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JAX-RS: Java Exceptions to User Friendly Bootstrap Alerts
10 May 2017

When an exception is thrown server side it is often desirable to let the user know what went wrong. When working with JAX-RS it is surprisingly simple to send a user-friendly error responds. In this post I will show you how simple it can be.

If you are reading this I assume you have some familiarity with JAX-RS (hopefully Java EE), Bootstrap, JQuery, and with a bit of luck Knockout JS. If you don't, well you soon will.

JAX-RS Mapped Exceptions

With JAX-RS when an endpoint is called that results in an exception, the developer can map the exception to a response. You, the developer, map exceptions by implementing the ExceptionMapper generic. Here is an example:

public class ConnectExceptionMapper implements ExceptionMapper<ConnectException> {

    public Response toResponse(ConnectException ex) {
        return Response
                .entity(new ErrorMessage("Connection Error", ex.getLocalizedMessage))

A Java EE application container uses the @Provider annotation to link-up the mapping. The response , in this example, sets a '504 Gateway Timeout' status, and takes an entity. The entity is an important element in this example; it will become the user-friendly error message.

The ErrorMessage entity is ordinary but I will include it for completeness.

public class ErrorMessage {
    private String title;
    private String body;

    public ErrorMessage() {

    public ErrorMessage(String title, String body) {
        this.title = title;
        this.body = body;


The @XmlRootElement is used by JAX-RS via JAXB to format the object. The response format in our case will be assumed as JSON. The format is usually determined by the subject JAX-RS endpoint using the @Produces annotation.

The Web UI

Next you will need to create an HTML5 page. Add the following libraries: Bootstrap, JQuery, and Knockout JS.

The Knockout JS

Knockout JS is very lean; here is the only Knockout JS JavaScript that you need for this example (other than the binding):

var ErrorMessagesViewModel = function () {
    this.list = ko.observableArray([]);

This JavaScript is a ViewModel that holds a list. The list is a Knockout JS 'observableArray', so that the error messages can be pushed onto the list.

Next add the Knockout JS view. Knockout JS applies the 'alert-template' to each item in the list.

<div data-bind="template: { name: 'alert-template', foreach: list }">
    <!-- KO dynamic -->

In this example I opted for a Knockout JS view template, as I do not like to see a 'flash' load. A 'flash' load would briefly show the view on a page loads then hide it.

Here is the 'alert-template':

<script type="text/html" id="alert-template">
    <div class="alert alert-warning alert-dismissible" role="alert">
        <button type="button" class="close" data-dismiss="alert" aria-label="Close"><span aria-hidden="true">&times;</span></button>
        <strong data-bind="text: title"></strong>
        <br />
        <span data-bind="text: body"></span>

The template is the closable Alert from Bootstrap. The message's title and body are the variables within the template.

Next we will construct the ViewModel and bind it.

var messages = new ErrorMessagesViewModel();

As you can see the constructed ViewModel is assigned to a variable named 'messages'. In the next section JQuery will use the 'messages' variable to push server error responses.

The JQuery

JQuery's AJAX utility can catch global events. We are going to catch global error events. Here is the JQuery:

$(document).ajaxError(function (event, response, settings, thrownError) {

That's it, as long as you are using JQuery's AJAX utility, such as '$.getJSON' to send requests the JAX-RS mapped exceptions are pushed on to the list and shown to the users.

As an aside the solution in this example is an aspect, in the AOP sense. The 'ErrorMessagesViewModel' is a modularisation of concern.

Video Supplement

This post is an after the fact note on a solution from a project I am working on. So here is a video of this solution in action within the other project.

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