2.5 Interfaces and Inheritance

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Interfaces

You saw an example of implementing an interface in the previous lesson. You can read more about interfaces here—what they are for, why you might want to write one, and how to write one.

Inheritance

This section describes the way in which you can derive one class from another. That is, how a subclass can inherit fields and methods from a superclass. You will learn that all classes are derived from the Object class, and how to modify the methods that a subclass inherits from superclasses. This section also covers interface-like abstract classes.

1. Interfaces


There are a number of situations in software engineering when it is important for disparate groups of programmers to agree to a "contract" that spells out how their software interacts. Each group should be able to write their code without any knowledge of how the other group's code is written. Generally speaking, interfaces are such contracts.

For example, imagine a futuristic society where computer-controlled robotic cars transport passengers through city streets without a human operator. Automobile manufacturers write software (Java, of course) that operates the automobile—stop, start, accelerate, turn left, and so forth. Another industrial group, electronic guidance instrument manufacturers, make computer systems that receive GPS (Global Positioning System) position data and wireless transmission of traffic conditions and use that information to drive the car.

The auto manufacturers must publish an industry-standard interface that spells out in detail what methods can be invoked to make the car move (any car, from any manufacturer). The guidance manufacturers can then write software that invokes the methods described in the interface to command the car. Neither industrial group needs to know how the other group's software is implemented. In fact, each group considers its software highly proprietary and reserves the right to modify it at any time, as long as it continues to adhere to the published interface.

Interfaces in Java

In the Java programming language, an interface is a reference type, similar to a class, that can contain only constants, method signatures, default methods, static methods, and nested types. Method bodies exist only for default methods and static methods. Interfaces cannot be instantiated—they can only be implemented by classes or extended by other interfaces. Extension is discussed later in this lesson.

Defining an interface is similar to creating a new class:

public interface OperateCar {

   // constant declarations, if any

   // method signatures
 
   // An enum with values RIGHT, LEFT
   int turn(Direction direction,
            double radius,
            double startSpeed,
            double endSpeed);
   int changeLanes(Direction direction,
                   double startSpeed,
                   double endSpeed);
   int signalTurn(Direction direction,
                  boolean signalOn);
   int getRadarFront(double distanceToCar,
                     double speedOfCar);
   int getRadarRear(double distanceToCar,
                    double speedOfCar);
         ......
   // more method signatures
}

Note that the method signatures have no braces and are terminated with a semicolon.

To use an interface, you write a class that implements the interface. When an instantiable class implements an interface, it provides a method body for each of the methods declared in the interface. For example,

public class OperateBMW760i implements OperateCar {

    // the OperateCar method signatures, with implementation --
    // for example:
    int signalTurn(Direction direction, boolean signalOn) {
       // code to turn BMW's LEFT turn indicator lights on
       // code to turn BMW's LEFT turn indicator lights off
       // code to turn BMW's RIGHT turn indicator lights on
       // code to turn BMW's RIGHT turn indicator lights off
    }

    // other members, as needed -- for example, helper classes not
    // visible to clients of the interface
}
In the robotic car example above, it is the automobile manufacturers who will implement the interface. Chevrolet's implementation will be substantially different from that of Toyota, of course, but both manufacturers will adhere to the same interface. The guidance manufacturers, who are the clients of the interface, will build systems that use GPS data on a car's location, digital street maps, and traffic data to drive the car. In so doing, the guidance systems will invoke the interface methods: turn, change lanes, brake, accelerate, and so forth.

Interfaces as APIs

The robotic car example shows an interface being used as an industry standard Application Programming Interface (API). APIs are also common in commercial software products. Typically, a company sells a software package that contains complex methods that another company wants to use in its own software product. An example would be a package of digital image processing methods that are sold to companies making end-user graphics programs. The image processing company writes its classes to implement an interface, which it makes public to its customers. The graphics company then invokes the image processing methods using the signatures and return types defined in the interface. While the image processing company's API is made public (to its customers), its implementation of the API is kept as a closely guarded secret—in fact, it may revise the implementation at a later date as long as it continues to implement the original interface that its customers have relied on.

Defining an Interface

An interface declaration consists of modifiers, the keyword interface, the interface name, a comma-separated list of parent interfaces (if any), and the interface body. For example:

public interface GroupedInterface extends Interface1, Interface2, Interface3 {

    // constant declarations
 
    // base of natural logarithms
    double E = 2.718282;

    // method signatures
    void doSomething (int i, double x);
    int doSomethingElse(String s);
}

The public access specifier indicates that the interface can be used by any class in any package. If you do not specify that the interface is public, then your interface is accessible only to classes defined in the same package as the interface.

An interface can extend other interfaces, just as a class subclass or extend another class. However, whereas a class can extend only one other class, an interface can extend any number of interfaces. The interface declaration includes a comma-separated list of all the interfaces that it extends.

The Interface Body

The interface body can contain abstract methods, default methods, and static methods. An abstract method within an interface is followed by a semicolon, but no braces (an abstract method does not contain an implementation). Default methods are defined with the default modifier, and static methods with the static keyword. All abstract, default, and static methods in an interface are implicitly public, so you can omit the public modifier.

In addition, an interface can contain constant declarations. All constant values defined in an interface are implicitly public, static, and final. Once again, you can omit these modifiers.

Implementing an Interface

To declare a class that implements an interface, you include an implements clause in the class declaration. Your class can implement more than one interface, so the implements keyword is followed by a comma-separated list of the interfaces implemented by the class. By convention, the implements clause follows the extends clause, if there is one.

A Sample Interface, Relatable

Consider an interface that defines how to compare the size of objects.

public interface Relatable {
     
    // this (object calling isLargerThan)
    // and other must be instances of
    // the same class returns 1, 0, -1
    // if this is greater than,
    // equal to, or less than other
    public int isLargerThan(Relatable other);
}

If you want to be able to compare the size of similar objects, no matter what they are, the class that instantiates them should implement Relatable.

Any class can implement Relatable if there is some way to compare the relative "size" of objects instantiated from the class. For strings, it could be number of characters; for books, it could be number of pages; for students, it could be weight; and so forth. For planar geometric objects, area would be a good choice (see the RectanglePlus class that follows), while volume would work for three-dimensional geometric objects. All such classes can implement the isLargerThan() method.

If you know that a class implements Relatable, then you know that you can compare the size of the objects instantiated from that class.

Implementing the Relatable Interface

Here is the Rectangle class that was presented in the Creating Objects section, rewritten to implement Relatable.

public class RectanglePlus
    implements Relatable {
    public int width = 0;
    public int height = 0;
    public Point origin;

    // four constructors
    public RectanglePlus() {
        origin = new Point(0, 0);
    }
    public RectanglePlus(Point p) {
        origin = p;
    }
    public RectanglePlus(int w, int h) {
        origin = new Point(0, 0);
        width = w;
        height = h;
    }
    public RectanglePlus(Point p, int w, int h) {
        origin = p;
        width = w;
        height = h;
    }

    // a method for moving the rectangle
    public void move(int x, int y) {
        origin.x = x;
        origin.y = y;
    }

    // a method for computing
    // the area of the rectangle
    public int getArea() {
        return width * height;
    }
 
    // a method required to implement
    // the Relatable interface
    public int isLargerThan(Relatable other) {
        RectanglePlus otherRect
            = (RectanglePlus)other;
        if (this.getArea() < otherRect.getArea())
            return -1;
        else if (this.getArea() > otherRect.getArea())
            return 1;
        else
            return 0;            
    }
}

Because RectanglePlus implements Relatable, the size of any two RectanglePlus objects can be compared.

Note: The isLargerThan method, as defined in the Relatable interface, takes an object of type Relatable. The line of code, shown in bold in the previous example, casts other to a RectanglePlus instance. Type casting tells the compiler what the object really is. Invoking getArea directly on the other instance (other.getArea()) would fail to compile because the compiler does not understand that other is actually an instance of RectanglePlus.

Using an Interface as a Type

When you define a new interface, you are defining a new reference data type. You can use interface names anywhere you can use any other data type name. If you define a reference variable whose type is an interface, any object you assign to it must be an instance of a class that implements the interface.

As an example, here is a method for finding the largest object in a pair of objects, for any objects that are instantiated from a class that implements Relatable:

public Object findLargest(Object object1, Object object2) {
   Relatable obj1 = (Relatable)object1;
   Relatable obj2 = (Relatable)object2;
   if ((obj1).isLargerThan(obj2) > 0)
      return object1;
   else
      return object2;
}

By casting object1 to a Relatable type, it can invoke the isLargerThan method.

If you make a point of implementing Relatable in a wide variety of classes, the objects instantiated from any of those classes can be compared with the findLargest() method—provided that both objects are of the same class. Similarly, they can all be compared with the following methods:

public Object findSmallest(Object object1, Object object2) {
   Relatable obj1 = (Relatable)object1;
   Relatable obj2 = (Relatable)object2;
   if ((obj1).isLargerThan(obj2) < 0)
      return object1;
   else
      return object2;
}

public boolean isEqual(Object object1, Object object2) {
   Relatable obj1 = (Relatable)object1;
   Relatable obj2 = (Relatable)object2;
   if ( (obj1).isLargerThan(obj2) == 0)
      return true;
   else
      return false;
}

These methods work for any "relatable" objects, no matter what their class inheritance is. When they implement Relatable, they can be of both their own class (or superclass) type and a Relatable type. This gives them some of the advantages of multiple inheritance, where they can have behavior from both a superclass and an interface.

Evolving Interfaces

Consider an interface that you have developed called DoIt:

public interface DoIt {
   void doSomething(int i, double x);
   int doSomethingElse(String s);
}

Suppose that, at a later time, you want to add a third method to DoIt, so that the interface now becomes:

public interface DoIt {

   void doSomething(int i, double x);
   int doSomethingElse(String s);
   boolean didItWork(int i, double x, String s);
 
}

If you make this change, then all classes that implement the old DoIt interface will break because they no longer implement the old interface. Programmers relying on this interface will protest loudly.

Try to anticipate all uses for your interface and specify it completely from the beginning. If you want to add additional methods to an interface, you have several options. You could create a DoItPlus interface that extends DoIt:

public interface DoItPlus extends DoIt {

   boolean didItWork(int i, double x, String s);
 
}

Now users of your code can choose to continue to use the old interface or to upgrade to the new interface.

Alternatively, you can define your new methods as default methods. The following example defines a default method named didItWork:

public interface DoIt {

   void doSomething(int i, double x);
   int doSomethingElse(String s);
   default boolean didItWork(int i, double x, String s) {
       // Method body
   }
 
}

Note that you must provide an implementation for default methods. You could also define new static methods to existing interfaces. Users who have classes that implement interfaces enhanced with new default or static methods do not have to modify or recompile them to accommodate the additional methods.

Default Methods

The section Interfaces describes an example that involves manufacturers of computer-controlled cars who publish industry-standard interfaces that describe which methods can be invoked to operate their cars. What if those computer-controlled car manufacturers add new functionality, such as flight, to their cars? These manufacturers would need to specify new methods to enable other companies (such as electronic guidance instrument manufacturers) to adapt their software to flying cars. Where would these car manufacturers declare these new flight-related methods? If they add them to their original interfaces, then programmers who have implemented those interfaces would have to rewrite their implementations. If they add them as static methods, then programmers would regard them as utility methods, not as essential, core methods.

Default methods enable you to add new functionality to the interfaces of your libraries and ensure binary compatibility with code written for older versions of those interfaces.

Consider the following interface, TimeClient, as described in Answers to Questions and Exercises: Interfaces:

import java.time.*;

public interface TimeClient {
    void setTime(int hour, int minute, int second);
    void setDate(int day, int month, int year);
    void setDateAndTime(int day, int month, int year,
                               int hour, int minute, int second);
    LocalDateTime getLocalDateTime();
}

The following class, SimpleTimeClient, implements TimeClient:


package defaultmethods;

import java.time.*;
import java.lang.*;
import java.util.*;

public class SimpleTimeClient implements TimeClient {
 
    private LocalDateTime dateAndTime;
 
    public SimpleTimeClient() {
        dateAndTime = LocalDateTime.now();
    }
 
    public void setTime(int hour, int minute, int second) {
        LocalDate currentDate = LocalDate.from(dateAndTime);
        LocalTime timeToSet = LocalTime.of(hour, minute, second);
        dateAndTime = LocalDateTime.of(currentDate, timeToSet);
    }
 
    public void setDate(int day, int month, int year) {
        LocalDate dateToSet = LocalDate.of(day, month, year);
        LocalTime currentTime = LocalTime.from(dateAndTime);
        dateAndTime = LocalDateTime.of(dateToSet, currentTime);
    }
 
    public void setDateAndTime(int day, int month, int year,
                               int hour, int minute, int second) {
        LocalDate dateToSet = LocalDate.of(day, month, year);
        LocalTime timeToSet = LocalTime.of(hour, minute, second);
        dateAndTime = LocalDateTime.of(dateToSet, timeToSet);
    }
 
    public LocalDateTime getLocalDateTime() {
        return dateAndTime;
    }
 
    public String toString() {
        return dateAndTime.toString();
    }
 
    public static void main(String... args) {
        TimeClient myTimeClient = new SimpleTimeClient();
        System.out.println(myTimeClient.toString());
    }
}

Suppose that you want to add new functionality to the TimeClient interface, such as the ability to specify a time zone through a ZonedDateTime object (which is like a LocalDateTime object except that it stores time zone information):

public interface TimeClient {
    void setTime(int hour, int minute, int second);
    void setDate(int day, int month, int year);
    void setDateAndTime(int day, int month, int year,
        int hour, int minute, int second);
    LocalDateTime getLocalDateTime();                        
    ZonedDateTime getZonedDateTime(String zoneString);
}

Following this modification to the TimeClient interface, you would also have to modify the class SimpleTimeClient and implement the method getZonedDateTime. However, rather than leaving getZonedDateTime as abstract (as in the previous example), you can instead define a default implementation. (Remember that an abstract method is a method declared without an implementation.)

package defaultmethods;

import java.time.*;

public interface TimeClient {
    void setTime(int hour, int minute, int second);
    void setDate(int day, int month, int year);
    void setDateAndTime(int day, int month, int year,
                               int hour, int minute, int second);
    LocalDateTime getLocalDateTime();
 
    static ZoneId getZoneId (String zoneString) {
        try {
            return ZoneId.of(zoneString);
        } catch (DateTimeException e) {
            System.err.println("Invalid time zone: " + zoneString +
                "; using default time zone instead.");
            return ZoneId.systemDefault();
        }
    }
     
    default ZonedDateTime getZonedDateTime(String zoneString) {
        return ZonedDateTime.of(getLocalDateTime(), getZoneId(zoneString));
    }
}

You specify that a method definition in an interface is a default method with the default keyword at the beginning of the method signature. All method declarations in an interface, including default methods, are implicitly public, so you can omit the public modifier.

With this interface, you do not have to modify the class SimpleTimeClient, and this class (and any class that implements the interface TimeClient), will have the method getZonedDateTime already defined. The following example, TestSimpleTimeClient, invokes the method getZonedDateTime from an instance of SimpleTimeClient:

package defaultmethods;

import java.time.*;
import java.lang.*;
import java.util.*;

public class TestSimpleTimeClient {
    public static void main(String... args) {
        TimeClient myTimeClient = new SimpleTimeClient();
        System.out.println("Current time: " + myTimeClient.toString());
        System.out.println("Time in California: " +
            myTimeClient.getZonedDateTime("Blah blah").toString());
    }
}

Extending Interfaces That Contain Default Methods

When you extend an interface that contains a default method, you can do the following:

  • Not mention the default method at all, which lets your extended interface inherit the default method.
  • Redeclare the default method, which makes it abstract.
  • Redefine the default method, which overrides it.

Suppose that you extend the interface TimeClient as follows:

public interface AnotherTimeClient extends TimeClient { }
Any class that implements the interface AnotherTimeClient will have the implementation specified by the default method TimeClient.getZonedDateTime.

Suppose that you extend the interface TimeClient as follows:

public interface AbstractZoneTimeClient extends TimeClient {
    public ZonedDateTime getZonedDateTime(String zoneString);
}

Any class that implements the interface AbstractZoneTimeClient will have to implement the method getZonedDateTime; this method is an abstract method like all other nondefault (and nonstatic) methods in an interface.

Suppose that you extend the interface TimeClient as follows:

public interface HandleInvalidTimeZoneClient extends TimeClient {
    default public ZonedDateTime getZonedDateTime(String zoneString) {
        try {
            return ZonedDateTime.of(getLocalDateTime(),ZoneId.of(zoneString));
        } catch (DateTimeException e) {
            System.err.println("Invalid zone ID: " + zoneString +
                "; using the default time zone instead.");
            return ZonedDateTime.of(getLocalDateTime(),ZoneId.systemDefault());
        }
    }
}

Any class that implements the interface HandleInvalidTimeZoneClient will use the implementation of getZonedDateTime specified by this interface instead of the one specified by the interface TimeClient.

Static Methods

In addition to default methods, you can define static methods in interfaces. (A static method is a method that is associated with the class in which it is defined rather than with any object. Every instance of the class shares its static methods.) This makes it easier for you to organize helper methods in your libraries; you can keep static methods specific to an interface in the same interface rather than in a separate class. The following example defines a static method that retrieves a ZoneId object corresponding to a time zone identifier; it uses the system default time zone if there is no ZoneId object corresponding to the given identifier. (As a result, you can simplify the method getZonedDateTime):

public interface TimeClient {
    // ...
    static public ZoneId getZoneId (String zoneString) {
        try {
            return ZoneId.of(zoneString);
        } catch (DateTimeException e) {
            System.err.println("Invalid time zone: " + zoneString +
                "; using default time zone instead.");
            return ZoneId.systemDefault();
        }
    }

    default public ZonedDateTime getZonedDateTime(String zoneString) {
        return ZonedDateTime.of(getLocalDateTime(), getZoneId(zoneString));
    }  
}

Like static methods in classes, you specify that a method definition in an interface is a static method with the static keyword at the beginning of the method signature. All method declarations in an interface, including static methods, are implicitly public, so you can omit the public modifier.

Integrating Default Methods into Existing Libraries

Default methods enable you to add new functionality to existing interfaces and ensure binary compatibility with code written for older versions of those interfaces. In particular, default methods enable you to add methods that accept lambda expressions as parameters to existing interfaces. This section demonstrates how the Comparator interface has been enhanced with default and static methods.

Consider the Card and Deck classes as described in Questions and Exercises: Classes. This example rewrites the Card and Deck classes as interfaces. The Card interface contains two enum types (Suit and Rank) and two abstract methods (getSuit and getRank):


package defaultmethods;

public interface Card extends Comparable<Card> {
 
    public enum Suit {
        DIAMONDS (1, "Diamonds"),
        CLUBS    (2, "Clubs"   ),
        HEARTS   (3, "Hearts"  ),
        SPADES   (4, "Spades"  );
     
        private final int value;
        private final String text;
        Suit(int value, String text) {
            this.value = value;
            this.text = text;
        }
        public int value() {return value;}
        public String text() {return text;}
    }
 
    public enum Rank {
        DEUCE  (2 , "Two"  ),
        THREE  (3 , "Three"),
        FOUR   (4 , "Four" ),
        FIVE   (5 , "Five" ),
        SIX    (6 , "Six"  ),
        SEVEN  (7 , "Seven"),
        EIGHT  (8 , "Eight"),
        NINE   (9 , "Nine" ),
        TEN    (10, "Ten"  ),
        JACK   (11, "Jack" ),
        QUEEN  (12, "Queen"),
        KING   (13, "King" ),
        ACE    (14, "Ace"  );
        private final int value;
        private final String text;
        Rank(int value, String text) {
            this.value = value;
            this.text = text;
        }
        public int value() {return value;}
        public String text() {return text;}
    }
 
    public Card.Suit getSuit();
    public Card.Rank getRank();
}

The Deck interface contains various methods that manipulate cards in a deck:

package defaultmethods;

import java.util.*;
import java.util.stream.*;
import java.lang.*;

public interface Deck {
 
    List<Card> getCards();
    Deck deckFactory();
    int size();
    void addCard(Card card);
    void addCards(List<Card> cards);
    void addDeck(Deck deck);
    void shuffle();
    void sort();
    void sort(Comparator<Card> c);
    String deckToString();

    Map<Integer, Deck> deal(int players, int numberOfCards)
        throws IllegalArgumentException;

}

The class PlayingCard implements the interface Card, and the class StandardDeck implements the interface Deck.

The class StandardDeck implements the abstract method Deck.sort as follows:

public class StandardDeck implements Deck {
 
    private List<Card> entireDeck;
 
    // ...
 
    public void sort() {
        Collections.sort(entireDeck);
    }
 
    // ...
}

The method Collections.sort sorts an instance of List whose element type implements the interface Comparable. The member entireDeck is an instance of List whose elements are of the type Card, which extends Comparable. The class PlayingCard implements the Comparable.compareTo method as follows:

public int hashCode() {
    return ((suit.value()-1)*13)+rank.value();
}

public int compareTo(Card o) {
    return this.hashCode() - o.hashCode();
}

The method compareTo causes the method StandardDeck.sort() to sort the deck of cards first by suit, and then by rank.

What if you want to sort the deck first by rank, then by suit? You would need to implement the Comparator interface to specify new sorting criteria, and use the method sort(List<T> list, Comparator<? super T> c) (the version of the sort method that includes a Comparator parameter). You can define the following method in the class StandardDeck:

public void sort(Comparator<Card> c) {
    Collections.sort(entireDeck, c);
}

With this method, you can specify how the method Collections.sort sorts instances of the Card class. One way to do this is to implement the Comparator interface to specify how you want the cards sorted. The example SortByRankThenSuit does this:

package defaultmethods;

import java.util.*;
import java.util.stream.*;
import java.lang.*;

public class SortByRankThenSuit implements Comparator<Card> {
    public int compare(Card firstCard, Card secondCard) {
        int compVal =
            firstCard.getRank().value() - secondCard.getRank().value();
        if (compVal != 0)
            return compVal;
        else
            return firstCard.getSuit().value() - secondCard.getSuit().value();
    }
}

The following invocation sorts the deck of playing cards first by rank, then by suit:

StandardDeck myDeck = new StandardDeck();
myDeck.shuffle();
myDeck.sort(new SortByRankThenSuit());

However, this approach is too verbose; it would be better if you could specify what you want to sort, not how you want to sort. Suppose that you are the developer who wrote the Comparator interface. What default or static methods could you add to the Comparator interface to enable other developers to more easily specify sort criteria?

To start, suppose that you want to sort the deck of playing cards by rank, regardless of suit. You can invoke the StandardDeck.sort method as follows:

StandardDeck myDeck = new StandardDeck();
myDeck.shuffle();
myDeck.sort(
    (firstCard, secondCard) ->
        firstCard.getRank().value() - secondCard.getRank().value()
);

Because the interface Comparator is a functional interface, you can use a lambda expression as an argument for the sort method. In this example, the lambda expression compares two integer values.

It would be simpler for your developers if they could create a Comparator instance by invoking the method Card.getRank only. In particular, it would be helpful if your developers could create a Comparator instance that compares any object that can return a numerical value from a method such as getValue or hashCode. The Comparator interface has been enhanced with this ability with the static method comparing:

myDeck.sort(Comparator.comparing((card) -> card.getRank()));
In this example, you can use a method reference instead:

myDeck.sort(Comparator.comparing(Card::getRank));
This invocation better demonstrates what to sort rather than how to do it.

The Comparator interface has been enhanced with other versions of the static method comparing such as comparingDouble and comparingLong that enable you to create Comparator instances that compare other data types.

Suppose that your developers would like to create a Comparator instance that could compare objects with more than one criteria. For example, how would you sort the deck of playing cards first by rank, and then by suit? As before, you could use a lambda expression to specify these sort criteria:

StandardDeck myDeck = new StandardDeck();
myDeck.shuffle();
myDeck.sort(
    (firstCard, secondCard) -> {
        int compare =
            firstCard.getRank().value() - secondCard.getRank().value();
        if (compare != 0)
            return compare;
        else
            return firstCard.getSuit().value() - secondCard.getSuit().value();
    }    
);

It would be simpler for your developers if they could build a Comparator instance from a series of Comparator instances. The Comparator interface has been enhanced with this ability with the default method thenComparing:

myDeck.sort(
    Comparator
        .comparing(Card::getRank)
        .thenComparing(Comparator.comparing(Card::getSuit)));

The Comparator interface has been enhanced with other versions of the default method thenComparing (such as thenComparingDouble and thenComparingLong) that enable you to build Comparator instances that compare other data types.

Suppose that your developers would like to create a Comparator instance that enables them to sort a collection of objects in reverse order. For example, how would you sort the deck of playing cards first by descending order of rank, from Ace to Two (instead of from Two to Ace)? As before, you could specify another lambda expression. However, it would be simpler for your developers if they could reverse an existing Comparator by invoking a method. The Comparator interface has been enhanced with this ability with the default method reversed:

myDeck.sort(
    Comparator.comparing(Card::getRank)
        .reversed()
        .thenComparing(Comparator.comparing(Card::getSuit)));

This example demonstrates how the Comparator interface has been enhanced with default methods, static methods, lambda expressions, and method references to create more expressive library methods whose functionality programmers can quickly deduce by looking at how they are invoked. Use these constructs to enhance the interfaces in your libraries.

Answers to Questions and Exercises: Interfaces

Questions

Question 1: What methods would a class that implements the java.lang.CharSequence interface have to implement?
Answer: charAt, length, subSequence, and toString.

Question 2: What is wrong with the following interface?

public interface SomethingIsWrong {
    void aMethod(int aValue) {
        System.out.println("Hi Mom");
    }
}

Answer: It has a method implementation in it. Only default and static methods have implementations.

Question 3: Fix the interface in Question 2.
Answer:

public interface SomethingIsWrong {
    void aMethod(int aValue);
}
Alternatively, you can define aMethod as a default method:

public interface SomethingIsWrong {
    default void aMethod(int aValue) {
        System.out.println("Hi Mom");
    }
}

Question 4: Is the following interface valid?

public interface Marker {
}

Answer: Yes. Methods are not required. Empty interfaces can be used as types and to mark classes without requiring any particular method implementations. For an example of a useful empty interface, see java.io.Serializable.

Exercises

Exercise 1: Write a class that implements the CharSequence interface found in the java.lang package. Your implementation should return the string backwards. Select one of the sentences from this book to use as the data. Write a small main method to test your class; make sure to call all four methods.
Answer:

public class CharSequenceDemo implements CharSequence {
    private String s;

    public CharSequenceDemo(String s) {
        //It would be much more efficient to just reverse the string
        //in the constructor. But a lot less fun!
        this.s = s;
    }

    //If the string is backwards, the end is the beginning!
    private int fromEnd(int i) {
        return s.length() - 1 - i;
    }

    public char charAt(int i) {
        if ((i < 0) || (i >= s.length())) {
            throw new StringIndexOutOfBoundsException(i);
        }
        return s.charAt(fromEnd(i));
    }

    public int length() {
        return s.length();
    }

    public CharSequence subSequence(int start, int end) {
        if (start < 0) {
            throw new StringIndexOutOfBoundsException(start);
        }
        if (end > s.length()) {
            throw new StringIndexOutOfBoundsException(end);
        }
        if (start > end) {
            throw new StringIndexOutOfBoundsException(start - end);
        }
        StringBuilder sub = 
            new StringBuilder(s.subSequence(fromEnd(end), fromEnd(start)));
        return sub.reverse();
    }

    public String toString() {
        StringBuilder s = new StringBuilder(this.s);
        return s.reverse().toString();
    }

    //Random int from 0 to max. As random() generates values between 0 and 0.9999
    private static int random(int max) {
        return (int) Math.round(Math.random() * (max+1));
    }

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        CharSequenceDemo s =
            new CharSequenceDemo("Write a class that implements the CharSequence interface found in the java.lang package.");

        //exercise charAt() and length()
        for (int i = 0; i < s.length(); i++) {
            System.out.print(s.charAt(i));
        }
        
        System.out.println("");

        //exercise subSequence() and length();
        int start = random(s.length() - 1);
        int end = random(s.length() - 1 - start) + start;
        System.out.println(s.subSequence(start, end));

        //exercise toString();
        System.out.println(s);

    }
}

Exercise 2: Suppose that you have written a time server, which periodically notifies its clients of the current date and time. Write an interface that the server could use to enforce a particular protocol on its clients.
Answer: 

import java.time.*;

public interface TimeClient {
    void setTime(int hour, int minute, int second);
    void setDate(int day, int month, int year);
    void setDateAndTime(int day, int month, int year,
                               int hour, int minute, int second);
    LocalDateTime getLocalDateTime();

}


2. Inheritance



In the preceding lessons, you have seen inheritance mentioned several times. In the Java language, classes can be derived from other classes, thereby inheriting fields and methods from those classes.

Definitions: A class that is derived from another class is called a subclass (also a derived class, extended class, or child class). The class from which the subclass is derived is called a superclass (also a base class or a parent class).

Excepting Object, which has no superclass, every class has one and only one direct superclass (single inheritance). In the absence of any other explicit superclass, every class is implicitly a subclass of Object.

Classes can be derived from classes that are derived from classes that are derived from classes, and so on, and ultimately derived from the topmost class, Object. Such a class is said to be descended from all the classes in the inheritance chain stretching back to Object.
The idea of inheritance is simple but powerful: When you want to create a new class and there is already a class that includes some of the code that you want, you can derive your new class from the existing class. In doing this, you can reuse the fields and methods of the existing class without having to write (and debug!) them yourself.

A subclass inherits all the members (fields, methods, and nested classes) from its superclass. Constructors are not members, so they are not inherited by subclasses, but the constructor of the superclass can be invoked from the subclass.

The Java Platform Class Hierarchy

The Object class, defined in the java.lang package, defines and implements behavior common to all classes—including the ones that you write. In the Java platform, many classes derive directly from Object, other classes derive from some of those classes, and so on, forming a hierarchy of classes.

Interfaces and Inheritance

All Classes in the Java Platform are Descendants of Object

At the top of the hierarchy, Object is the most general of all classes. Classes near the bottom of the hierarchy provide more specialized behavior.

An Example of Inheritance

Here is the sample code for a possible implementation of a Bicycle class that was presented in the Classes and Objects lesson:

public class Bicycle {
        
    // the Bicycle class has three fields
    public int cadence;
    public int gear;
    public int speed;
        
    // the Bicycle class has one constructor
    public Bicycle(int startCadence, int startSpeed, int startGear) {
        gear = startGear;
        cadence = startCadence;
        speed = startSpeed;
    }
        
    // the Bicycle class has four methods
    public void setCadence(int newValue) {
        cadence = newValue;
    }
        
    public void setGear(int newValue) {
        gear = newValue;
    }
        
    public void applyBrake(int decrement) {
        speed -= decrement;
    }
        
    public void speedUp(int increment) {
        speed += increment;
    }
        
}

A class declaration for a MountainBike class that is a subclass of Bicycle might look like this:

public class MountainBike extends Bicycle {
        
    // the MountainBike subclass adds one field
    public int seatHeight;

    // the MountainBike subclass has one constructor
    public MountainBike(int startHeight,
                        int startCadence,
                        int startSpeed,
                        int startGear) {
        super(startCadence, startSpeed, startGear);
        seatHeight = startHeight;
    }   
        
    // the MountainBike subclass adds one method
    public void setHeight(int newValue) {
        seatHeight = newValue;
    }   
}

MountainBike inherits all the fields and methods of Bicycle and adds the field seatHeight and a method to set it. Except for the constructor, it is as if you had written a new MountainBike class entirely from scratch, with four fields and five methods. However, you didn't have to do all the work. This would be especially valuable if the methods in the Bicycle class were complex and had taken substantial time to debug.

What You Can Do in a Subclass

A subclass inherits all of the public and protected members of its parent, no matter what package the subclass is in. If the subclass is in the same package as its parent, it also inherits the package-private members of the parent. You can use the inherited members as is, replace them, hide them, or supplement them with new members:
  • The inherited fields can be used directly, just like any other fields.
  • You can declare a field in the subclass with the same name as the one in the superclass, thus hiding it (not recommended).
  • You can declare new fields in the subclass that are not in the superclass.
  • The inherited methods can be used directly as they are.
  • You can write a new instance method in the subclass that has the same signature as the one in the superclass, thus overriding it.
  • You can write a new static method in the subclass that has the same signature as the one in the superclass, thus hiding it.
  • You can declare new methods in the subclass that are not in the superclass.
  • You can write a subclass constructor that invokes the constructor of the superclass, either implicitly or by using the keyword super.

The following sections in this lesson will expand on these topics.

Private Members in a Superclass

A subclass does not inherit the private members of its parent class. However, if the superclass has public or protected methods for accessing its private fields, these can also be used by the subclass.

A nested class has access to all the private members of its enclosing class—both fields and methods. Therefore, a public or protected nested class inherited by a subclass has indirect access to all of the private members of the superclass.

Casting Objects

We have seen that an object is of the data type of the class from which it was instantiated. For example, if we write

public MountainBike myBike = new MountainBike();
then myBike is of type MountainBike.

MountainBike is descended from Bicycle and Object. Therefore, a MountainBike is a Bicycle and is also an Object, and it can be used wherever Bicycle or Object objects are called for.

The reverse is not necessarily true: a Bicycle may be a MountainBike, but it isn't necessarily. Similarly, an Object may be a Bicycle or a MountainBike, but it isn't necessarily.

Casting shows the use of an object of one type in place of another type, among the objects permitted by inheritance and implementations. For example, if we write

Object obj = new MountainBike();

then obj is both an Object and a MountainBike (until such time as obj is assigned another object that is not a MountainBike). This is called implicit casting.

If, on the other hand, we write

MountainBike myBike = obj;

we would get a compile-time error because obj is not known to the compiler to be a MountainBike. However, we can tell the compiler that we promise to assign a MountainBike to obj by explicit casting:

MountainBike myBike = (MountainBike)obj;

This cast inserts a runtime check that obj is assigned a MountainBike so that the compiler can safely assume that obj is a MountainBike. If obj is not a MountainBike at runtime, an exception will be thrown.

Note: You can make a logical test as to the type of a particular object using the instanceof operator. This can save you from a runtime error owing to an improper cast. For example:

if (obj instanceof MountainBike) {
    MountainBike myBike = (MountainBike)obj;
}

Here the instanceof operator verifies that obj refers to a MountainBike so that we can make the cast with knowledge that there will be no runtime exception thrown.

Multiple Inheritance of State, Implementation, and Type

One significant difference between classes and interfaces is that classes can have fields whereas interfaces cannot. In addition, you can instantiate a class to create an object, which you cannot do with interfaces. As explained in the section What Is an Object?, an object stores its state in fields, which are defined in classes. One reason why the Java programming language does not permit you to extend more than one class is to avoid the issues of multiple inheritance of state, which is the ability to inherit fields from multiple classes. For example, suppose that you are able to define a new class that extends multiple classes. When you create an object by instantiating that class, that object will inherit fields from all of the class's superclasses. What if methods or constructors from different superclasses instantiate the same field? Which method or constructor will take precedence? Because interfaces do not contain fields, you do not have to worry about problems that result from multiple inheritance of state.

Multiple inheritance of implementation is the ability to inherit method definitions from multiple classes. Problems arise with this type of multiple inheritance, such as name conflicts and ambiguity. When compilers of programming languages that support this type of multiple inheritance encounter superclasses that contain methods with the same name, they sometimes cannot determine which member or method to access or invoke. In addition, a programmer can unwittingly introduce a name conflict by adding a new method to a superclass. Default methods introduce one form of multiple inheritance of implementation. A class can implement more than one interface, which can contain default methods that have the same name. The Java compiler provides some rules to determine which default method a particular class uses.

The Java programming language supports multiple inheritance of type, which is the ability of a class to implement more than one interface. An object can have multiple types: the type of its own class and the types of all the interfaces that the class implements. This means that if a variable is declared to be the type of an interface, then its value can reference any object that is instantiated from any class that implements the interface. This is discussed in the section Using an Interface as a Type.

As with multiple inheritance of implementation, a class can inherit different implementations of a method defined (as default or static) in the interfaces that it extends. In this case, the compiler or the user must decide which one to use.

Overriding and Hiding Methods

Instance Methods

An instance method in a subclass with the same signature (name, plus the number and the type of its parameters) and return type as an instance method in the superclass overrides the superclass's method.

The ability of a subclass to override a method allows a class to inherit from a superclass whose behavior is "close enough" and then to modify behavior as needed. The overriding method has the same name, number and type of parameters, and return type as the method that it overrides. An overriding method can also return a subtype of the type returned by the overridden method. This subtype is called a covariant return type.

When overriding a method, you might want to use the @Override annotation that instructs the compiler that you intend to override a method in the superclass. If, for some reason, the compiler detects that the method does not exist in one of the superclasses, then it will generate an error. For more information on @Override, see Annotations.

Static Methods

If a subclass defines a static method with the same signature as a static method in the superclass, then the method in the subclass hides the one in the superclass.

The distinction between hiding a static method and overriding an instance method has important implications:
  • The version of the overridden instance method that gets invoked is the one in the subclass.
  • The version of the hidden static method that gets invoked depends on whether it is invoked from the superclass or the subclass.

Consider an example that contains two classes. The first is Animal, which contains one instance method and one static method:

public class Animal {
    public static void testClassMethod() {
        System.out.println("The static method in Animal");
    }
    public void testInstanceMethod() {
        System.out.println("The instance method in Animal");
    }
}

The second class, a subclass of Animal, is called Cat:

public class Cat extends Animal {
    public static void testClassMethod() {
        System.out.println("The static method in Cat");
    }
    public void testInstanceMethod() {
        System.out.println("The instance method in Cat");
    }

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Cat myCat = new Cat();
        Animal myAnimal = myCat;
        Animal.testClassMethod();
        myAnimal.testInstanceMethod();
    }
}

The Cat class overrides the instance method in Animal and hides the static method in Animal. The main method in this class creates an instance of Cat and invokes testClassMethod() on the class and testInstanceMethod() on the instance.

The output from this program is as follows:

The static method in Animal
The instance method in Cat
As promised, the version of the hidden static method that gets invoked is the one in the superclass, and the version of the overridden instance method that gets invoked is the one in the subclass.

Interface Methods

Default methods and abstract methods in interfaces are inherited like instance methods. However, when the supertypes of a class or interface provide multiple default methods with the same signature, the Java compiler follows inheritance rules to resolve the name conflict. These rules are driven by the following two principles:

Instance methods are preferred over interface default methods.

Consider the following classes and interfaces:

public class Horse {
    public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am a horse.";
    }
}
public interface Flyer {
    default public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am able to fly.";
    }
}
public interface Mythical {
    default public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am a mythical creature.";
    }
}
public class Pegasus extends Horse implements Flyer, Mythical {
    public static void main(String... args) {
        Pegasus myApp = new Pegasus();
        System.out.println(myApp.identifyMyself());
    }
}

The method Pegasus.identifyMyself returns the string I am a horse.
  • Methods that are already overridden by other candidates are ignored. This circumstance can arise when supertypes share a common ancestor.

Consider the following interfaces and classes:

public interface Animal {
    default public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am an animal.";
    }
}
public interface EggLayer extends Animal {
    default public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am able to lay eggs.";
    }
}
public interface FireBreather extends Animal { }
public class Dragon implements EggLayer, FireBreather {
    public static void main (String... args) {
        Dragon myApp = new Dragon();
        System.out.println(myApp.identifyMyself());
    }
}

The method Dragon.identifyMyself returns the string I am able to lay eggs.

If two or more independently defined default methods conflict, or a default method conflicts with an abstract method, then the Java compiler produces a compiler error. You must explicitly override the supertype methods.

Consider the example about computer-controlled cars that can now fly. You have two interfaces (OperateCar and FlyCar) that provide default implementations for the same method, (startEngine):

public interface OperateCar {
    // ...
    default public int startEngine(EncryptedKey key) {
        // Implementation
    }
}
public interface FlyCar {
    // ...
    default public int startEngine(EncryptedKey key) {
        // Implementation
    }
}

A class that implements both OperateCar and FlyCar must override the method startEngine. You could invoke any of the of the default implementations with the super keyword.

public class FlyingCar implements OperateCar, FlyCar {
    // ...
    public int startEngine(EncryptedKey key) {
        FlyCar.super.startEngine(key);
        OperateCar.super.startEngine(key);
    }
}

The name preceding super (in this example, FlyCar or OperateCar) must refer to a direct superinterface that defines or inherits a default for the invoked method. This form of method invocation is not restricted to differentiating between multiple implemented interfaces that contain default methods with the same signature. You can use the super keyword to invoke a default method in both classes and interfaces.

Inherited instance methods from classes can override abstract interface methods. Consider the following interfaces and classes:

public interface Mammal {
    String identifyMyself();
}
public class Horse {
    public String identifyMyself() {
        return "I am a horse.";
    }
}
public class Mustang extends Horse implements Mammal {
    public static void main(String... args) {
        Mustang myApp = new Mustang();
        System.out.println(myApp.identifyMyself());
    }
}

The method Mustang.identifyMyself returns the string I am a horse. The class Mustang inherits the method identifyMyself from the class Horse, which overrides the abstract method of the same name in the interface Mammal.

Note: Static methods in interfaces are never inherited.

Modifiers

The access specifier for an overriding method can allow more, but not less, access than the overridden method. For example, a protected instance method in the superclass can be made public, but not private, in the subclass.

You will get a compile-time error if you attempt to change an instance method in the superclass to a static method in the subclass, and vice versa.

Polymorphism

The dictionary definition of polymorphism refers to a principle in biology in which an organism or species can have many different forms or stages. This principle can also be applied to object-oriented programming and languages like the Java language. Subclasses of a class can define their own unique behaviors and yet share some of the same functionality of the parent class.

Polymorphism can be demonstrated with a minor modification to the Bicycle class. For example, a printDescription method could be added to the class that displays all the data currently stored in an instance.

public void printDescription(){
    System.out.println("\nBike is " + "in gear " + this.gear
        + " with a cadence of " + this.cadence +
        " and travelling at a speed of " + this.speed + ". ");
}

To demonstrate polymorphic features in the Java language, extend the Bicycle class with a MountainBike and a RoadBike class. For MountainBike, add a field for suspension, which is a String value that indicates if the bike has a front shock absorber, Front. Or, the bike has a front and back shock absorber, Dual.

Here is the updated class:

public class MountainBike extends Bicycle {
    private String suspension;

    public MountainBike(
               int startCadence,
               int startSpeed,
               int startGear,
               String suspensionType){
        super(startCadence,
              startSpeed,
              startGear);
        this.setSuspension(suspensionType);
    }

    public String getSuspension(){
      return this.suspension;
    }

    public void setSuspension(String suspensionType) {
        this.suspension = suspensionType;
    }

    public void printDescription() {
        super.printDescription();
        System.out.println("The " + "MountainBike has a" +
            getSuspension() + " suspension.");
    }

Note the overridden printDescription method. In addition to the information provided before, additional data about the suspension is included to the output.

Next, create the RoadBike class. Because road or racing bikes have skinny tires, add an attribute to track the tire width. Here is the RoadBike class:

public class RoadBike extends Bicycle{
    // In millimeters (mm)
    private int tireWidth;

    public RoadBike(int startCadence,
                    int startSpeed,
                    int startGear,
                    int newTireWidth){
        super(startCadence,
              startSpeed,
              startGear);
        this.setTireWidth(newTireWidth);
    }

    public int getTireWidth(){
      return this.tireWidth;
    }

    public void setTireWidth(int newTireWidth){
        this.tireWidth = newTireWidth;
    }

    public void printDescription(){
        super.printDescription();
        System.out.println("The RoadBike" + " has " + getTireWidth() +
            " MM tires.");
    }
}

Note that once again, the printDescription method has been overridden. This time, information about the tire width is displayed.

To summarize, there are three classes: Bicycle, MountainBike, and RoadBike. The two subclasses override the printDescription method and print unique information.

Here is a test program that creates three Bicycle variables. Each variable is assigned to one of the three bicycle classes. Each variable is then printed.

public class TestBikes {
  public static void main(String[] args){
    Bicycle bike01, bike02, bike03;

    bike01 = new Bicycle(20, 10, 1);
    bike02 = new MountainBike(20, 10, 5, "Dual");
    bike03 = new RoadBike(40, 20, 8, 23);

    bike01.printDescription();
    bike02.printDescription();
    bike03.printDescription();
  }
}

The following is the output from the test program:

Bike is in gear 1 with a cadence of 20 and travelling at a speed of 10. 

Bike is in gear 5 with a cadence of 20 and travelling at a speed of 10. 
The MountainBike has a Dual suspension.

Bike is in gear 8 with a cadence of 40 and travelling at a speed of 20. 
The RoadBike has 23 MM tires.

The Java virtual machine (JVM) calls the appropriate method for the object that is referred to in each variable. It does not call the method that is defined by the variable's type. This behavior is referred to as virtual method invocation and demonstrates an aspect of the important polymorphism features in the Java language.

Hiding Fields

Within a class, a field that has the same name as a field in the superclass hides the superclass's field, even if their types are different. Within the subclass, the field in the superclass cannot be referenced by its simple name. Instead, the field must be accessed through super, which is covered in the next section. Generally speaking, we don't recommend hiding fields as it makes code difficult to read.

Using the Keyword super

Accessing Superclass Members

If your method overrides one of its superclass's methods, you can invoke the overridden method through the use of the keyword super. You can also use super to refer to a hidden field (although hiding fields is discouraged). Consider this class, Superclass:

public class Superclass {

    public void printMethod() {
        System.out.println("Printed in Superclass.");
    }
}

Here is a subclass, called Subclass, that overrides printMethod():

public class Subclass extends Superclass {

    // overrides printMethod in Superclass
    public void printMethod() {
        super.printMethod();
        System.out.println("Printed in Subclass");
    }
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Subclass s = new Subclass();
        s.printMethod();    
    }
}

Within Subclass, the simple name printMethod() refers to the one declared in Subclass, which overrides the one in Superclass. So, to refer to printMethod() inherited from Superclass, Subclass must use a qualified name, using super as shown. Compiling and executing Subclass prints the following:

Printed in Superclass.
Printed in Subclass

Subclass Constructors

The following example illustrates how to use the super keyword to invoke a superclass's constructor. Recall from the Bicycle example that MountainBike is a subclass of Bicycle. Here is the MountainBike (subclass) constructor that calls the superclass constructor and then adds initialization code of its own:

public MountainBike(int startHeight, 
                    int startCadence,
                    int startSpeed,
                    int startGear) {
    super(startCadence, startSpeed, startGear);
    seatHeight = startHeight;
}   

Invocation of a superclass constructor must be the first line in the subclass constructor.

The syntax for calling a superclass constructor is

super();  
or:
super(parameter list);
With super(), the superclass no-argument constructor is called. With super(parameter list), the superclass constructor with a matching parameter list is called.

Note: If a constructor does not explicitly invoke a superclass constructor, the Java compiler automatically inserts a call to the no-argument constructor of the superclass. If the super class does not have a no-argument constructor, you will get a compile-time error. Object does have such a constructor, so if Object is the only superclass, there is no problem.
If a subclass constructor invokes a constructor of its superclass, either explicitly or implicitly, you might think that there will be a whole chain of constructors called, all the way back to the constructor of Object. In fact, this is the case. It is called constructor chaining, and you need to be aware of it when there is a long line of class descent.

Object as a Superclass

The Object class, in the java.lang package, sits at the top of the class hierarchy tree. Every class is a descendant, direct or indirect, of the Object class. Every class you use or write inherits the instance methods of Object. You need not use any of these methods, but, if you choose to do so, you may need to override them with code that is specific to your class. The methods inherited from Object that are discussed in this section are:
  • protected Object clone() throws CloneNotSupportedException

      Creates and returns a copy of this object.
  • public boolean equals(Object obj)

      Indicates whether some other object is "equal to" this one.
  • protected void finalize() throws Throwable

      Called by the garbage collector on an object when garbage
      collection determines that there are no more references to the object
  • public final Class getClass()

      Returns the runtime class of an object.
  • public int hashCode()

      Returns a hash code value for the object.
  • public String toString()

      Returns a string representation of the object.

The notify, notifyAll, and wait methods of Object all play a part in synchronizing the activities of independently running threads in a program, which is discussed in a later lesson and won't be covered here. There are five of these methods:
  • public final void notify()
  • public final void notifyAll()
  • public final void wait()
  • public final void wait(long timeout)
  • public final void wait(long timeout, int nanos)

Note: There are some subtle aspects to a number of these methods, especially the clone method.

The clone() Method

If a class, or one of its superclasses, implements the Cloneable interface, you can use the clone() method to create a copy from an existing object. To create a clone, you write:

aCloneableObject.clone();

Object's implementation of this method checks to see whether the object on which clone() was invoked implements the Cloneable interface. If the object does not, the method throws a CloneNotSupportedException exception. Exception handling will be covered in a later lesson. For the moment, you need to know that clone() must be declared as

protected Object clone() throws CloneNotSupportedException
or:

public Object clone() throws CloneNotSupportedException
if you are going to write a clone() method to override the one in Object.

If the object on which clone() was invoked does implement the Cloneable interface, Object's implementation of the clone() method creates an object of the same class as the original object and initializes the new object's member variables to have the same values as the original object's corresponding member variables.

The simplest way to make your class cloneable is to add implements Cloneable to your class's declaration. then your objects can invoke the clone() method.

For some classes, the default behavior of Object's clone() method works just fine. If, however, an object contains a reference to an external object, say ObjExternal, you may need to override clone() to get correct behavior. Otherwise, a change in ObjExternal made by one object will be visible in its clone also. This means that the original object and its clone are not independent—to decouple them, you must override clone() so that it clones the object and ObjExternal. Then the original object references ObjExternal and the clone references a clone of ObjExternal, so that the object and its clone are truly independent.

The equals() Method

The equals() method compares two objects for equality and returns true if they are equal. The equals() method provided in the Object class uses the identity operator (==) to determine whether two objects are equal. For primitive data types, this gives the correct result. For objects, however, it does not. The equals() method provided by Object tests whether the object references are equal—that is, if the objects compared are the exact same object.

To test whether two objects are equal in the sense of equivalency (containing the same information), you must override the equals() method. Here is an example of a Book class that overrides equals():

public class Book {
    ...
    public boolean equals(Object obj) {
        if (obj instanceof Book)
            return ISBN.equals((Book)obj.getISBN()); 
        else
            return false;
    }
}

Consider this code that tests two instances of the Book class for equality:

// Swing Tutorial, 2nd edition
Book firstBook  = new Book("0201914670");
Book secondBook = new Book("0201914670");
if (firstBook.equals(secondBook)) {
    System.out.println("objects are equal");
} else {
    System.out.println("objects are not equal");
}

This program displays objects are equal even though firstBook and secondBook reference two distinct objects. They are considered equal because the objects compared contain the same ISBN number.

You should always override the equals() method if the identity operator is not appropriate for your class.

Note: If you override equals(), you must override hashCode() as well.

The finalize() Method

The Object class provides a callback method, finalize(), that may be invoked on an object when it becomes garbage. Object's implementation of finalize() does nothing—you can override finalize() to do cleanup, such as freeing resources.

The finalize() method may be called automatically by the system, but when it is called, or even if it is called, is uncertain. Therefore, you should not rely on this method to do your cleanup for you. For example, if you don't close file descriptors in your code after performing I/O and you expect finalize() to close them for you, you may run out of file descriptors.

The getClass() Method

You cannot override getClass.

The getClass() method returns a Class object, which has methods you can use to get information about the class, such as its name (getSimpleName()), its superclass (getSuperclass()), and the interfaces it implements (getInterfaces()). For example, the following method gets and displays the class name of an object:

void printClassName(Object obj) {
    System.out.println("The object's" + " class is " +
        obj.getClass().getSimpleName());
}

The Class class, in the java.lang package, has a large number of methods (more than 50). For example, you can test to see if the class is an annotation (isAnnotation()), an interface (isInterface()), or an enumeration (isEnum()). You can see what the object's fields are (getFields()) or what its methods are (getMethods()), and so on.

The hashCode() Method

The value returned by hashCode() is the object's hash code, which is the object's memory address in hexadecimal.

By definition, if two objects are equal, their hash code must also be equal. If you override the equals() method, you change the way two objects are equated and Object's implementation of hashCode() is no longer valid. Therefore, if you override the equals() method, you must also override the hashCode() method as well.

The toString() Method

You should always consider overriding the toString() method in your classes.

The Object's toString() method returns a String representation of the object, which is very useful for debugging. The String representation for an object depends entirely on the object, which is why you need to override toString() in your classes.

You can use toString() along with System.out.println() to display a text representation of an object, such as an instance of Book:

System.out.println(firstBook.toString());

which would, for a properly overridden toString() method, print something useful, like this:

ISBN: 0201914670; The Swing Tutorial; A Guide to Constructing GUIs, 2nd Edition

Writing Final Classes and Methods

You can declare some or all of a class's methods final. You use the final keyword in a method declaration to indicate that the method cannot be overridden by subclasses. The Object class does this—a number of its methods are final.

You might wish to make a method final if it has an implementation that should not be changed and it is critical to the consistent state of the object. For example, you might want to make the getFirstPlayer method in this ChessAlgorithm class final:

class ChessAlgorithm {
    enum ChessPlayer { WHITE, BLACK }
    ...
    final ChessPlayer getFirstPlayer() {
        return ChessPlayer.WHITE;
    }
    ...
}

Methods called from constructors should generally be declared final. If a constructor calls a non-final method, a subclass may redefine that method with surprising or undesirable results.

Note that you can also declare an entire class final. A class that is declared final cannot be subclassed. This is particularly useful, for example, when creating an immutable class like the String class.

Abstract Methods and Classes

An abstract class is a class that is declared abstract—it may or may not include abstract methods. Abstract classes cannot be instantiated, but they can be subclassed.

An abstract method is a method that is declared without an implementation (without braces, and followed by a semicolon), like this:

abstract void moveTo(double deltaX, double deltaY);

If a class includes abstract methods, then the class itself must be declared abstract, as in:

public abstract class GraphicObject {
   // declare fields
   // declare nonabstract methods
   abstract void draw();
}

When an abstract class is subclassed, the subclass usually provides implementations for all of the abstract methods in its parent class. However, if it does not, then the subclass must also be declared abstract.

Note: Methods in an interface  that are not declared as default or static are implicitly abstract, so the abstract modifier is not used with interface methods. (It can be used, but it is unnecessary.)

Abstract Classes Compared to Interfaces

Abstract classes are similar to interfaces. You cannot instantiate them, and they may contain a mix of methods declared with or without an implementation. However, with abstract classes, you can declare fields that are not static and final, and define public, protected, and private concrete methods. With interfaces, all fields are automatically public, static, and final, and all methods that you declare or define (as default methods) are public. In addition, you can extend only one class, whether or not it is abstract, whereas you can implement any number of interfaces.

Which should you use, abstract classes or interfaces?
  • Consider using abstract classes if any of these statements apply to your situation:
    • You want to share code among several closely related classes.
    • You expect that classes that extend your abstract class have many common methods or fields, or require access modifiers other than public (such as protected and private).
    • You want to declare non-static or non-final fields. This enables you to define methods that can access and modify the state of the object to which they belong.
  • Consider using interfaces if any of these statements apply to your situation:
    • You expect that unrelated classes would implement your interface. For example, the interfaces Comparable and Cloneable are implemented by many unrelated classes.
    • You want to specify the behavior of a particular data type, but not concerned about who implements its behavior.
    • You want to take advantage of multiple inheritance of type.

An example of an abstract class in the JDK is AbstractMap, which is part of the Collections Framework. Its subclasses (which include HashMap, TreeMap, and ConcurrentHashMap) share many methods (including get, put, isEmpty, containsKey, and containsValue) that AbstractMap defines.

An example of a class in the JDK that implements several interfaces is HashMap, which implements the interfaces Serializable, Cloneable, and Map<K, V>. By reading this list of interfaces, you can infer that an instance of HashMap (regardless of the developer or company who implemented the class) can be cloned, is serializable (which means that it can be converted into a byte stream; see the section Serializable Objects), and has the functionality of a map. In addition, the Map<K, V> interface has been enhanced with many default methods such as merge and forEach that older classes that have implemented this interface do not have to define.

Note that many software libraries use both abstract classes and interfaces; the HashMap class implements several interfaces and also extends the abstract class AbstractMap.

An Abstract Class Example

In an object-oriented drawing application, you can draw circles, rectangles, lines, Bezier curves, and many other graphic objects. These objects all have certain states (for example: position, orientation, line color, fill color) and behaviors (for example: moveTo, rotate, resize, draw) in common. Some of these states and behaviors are the same for all graphic objects (for example: position, fill color, and moveTo). Others require different implementations (for example, resize or draw). All GraphicObjects must be able to draw or resize themselves; they just differ in how they do it. This is a perfect situation for an abstract superclass. You can take advantage of the similarities and declare all the graphic objects to inherit from the same abstract parent object (for example, GraphicObject) as shown in the following figure.


Classes Rectangle, Line, Bezier, and Circle Inherit from GraphicObject

First, you declare an abstract class, GraphicObject, to provide member variables and methods that are wholly shared by all subclasses, such as the current position and the moveTo method. GraphicObject also declares abstract methods for methods, such as draw or resize, that need to be implemented by all subclasses but must be implemented in different ways. The GraphicObject class can look something like this:

abstract class GraphicObject {
    int x, y;
    ...
    void moveTo(int newX, int newY) {
        ...
    }
    abstract void draw();
    abstract void resize();
}

Each nonabstract subclass of GraphicObject, such as Circle and Rectangle, must provide implementations for the draw and resize methods:

class Circle extends GraphicObject {
    void draw() {
        ...
    }
    void resize() {
        ...
    }
}
class Rectangle extends GraphicObject {
    void draw() {
        ...
    }
    void resize() {
        ...
    }
}

When an Abstract Class Implements an Interface

In the section on Interfaces, it was noted that a class that implements an interface must implement all of the interface's methods. It is possible, however, to define a class that does not implement all of the interface's methods, provided that the class is declared to be abstract. For example,

abstract class X implements Y {
  // implements all but one method of Y
}

class XX extends X {
  // implements the remaining method in Y
}
In this case, class X must be abstract because it does not fully implement Y, but class XX does, in fact, implement Y.

Class Members

An abstract class may have static fields and static methods. You can use these static members with a class reference (for example, AbstractClass.staticMethod()) as you would with any other class.

Answers to Questions and Exercises: Inheritance

Questions

Question 1: Consider the following two classes:

public class ClassA {
    public void methodOne(int i) {
    }
    public void methodTwo(int i) {
    }
    public static void methodThree(int i) {
    }
    public static void methodFour(int i) {
    }
}

public class ClassB extends ClassA {
    public static void methodOne(int i) {
    }
    public void methodTwo(int i) {
    }
    public void methodThree(int i) {
    }
    public static void methodFour(int i) {
    }
}

Question a: Which method overrides a method in the superclass?
Answer a: methodTwo

Question b: Which method hides a method in the superclass?
Answer b: methodFour

Question c: What do the other methods do?
Answer c: They cause compile-time errors.

Question 2: Consider the Card, Deck, and DisplayDeck classes you wrote in the previous exercise. What Object methods should each of these classes override?
Answer: Card and Deck should override equals, hashCode, and toString.

Exercises

Exercise 1: Write the implementations for the methods that you answered in question 2.
Answer : 

public class Card2 {
    private int rank;
    private int suit;

    public final static int DIAMONDS = 1;
    public final static int CLUBS = 2;
    public final static int HEARTS = 3;
    public final static int SPADES = 4;

    public final static int ACE = 1;
    public final static int DEUCE = 2;
    public final static int THREE = 3;
    public final static int FOUR = 4;
    public final static int FIVE = 5;
    public final static int SIX = 6;
    public final static int SEVEN = 7;
    public final static int EIGHT = 8;
    public final static int NINE = 9;
    public final static int TEN = 10;
    public final static int JACK = 11;
    public final static int QUEEN = 12;
    public final static int KING = 13;

    public Card2(int rank, int suit) {
        this.rank = rank;
        this.suit = suit;
    }

    public int getSuit() {
        return suit;
    }

    public int getRank() {
        return rank;
    }

    public static boolean isValidRank(int rank) {
        return ACE <= rank && rank <= KING;
    }

    public static boolean isValidSuit(int suit) {
        return DIAMONDS <= suit && suit <= SPADES;
    }

    public boolean equals(Object obj) {
        if (obj instanceof Card2) {
            if (((Card2)obj).getRank() == this.rank &&
                ((Card2)obj).getSuit() == this.suit) {
                return true;
            } else {
                return false;
            }
        } else {
            return false;
        }
    }

    public int hashCode() {
        return ((suit-1)*13)+rank;
    }

    public String toString() {
        return rankToString(this.rank) + " of "
               + suitToString(this.suit);
    }

    public static String rankToString(int rank) {
        switch (rank) {
            case ACE:
                return "Ace";
            case DEUCE:
                return "Deuce";
            case THREE:
                return "Three";
            case FOUR: 
                return "Four";
            case FIVE:
                return "Five";
            case SIX:
                return "Six";
            case SEVEN:
                return "Seven";
            case EIGHT:
                return "Eight";
            case NINE:
                return "Nine";
            case TEN:
                return "Ten";
            case JACK:
                return "Jack";
            case QUEEN:
                return "Queen";
            case KING:
                return "King";
            default:
                //Handle an illegal argument.  There are generally two ways
                //to handle invalid arguments, throwing an exception (see
                //the section on Handling Exceptions):
                throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid rank " + rank);
                //or
                //return null;
        }
    }

    public static String suitToString(int suit) {
        String result = "";
        switch (suit) {
            case DIAMONDS:
                return "Diamonds";
            case CLUBS:
                return "Clubs";
            case HEARTS:
                return "Hearts";
            case SPADES:
                return "Spades";
            default:
                throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid suit " + suit);
        }
    }

    public static void main(String... args) {
        new Card2(ACE, DIAMONDS);
        new Card2(KING, SPADES);
    }
}

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