friendship between CDATA and JAXB

Hello, today we are talking about JAXB. This technology lets us serialize java objects into xml. It is pretty old one and exists for long time since java ee . Its API is simple and easy to use, however there are some nuances as somewhere else. They occur each time when you want to do something nontrivial. In my case, I have to put some fields into CDATA blocks and leave their content without any changes.

There is an example below. It is a class Person. Just in case, all examples are written in Kotlin.

@XmlRootElement(name = "person")
class Parent {
    @XmlElement(name = "name")
    var name: String = ""
    @XmlElementWrapper(name = "children")
            XmlElement(name = "boy", type = Boy::class),
            XmlElement(name = "girl", type = Girl::class))
    var children: Collection<Child> = emptyList()

open class Child {
    var name: String = ""

class Girl : Child()
class Boy : Child()

The field name is need to be put into a CDATA block. In order to do it, we add a @XmlJavaTypeAdapter annotation and implement own CDATAAdapter interface on ourselves. Have a look at this implementation:

class CDATAAdapter : XmlAdapter<String, String>() {
    override fun unmarshal(value: String?): String {
        return if (value == null || value.isBlank())
            return ""

    override fun marshal(value: String?): String {
        return if (value == null || value.isBlank())

You might notice that it is not sophisticated at all - just simple manipulations with strings, and will be right. The next step is say our serializator or our marshaller don’t change strings that are already changed by CDATAAdapter.

private val MARSHALLER: Marshaller by lazy {
    val context = JAXBContext.newInstance(Parent::class.java)
    val marshaller = context.createMarshaller()
    marshaller.setProperty(Marshaller.JAXB_ENCODING, StandardCharsets.UTF_8.toString())
    marshaller.setProperty(Marshaller.JAXB_FORMATTED_OUTPUT, true)
            CharacterEscapeHandler { chars, start, end, isAttribute, writer ->
                val value = String(chars, start, end).trim()
                if (value.startsWith("&lt![CDATA[") && value.endsWith("]]&gt"))
                    writer.write(chars, start, end)
                    MinimumEscapeHandler.theInstance.escape(chars, start, end, isAttribute, writer)


If we don’t pay attention to some configurations about encoding and “pretty” formatting, we will see a parameter for setting a string handler. We use our custom string handler.

What does it do? The logic is simple. It handles strings in two different ways depend upon an input string is changed by CDATAAdapter or not. If it is not changed, it delegates the invocation to an internal handler otherwise it adds CDATA tags to the input string.

That’s all and now we are ready to check the work:

val parent = Parent().apply {
        this.name = "John"
        this.children = arrayListOf(
                Girl().apply {
                    this.name = "Margaret"
                Boy().apply {
                    this.name = "Steve"
MARSHALLER.marshal(parent, System.out)

If we execute the code above, we will see the next output:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>