Localized Play framework 1.0 validation messages

28 September 2010

Peter Hilton

by Peter Hilton

My previous Play framework 1.0 article discussed HTTP form data validation, but did not cover validation messages. This article describes how to customise and localise validation error messages with Play.

The Play validation guide describes three ways to validate form (HTTP request) data in a Play web application.

  1. In the controller method, call methods on the controller’s validation field directly.

  2. Add validation annotations to the controller method’s parameter declarations.

  3. Add the @Valid annotation to action methods’ POJO parameters, and add validation annotations to the POJO properties.

In each case, there are three ways to customise the validation message.

  1. Override the default message, by redefining the message in your application’s messages file.

  2. Provide a custom message as an additional validation parameter.

  3. Provide a message key for a localised message as an additional validation parameter.

Localised validation messages

The easiest way to change validation error messages is to override the default messages that Play uses. Play’s validation messages are internationalised using play.i18n.Messages, and the actual messages are defined in the file $PLAY_HOME/resources/messages.

For example, the following action method parameter’s @Required annotation generates the default validation message 'Required':

public static void save(@Required String name) {

To override one of these messages, simply use the same message key for a message in your application’s conf/messages file. For example - in conf/messages:

validation.required = Please enter a value

You can also provide localisations in other languages, as described in the earlier article How to localise a Play framework web application.

Validation message parameters

You can use a placeholder in the message for the error key:

validation.required = Please enter the %s

This error key defaults to the parameter name, and is itself used to look up a message. For example, the name parameter in the save action method above could be localised with:

name = customer name

This would result in the message 'Please enter the customer name'.

Several of the built-in validations define additional message parameters that correspond to the validation parameters. For example, the 'match' validation defines a second String parameter for the specified regular expression, which differs from the %s placeholder above in that it specifies the parameter index '2':

validation.match=Must match %2$s

Similarly, the 'range' validation defines two additional numeric parameters, with indices 2 and 3:

validation.range=Not in the range %2$d through %3$d

Look in the file $PLAY_HOME/resources/messages to see which other validations have parameters.

Custom localised validation messages

The validation messages in $PLAY_HOME/resources/messages use the default message key for each of Play’s built-in validations. You can specify a different message key. For example:

validation.required.emphasis = You must enter the %s!

Use this new message key for the message, for manual validation in the action method:


Alternatively, use the key in the annotation’s message parameter:

public static void save(@Required(message = "validation.required.emphasis") String name) {

You can use the same technique with validation annotations on POJO properties:

public static void save(@Valid Person person) {

public class Person extends Model {
   @Required(message = "validation.required.emphasis") public String name;

Custom literal (non-localised) validation messages

The Play message look-up just returns the message key if there is no message defined for the key, which means you can also just use a literal message instead of the message key if you prefer. Using the same examples as above, for manual validation:

validation.required(manualKey).message("Give us a name!");

For action method parameter annotations:

public static void save(@Required(message = "Give us a name!") String name) {

For JavaBean property annotations:

public static void save(@Valid Person person) {

public class Person extends Model {
   @Required(message = "Give us a name!") public String name;


Play’s validation framework is flexible when it comes to validation error messages, and makes it possible for you to cover a wide variety of use cases with a minimum of fuss or verbose syntax. Furthermore, providing multiple language localisations is just as convenient.