Developing Custom SQL Queries

Service Builder’s finder methods facilitate searching for entities by their attributes–their column values. Add the column as a parameter for the finder in your service.xml file, run Service Builder, and it generates the finder method in your persistence layer and adds methods to your service layer that invoke the finder. But what if you’d like to do more complicated searches that incorporate attributes from multiple entities?

For example, consider the Event Listing portlet. Suppose you want to find an event based on its name, description, and location name. In the Event Listing portlet, the event entity refers to its location by the location’s ID, not its name. That is, the event entity table, Event_Event, refers to an event’s location by its long integer ID in the table’s locationId column. But you need to access the name of the event’s location. Of course, with SQL you can join the event and location tables to include the location name. But how would you incorporate custom SQL into your portlet? And how would you invoke the SQL from your service? Service Builder lets you do this by specifying the SQL as Liferay custom SQL and invoking it in your service via a custom finder method.

Liferay custom SQL is a Service Builder-supported method for performing complex and custom queries against the database. Invoking custom SQL from a finder method in your persistence layer is straightforward. And Service Builder helps you generate the interfaces to your finder method. It’s easy to do by following these steps:

  1. Specify your custom SQL.

  2. Implement your finder method.

  3. Access your finder method from your service.

Next, using the Event Listing portlet as an example, you’ll learn how to accomplish these steps.

Step 1: Specify Your Custom SQL

After you’ve tested your SQL, you must specify it in a particular file for Liferay to access it. Liferay’s CustomSQLUtil class looks up custom SQL from a file called default.xml in your portlet project’s docroot/WEB-INF/src/custom-sql/ folder. You must create the custom-sql folder and create the default.xml file in that custom-sql folder. The default.xml file must adhere to the following format:

    <sql id="[fully-qualified class name + method]">
    SQL query wrapped in <![CDATA[...]]>
    No terminating semi-colon

You can add a custom-sql element for every custom SQL query you’d like for your portlet, as long as each query has a unique ID. The convention we recommend using for the ID value is the fully-qualified class name of the finder followed by a dot (.) character and the name of the finder method. More detail on the finder class and finder methods is in Step 2.

In the Event Listing project, the following ID value was used for the query:\

Custom SQL must be wrapped in character data (CDATA) for the sql element. Importantly, the SQL must not be terminated with a semi-colon. Following these rules, the default.xml file of the Event Listing project specifies an SQL query that joins the Event and Location tables:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <sql id="\
        SELECT Event_Event.*
        FROM Event_Event
        INNER JOIN 
            Event_Location ON Event_Event.locationId = Event_Location.locationId
            ( LIKE ?) AND
            (Event_Event.description LIKE ?) AND
            ( LIKE ?)

If you copy the XML fragment above, make sure to delete the backslash (\) character from the end of the ID so that the finder method name findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName immediately follows the package path specified below:

Now that you’ve specified some custom SQL, the next step is to implement a finder method to invoke it. The method name for the finder should match the ID you just specified for the sql element.

Step 2: Implement Your Finder Method

After specifying your custom SQL query, you need to implement the finder method to invoke it. This should be done in the service’s persistence layer. Service Builder generates the interface for the finder but you need to create the implementation.

The first step is to create a *FinderImpl class in the service persistence package. The Event Listing project includes the EventFinderImpl class in the package. Your class, like EventFinderImpl, should extend BasePersistenceImpl<Event>.

Run Service Builder to generate the *Finder interface and the *Util class for the finder. Service Builder generates the *Finder interface and the *FinderUtil utility class based on the *FinderImpl class. Modify your *FinderImpl class to have it implement the *Finder interface you just generated:

public class *FinderImpl extends BasePersistenceImpl<Event>
    implements EventFinder {


Now you can create our finder method in your EventFinderImpl class. Add your finder method and static field to the *FinderImpl class. Here’s the EventFinderImpl class:

public List<Event> findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName(
    String eventName, String eventDescription, String locationName,
    int begin, int end) {
    Session session = null;
    try {
        session = openSession();

        String sql = CustomSQLUtil.get(
        SQLQuery q = session.createSQLQuery(sql);
        q.addEntity("Event_Event", EventImpl.class);

        QueryPos qPos = QueryPos.getInstance(q);  
        return (List<Event>) QueryUtil.list(q, getDialect(), begin, end);
    } catch (Exception e) {
        try {
            throw new SystemException(e);
        } catch (SystemException se) {
    } finally {

    return null;

    EventFinder.class.getName() +

Remember to import the required classes. The following imports are required for EventFinderImpl:

import java.util.List;

import com.liferay.portal.kernel.dao.orm.QueryPos;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.dao.orm.QueryUtil;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.dao.orm.SQLQuery;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.dao.orm.Session;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.exception.SystemException;
import com.liferay.portal.service.persistence.impl.BasePersistenceImpl;
import com.liferay.util.dao.orm.CustomSQLUtil;

The custom finder method opens a new Hibernate session and uses Liferay’s CustomSQLUtil.get(String id) method to get the custom SQL to use for the database query. The FIND_BY_EVENTNAME_EVENTDESCRIPTON_LOCATIONNAME static field contains the custom SQL query’s ID. The FIND_BY_EVENTNAME_EVENTDESCRIPTON_LOCATIONNAME string is based on the fully-qualified class name of the *Finder interface (EventFinder) and the name of the finder method (findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName).

Awesome! Your custom SQL is in place and your finder method is implemented. Next, you’ll call the finder method from your service.

Step 3: Access Your Finder Method from Your Service

So far, you created a *FinderImpl class and generated a *FinderUtil utility class. However, your portlet class should not use the finder utility class directly; only a local or remote service implementation (i.e., *LocalServiceImpl or *ServiceImpl) in your plugin project should invoke the *FinderUtil class. This encourages a proper separation of concerns: the portlet classes invoke business logic of the services and the services in turn access the data model using the persistence layer’s finder classes. So you’ll add a method in the *LocalServiceImpl class that invokes the finder method implementation via the *FinderUtil class. Then you’ll provide the portlet and JSPs access to this service method by rebuilding the service.

The following method in EventLocalServiceImpl invokes the finder method discussed in step 2:

public List<Event> findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName(String eventName,
    String eventDescription, String locationName, int begin, int end)
throws SystemException {
    return EventFinderUtil.findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName(
        eventName, eventDescription, locationName, begin, end);

After you’ve added a service method to invoke your finder method, run Service Builder to generate the interface and make your finder service method available in the EventLocalServiceUtil class.

Now you can indirectly call the finder method from your portlet class or from a JSP. To call the finder method in the Event Listing project, just calling EventLocalServiceUtil.findByEventNameEventDescriptionLocationName(...)!

Congratulations on developing a custom SQL query and custom finder for your portlet!

Writing a Data Driven Application

Running Service Builder and Understanding the Generated Code

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