Creating a Spring @StrictDateTimeFormat Annotation

Spring Formatters and Converters make it easy to annotate fields
for conversion from Objects to Strings, and are especially useful in web apps. But there is no
easy or straightforward way to strictly validate the String before parsing into an object,
without creating a custom Formatter. Here is a reusable solution that uses a
RegexParserDecorator to decorate any Spring Formatter to apply a regex pattern, in turn
creating a @StrictDateTimeFormat annotation as an example implementation.

A little background: Spring 3.0 brought the Converter
and Formatter framework
with a concise @DateTimeFormat
, simplifying the Date to Object conversion that previously took custom
binders or other wiring code. With @DateTimeFormat you can easily supply a String pattern used
to parse and print a Date (or joda DateTime) object. However, the annotation does not strictly
validate the String before converting to a Date. For instance, supplying a MM/dd/yyyy pattern
does NOT enforce a 4 digit year. Instead a 2 digit year will be accepted and parsed using the
SimpleDateFormat rules. Similar loose checking goes for 1 digit days and months, and also the
slash character used as a separator. It would be easy to just throw the @Pattern
onto your Date field except that @Pattern is only
allowed on String fields
. Combining @Pattern and @DateTimeFormat is what drove the
creation of @StrictDateTimeFormat:

//sample usage using defaults for regex and pattern
private DateTime birthday;

Read more below for a discussion and snippets of code, and the entire codeset with
comments is available on github.

The RegexParserDecorator: The first step is to
create a Regex Parser class that will apply a regex pattern to validate a String for us.
Creating this as a Decorator gives the added benefit that you can easily wrap any Spring
Formatter to apply Regex patterns. The constructor takes a Parser to wrap and a regex to
apply; and the parse method first validates against the regex before passing onto the
decorated Parser:

public RegexParserDecorator(Parser parser, String regex) {
this.parser = parser;
this.regexPattern = Pattern.compile(regex);
public T parse(String text, Locale locale) throws ParseException {
if (!regexPattern.matcher(text).matches()) {
throw new IllegalArgumentException(“Text does not match regex: " + text);
return parser.parse(text, locale);

The @StrictDateTimeFormat Annotation: Next step is to
setup the annotation interface class. It is very similar to DateTimeFormat but adds the field
to hold a regex. The default regex allows 1 or 2 digit days and months, requires a forward
slash as the separator, and enforces a 4 digit year. This can be easily overriden when
applying the annotation to a field by supplying your own (regex=”“, pattern=”") extension. A
pattern is still required so make sure your pattern and regex are paired

@Target({ElementType.METHOD, ElementType.FIELD, ElementType.PARAMETER})
public @interface StrictDateTimeFormat {
public static final String REGEX_DEFAULT =
public static final String PATTERN_DEFAULT = “MM/dd/yyyy”;
String regex() default REGEX_DEFAULT;
String pattern() default PATTERN_DEFAULT;

Spring then requires a StrictDateTimeFormatAnnotationFormatterFactory to wire the
annotation with the parser. Nothing fancy here as it borrows heavily upon Spring’s own
JodaDateTimeFormatAnnotationFormatterFactory. The getParser method applies our regex to the
DateTimeFormat functionality:

public class StrictDateTimeFormatAnnotationFormatterFactory implements
AnnotationFormatterFactory {

public Parser getParser(StrictDateTimeFormat annotation, Class fieldType) {
DateTimeParser parser = new DateTimeParser(forPattern(annotation.pattern()));
return new RegexParserDecorator(parser, annotation.regex());
private DateTimeFormatter forPattern(String pattern) {
return org.joda.time.format.DateTimeFormat.forPattern(pattern);

Hooking it all together: Here is the snippet from my
applicationConfig.xml showing how the annotation is registered into Spring:

<mvc:annotation-driven conversion-service=“myConversionService” />
<bean id=“myConversionService”
<property name=“formatters”>
<bean class=“jeffsheets.util.format.StrictDateTimeFormatAnnotationFormatterFactory”

Hopefully this information is helpful in creating a reusable regex validating
DateTime formatter for use in your own web

 Originally published by me on the Object
Partners blog: