Jackson Tree Model

1. Introduction

Jackson represents the JSON object model as a tree of JsonNode objects. This is called the Tree Model since it comprises of a tree of JsonNodes, including ObjectNode and ArrayNode. The tree mirrors the structure of the JSON document. It can be created by parsing a JSON document or by creating an in-memory representation.

2. Parsing a JSON File

A JSON file can be parsed and a tree model representation can be created using the ObjectMapper.readTree().

ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();
JsonNode root = mapper.readTree(new File(args[0]));

The resulting tree model can be converted back to a JSON document as follows:

System.out.println(mapper.writeValueAsString(root));

3. Convert a Java Object (POJO) to JsonNode

Let us learn how to build a tree model from a POJO (Plain Old Java Object). Consider these classes:

public class Address {
    private String address1;
    private String address2;
    private String city;
    private String state;
    private String zip;
}

public class User
{
    private String firstName;
    private String lastName;
    private Address address;
}

Instantiate the objects as required:

User user = new User();
user.setFirstName("Harrison");
user.setLastName("Ford");
Address address = new Address();
address.setAddress1("123 Main Street");
address.setCity("Hollywood");
address.setState("CA");
address.setZip("33023");
user.setAddress(address);

A single function call suffices to convert the POJO to a JsonNode.

JsonNode root = mapper.valueToTree(user);
System.out.println(mapper.writeValueAsString(root));

The output JSON is:

{
  "firstName" : "Harrison",
  "lastName" : "Ford",
  "address" : {
    "address1" : "123 Main Street",
    "address2" : null,
    "city" : "Hollywood",
    "state" : "CA",
    "zip" : "33023"
  }
}

4. Convert a JsonNode to POJO

Once you have assembled a tree model from the JsonNode instances, how can you convert it to a POJO? Quite easy and all the contained JsonNode instances are also converted properly.

User user = mapper.treeToValue(root, User.class);

5. Convert Generic Containers to JsonNode

You can build up an object representation from nothing more than Java’s generic containers such as Map and List. Is it possible to convert such a representation to a tree model (JsonNode)? Of course it is. Use ObjectMapper.valueToTree() as before.

Map<String, Object> user = new HashMap<>();
user.put("firstName", "Harrison");
user.put("lastName", "Ford");
user.put("emailAddress", Arrays.asList("harrison@example.com",
              "hford@actors.com"));

Map<String, Object> addr = new HashMap<>();
addr.put("address1", "123 Main Street");
addr.put("address2", null);
addr.put("city", "Hollywood");
addr.put("state", "CA");
addr.put("zip", "33023");
user.put("address", addr);

JsonNode root = mapper.valueToTree(user);
System.out.println(mapper.writeValueAsString(root));

// prints:
{
  "firstName" : "Harrison",
  "lastName" : "Ford",
  "emailAddress" : [ "harrison@example.com", "hford@actors.com" ],
  "address" : {
    "zip" : "33023",
    "address2" : null,
    "city" : "Hollywood",
    "address1" : "123 Main Street",
    "state" : "CA"
  }
}

And of course, once you have the JsonNode tree model, you can use Jackson data binding to create a Java object (POJO).

User userAgain = mapper.treeToValue(root, User.class);

6. Iterating over a JsonNode

Once you have a JsonNode, how can you find out what it contains? You can loop over its contents and extract the children.

Find the key names of a JsonNode (assuming it is an ObjectNode). And lookup the value JsonNode using JsonNode.get(String).

JsonNode parent = ...;
for (Iterator<String> it = parent.fieldNames() ; it.hasNext() ; ) {
    String field = it.next();
    System.out.println(field + " => " + parent.get(field));
}

Or iterate over the fields, again assuming it is an ObjectNode:

for (Iterator<Map.Entry<String,JsonNode>> it = parent.fields() ;
     it.hasNext() ; ) {
    Map.Entry<String,JsonNode> e = it.next();
    System.out.println(e.getKey() + " => " + e.getValue());
}

Fetch and iterate over all the elements. This one works with an ArrayNode too.

for (Iterator<JsonNode> it = parent.elements() ; it.hasNext() ; ) {
    JsonNode node = it.next();
    System.out.println(node);
}

7. Creating a Tree Model from Scratch

You can also completely generate a tree model from scratch. Start by creating an ObjectNode and populate it using JsonNode.with(). Here we create the above User instance with the associated Address as shown below.

ObjectNode root = mapper.createObjectNode();
root.put("firstName", "Harrison");
root.put("lastName", "Ford");
root.with("address").put("address1", "123 Main Street");
root.with("address").put("address2", null);
root.with("address").put("city", "Hollywood");
root.with("address").put("state", "CA");
root.with("address").put("zip", "33023");
System.out.println(mapper.writeValueAsString(root));

8. Adding Items to a List

For adding lists into the JSON tree model, you can start with the method withArray() and add items as shown:

root.withArray("Genre").add("Drama").add("Horror");

// results in:
{
 ..
 "Genre" : [ "Drama", "Horror" ],
 ..
}

9. Adding from a List

Here is an example of using Java 8 Streams to add nodes from a List:

Arrays.asList("Stephen King (novel)",
                 "Stanley Kubrick (screenplay)",
                 "Diane Johnson (screenplay)")
    .stream()
    .forEach(root.withArray("Writer")::add);

// looks like:
{
 ..
 "Writer" : [ "Stephen King (novel)", "Stanley Kubrick (screenplay)", "Diane Johnson (screenplay)" ]
 ..
}

10. Adding from a Map

And adding to a tree model from a Map is similarly easy:

map.put("cat", "meow");
map.put("dog", "bark");
map.put("cow", "moo");
map
    .entrySet()
    .stream()
    .forEach(e -> root.with("animals").put(e.getKey(), e.getValue()));

// output:
{
 "animals" : {
   "cat" : "meow",
   "cow" : "moo",
   "dog" : "bark"
 }
}

11. Using JsonPointer

JsonPointer is a proposed standard for addressing nodes within a JSON document (somewhat similar to XPath for XML documents). Jackson supports extraction of JsonNodes with a JsonPointer expression using the method JsonNode.at().

JsonNode root = mapper.readTree(new File(jsonFile));
String jsonPtr = ...;
System.out.println(mapper.writeValueAsString(root.at(jsonPtr)));

Let us see some examples of JsonPointer. Consider this JSON.

{
  "firstName" : "Harrison",
  "lastName" : "Ford",
  "emailAddress" : [ "harrison@example.com", "hford@actors.com" ],
  "address" : {
    "zip" : "33023",
    "address2" : null,
    "city" : "Hollywood",
    "address1" : "123 Main Street",
    "state" : "CA"
  }
}

Here are some examples of JsonPointer expression evaluation on this document.

/firstName: "Harrison"

/emailAddress: [ "harrison@example.com", "hford@actors.com" ]

/emailAddress/0: "harrison@example.com"

/emailAddress/1: "hford@actors.com"

/address: {
  "zip" : "33023",
  "address2" : null,
  "city" : "Hollywood",
  "address1" : "123 Main Street",
  "state" : "CA"
}

/address/zip: "33023"

Summary

This article demonstrated how to easily work with the tree model in JSON. We showed how to parse JSON into JsonNode and also how to extract information from the tree model.