databases. The framework acts as a middleware between the application and the database and fixes the issues stemming from their different architecture.
You can think of MyBatis as a layer of abstraction between the Java code of your application and the underlying SQL database. By default, you need to use the JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) API to access data sources such as relational databases or spreadsheets from your Java code. MyBatis simplifies this process and lets you interact with relational databases with much less code. For example, you can execute SQL statements with just a single line of code.
MyBatis is similar to the Hibernate framework, as both aim to improve the communication between the application layer and the database. However, MyBatis doesn’t map Java objects to database tables like Hibernate does, instead linking Java methods to SQL statements. As a result, SQL is visible when you’re working with the MyBatis framework, and you still have control over the execution of SQL (on the other hand, you’ll need to write your SQL statements and set up your mapping by yourself).
Pros: - easy to use and learn (for Java developers) - lightweight - rapid development - compatible with Spring framework - great solution for simple fetches - portability - database-independent interfaces - ability to build dynamic SQL queries
Cons: - highly dependent on SQL - hard to debug - less flexible than Hibernate
Play: Reactive web & mobile framework for highly scalable Java applications
The Play framework makes it possible to build lightweight and web-friendly Java and Scala applications for desktop and mobile. Play is a hugely popular framework, used by companies such as LinkedIn, Samsung, Walmart, The Guardian, Verizon, and many others.
Play is often compared to powerful web frameworks of other programming languages, such as Ruby on Rails for Ruby or Django for Python. Unlike most Java frameworks, it doesn’t rely on the Jakarta EE standards. It’s intended to eliminate the inconveniences of traditional Java web development, like slow development cycles and too much configuration. So it’s more similar to the web frameworks of scripting languages (PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.).
Under the hood, Play is built on top of the Akka toolkit that simplifies the creation of concurrent and distributed applications on the Java Virtual Machine. As a result, Play uses a fully asynchronous model that leads to better scalability, especially because it also follows the statelessness principle.
The Play framework puts developer productivity first with features such as hot code reloading, convention over configuration, and error messages in the browser. Besides, it’s a Reactive System that follows a modern system architecture (responsive, resilient, elastic, and message-driven) to achieve more flexible and failure-tolerant results.
Pros: - lightweight - high scalability - asynchronous core - supports web technologies (REST, JSON, web sockets, etc.) - powerful developer tooling - many cloud deployment options - extensive documentation and active community
- issues with backward compatibility (Play 1.x is not compatible with Play 2.x, plus there can be smaller compatibility issues between minor releases of Play 2.x)
PrimeFaces: UI framework for Jakarta EE and Jakarta Server Faces
PrimeFaces is a popular web framework for creating lightweight user interfaces for Jakarta EE and Jakarta Server Faces (see above) applications. It’s used by many Fortune 500 companies, government entities, and educational institutions.
The PrimeFaces library is truly lightweight. It’s packaged as a single JAR file, requires zero configuration, and doesn’t have any dependencies. It allows you to create a user interface for your Java application with a rich set of components, a built-in skinning framework, and pre-designed themes and layouts. As PrimeFaces is built on top of Jakarta Server Faces, it inherits its features such as rapid application development. You can also add the framework to any Java project.
On the PrimeFaces website, you can find an excellent showcase of all PrimeFaces components, templates, and themes. The components come with relevant code snippets you can quickly copy/paste into your app — or tweak them when it’s necessary. For instance, here is a horizontal mega menu that lets you display submenus of root items together.
PrimeFaces also has a theme designer which is a Sass-based theme engine with more than 500 variables, a sample theme, and font icons. If you don’t want to build a theme yourself, you can also download a community theme or purchase a premium one from the PrimeFaces Theme Gallery.
- easy to get started
- stability (built on top of JSF)
- support for mobile functionality (e.g. touch-optimized components)
- ready-made UI components for popular frontend libraries (e.g. PrimeNG for Angular, PrimeReact for React, and PrimeVue for Vue)
- pre-designed frontend layouts and templates (however, not for free — prices start at $39)
- active community
Cons: - it takes time to master it (you need to know Jakarta Server Faces to properly use PrimeFaces)
Spark Framework: Micro framework for web apps and REST APIs
Spark Framework is a micro framework and domain-specific language for the Java and Kotlin programming languages. Kotlin runs on the Java Virtual Machine and is 100% interoperable with Java. Spark helps you with developing Java-based web applications, microservices, and REST APIs.
Micro frameworks first appeared in scripting languages such as Ruby and PHP and quickly gained traction due to their focus on development speed and simplicity. Spark was inspired by the Sinatra web application framework for Ruby and first released in 2011. It’s not an MVC framework but lets you structure your app the way you want. As with most micro frameworks, it has a small code base, needs minimal configuration, and doesn’t require you to write too much boilerplate code.
You can get the Spark framework up and running in just a few minutes. By default, it runs on the Jetty web server that is embedded into the framework. However, you can use it with other Java web servers as well. According to Spark’s own survey, more than 50% of their users used the framework to create REST APIs, its most popular use case. Spark also powers high-traffic web applications serving more than 10,000 users a day.
Note that the Spark framework is not the same thing as Apache Spark, which is an analytics engine for big data processing.
Pros: - lightweight - allows for rapid development - requires little boilerplate code - declarative and expressive syntax - unopinionated (you can structure your app as you want)
Cons: - development is less active these days - not many tutorials and learning materials
Spring Framework: Enterprise-level Java application framework
The Spring Framework is probably the most well-known and popular Java framework out there, with a huge ecosystem and an active community around it. It allows you to build enterprise-level Java applications, web services, and microservices.
The Spring Framework started as a dependency injection tool, but over the years it has developed into a full-scale application framework. It provides you with an all-inclusive programming and configuration model that comes with support for generic tasks like establishing database connection and handling exceptions. Besides Java, you can also use the framework together with Kotlin and Groovy, both of which run on the Java Virtual Machine.
The Spring Framework utilizes the inversion of control (IoC) software design principle according to which the framework controls the custom-written code (as opposed to traditional programming where the custom code calls into other libraries that handle generic tasks). As a result, you can create loosely coupled modules for your Spring applications.
While the Spring Framework is excellent for building enterprise-level Java applications, it does have a steep learning curve. This is because it’s a broad framework that intends to provide a solution for every task that may come up with an enterprise-level application and also supports many different platforms. Therefore, the configuration, setup, build, and deployment processes all require multiple steps you might not want to deal with, especially if you are working on a smaller project. The Spring Boot (an extension of the Spring Framework) is a solution for this problem, as it allows you to set up your Spring application faster, with much less configuration.
Pros: - hugely popular and very stable framework - flexible configuration - loose coupling (due to dependency injection) - easy to test applications (due to dependency injection) - uses POJOs (Plain Old Java Objects) - extensive documentation - active community
Cons: - complexity (high learning curve) - need to write a lot of boilerplate code (unless you use Spring Boot)
Struts: MVC framework for enterprise-level Java applications
Struts is an older framework, still used by many developers. It’s a full-featured Java web application framework maintained and developed by the Apache Software Foundation. It’s a solid platform with a vast community, often compared to the Spring Framework. Struts allow you to create enterprise-level Java applications that are easy to maintain over time.
It follows the MVC software design pattern and has a plugin-based architecture. Plugins make it possible to extend the framework to fit different project needs. Struts plugins are basic JAR packages, so they are portable and you can also add them to the classpath of your app. Some plugins are bundled with the framework (JSON plugin, REST plugin, Config Browser plugin, etc.), while you can add others from third-party sources.
You can integrate Struts with other Java frameworks to perform tasks that aren’t built into the platform. For instance, you can use the Spring plugin for dependency injection or the Hibernate plugin for object-relational mapping. Struts also allows you to use different client-side technologies such as Jakarta Server Pages to build the frontend of your application.
However, if you want to create server-side components that can render on the frontend, Struts may not be the best choice for that. Instead, you should look into a framework that has a different architecture such as Tapestry or Wicket (see both below).
Pros: - stable and mature framework - convention over configuration - extensible (via plugins) - easy to integrate with other Java frameworks and tools - supports web technologies (REST, AJAX, JSON)
Cons: - doesn’t provide any security mechanism (see their security tips that you’ll need to apply by yourself)
Tapestry: Component-oriented framework for highly scalable apps
Tapestry is a component-based Java framework with which you can create scalable web applications. Its focus on reusable components makes it architecturally similar to Jakarta Server Faces and the Wicket framework. Like Struts, Tapestry is also a project of the Apache Software Foundation.
You can write Tapestry pages and components as plain old Java objects (POJOs), so you can access the entire Java ecosystem from the framework. Besides Java, Tapestry also supports Groovy and Scala and integrates with other Java frameworks such as Hibernate and Spring. Tapestry has been built with performance in mind; therefore it provides you with features such as live class reloading, exception reporting, Ajax support, and built-in components and templates.
Cons: - hard to find tutorials and learning materials
Vaadin: Web application framework with a focus on UX, accessibility, and mobile
Vaadin provides a platform for streamlined Java development. It allows you to build web applications of customizable components that focus on performance, UX, and accessibility.
Vaadin 10+ approaches web app development in an entirely new way: it gives developers direct access to the DOM (Document Object Model) from the Java Virtual Machine. With the new release, the Vaadin team split the previously monolithic framework into two parts. It has a lightweight Java framework called Vaadin Flow that handles routing and server-client communication and a set of UI components that run in the user’s browser.
The components are mobile-first and follow the latest web and accessibility standards; they were built on the Web Components standards. You can use Vaadin components together with any frontend framework such as React, Angular, or Vue. The creators also recommend them as building blocks for Progressive Web Apps. You can build your own theme based on Vaadin components or use Vaadin’s two pre-made themes: Lumo (default) and Material.
Vaadin Flow provides a high-level Java API to manage all the technical aspects of your app, from automatic server-client communication to WebSockets to data binding. As Flow runs on the JVM, you have access to the whole Java ecosystem, for instance, you can run your app with the Spring Boot. Flow also lets you write your app in Kotlin or Scala.
Pros: - uses a unique programming model - follows web standards - mobile-friendly components - extensible (see Vaadin Directory) - seamlessly integrates with the Spring framework - premade themes for Java apps (available for free)
Cons: - Vaadin is a for-profit company, so you pay for pro components, tools and support (see pricing).
Vert.x: Polyglot event-driven application framework for the Java Virtual Machine
Vert.x is developed and maintained by the Eclipse Foundation whose best-known project is the Eclipse IDE. The ‘x’ in Vert.x refers to its polyglottic nature, meaning that you can write valid code in several different languages. It provides idiomatic APIs for every supported programming language.
As Vert.x is an event-driven and non-blocking framework, it can handle a lot of concurrencies using only a minimal number of threads. Vert.x is also quite lightweight, with the core framework weighing only about 650 KB. It has a modular architecture that allows you to use only the modules you need so that your app can stay as slick as possible. Vert.x is an ideal choice if you want to build lightweight, highly scalable microservices.
Pros: - loads fast - modular architecture - extensible - unopinionated (you can structure your application how you want) - easy-to-use app generator - extensive documentation
Cons: - high learning curve (more of an advanced toolkit than a framework, so you need to make a lot of decisions on your own)
Wicket: Component-based web application framework for purists
Wicket is a component-based web application framework similar to Jakarta Server Faces and Tapestry. It allows you to write elegant, user-friendly apps using pure Java and HTML code. The framework is maintained by the Apache Software Foundation similar to Struts and Tapestry.
Cons: - relatively small community; not many tutorials or learning materials
That’s a wrap on our Java framework comparison. As each of these frameworks serves different purposes, understanding their pros, cons, and capabilities is crucial before choosing one or more for your particular Java project.
To select the right framework, you’ll need to take into account your goals (what do you want to build?), your budget, and the knowledge of your team, among other factors.
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