Recently an article I wrote was published on the Seam conversation model and how issues with the back-button can be eliminated through a continuation approach. This aids developers in resolving back-button issues with respect to server-side state, but what about the client-side. Ajax development is a breeze with Seam especially when used in conjunction with Ajax4JSF and RichFaces but the use of Ajax can result in issues with caching of client-side state.

Caching is a common issue with Ajax implementations though many of the concerns of caching are alleviated by using the Ajax4JSF/RichFaces libraries (which I highly recommend). The specific problem I would like to address applies to use of Internet Explorer with Ajax (Firefox does not suffer from the problem). Internet Explorer caches pages when the entire page is refreshed. Ajax implementations allow the page to be altered without a refresh, only re-rendering the applicable section of the page. Thus, if a user submits a page or navigates elsewhere, using the back- or forward-button to return to the page will not display any portions of the page that had been updated by Ajax calls. Instead the page will be shown based on what was cached when the page was originally rendered. Firefox, on the other hand, maintains an up-to-date cache that displays the page as it was rendered after any AJAX updates in response to interaction with the user.

If you don’t believe me, try it yourself! Go to maps.google.com and view a map of your favorite location using Internet Explorer. Now type a new URL into your browser and navigate to it. Press the back button and *poof* you’re back at square one. The map of your favorite location is gone. Now perform the same steps using Firefox. Wow, Firefox still shows the map and you can still see your favorite location!

This is a rather annoying issue and of course could lead to issues with our conversation state (not to mention confusion of the users). Not to fear, the issue can be resolved through a fairly simple solution. Internet Explorer invokes the onload function every time a page is displayed (whether through the initial rendering, the back-, or the forward- button). The following code will resolve your issue using Ajax4JSF which ships with JBoss RichFaces:

<body bgcolor="#FFFFFF" text="#000000"
      onload="reloadAjaxPanels()">
  <h:form id="myAjaxForm">
    <a:jsFunction name="reloadAjaxPanels"
                  reRender="panelToReload" />
      ...
    <a:outputPanel id="panelToReload">
    ...
    </a:outputPanel>
  </h:form>

Now each time the user backs up to the page the Ajax panels will be updated according to the state of the current conversation. The downsides to the solution are that the user will notice a flash each time he or she backs up to the page (when the Ajax components reload) and it causes (what I would consider unnecessary) traffic between the client and the server. If this is acceptable, this solution will help you to use Ajax and Seam together to allow applications to behave according to a user’s expectations rather than the developer’s.