Updated July 13, 2022 for Java 18, Spring Boot 2.7.1, and IntelliJ 2022.1.3

Spring Framework offers a lot of powerful features for making web apps simply, but you have to wade through some complexity to find those features. For example, try starting a Spring tutorial and seeing the following Choose Your Own Adventure:

  • You can start from scratch or download the starter project.
  • If you start from scratch, you can build it with Maven or Gradle or with your IDE
  • If you build with your IDE, you can pick Spring Tool Suite or IntelliJ IDEA. Either way, you still need to pick either Maven or Gradle.
  • And if you downloaded the starter project, you will still probably need to set it up in an IDE.

Not to mention there is some IDE-specific knowledge needed of how to configure the project and run the app!

That’s a lot of decisions to make before you can even try Spring out when you’re brand new to the Spring ecosystem.

To make it easier, here’s a more opinionated tutorial. We’ll build a RESTful JSON web service backed by a Postgres database. We’ll use IntelliJ as it’s an extremely popular Java IDE, and Gradle as it’s the newer dependency and build system.


Download and install the latest version of IntelliJ IDEA–be sure to choose the free Community edition rather than the paid Ultimate edition.

Download a copy of PostgreSQL as well–on macOS, an especially easy option is Postgres.app. You’ll need a Postgres client to connect to the database as well. A nice free macOS GUI client is Postico. Start your Postgres server, then connect to it and create a database named springboot_videogames.

Next go to https://start.spring.io – this is Spring Initializr, a tool to help configure starter Spring projects. Choose the following:

  • Project: Gradle Project
  • Language: Java
  • Spring Boot: 2.7.1
  • Project Metadata
    • Artifact: “video-games”
    • Java: choose the version of Java you have installed
    • Leave other settings as-is
  • Dependencies: Search for and add the following:
    • Spring Web
    • Spring Data JPA
    • PostgreSQL Driver
    • Lombok

Click “Generate” to download a zip file of your project. Expand it and put it somewhere you like. Next, open IntelliJ and you should see the Welcome screen. From the “File” menu, choose “New” > “Project from Existing Sources…”. Navigate to the video-games folder you created, then choose the build.gradle file and Open it. Choose “Trust Project”. The project should open in IntelliJ. A build process will run to download all the dependencies.

Now we’re set to start creating our web service.

Database Connection

First, let’s configure out database connection. Open the src/main/resources/application.properties file. Enter the following:


Replace YOUR-USERNAME with the correct Postgres username. If you’re using Postgres.app on Mac, the username is your system username on your Mac.

Here’s what these do:

  • spring.jpa.hibernate.ddl-auto=create tells the Hibernate ORM to automatically create the database for us. Warning: this seems to drop and recreate the database upon starting the app!
  • The spring.datasource entries specify the connection info for the database. These values should work for the Postgres.app defaults; if you have a different setup, you may need to customize them.

Model Class

Next, let’s create the class that represents our data, a video game record. In the left-hand sidebar, open the src/main/java folder. You’ll see the package name you picked in Spring Initializr. Right-click on it and choose New > Java Class. Name it Game. Then add the following to the file. You shouldn’t need to type the imports at the top; as you type the other code, IntelliJ will offer you autocomplete options and will add the appropriate import statements as needed. If you don’t autocomplete, IntelliJ will show the identifier in red because it isn’t imported. You can click on it, then press option-space to automatically add the import after the fact. (Note that your package value will be different, depending on the settings you inputted in Spring Initializr.)

package com.codingitwrong.tutorial.springbootvideogames;

import lombok.Data;

import javax.persistence.Entity;
import javax.persistence.GeneratedValue;
import javax.persistence.GenerationType;
import javax.persistence.Id;

public class Game {

    private Integer id;

    private String name;

    private Integer releaseYear;

This defines a class with three fields: an integer ID, the name of the game, and the year it was released. Here’s what the annotations you entered do:

  • @Data tells Lombok to automatically generate field getters, setters, a constructor, and some other utility methods. This is a lot of boilerplate code you don’t need to write!
  • @Entity marks the class as persistable to the database.
  • @Id marks the id field as the database ID, and @GeneratedValue(strategy=GenerationType.AUTO) tells Spring to let the database to assign the ID.


Next, we’ll create the repository that allows us to read from and write to the database. This is actually going to be really trivial. Create another New > Java Class, enter the name GameRepository, and choose Kind: Interface. Then make it extend from the following:

package com.codingitwrong.tutorial.springbootvideogames;

import org.springframework.data.repository.CrudRepository;

public interface GameRepository extends CrudRepository<Game, Integer> {

This says that we want a repository of Games with the IDs being Integers. We don’t actually need to implement this interface; Spring will handle that for us!

Rather than tell you the methods CrudRepository provides to us, let’s demonstrate them by jumping straight into using them.


Now we’ll create the controller that allows us to access our Game data via the web. Create a GamesContoller class. Let’s do the setup first, then we’ll add one action at a time.

package com.codingitwrong.tutorial.springbootvideogames;

import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RequestMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RestController;

public class GamesController {
    private GameRepository repository;


Here’s what these annotations do:

  • @RestController tells Spring this class should function as a controller, and that we will be returning data records to be serialized in the response, rather than manually rendering a view or something.
  • @RequestMapping("/games") says all the actions in this controller should be nested under the “/games” path.
  • @Autowired tells Spring to inject an instance of GameRepository when it creates the controller.

Now that our controller is set, let’s add one action at a time. First, let’s allow listing games:

Iterable<Game> index() {
    return repository.findAll();

This is pretty simple. We create a @GetMapping and pass it the empty string, so that this will be available at the “/games” route as configured on the class itself. The method name index() is arbitrary; we could name it anything we like, but I’ve chosen to go with the names Ruby on Rails uses for RESTful actions. We call findAll() on the repository to get all games, then return them. That’s it–Spring will handle serializing them to JSON for us. Pretty nice!

Next let’s allow retrieving a single game by ID:

Game show(@PathVariable Integer id) {
    return repository.findById(id)
            .orElseThrow(() -> new GameNotFoundException(id));

We make this endpoint available at a path “/games/{id}”, which allows a dynamic ID to be passed in. We try to find the game by that ID, and if it’s not found, we throw an exception.

GameNotFoundException will appear in red because we haven’t created it yet. Click on it, then press option-space. You’ll get a few different options, the first of which being “Create class ‘GameNotFoundException’”. Choose that option, and keep the default package. Implement it like so:

package com.codingitwrong.tutorial.springbootvideogames;

public class GameNotFoundException extends RuntimeException {
    public GameNotFoundException(Integer id) {
        super("Could not find game " + id);

Next, let’s create a POST endpoint to create a game:

Game create(@RequestBody Game newGame) {
    return repository.save(newGame);

@RequestBody automatically converts passed-in JSON data to a Game record, which we then save to the repository. We specify the @ResponseStatus should be CREATED (status code 201), which is conventional for creation operations. The created Game record will also be returned, which will let us see the ID it was assigned.

Now, updating:

Game update(@RequestBody Game newGame, @PathVariable Integer id) {
    return repository.findById(id)
            .map(game -> {
                return repository.save(game);
            .orElseThrow(() -> new GameNotFoundException(id));

If a game with the passed-in ID is found, we update its fields and save it; if it’s not found, we throw an exception.

Finally, let’s add a delete endpoint:

void destroy(@PathVariable Integer id) {

Trying it out!

We should be set to run our web service now. To run it, look for a class whose name ends in Application named after the name you gave your app in Spring Initializr. For example, I named the app spring-boot-video-games so I have a SpringBootVideoGamesApplication class. This class is set up to kick off Spring. Click on it, then press control-shift-R to run the application starting from this class. At the end of a series of log statements you should see something like:

Tomcat started on port(s): 8080 (http) with context path ''
Started SpringBootVideoGamesApplication in 5.835 seconds (JVM running for 7.221)

Let’s interact with our web service using the Postman API client. Download and start Postman. Create a new POST request to http://localhost:8080/games/. From the Body tab, choose “raw”, then “JSON”, then enter something like the following:

	"name": "Final Fantasy 7",
	"releaseYear": 1997

Click Send and you should see a “201 Created” response with the following:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Final Fantasy 7",
    "releaseYear": 1997

Now, send a GET request to http://localhost:8080/games/ and you should see:

        "id": 1,
        "name": "Final Fantasy 7",
        "releaseYear": 1997

You can play with the other endpoints by sending:

  • A GET to http://localhost:8080/games/1
  • A PATCH to http://localhost:8080/games/1
  • A DELETE to http://localhost:8080/games/1

What’s next?

You’ve got a functioning Spring web service! What’s more, now that you’re up to speed on working with Spring Initializr apps in IntelliJ, you should be set to more easily pick up any of the other Spring Guides. Enjoy!