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new to spring beanfactory vs applicationcontext

new to spring beanfactory vs applicationcontext  using -'java,spring,java-ee'

I'm pretty new to the Spring Framework, I've been playing around with it and putting a few samples apps together for the purposes of evaluating Spring MVC for use in an upcoming company project. So far I really like what I see in Spring MVC, seems very easy to use and encourages you to write classes that are very unit test-friendly.

Just as an exercise, I'm writing a main method for one of my sample/test projects. One thing I'm unclear about is the exact differences between BeanFactory and ApplicationContext - which is appropriate to use in which conditions?

I understand that ApplicationContext extends BeanFactory, but if I'm just writing a simple main method, do I need the extra functionality that ApplicationContext provides? And just exactly what kind of extra functionality does ApplicationContext provide?

In addition to answering "which should I use in a main() method", are there any standards or guidelines as far as which implementation I should use in such a scenario? Should my main() method be written to depend on the bean/application configuration to be in XML format - is that a safe assumption, or am I locking the user into something specific?

And does this answer change in a web environment - if any of my classes needed to be aware of Spring, are they more likely to need ApplicationContext?

Thanks for any help. I know a lot of these questions are probably answered in the reference manual, but I'm having a hard time finding a clear breakdown of these two interfaces and the pros/cons of each without reading thru the manual with a fine-tooth comb.

asked Sep 24, 2015 by mannumits1
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11 Answers

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The spring docs are great on this: 3.8.1. BeanFactory or ApplicationContext?. They have a table with a comparison, I'll post a snippet:

Bean Factory

  • Bean instantiation/wiring

Application Context

  • Bean instantiation/wiring
  • Automatic BeanPostProcessor registration
  • Automatic BeanFactoryPostProcessor registration
  • Convenient MessageSource access (for i18n)
  • ApplicationEvent publication

So if you need any of the points presented on the Application Context side, you should use ApplicationContext.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by akasati02
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To me, the primary difference to choose BeanFactory over ApplicationContext seems to be that ApplicationContext will pre-instantiate all of the beans. From the Spring docs:

Spring sets properties and resolves dependencies as late as possible, when the bean is actually created. This means that a Spring container which has loaded correctly can later generate an exception when you request an object if there is a problem creating that object or one of its dependencies. For example, the bean throws an exception as a result of a missing or invalid property. This potentially delayed visibility of some configuration issues is why ApplicationContext implementations by default pre-instantiate singleton beans. At the cost of some upfront time and memory to create these beans before they are actually needed, you discover configuration issues when the ApplicationContext is created, not later. You can still override this default behavior so that singleton beans will lazy-initialize, rather than be pre-instantiated.

Given this, I initially chose BeanFactory for use in integration/performance tests since I didn't want to load the entire application for testing isolated beans. However -- and somebody correct me if I'm wrong -- BeanFactory doesn't support classpath XML configuration. So BeanFactory and ApplicationContext each provide a crucial feature I wanted, but neither did both.

Near as I can tell, the note in the documentation about overriding default instantiation behavior takes place in the configuration, and it's per-bean, so I can't just set the "lazy-init" attribute in the XML file or I'm stuck maintaining a version of it for test and one for deployment.

What I ended up doing was extending ClassPathXmlApplicationContext to lazily load beans for use in tests like so:

public class LazyLoadingXmlApplicationContext extends ClassPathXmlApplicationContext {

    public LazyLoadingXmlApplicationContext(String[] configLocations) {

     * Upon loading bean definitions, force beans to be lazy-initialized.
     * @see

    protected void loadBeanDefinitions(XmlBeanDefinitionReader reader) throws IOException {
        for (String name: reader.getBeanFactory().getBeanDefinitionNames()) {
            AbstractBeanDefinition beanDefinition = (AbstractBeanDefinition) reader.getBeanFactory().getBeanDefinition(name);

answered Sep 24, 2015 by vibhorsingh
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To add onto what Miguel Ping answered, here is another section from the documentation that answers this as well:

Short version: use an ApplicationContext unless you have a really good reason for not doing so. For those of you that are looking for slightly more depth as to the 'but why' of the above recommendation, keep reading.

(posting this for any future Spring novices who might read this question)

answered Sep 24, 2015 by vimaldas2005
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I think it's better to always use ApplicationContext, unless you're in a mobile environment like someone else said already. ApplicationContext has more functionality and you definitely want to use the PostProcessors such as RequiredAnnotationBeanPostProcessor, AutowiredAnnotationBeanPostProcessor and CommonAnnotationBeanPostProcessor, which will help you simplify your Spring configuration files, and you can use annotations such as @Required, @PostConstruct, @Resource, etc in your beans.

Even if you don't use all the stuff ApplicationContext offers, it's better to use it anyway, and then later if you decide to use some resource stuff such as messages or post processors, or the other schema to add transactional advices and such, you will already have an ApplicationContext and won't need to change any code.

If you're writing a standalone app, load the ApplicationContext in your main method, using a ClassPathXmlApplicationContext, and get the main bean and invoke its run() (or whatever method) to start your app. If you're writing a web app, use the ContextLoaderListener in web.xml so that it creates the ApplicationContext and you can later get it from the ServletContext, regardless of whether you're using JSP, JSF, JSTL, struts, Tapestry, etc.

Also, remember you can use multiple Spring configuration files and you can either create the ApplicationContext by listing all the files in the constructor (or listing them in the context-param for the ContextLoaderListener), or you can just load a main config file which has import statements. You can import a Spring configuration file into another Spring configuration file by using which is very useful when you programmatically create the ApplicationContext in the main method and load only one Spring config file.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by tejas lakhani
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  1. ApplicationContext is more preferred way than BeanFactory

  2. In new Spring versions BeanFactory is replaced with ApplicationContext. But still BeanFactory exists for backward compatability

  3. ApplicationContext extends BeanFactory and has the following benefits
    • it supports internationalization for text messages
    • it supports event publication to the registered listeners
    • access to the resources such as URLs and files
answered Sep 24, 2015 by ashish singh
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For the most part, ApplicationContext is preferred unless you need to save resources, like on a mobile application.

I'm not sure about depending on XML format, but I'm pretty sure the most common implementations of ApplicationContext are the XML ones such as ClassPathXmlApplicationContext, XmlWebApplicationContext, and FileSystemXmlApplicationContext. Those are the only three I've ever used.

If your developing a web app, it's safe to say you'll need to use XmlWebApplicationContext.

If you want your beans to be aware of Spring, you can have them implement BeanFactoryAware and/or ApplicationContextAware for that, so you can use either BeanFactory or ApplicationContext and choose which interface to implement.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by tseetha
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  • BeanFactory: Does not support the Annotation based dependency Injection.
  • ApplicationContext: Support Annotation based dependency Injection. -@Autowired, @PreDestroy
  • BeanFactory: Does not Support
  • ApplicationContext: Application contexts can publish events to beans that are registered as listeners
  • BeanFactory: Does not support way to access Message Bundle(internationalization (I18N)
  • ApplicationContext: Support internationalization (I18N) messages.
  • BeanFactory: Doesn’t support.
  • ApplicationContext: Support many enterprise services such JNDI access, EJB integration, remoting.
  • BeanFactory: By default its support Lazy loading
  • ApplicationContext: It's By default support Aggresive loading.
answered Sep 24, 2015 by deven.bendale
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ApplicationContext: It loads spring beans configured in spring configuration file,and manages the life cycle of the spring bean as and WHEN CONTAINER STARTS.It won't wait until getBean("springbeanref") is called.

BeanFactory It loads spring beans configured in spring configuration file,manages the life cycle of the spring bean when we call the getBean("springbeanref").So when we call the getBean("springbeanref") at the time of spring bean life cycle starts.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by akasati02
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Refer this doc from Spring Docs:

5.15.1 BeanFactory or ApplicationContext?

Use an ApplicationContext unless you have a good reason for not doing so.

Because the ApplicationContext includes all functionality of the BeanFactory, it is generally recommended over the BeanFactory, except for a few situations such as in an Applet where memory consumption might be critical and a few extra kilobytes might make a difference. However, for most typical enterprise applications and systems, the ApplicationContext is what you will want to use. Spring 2.0 and later makes heavy use of the BeanPostProcessor extension point (to effect proxying and so on). If you use only a plain BeanFactory, a fair amount of support such as transactions and AOP will not take effect, at least not without some extra steps on your part. This situation could be confusing because nothing is actually wrong with the configuration.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by balvant maurya
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ApplicationContext is a big brother of BeanFactory and this would all thing that BeanFactory are provide plus many other things.

In addition to standard org.springframework.beans.factory.BeanFactory lifecycle capabilities, ApplicationContext implementations detect and invoke ApplicationContextAware beans as well as ResourceLoaderAware, ApplicationEventPublisherAware and MessageSourceAware beans.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by rajesh
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Difference between BeanFactory and the ApplicationContext:

The org.springframework.beans.factory.BeanFactory and the org.springframework.context.ApplicationContext interfaces acts as the IoC container. The ApplicationContext interface is built on top of the BeanFactory interface. It adds some extra functionality than BeanFactory such as simple integration with Spring's AOP, message resource handling (for I18N), event propagation, application layer specific context (e.g. WebApplicationContext) for web application. So it is better to use ApplicationContext than BeanFactory.

answered Sep 24, 2015 by android_master