Apache Jackrabbit : ApacheSling SlingGuideRequestParameters

Request Parameter Handling in Sling

Servlet API

The Servlet API specification provides the following methods to access the parameters of a request


Returns the query part of the request URL


Returns the (first) named parameter


Returns all parameters of that name

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Returns all parameters as a map of String[]



Returns an enumeration of the names of the parameters

As a special restriction only two kinds of parameters are supported: (1) Query String parameters and (2) parameters contained in the request data of content type application/x-www-form-encoded. That is file uploads using request data of type multipart/form-data are not directly supported by the servlet specification. Finally the actual encoding of the parameters is all but safe because the encoding of URLs is not very well defined and browsers do not set the character encoding when sending post data. Fortunately, they use the same character encoding for sending back form content as was used by the server to send the form.

Component API

To overcome these restrictions and to provide uniform access to request parameters the Component API in addition to the Servlet API methods to access parameters provides an abstraction of parameters which is applicable to all parameters sent by clients, the RequestParameter interface. Through this interface, each parameter may be analyzed for these topics:

Raw Content

Byte array and InputStream representation of the request parameter values. You will generally use the InputStream to handle uploaded files.

String Content

Access the values as strings is some given encoding (see below) or by requesting the conversion using an explicit encoding.

File Uploads

Find out whether a parameter is a file upload, get the size in bytes of the parameter value and client side file name as sent by the browser.

To accomodate this new interface as well as to provide easy access in the traditional way the ComponentRequest interface provides the standard Servlet API parameter access methods and adds following methods:


Returns the (first) named parameter as a RequestParameter instance


Returns the named parameter as an array of RequestParameter instances


Returns a map of RequestParameter arrays indexed by parameter names

All parameters are handled the same, that is all methods give access to the same parameters regardless of whether the parameters were transmitted in the request query, as part of form encoded data or as part of a multipart/form-data request.

Character Encoding

Traditionally, the encoding of parameters, especially in text area input forms, has been a big issue. To solve this issue Sling introduces the following convention:

  • All forms should contain a hidden field of the name FormEncoding containing the actual encoding used to send the form from the server to the client
  • All forms should be sent with UTF-8 character encoding

The first rule is essential as it helps decoding the form input correctly. The second rule is not actually a very hard requirement but to enable support for all (or most) character sets used, using UTF-8 is one of the best choices anyway.

When Sling is now receiving a request and is asked for the parameters, the parameters are parsed in two phases: The first phase just parses the raw input data using an identity transformation of bytes to characters. This identity transformation happens to generate strings as the original data was generated with ISO-8859-1 encoding. The second phase locates the FormEncoding parameter and fixes the character encodings of the parameters as follows:

  • All names of the parameters are re-encoded
  • The parameter values are re-encoded, unless the parameter value is an uploaded file. Actually the parameter (not the files of course) are internally as byte[] where the conversion to a string is done on the fly (and yes, the conversion using the FormEncoding character encoding is of course cached for performance reasons)

  • If the parameter is an uploaded file, the file name is re-encoded on the fly when accessed