How to pass parameters in EL methods

This article describes how to pass any number of parameters in EL functions in 3 simple steps.

Step 1: Extend the class ELMethod

Extend the class, and implement the following method:

public abstract Object result(Object[] args);

For example, say we want to create a formatDate method which takes 2 arguments

  1. the format String
  2. the Date to be formatted

All you need to do is extend the ELMethod class and implement the result(Object[] args) method.


import java.text.SimpleDateFormat;
import java.util.Date;

public class FormatDate extends ELMethod {
 private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;

 public FormatDate() {
   // number of arguments to the result method

 public Object result(Object[] args) {
   String pattern = (String) args[0];
   Date date = (Date) args[1];

   return new SimpleDateFormat(pattern).format(date);

Step 2: Add an instance of you class as an application scoped bean

There are many ways to do this, depending on this technology you are using. Here are some examples:

Set request scope in JSP

request.setAttribute("formatDate", new FormatDate());

Set session scope in JSP

session.setAttribute("formatDate", new FormatDate());

Set application scope from Servlet

this.getServletContext().setAttribute("formatDate", new FormatDate())

Set application scope from JSP

<jsp:useBean id="formatDate" class="FormatDate" scope="application" />

Set application scope in Seam

Add these annotations to your class


Step 3: Call the function via map syntax

Simply pass each argument using the map syntax [] as follows

EL code

${formatDate["MMM, dd"][account.creationDate]}

All arguments passed via EL are sent to the result(Object[] args) method of the FormatDate class.

How does it work

Each argument is collected via the get(Object key) method and is added to an array. When all the arguments have been specified the result method is invoked and the resulting value is returned.


  • Source code of on my Google Code project. This class is thread safe and can be application scoped.
  • example on my Google Code project
  • example, which adds 2 numbers in EL (e.g. ${add[1][2]})

Related posts:

  1. Calling a static method from EL
  2. How to copy bean properties with a single line of code
  3. JAXB code snippets for beginners
  4. 2 ways to convert Java Map to String
  5. Java Barcode API

4 comments to How to pass parameters in EL methods

  • EL 2.2 (part of Java EE 6) now supports parameterized methods calls natively. You just have to give the bean a name (following on of the methods you cited above, or use the @Named annotation from javax.inject) and invoke away. Ryan Lubke has a blog which covers this topic:

  • Gr8t post! But i`ve been using Jboss EL. It`s very easy!

  • vineet

    Please take note of Dan’s and Raphael’s comment above. Use the technique suggested in this article only if you can’t use EL 2.2 or JBoss EL.

  • We also can’t use EL2.2 nor JBoss EL and we came up with a different way of doing this:

    The ‘function’ tag uses reflection and takes the base variables and simply calls the given method with the given (optional) parameters. This is working quite well for us while it stays relatively readable.
    Your method is also quite nice and very elegant, without using the somewhat tricky stuff that goes along with reflection (error handling etc…)

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