8.4 Sending and Receiving Cookies

To send cookies to the client, a servlet should use the Cookie constructor to create one or more cookies with designated names and values, set any optional attributes with cookie.set Xxx (readable later by cookie.get Xxx ), and insert the cookies into the HTTP response headers with response.addCookie .

To read incoming cookies, a servlet should call request.getCookies , which returns an array of Cookie objects corresponding to the cookies the browser has associated with your site ( null if there are no cookies in the request). In most cases, the servlet should then loop down this array calling getName on each cookie until it finds the one whose name matches the name it was searching for, then call getValue on that Cookie to see the value associated with the name. Each of these topics is discussed in more detail in the following subsections.

Sending Cookies to the Client

Sending cookies to the client involves three steps (summarized below with details in the following subsections).

  1. Creating a Cookie object. You call the Cookie constructor with a cookie name and a cookie value, both of which are strings.

  2. Setting the maximum age. If you want the browser to store the cookie on disk instead of just keeping it in memory, you use setMaxAge to specify how long (in seconds) the cookie should be valid.

  3. Placing the Cookie into the HTTP response headers. You use response.addCookie to accomplish this. If you forget this step, no cookie is sent to the browser!

Creating a Cookie Object

You create a cookie by calling the Cookie constructor, which takes two strings: the cookie name and the cookie value. Neither the name nor the value should contain white space or any of the following characters :

 [ ] ( ) = , " / ? @ : ; 

For example, to create a cookie named userID with a value a1234 , you would use the following.

 Cookie c = new Cookie("userID", "a1234"); 
Setting the Maximum Age

If you create a cookie and send it to the browser, by default it is a session-level cookie: a cookie that is stored in the browser's memory and deleted when the user quits the browser. If you want the browser to store the cookie on disk, use setMaxAge with a time in seconds, as below.

 c.setMaxAge(60*60*24*7); // One week 

Since you could use the session-tracking API (Chapter 9) to simplify most tasks for which you use session-level cookies, you almost always use the setMaxAge method when using the Cookie API.

Setting the maximum age to 0 instructs the browser to delete the cookie.

Core Approach


When you create a Cookie object, you should normally call setMaxAge before sending the cookie to the client.

Note that setMaxAge is not the only Cookie characteristic that you can modify. The other, less frequently used characteristics are discussed in Section 8.6 (Using Cookie Attributes).

Placing the Cookie in the Response Headers

By creating a Cookie object and calling setMaxAge , all you have done is manipulate a data structure in the server's memory. You haven't actually sent anything to the browser. If you don't send the cookie to the client, it has no effect. This may seem obvious, but a common mistake by beginning developers is to create and manipulate Cookie objects but fail to send them to the client.

Core Warning


Creating and manipulating a Cookie object has no effect on the client. You must explicitly send the cookie to the client with response.addCookie .

To send the cookie, insert it into a Set-Cookie HTTP response header by means of the addCookie method of HttpServletResponse . The method is called addCookie , not setCookie , because any previously specified Set-Cookie headers are left alone and a new header is set. Also, remember that the response headers must be set before any document content is sent to the client.

Here is an example:

 Cookie userCookie = new Cookie("user", "uid1234"); userCookie.setMaxAge(60*60*24*365); // Store cookie for 1 year  response.addCookie(userCookie);  

Reading Cookies from the Client

To send a cookie to the client, you create a Cookie , set its maximum age (usually), then use addCookie to send a Set-Cookie HTTP response header. To read the cookies that come back from the client, you should perform the following two tasks, which are summarized below and then described in more detail in the following subsections.

  1. Call request.getCookies . This yields an array of Cookie objects.

  2. Loop down the array, calling getName on each one until you find the cookie of interest. You then typically call getValue and use the value in some application-specific way.

Call request.getCookies

To obtain the cookies that were sent by the browser, you call getCookies on the HttpServletRequest . This call returns an array of Cookie objects corresponding to the values that came in on the Cookie HTTP request headers. If the request contains no cookies, getCookies should return null . Note, however, that an old version of Apache Tomcat (version 3.x) had a bug whereby it returned a zero-length array instead of null .

Loop Down the Cookie Array

Once you have the array of cookies, you typically loop down it, calling getName on each Cookie until you find one matching the name you have in mind. Remember that cookies are specific to your host (or domain), not your servlet (or JSP page). So, although your servlet might send a single cookie, you could get many irrelevant cookies back. Once you find the cookie of interest, you typically call getValue on it and finish with some processing specific to the resultant value. For example:

 String cookieName = "userID"; Cookie[] cookies = request.getCookies(); if (cookies != null) {   for(int i=0; i<cookies.length; i++) {     Cookie cookie = cookies[i];     if (cookieName.equals(cookie.getName())) {       doSomethingWith(cookie.getValue());     }   } } 

This is such a common process that, in Section 8.8, we present two utilities that simplify retrieving a cookie or cookie value that matches a designated cookie name.

Core Servlets and JavaServer Pages (Vol. 1.Core Technologies)
Core Servlets and Javaserver Pages: Core Technologies, Vol. 1 (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0130092290
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 194

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