Introduction to Java programming, Part 2: Constructs for real-world applications

More-advanced Java language features

In Part 1 of this tutorial, professional Java™ programmer J. Steven Perry introduced the Java language syntax and libraries you need to write simple Java applications. Part 2, still geared toward developers new to Java application development, introduces the more-sophisticated programming constructs required for building complex, real-world Java applications. Topics covered include exception handling, inheritance and abstraction, regular expressions, generics, Java I/O, and Java serialization.

J Steven Perry, Principal Consultant, Makoto Consulting Group, Inc.

Photo of J Steven PerryJ. Steven Perry is a software developer, architect, and general Java nut who has been developing software professionally since 1991. His professional interests range from the inner workings of the JVM to UML modeling and everything in between. Steve has a passion for writing and mentoring; he is the author of Java Management Extensions (O'Reilly), Log4j (O'Reilly), and the IBM developerWorks articles "Joda-Time" and OpenID for Java Web applications." In his spare time, he hangs out with his three kids, rides his bike, and teaches yoga.



19 August 2010

Also available in Russian Portuguese Spanish

Before you begin

Find out what to expect from this tutorial and how to get the most out of it.

About this series

The two-part "Introduction to Java programming" tutorial is intended to get software developers new to Java technology up and running with object-oriented programming (OOP) and real-world application development using the Java language and platform.

About this tutorial

This second half of the "Introduction to Java programming" tutorial introduces capabilities of the Java language that are more sophisticated than those covered in Part 1.

Objectives

The Java language is mature and sophisticated enough to help you accomplish nearly any programming task. In this tutorial, you'll be introduced to features of the Java language that you will need to handle complex programming scenarios, including:

  • Exception handling
  • Inheritance and abstraction
  • Interfaces
  • Nested classes
  • Regular expressions
  • Generics
  • enum types
  • I/O
  • Serialization

Prerequisites

Develop skills on this topic

This content is part of a progressive knowledge path for advancing your skills. See Become a Java developer

The content of this tutorial is geared toward programmers new to the Java language who are unfamiliar with its more-sophisticated features. The tutorial assumes that you have worked through "Introduction to Java programming, Part 1: Java language basics" in order to:

  • Gain an understanding of the basics of OOP on the Java platform.
  • Set up the development environment for the tutorial examples.
  • Begin the programming project that you will continue developing in Part 2.

System requirements

The exercises in this tutorial require a development environment consisting of:

  • JDK 6 from Sun/Oracle
  • Eclipse IDE for Java Developers

Download and installation instructions for both are included in Part 1.

The recommended system configuration for this tutorial is:

  • A system supporting JDK 6 with at least 1GB of main memory. Java 6 is supported on Linux®, Windows®, and Solaris®.
  • At least 20MB of disk space to install the software components and examples covered.

Next steps with objects

Part 1 of this tutorial left off with a Person object that was reasonably useful, but not as useful as it could be. Here you will begin learning about techniques to enhance an object like Person, starting with the following techniques:

  • Overloading methods
  • Overriding methods
  • Comparing one object with another
  • Making your code easier to debug

Overloading methods

When you create two methods with the same name but with different argument lists (that is, different numbers or types of parameters), you have an overloaded method. Overloaded methods are always in the same class. At run time, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE; also known as the Java runtime) decides which variation of your overloaded method to call based on the arguments that have been passed to it.

Suppose that Person needs a couple of methods to print an audit of its current state. I'll call those methods printAudit(). Paste the overloaded method in Listing 1 into the Eclipse editor view:

Listing 1. printAudit(): An overloaded method
public void printAudit(StringBuilder buffer) {
  buffer.append("Name="); buffer.append(getName());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("Age="); buffer.append(getAge());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("Height="); buffer.append(getHeight());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("Weight="); buffer.append(getWeight());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("EyeColor="); buffer.append(getEyeColor());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("Gender="); buffer.append(getGender());
}
public void printAudit(Logger l) {
  StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
  printAudit(sb);
  l.info(sb.toString());
}

In this case, you have two overloaded versions of printAudit(), and one actually uses the other. By providing two versions, you give the caller a choice of how to print an audit of the class. Depending on the parameters that are passed, the Java runtime will call the correct method.

Two rules of method overloading

Remember these two important rules when using overloaded methods:

  • You can't overload a method just by changing its return type.
  • You can't have two methods with the same parameter list.

If you violate these rules, the compiler will give you an error.

Overriding methods

When a subclass of another class provides its own implementation of a method defined on a parent class, that's called method overriding. In order to see how method overriding is useful, you need to do some work on your Employee class. Once you have it set up, I'll be able to show you where method overriding comes in handy.

Employee: A subclass of Person

Recall from Part 1 of this tutorial that Employee might be a subclass (or child) of Person that has some additional attributes:

  • Taxpayer identification number
  • Employee number
  • Hire date
  • Salary

To declare such a class in a file called Employee.java, right-click the com.makotogroup.intro package in Eclipse. Choose New > Class..., and the New Java Class dialog box will open, as shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1. New Java Class dialog
New Java Class dialog in Project Explorer.

Type Employee as the name of the class and Person as its superclass, then click Finish. You will see the Employee class in an edit window. You don't explicitly need to declare a constructor, but go ahead and implement both constructors anyway. First, make sure the Employee class edit window has the focus, then go to Source > Generate Constructors from Superclass..., and you'll see a dialog that looks like Figure 2:

Figure 2. Generate Constructors from Superclass dialog
The project path to create a constructor.

Check both constructors (as shown in Figure 2), and click OK. Eclipse will generate the constructors for you. You should now have an Employee class like the one in Listing 2:

Listing 2. The new, improved Employee class
package com.makotogroup.intro;

public class Employee extends Person {

  public Employee() {
    super();
    // TODO Auto-generated constructor stub
  }

  public Employee(String name, int age, int height, int weight,
                  String eyeColor, String gender) {
    super(name, age, height, weight, eyeColor, gender);
    // TODO Auto-generated constructor stub
  }

}

Employee inherits from Person

Employee inherits the attributes and behavior of its parent, Person, and also has some of its own, as you can see in Listing 3:

Listing 3. The Employee class with Person's attributes
package com.makotogroup.intro;


import java.math.BigDecimal;

public class Employee extends Person {

  private String taxpayerIdentificationNumber;
  private String employeeNumber;
  private BigDecimal salary;

  public Employee() {
    super();
  }
  public String getTaxpayerIdentificationNumber() {
    return taxpayerIdentificationNumber;
  }
  public void setTaxpayerIdentificationNumber(String taxpayerIdentificationNumber) {
    this.taxpayerIdentificationNumber = taxpayerIdentificationNumber;
  }
  // Other getter/setters...
}

Method overriding: printAudit()

Now, as promised, you're ready for an exercise in overriding methods. You'll override the printAudit() method (see Listing 1) that you used to format the current state of a Person instance. Employee inherits that behavior from Person, and if you instantiate Employee, set its attributes, and invoke one of the overloads of printAudit(), the call will succeed. However, the audit that is produced won't fully represent an Employee. The problem is that it cannot format the attributes specific to an Employee, because Person doesn't know about them.

The solution is to override the overload of printAudit() that takes a StringBuilder as a parameter and add code to print the attributes specific to Employee.

To do this in your Eclipse IDE, go to Source > Override/Implement Methods..., and you'll see a dialog box that looks like Figure 3:

Figure 3. Override/Implement Methods dialog
Override/Implement Methods dialog box.

Select the StringBuilder overload of printAudit, as shown in Figure 3, and click OK. Eclipse will generate the method stub for you, and then you can just fill in the rest, like so:

@Override
public void printAudit(StringBuilder buffer) {
  // Call the superclass version of this method first to get its attribute values
  super.printAudit(buffer);
  // Now format this instance's values
  buffer.append("TaxpayerIdentificationNumber=");
    buffer.append(getTaxpayerIdentificationNumber());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("EmployeeNumber=");
    buffer.append(getEmployeeNumber());
  buffer.append(","); buffer.append("Salary=");
    buffer.append(getSalary().setScale(2).toPlainString());
}

Notice the call to super.printAudit(). What you're doing here is asking the (Person) superclass to exhibit its behavior for printAudit(), and then you augment it with Employee-type printAudit() behavior.

The call to super.printAudit() doesn't need to be first; it just seemed like a good idea to print those attributes first. In fact, you don't need to call super.printAudit() at all. If you don't call it, you must either format the attributes from Person yourself (in the Employee.printAudit() method), or exclude them altogether. Making the call to super.printAudit(), in this case, is easier.

Class members

The variables and methods you have on Person and Employee are instance variables and methods. To use them you either must instantiate the class you need or have a reference to the instance. Every object instance has variables and methods, and for each one the exact behavior (for example, what's generated by calling printAudit()) will be different, because it is based on the state of the object instance.

Classes themselves can also have variables and methods, which are called class members. You declare class members with the static keyword introduced in Part 1 of this tutorial. The differences between class members and instance members are:

  • Every instance of a class shares a single copy of a class variable.
  • You can call class methods on the class itself, without having an instance.
  • Instance methods can access class variables, but class methods cannot access instance variables.
  • Class methods can access only class variables.

Adding class variables and methods

When does it make sense to add class variables and methods? The best rule of thumb is to do so rarely, so that you don't overuse them. That said, it's a good idea to use class variables and methods:

  • To declare constants that any instance of the class can use (and whose value is fixed at development time).
  • To track "counters" of instances of the class.
  • On a class with utility methods that don't ever need an instance of the class (such as Logger.getLogger()).

Class variables

To create a class variable, use the static keyword when you declare it:

accessSpecifier static variableName [= initialValue];

Note: The square brackets here indicate that their contents are optional. They are not part of the declaration syntax.

The JRE creates space in memory to store each of a class's instance variables for every instance of that class. In contrast, the JRE creates only a single copy of each class variable, regardless of the number of instances. It does so the first time the class is loaded (that is, the first time it encounters the class in a program). All instances of the class will share that single copy of the variable. That makes class variables a good choice for constants that all instances should be able to use.

For example, you declared the Gender attribute of Person to be a String, but you didn't put any constraints around it. Listing 4 shows a common use of class variables:

Listing 4. Using class variables
public class Person {
//. . .
 public static final String GENDER_MALE = "MALE";
 public static final String GENDER_FEMALE = "FEMALE";
// . . .
 public static void main(String[] args) {
   Person p = new Person("Joe Q Author", 42, 173, 82, "Brown", GENDER_MALE);
 // . . .
 }
//. . .
}

Declaring constants

Typically, constants are:

  • Named in all uppercase.
  • Named as multiple words, separated by underscores.
  • Declared final (so that their values cannot be modified).
  • Declared with a public access specifier (so that they can be accessed by other classes that need to reference their values by name).

In Listing 4, to use the constant for MALE in the Person constructor call, you would simply reference its name. To use a constant outside of the class, you'd preface it with the name of the class where it was declared, like this:

String genderValue = Person.GENDER_MALE;

Class methods

If you've been following along since Part 1, you've already called the static method Logger.getLogger() several times — whenever you've retrieved a Logger instance to write some output to the console. Notice, though, that you didn't need an instance of Logger to do this; instead, you referenced the Logger class itself. This is the syntax for making a class method call. As with class variables, the static keyword identifies Logger (in this example) as a class method. Class methods are also sometimes called static methods for this reason.

Using class methods

Now you'll combine what you've learned about static variables and methods to create a static method on Employee.You'll declare a private static final variable to hold a Logger, which all instances will share, and which will be accessible by calling getLogger() on the Employee class. Listing 5 shows how:

Listing 5. Creating a class (or static) method
public class Employee extends Person {
 private static final Logger logger = Logger.getLogger(Employee.class.getName());
//. . .
 public static Logger getLogger() {
   return logger;

 }

}

Two important things are happening in Listing 5:

  • The Logger instance is declared with private access, so no class outside Employee can access the reference directly.
  • The Logger is initialized when the class is loaded; this is because you use the Java initializer syntax to give it a value.

To retrieve the Employee class's Logger object, you make the following call:

Logger employeeLogger = Employee.getLogger();

Comparing objects

The Java language provides two ways to compare objects:

  • The == operator
  • The equals() method

Comparing objects with ==

The == syntax compares objects for equality such that a == b returns true only if a and b have the same value. For objects, this means that the two refer to the same object instance. For primitives, it means that the values are identical. Consider the example in Listing 6:

Listing 6. Comparing objects with ==
int int1 = 1;
int int2 = 1;
l.info("Q: int1 == int2?           A: " + (int1 == int2));

Integer integer1 = Integer.valueOf(int1);
Integer integer2 = Integer.valueOf(int2);
l.info("Q: Integer1 == Integer2?   A: " + (integer1 == integer2));

integer1 = new Integer(int1);
integer2 = new Integer(int2);
l.info("Q: Integer1 == Integer2?   A: " + (integer1 == integer2));

Employee employee1 = new Employee();
Employee employee2 = new Employee();
l.info("Q: Employee1 == Employee2? A: " + (employee1 == employee2));

If you run the Listing 6 code inside Eclipse, the output should be:

Apr 19, 2010 5:30:10 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: int1 == int2?           A: true
Apr 19, 2010 5:30:10 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: Integer1 == Integer2?   A: true
Apr 19, 2010 5:30:10 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: Integer1 == Integer2?   A: false
Apr 19, 2010 5:30:10 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: Employee1 == Employee2? A: false

In the first case in Listing 6, the values of the primitives are the same, so the == operator returns true. In the second case, the Integer objects refer to the same instance, so again == returns true. In the third case, even though the Integer objects wrap the same value, == returns false because integer1 and integer2 refer to different objects. Based on this, it should be clear why employee1 == employee2 returns false.

Comparing objects with equals()

equals() is a method that every Java language object gets for free, because it is defined as an instance method of java.lang.Object (which every Java object inherits from).

You call equals() just as you would any other method:

a.equals(b);

This statement invokes the equals() method of object a, passing to it a reference to object b. By default a Java program would simply check to see if the two objects were the same using the == syntax. Because equals() is a method, however, it can be overridden. Consider the example from Listing 6, modified in Listing 7 to compare the two objects using equals():

Listing 7. Comparing objects with equals()
Logger l = Logger.getLogger(Employee.class.getName());

Integer integer1 = Integer.valueOf(1);
Integer integer2 = Integer.valueOf(1);
l.info("Q: integer1 == integer2?        A: " + (integer1 == integer2));
l.info("Q: integer1.equals(integer2)?   A: " + integer1.equals(integer2));

integer1 = new Integer(integer1);
integer2 = new Integer(integer2);
l.info("Q: integer1 == integer2?        A: " + (integer1 == integer2));
l.info("Q: integer1.equals(integer2)?   A: " + integer1.equals(integer2));

Employee employee1 = new Employee();
Employee employee2 = new Employee();
l.info("Q: employee1 == employee2 ? A: " + (employee1 == employee2));
*l.info("Q: employee1.equals(employee2) ? A : " + 
employee1.equals(employee2));*
Running this code produces:

Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: integer1 == integer2?        A: true
Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: integer1.equals(integer2)?   A: true
Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: integer1 == integer2?        A: false
Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: integer1.equals(integer2)?   A: true
Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: employee1 == employee2?      A: false
Apr 19, 2010 5:43:53 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: employee1.equals(employee2)? A: false

A note about comparing Integers

In Listing 7, it should be no surprise that the equals() method of Integer returns true if == returns true; but notice what happens in the second case, where you create separate objects that both wrap the value 1: == returns false because integer1 and integer2 refer to different objects; but equals() returns true.

The writers of the JDK decided that for Integer, the meaning of equals() would be different from the default (which is to compare the object references to see if they refer to the same object), and would instead return true in cases in which the underlying int value is the same.

For Employee, you did not override equals(), so the default behavior (of using ==) returns what you would expect, given that employee1 and employee2 do in fact refer to different objects.

Basically, this means that for any object you write, you can define what equals() means as appropriate for the application you are writing.

Overriding equals()

You can define what equals() means to your application's objects by overriding the default behavior of Object.equals(). Again, you can use Eclipse to do this. Make sure Employee has the focus in your Eclipse IDE's Source window, then go to Source > Override/Implement Methods. The dialog box in Figure 4 will appear:

Figure 4. Override/Implement Methods dialog
The Override/Implement Methods dialog box in Eclipse.

You've used this dialog before, but in this case you want to implement the Object.equals() superclass method. So, find Object in the list, check the equals(Object) method, and click OK. Eclipse will generate the correct code and place it in your source file.

It makes sense that the two Employee objects are equal if the states of those objects are equal. That is, they're equal if their values — last name, first name, age — are the same.

Autogenerating equals()

Eclipse can generate an equals() method for you based on the instance variables (attributes) you've defined for a class. Because Employee is a subclass of Person, you'll first generate equals() for Person. In Eclipse's Project Explorer view, right-click Person and choose Generate hashCode() and equals() to bring up the dialog box shown in Figure 5:

Figure 5. Generate hashCode() and equals() dialog
The dialog to auto-generate equals()

Select all attributes (as shown in Figure 5) and click OK. Eclipse will generate an equals() method that looks like the one in Listing 8:

Listing 8. An equals() method generated by Eclipse
@Override
public boolean equals(Object obj) {
 if (this == obj)
   return true;
 if (obj == null)
   return false;
 if (getClass() != obj.getClass())
   return false;
 Person other = (Person) obj;
 if (age != other.age)
  return false;
 if (eyeColor == null) {
   if (other.eyeColor != null)
     return false;
 } else if (!eyeColor.equals(other.eyeColor))
   return false;
 if (gender == null) {
   if (other.gender != null)
     return false;
 } else if (!gender.equals(other.gender))
   return false;
 if (height != other.height)
   return false;
 if (name == null) {
   if (other.name != null)
     return false;
 } else if (!name.equals(other.name))
   return false;
 if (weight != other.weight)
   return false;
 return true;
}

Don't worry about hashCode() for now — you can keep it or delete it. The equals() method generated by Eclipse looks complicated, but what it does is pretty simple: if the object passed in is the same object as the one in Listing 8, then equals() will return true. If the object passed in is null, it will return false.

After that, the method checks to see if the Class objects are the same (meaning the passed-in object must be a Person object). If that's true, then each attribute value of the object passed in is checked to see if it matches value-for-value with the state of the given Person instance. If the attribute values are null (meaning missing) then the equals() will check as many as it can, and if those match, the objects will be considered equal. You may not want this behavior for every program, but it works for most purposes.

Exercise: Generate an equals() for Employee

Try following the steps in Autogenerating equals() to generate an equals() for Employee. Once you have your generated equals(), add the following code above it:

public static void main(String[] args) {
 Logger l = Logger.getLogger(Employee.class.getName());

 Employee employee1 = new Employee();
 employee1.setName("J Smith");
 Employee employee2 = new Employee();
 employee2.setName("J Smith");
 l.info("Q: employee1 == employee2?      A: " + (employee1 == employee2));
 l.info("Q: employee1.equals(employee2)? A: " + employee1.equals(employee2));
}

If you run the code, you should see the following output:

Apr 19, 2010 5:26:50 PM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: employee1 == employee2?      A: false
Apr 19, 2010 5:26:50 PM com.makotogroup.intro.Employee main
INFO: Q: employee1.equals(employee2)? A: true

In this case, a match on Name alone was enough to convince equals() that the two objects were equal. Feel free to add more attributes to this example and see what you get.

Exercise: Override toString()

Remember the printAudit() method from the beginning of this section? If you thought it was working a little too hard, you were right! Formatting the state of an object into a String is such a common pattern that the designers of the Java language built it right into Object itself, in a method called (no surprise) toString(). The default implementation of toString() is not very useful, but every object has one. In this exercise, you'll make the default toString() a little more useful.

If you suspect that Eclipse can generate a toString() method for you, you are correct. Go back into your Project Explorer and right-click the Employee class, then choose Source > Generate toString().... You'll see a dialog box similar to the one in Figure 5. Choose all attributes and click OK. The code generated by Eclipse for Employee is shown in Listing 9:

Listing 9. A toString() method generated by Eclipse
@Override
public String toString() {
 return "Employee [employeeNumber=" + employeeNumber + ", salary=" + salary
 + ", taxpayerIdentificationNumber=" + taxpayerIdentificationNumber
 + "]";
}

The code Eclipse generates for toString doesn't include the superclass's toString() (Employee's superclass being Person). You can fix that in a flash, using Eclipse, with this override:

@Override
public String toString() {
 return super.toString() +
   "Employee [employeeNumber=" + employeeNumber + ", salary=" + salary
   + ", taxpayerIdentificationNumber=" + taxpayerIdentificationNumber
   + "]";
}

The addition of toString() makes printAudit() much simpler:

@Override
public void printAudit(StringBuilder buffer) {
 buffer.append(toString());
}

toString() now does the heavy lifting of formatting the object's current state, and you simply stuff what it returns into the StringBuilder and return.

I recommend always implementing toString() in your classes, if only for support purposes. It's virtually inevitable that at some point you'll want to see what an object's state is while your application is running, and toString() is a great hook for doing that.


Exceptions

No program ever works 100 percent of the time, and the designers of the Java language knew this. In this section, learn about the Java platform's built-in mechanisms for handling situations where your code doesn't work exactly as planned.

Exception-handling basics

An exception is an event that occurs during program execution that disrupts the normal flow of the program's instructions. Exception handling is an essential technique of Java programming. In essence, you wrap your code in a try block (which means "try this and let me know if it causes an exception"), and use it to catch various types of exceptions.

To get started with exception handling, take a look at the code in Listing 10:

Listing 10. Do you see the error?
// . . .
public class Employee extends Person {
// . . .
 private static Logger logger;// = Logger.getLogger(Employee.class.getName());

 public static void main(String[] args) {
   Employee employee1 = new Employee();
   employee1.setName("J Smith");
   Employee employee2 = new Employee();
   employee2.setName("J Smith");
   logger.info("Q: employee1 == employee2?      A: " + (employee1 == employee2));
   logger.info("Q: employee1.equals(employee2)? A: " + employee1.equals(employee2));

 }

Notice that the initializer for the static variable holding the Logger reference has been commented out. Run this code and you'll get the following output:

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.NullPointerException
 at com.makotogroup.intro.Employee.main(Employee.java:54)

This output is telling you that you are trying to reference an object that isn't there, which is a pretty serious development error. Fortunately, you can use try and catch blocks to catch it (along with a little help from finally).

try, catch, and finally

Listing 11 shows the buggy code from Listing 10 cleaned up with the standard code blocks for exception handling try, catch, and finally:

Listing 11. Catching an exception
// . . .
public class Employee extends Person {
// . . .
 private static Logger logger;// = Logger.getLogger(Employee.class.getName());

 public static void main(String[] args) {
   try {
     Employee employee1 = new Employee();
     employee1.setName("J Smith");
     Employee employee2 = new Employee();
     employee2.setName("J Smith");
     logger.info("Q: employee1 == employee2?      A: " + (employee1 == employee2));
     logger.info("Q: employee1.equals(employee2)? A: " + employee1.equals(employee2));
   } catch (NullPointerException npe) {
     // Handle...
     System.out.println("Yuck! Outputting a message with System.out.println() " +
                        "because the developer did something dumb!");
   } finally {
     // Always executes
   }
 }

Together, the try, catch, and finally blocks form a net for catching exceptions. First, the try statement wraps code that might throw an exception. If it does, execution drops immediately to the catch block, or exception handler. When all the trying and catching is done, execution continues to the finally block, whether or not an exception has been thrown. When you catch an exception, you can try to recover gracefully from it, or you can exit the program (or method).

In Listing 11, the program recovers from the error, then prints out a message to report what happened.

The exception hierarchy

The Java language incorporates an entire exception hierarchy consisting of many types of exceptions grouped into two major categories:

  • Checked exceptions are checked by the compiler (meaning the compiler will make sure that they get handled somewhere in your code).
  • Unchecked exceptions (also called runtime exceptions) are not checked by the compiler.

When a program causes an exception, you say it throws the exception. A checked exception is declared to the compiler by any method with the keyword throws in its method signature. This is followed by a comma-separated list of exceptions the method could potentially throw during the course of its execution. If your code calls a method that specifies that it throws one or more types of exceptions, you must handle it somehow, or add a throws to your method signature to pass that exception type along.

In the event of an exception, the Java language runtime searches for an exception handler somewhere up the stack. If it doesn't find one by the time if reaches the top of the stack, it will halt the program abruptly, as you saw in Listing 10.

Multiple catch blocks

You can have multiple catch blocks, but they must be structured in a particular way. If any exceptions are subclasses of other exceptions, then the child classes are placed ahead of the parent classes in the order of the catch blocks. Here's an example:

try {
 // Code here...
} catch (NullPointerException e) {
 // Handle NPE...
} catch (Exception e) {
 // Handle more general exception here...
}

In this example, the NullPointerException is a child class (eventually) of Exception, so it must be placed ahead of the more general Exception catch block.

You've seen just a tiny glimpse of Java exception handling in this tutorial. The topic could make a tutorial on its own. See Resources to learn more about exception handling in Java programs.


Building Java applications

In this section, you will continue building up Person as a Java application. Along the way, you'll get a better idea of how an object, or collection of objects, evolves into an application.

Elements of a Java application

All Java applications need an entry point where the Java runtime knows to start executing code. That entry point is the main() method. Domain objects typically don't have main() methods, but at least one class in every application must.

You've been working since Part 1 on the example of a human-resources application that includes Person and its Employee subclasses. Now you'll see what happens when you add a new class to the application.

Creating a driver class

The purpose of a driver class (as its name implies) is to "drive" an application. Notice that this simple driver for the human-resources application contains a main() method:

package com.makotogroup.intro;
public class HumanResourcesApplication {
 public static void main(String[] args) {
 }
}

Create a driver class in Eclipse using the same procedure you used to create Person and Employee. Name the class HumanResourcesApplication, being sure to select the option to add a main() method to the class. Eclipse will generate the class for you.

Add some code to your new main() so that it looks like this:

public class HumanResourcesApplication {
. . .
  private final Logger log = Logger.getLogger(Person.class);
. . .
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    Employee e = new Employee();
    e.setName("J Smith");
    e.setEmployeeNumber("0001");
    e.setTaxpayerIdentificationNumber("123-45-6789");
    e.printAudit(log);
  }
. . .
}

Now launch the HumanResourcesApplication class and watch it run. You should see this output (with the backslashes here indicating a line continuation):

Apr 29, 2010 6:45:17 AM com.makotogroup.intro.Person printAudit
INFO: Person [age=0, eyeColor=null, gender=null, height=0, name=J Smith,\
weight=0]Employee [employeeNumber=0001, salary=null,\
taxpayerIdentificationNumber=123-45-6789]

That's really all there is to creating a simple Java application. In the next section, you'll begin looking at some of the syntax and libraries that will help you develop more-complex applications.


Inheritance

You've encountered examples of inheritance a few times already in this tutorial. This section reviews some of Part 1's material on inheritance and explains in more detail how inheritance works — including the inheritance hierarchy, constructors and inheritance, and inheritance abstraction.

How inheritance works

Classes in Java code exist in hierarchies. Classes above a given class in a hierarchy are superclasses of that class. That particular class is a subclass of every class higher up the hierarchy. A subclass inherits from its superclasses. The java.lang.Object class is at the top of the class hierarchy, meaning every Java class is a subclass of, and inherits from, Object.

For example, suppose you have a Person class that looks like the one in Listing 12:

Listing 12. Public Person class
package com.makotogroup.intro;

// . . .
public class Person {
 public static final String GENDER_MALE = "MALE";
 public static final String GENDER_FEMALE = "FEMALE";
 public Person() {
 //Nothing to do...
 }
 private String name;
 private int age;
 private int height;
 private int weight;
 private String eyeColor;
 private String gender;
// . . .

}

The Person class in Listing 12 implicitly inherits from Object. Because that's assumed for every class, you don't need to type extends Object for every class you define. But what does it mean to say that a class inherits from its superclass? It simply means that Person has access to the exposed variables and methods in its superclasses. In this case, Person can see and use Object's public methods and variables and Object's protected methods and variables.

Defining a class hierarchy

Now suppose you have an Employee class that inherits from Person. Its class definition (or inheritance graph) would look something like this:

public class Employee extends Person {

 private String taxpayerIdentificationNumber;
 private String employeeNumber;
 private BigDecimal salary;
// . . .
}

Multiple vs. single inheritance

Languages like C++ support the concept of multiple inheritance: at any point in the hierarchy a class can inherit from one or more classes. The Java language supports only single inheritance, which means you can only use the extends keyword with a single class. So the class hierarchy for any given Java class always consists of a straight line all the way up to java.lang.Object.

However, the Java language supports implementing multiple interfaces in a single class, which gives you a workaround of sorts to single inheritance. I'll introduce you to multiple interfaces later in the tutorial.

The Employee inheritance graph implies that Employee has access to all public and protected variables and methods in Person (because it directly extends it), as well as Object (because it actually extends that class, too, though indirectly). However, because Employee and Person are in the same package, Employee also has access to the package-private (sometimes called friendly) variables and methods in Person.

To go one step deeper into the class hierarchy, you could create a third class that extends Employee:

public class Manager extends Employee {
// . . .
}

In the Java language, any class can have at most one superclass, but a class can have any number of subclasses. That is the most important thing to remember about inheritance hierarchy in the Java language.

Constructors and inheritance

Constructors aren't full-fledged object-oriented members, so they aren't inherited; instead, you must explicitly implement them in subclasses. Before I go into that, I'll review some basic rules about how constructors are defined and invoked.

Constructor basics

Remember that a constructor always has the same name as the class it is used to construct, and it has no return type. For example:

public class Person {
 public Person() {
 }
}

Every class has at least one constructor, and if you don't explicitly define a constructor for your class, the compiler will generate one for you, called the default constructor. The preceding class definition and this one are identical in how they function:

public class Person {
}

Invoking a superclass constructor

To invoke a superclass constructor other than the default constructor, you must do so explicitly. For example, suppose Person has a constructor that takes the name of the Person object being created. From Employee's default constructor, you could invoke the Person constructor shown in Listing 13:

Listing 13. Initializing a new Employee
public class Person {
 private String name;
 public Person() {
 }
 public Person(String name) {
   this.name = name;
 }
}

// Meanwhile, in Employee.java
public class Employee extends Person {
 public Employee() {
   super("Elmer J Fudd");
 }
}

You would probably never want to initialize a new Employee object this way, however. Until you get more comfortable with object-oriented concepts, and Java syntax in general, it's a good idea to implement superclass constructors in subclasses if you think you will need them, and invoke them homogeneously. Listing 14 defines a constructor in Employee that looks like the one in Person so that they match up. It's much less confusing from a maintenance standpoint.

Listing 14. Invoking a superclass homogeneously
public class Person {
 private String name;
 public Person(String name) {
   this.name = name;
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in Employee.java
public class Employee extends Person {
 public Employee(String name) {
   super(name);
 }
}

Declaring a constructor

The first thing a constructor does is invoke the default constructor of its immediate superclass, unless you — on the first line of code in the constructor — invoke a different constructor. For example, these two declarations are functionally identical, so pick one:

public class Person {
 public Person() {
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in Employee.java
public class Employee extends Person {
 public Employee() {
 }
}

Or:

public class Person {
 public Person() {
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in Employee.java
public class Employee extends Person {
 public Employee() {
   super();
 }
}

No-arg constructors

If you provide an alternate constructor, you must explicitly provide the default constructor, or it is not available. For example, the following code would give you a compile error:

public class Person {
 private String name;
 public Person(String name) {
   this.name = name;
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in Employee.java
public class Employee extends Person {
 public Employee() {
 }
}

This example has no default constructor, because it provides an alternate constructor without explicitly including the default constructor. This is why the default constructor is sometimes called the no-argument (or no-arg) constructor; because there are conditions under which it is not included, it's not really a default.

How constructors invoke constructors

A constructor from within a class can be invoked by another constructor using the this keyword, along with an argument list. Just like super(), the this() call must be the first line in the constructor. For example:

public class Person {
 private String name;
 public Person() {
   this("Some reasonable default?");
 }
 public Person(String name) {
   this.name = name;
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in Employee.java

You will see this idiom frequently, where one constructor delegates to another, passing in some default value if that constructor is invoked. It's also a great way to add a new constructor to a class while minimizing impact on code that already uses an older constructor.

Constructor access levels

Constructors can have any access level you want, and certain rules of visibility apply. Table 1 summarizes the rules of constructor access:

Table 1. Constructor access rules
Constructor access modifier Description
publicConstructor can be invoked by any class.
protectedConstructor can be invoked by an class in the same package or any subclass.
No modifier (package-private)Constructor can be invoked by any class in the same package.
privateConstructor can be invoked only by the class in which the constructor is defined.

You may be able to think of use cases where constructors would be declared protected or even package-private, but how is a private constructor useful? I've used private constructors when I didn't want to allow direct creation of an object through the new keyword when implementing, say, the Factory pattern (see Resources). In that case, a static method would be used to create instances of the class, and that method, being included in the class itself, would be allowed to invoke the private constructor:

Inheritance and abstraction

If a subclass overrides a method from a superclass, that method is essentially hidden because calling that method through a reference to the subclass invokes the subclass's version of the method, not the superclass's version. This isn't to say the superclass method is no longer accessible. The subclass can invoke the superclass method by prefacing the name of the method with the super keyword (and unlike with the constructor rules, this can be done from any line in the subclass method, or even in a different method altogether). By default, a Java program will call the subclass method if it is invoked through a reference to the subclass.

The same applies to variables, provided the caller has access to the variable (that is, the variable is visible to the code trying to access it). This can cause you no end of grief as you gain proficiency in Java programming. Eclipse will provide ample warnings that you are hiding a variable from a superclass, however, or that a method call won't call what you think it will.

In an OOP context, abstraction refers to generalizing data and behavior to a type higher up the inheritance hierarchy than the current class. When you move variables or methods from a subclass to a superclass, you say you are abstracting those members. The main reason for doing this is to reuse common code by pushing it as far up the hierarchy as possible. Having common code in one place makes it easier to maintain.

Abstract classes and methods

There are times when you will want to create classes that only serve as abstractions and do not necessarily ever need to be instantiated. Such classes are called abstract classes. By the same token, you will find that there are times when certain methods need to be implemented differently for each subclass that implements the superclass. Such methods are abstract methods. Here are some basic rules for abstract classes and methods:

  • Any class can be declared abstract.
  • Abstract classes cannot be instantiated.
  • An abstract method cannot contain a method body.
  • Any class with an abstract method must be declared abstract.

Using abstraction

Suppose you don't want to allow the Employee class to be instantiated directly. You simply declare it using the abstract keyword, and you're done:

public abstract class Employee extends Person {
// etc.
}

If you try to run this code, you'll get a compile error:

public void someMethodSomwhere() {
 Employee p = new Employee();// compile error!!
}

The compiler is complaining that Employee is abstract and cannot be instantiated.

The power of abstraction

Suppose that you need a method to examine the state of an Employee object and make sure it is valid. This need would seem to be common to all Employee objects, but would behave sufficiently differently among all potential subclasses that there is zero potential for reuse. In that case, you declare the validate() method abstract (forcing all subclasses to implement it):

public abstract class Employee extends Person {
 public abstract boolean validate();
}

Every direct subclass of Employee (such as Manager) is now required to implement the validate() method. However, once a subclass has implemented the validate() method, none of its subclasses need to implement it.

For example, suppose you have an Executive object that extends Manager. This definition would be perfectly valid:

public class Executive extends Manager {
 public Executive() {
 }
}

When (not) to abstract: Two rules

As a first rule of thumb, don't abstract in your initial design. Using abstract classes early in the design forces you down a certain path, and that could restrict your application. Remember, common behavior (which is the entire point of having abstract classes) can always be refactored further up the inheritance graph. It is almost always better to do this once you've discovered that you do need it. Eclipse has wonderful support for refactoring.

Second, as powerful as they are, resist the use of abstract classes when you can. Unless your superclasses contain lots of common behavior, and on their own are not really meaningful, let them remain nonabstract. Deep inheritance graphs can make code maintenance difficult. Consider the trade-off between classes that are too large and maintainable code.

Assignments: Classes

When assigning a reference from one class to a variable of a type belonging to another class, you can do so, but there are rules. Let's look at this example:

Manager m = new Manager();
Employee e = new Employee();
Person p = m; // okay
p = e; // still okay
Employee e2 = e; // yep, okay
e = m; // still okay
e2 = p; // wrong!

The destination variable must be of a supertype of the class belonging to the source reference, or the compiler will give you an error. Basically, whatever is on the right side of the assignment must be a subclass or the same class as the thing on the left. If not, it's possible for assignments of objects with different inheritance graphs (such as Manager and Employee) to be assigned to a variable of the wrong type. Consider this example:

Manager m = new Manager();
Person p = m; // so far so good
Employee e = m; // okay
Employee e = p; // wrong!

While an Employee is a Person, it is most definitely not a Manager, and the compiler enforces this.


Interfaces

In this section, begin learning about interfaces and start using them in your Java code.

Defining an interface

An interface is a named set of behaviors (and/or constant data elements) for which an implementer must provide code. An interface specifies what behavior the implementation provides, but not how it is accomplished.

Defining an interface is straightforward:

public interface interfaceName {
 returnType methodName( argumentList );
}

An interface declaration looks like a class declaration, except that you use the interface keyword. You can name the interface anything you want to (subject to language rules), but by convention interface names look like class names.

Methods defined in an interface have no method body. The implementer of the interface is responsible for providing the method body (just as with abstract methods).

You define hierarchies of interfaces, just as you do for classes, except that a single class can implement as many interfaces as it wants to. (Remember, a class can extend only one class.) If one class extends another and implements interface(s), then the interfaces are listed after the extended class, like this:

public class Manager extends Employee implements BonusEligible, StockOptionRecipient {
// Etc...
}

Marker interfaces

An interface does not need to have any body at all. In fact, the following definition is perfectly acceptable:

public interface BonusEligible {
}

Generally speaking, such interfaces are called marker interfaces, because they mark a class as implementing that interface but offer no special explicit behavior.

Once you know all that, actually defining an interface is easy:

public interface StockOptionRecipient {
 void processStockOptions(int numberOfOptions, BigDecimal price);
}

Implementing interfaces

To use an interface, you implement it, which simply means providing a method body, which in turn provides the behavior to fulfill the interface's contract. You do that with the implements keyword:

public class className extends superclassName implements interfaceName {
// Class Body
}

Suppose you implement the StockOptionRecipient interface on the Manager class, as shown in Listing 15:

Listing 15. Implementing an interface
public class Manager extends Employee implements StockOptionRecipient {
 public Manager() {
 }
 public void processStockOptions (int numberOfOptions, BigDecimal price) {
   log.info("I can't believe I got " + number + " options at $" + 
            price.toPlainString() + "!");  }
}

When you implement the interface, you provide behavior for the method(s) on the interface. You must implement the methods with signatures that match the ones on the interface, with the addition of the public access modifier.

Generating interfaces in Eclipse

Eclipse can easily generate the correct method signature for you if you decide one of your classes should implement an interface. Just change the class signature to implement the interface. Eclipse puts a red squiggly line under the class, flagging it to be in error because the class doesn't provide the method(s) on the interface. Click the class name with your mouse, press Ctrl + 1, and Eclipse will suggest "quick fixes" for you. Of these, choose Add Unimplemented Methods, and Eclipse will generate the methods for you, placing them at the bottom of the source file.

An abstract class can declare that it implements a particular interface, but it isn't required to implement all of the methods on that interface. This is because abstract classes aren't required to provide implementations for all of the methods they claim to implement. However, the first concrete class (that is, the first one that can be instantiated) must implement all methods the hierarchy does not.

Using interfaces

An interface defines a new reference data type, which means you can refer to an interface anywhere you would refer to a class. This includes when you declare a reference variable, or cast from one type to another, as shown in Listing 16.

Listing 16. Assigning a new Manager instance to a StockOptionEligible reference
public static void main(String[] args) {
 StockOptionEligible soe = new Manager();// perfectly valid
 calculateAndAwardStockOptions(soe);
 calculateAndAwardStockOptions(new Manager());// works too
}
. . .
public static void calculateAndAwardStockOptions(StockOptionEligible soe) {
 BigDecimal reallyCheapPrice = BigDecimal.valueOf(0.01);
 int numberOfOptions = 10000;
 soe.processStockOptions(numberOfOptions, reallyCheapPrice);
}

As you can see, it is perfectly valid to assign a new Manager instance to a StockOptionEligible reference, as well as to pass a new Manager instance to a method that expects a StockOptionEligible reference.

Assignments: Classes

When assigning a reference from a class that implements an interface to a variable of an interface type, you can do so, but there are rules. From Listing 16, we see that assigning a Manager instance to a StockOptionEligible variable reference is perfectly valid. The reason is that the Manager class implements that interface. However, the following assignment would not be valid:

  Manager m = new Manager();
  StockOptionEligible soe = m; //okay
  Employee e = soe; // Wrong!

Because Employee is supertype of Manager, this might at first seem okay, but it is not. Because Manager is a specialization of Employee, it is *different* and in this particular case implements an interface that Employee does not.

Assignments such as these follow the rules of assignment we saw in Inheritance. And just like with classes, you may only assign an interface reference to a variable of the same type or a superinterface type.


Nested classes

In this section, learn about nested classes and where and how to use them.

Where to use nested classes

As its name suggests, a nested class is one defined within another class. Here is a nested class:

public class EnclosingClass {
. . .
 public class NestedClass {
 . . .

 }
}

Just like member variables and methods, Java classes can also be defined at any scope including public, private, or protected. Nested classes can be useful when you want to handle internal processing within your class in an object-oriented fashion, but this functionality is limited to the class where you need it.

Typically, you'll use a nested class for cases where you need a class that is tightly coupled with the class in which it is defined. A nested class has access to the private data within its enclosing class, but this carries with it some side-effects that are not obvious when you start working with nested (or inner) classes.

Scope in nested classes

Because a nested class has scope, it is bound by the rules of scope. For example, a member variable can only be accessed through an instance of the class (an object). The same is true of a nested class.

Suppose you have the following relationship between a Manager and a nested class called DirectReports, which is a collection of the Employees that report to that Manager:

public class Manager extends Employee {
 private DirectReports directReports;
 public Manager() {
   this.directReports = new DirectReports();
 }
. . .
 private class DirectReports {
 . . .
 }
}

Just as each Manager object represents a unique human being, the DirectReports object represents a collection of actual people (employees) who report to a manager. DirectReports will differ from one Manager to another. In this case, it makes sense that one would only reference the DirectReports nested class in the context of its enclosing instance of Manager, so I've made it private.

Public nested classes

Because it's private, only Manager can create an instance of DirectReports. But suppose you wanted to give an external entity the ability to create instances of DirectReports? In this case, it seems like you could give the DirectReports class public scope, and then any external code could create DirectReports instances, as shown in Listing 17:

Listing 17. Creating DirectReports instances: First attempt
public class Manager extends Employee {
 public Manager() {
 }
. . .
 private class DirectReports {
 . . .
 }
}
//
public static void main(String[] args) {
 Manager.DirectReports dr = new Manager.DirectReports();// This won't work!
}

The code in Listing 17 doesn't work, and you're probably wondering why. The problem (and also its solution) lies with the way DirectReports is defined within Manager, and with the rules of scope.

The rules of scope, revisited

If you had a member variable of Manager, you would expect the compiler to require you to have a reference to a Manager object before you could reference it, right? Well, the same applies to DirectReports, at least as you defined it in Listing 17.

To create an instance of a public nested class, you use a special version of the new operator. Combined with a reference to some enclosing instance of an outer class, new allows you to create an instance of the nested class:

public class Manager extends Employee {
 public Manager() {
 }
. . .
 private class DirectReports {
 . . .
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in another method somewhere...
public static void main(String[] args) {
 Manager manager = new Manager();
 Manager.DirectReports dr = manager.new DirectReports();
}

Note that the syntax calls for a reference to the enclosing instance, plus a dot and the new keyword, followed by the class you want to create.

Static inner classes

At times you will want to create a class that is tightly coupled (conceptually) to a class, but where the rules of scope are somewhat relaxed, not requiring a reference to an enclosing instance. That's where static inner classes come into play. One common example of this is to implement a Comparator, which is used to compare two instances of the same class, usually for the purpose of ordering (or sorting) the classes:

public class Manager extends Employee {
. . .
 public static class ManagerComparator implements Comparator<Manager> {
   . . .
 }
}
// Meanwhile, in another method somewhere...
public static void main(String[] args) {
 Manager.ManagerComparator mc = new Manager.ManagerComparator();
 . . .
}

In this case, you don't need an enclosing instance. Static inner classes act like their regular Java class counterparts, and they should really only be used when you need to couple a class tightly with its definition. Clearly, in the case of a utility class like ManagerComparator, creating an external class is unnecessary and potentially clutters up your code base. Defining such classes as static inner classes is the way to go.

Anonymous inner classes

The Java language allows you to declare classes pretty much anywhere, even in the middle of a method if necessary, and even without providing a name for the class. This is basically a compiler trick, but there are times when anonymous inner classes are extremely handy to have.

Listing 18 builds on the example in Listing 15, adding a default method for handling Employee types that are not StockOptionEligible:

Listing 18. Handling Employee types that are not StockOptionEligible
public static void main(String[] args) {
 Employee employee = new Manager();// perfectly valid
 handleStockOptions(employee);
 employee = new Employee();// not StockOptionEligible
 handleStockOptions(employee);
}
. . .
private static void handleStockOptions(Employee e) {
 if (e instanceof StockOptionEligible) {
   calculateAndAwardStockOptions((StockOptionEligible)e);
 } else {
   calculateAndAwardStockOptions(new StockOptionEligible() {
     @Override
     public void awardStockOptions(int number, BigDecimal price) {
       log.info("Sorry, you're not StockOptionEligible!");
     }
   });
 }
}
. . .
private static void calculateAndAwardStockOptions(StockOptionEligible soe) {
 BigDecimal reallyCheapPrice = BigDecimal.valueOf(0.01);
 int numberOfOptions = 10000;
 soe.processStockOptions(numberOfOptions, reallyCheapPrice);

}

In this example, you provide an implementation of the StockOptionEligible interface by using an anonymous inner class for instances of Employee that do not implement that interface. Anonymous inner classes are also useful for implementing callback methods, and in event handling, too.


Regular expressions

A regular expression is essentially a pattern to describe a set of strings that share that pattern. If you're a Perl programmer, you should feel right at home with the regular expression (regex) pattern syntax in the Java language. If you're not used to regular expressions syntax, however, it can look weird. This section gets you started with using regular expressions in your Java programs.

The Regular Expressions API

Here's a set of strings that have a few things in common:

  • A string
  • A longer string
  • A much longer string

Note that each of these strings begins with a and ends with string. The Java Regular Expressions API (see Resources) helps you pull out these elements, see the pattern among them, and do interesting things with the information you've gleaned.

The Regular Expressions API has three core classes that you'll use almost all the time:

  • Pattern describes a string pattern.
  • Matcher tests a string to see if it matches the pattern.
  • PatternSyntaxException tells you that something wasn't acceptable about the pattern that you tried to define.

You'll begin working on a simple regular-expressions pattern that uses these classes shortly. Before you do that, however, you'll take a look at the regex pattern syntax.

Regex pattern syntax

A regex pattern describes the structure of the string that the expression will try to find in an input string. This is where regular expressions can look a bit strange. Once you understand the syntax, though, it becomes easier to decipher. Table 2 lists some of the most common regex constructs that you will use in pattern strings:

Table 2. Common regex constructs
Regex constructWhat qualifies as a match
.Any character
?Zero (0) or one (1) of what came before
*Zero (0) or more of what came before
+One (1) or more of what came before
[]A range of characters or digits
^Negation of whatever follows (that is, "notwhatever")
\dAny digit (alternatively, [0-9])
\DAny nondigit (alternatively, [^0-9])
\sAny whitespace character (alternatively, [\n\t\f\r])
\SAny nonwhitespace character (alternatively, [^\n\t\f\r])
\wAny word character (alternatively, [a-zA-Z_0-9])
\WAny nonword character (alternatively, [^\w])

The first few constructs are called quantifiers, because they quantify what comes before them. Constructs like \d are predefined character classes. Any character that doesn't have special meaning in a pattern is a literal and matches itself.

Pattern matching

Armed with the pattern syntax in Table 2, you can work through the simple example in Listing 19, using the classes in the Java Regular Expressions API:

Listing 19. Pattern matching with regex
Pattern pattern = Pattern.compile("a.*string");
Matcher matcher = pattern.matcher("a string");
boolean didMatch = matcher.matches();
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info (didMatch);
int patternStartIndex = matcher.start();
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info (patternStartIndex);
int patternEndIndex = matcher.end();
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info (patternEndIndex);

First, Listing 19 creates a Pattern class by calling compile(), which is a static method on Pattern, with a string literal representing the pattern you want to match. That literal uses the regex pattern syntax. In this example, the English translation of the pattern is:

Find a string of the form a followed by zero or more characters, followed by string.

Methods for matching

Next, Listing 19 calls matcher() on Pattern. That call creates a Matcher instance. When that happens, the Matcher searches the string you passed in for matches against the pattern string you used when you created the Pattern.

Every Java language string is an indexed collection of characters, starting with 0 and ending with the string length minus one. The Matcher parses the string, starting at 0, and looks for matches against it. After that process completes, the Matcher contains information about matches found (or not found) in the input string. You can access that information by calling various methods on Matcher:

  • matches() tells you if the entire input sequence was an exact match for the pattern.
  • start() tells you the index value in the string where the matched string starts.
  • end() tells you the index value in the string where the matched string ends, plus one.

Listing 19 finds a single match starting at 0 and ending at 7. Thus, the call to matches() returns true, the call to start() returns 0, and the call to end() returns 8.

lookingAt() vs. matches()

If there were more elements in your string than the characters in the pattern you searched for, you could use lookingAt() instead of matches(). lookingAt() searches for substring matches for a given pattern. For example, consider the following string:

Here is a string with more than just the pattern.

You could search it for a.*string and get a match if you use lookingAt(). But if you use matches(), it would return false, because there's more to the string than just what's in the pattern.

Complex patterns in regex

Simple searches are easy with the regex classes, but you can also do some highly sophisticated things with the Regular Expressions API.

A wiki, as you surely know, is a web-based system that lets users modify pages. Wikis are based almost entirely on regular expressions. Their content is based on string input from users, which is parsed and formatted using regular expressions. Any user can create a link to another topic in a wiki by entering a wiki word, which is typically a series of concatenated words, each of which begins with an uppercase letter, like this:

MyWikiWord

Knowing that about wikis, assume the following string:

Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then YetAnotherWikiWord.

You could search for wiki words in this string with a regex pattern like this:

[A-Z][a-z]*([A-Z][a-z]*)+

And here's some code to search for wiki words:

String input = "Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.";
Pattern pattern = Pattern.compile("[A-Z][a-z]*([A-Z][a-z]*)+");
Matcher matcher = pattern.matcher(input);
while (matcher.find()) {
 Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("Found this wiki word: " + matcher.group());
}

Run this code, and you should see the three wiki words in your console.

Replacing strings

Searching for matches is useful, but you also can manipulate strings once you find a match for them. You can do that by replacing matched strings with something else, just as you might search for some text in a word-processing program and replace it with other text. Matcher has a couple of methods for replacing string elements:

  • replaceAll() replaces all matches with a specified string.
  • replaceFirst() replaces only the first match with a specified string.

Using Matcher's replace methods is straightforward:

String input = "Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.";
Pattern pattern = Pattern.compile("[A-Z][a-z]*([A-Z][a-z]*)+");
Matcher matcher = pattern.matcher(input);
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("Before: " + input);
String result = matcher.replaceAll("replacement");
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("After: " + result);

This code finds wiki words, as before. When the Matcher finds a match, it replaces the wiki word text with its replacement. When you run this code, you should see the following on your console:

Before: Here is WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.
After: Here is replacement followed by replacement, then replacement.

If you'd used replaceFirst(), you would've seen this:

Before: Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.
After: Here is a replacement followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.

Matching and manipulating groups

When you search for matches against a regex pattern, you can get information about what you found. You've seen some of that with the start() and end() methods on Matcher. But it's also possible to reference matches by capturing groups.

In each pattern, you typically create groups by enclosing parts of the pattern in parentheses. Groups are numbered from left to right, starting with 1 (group 0 represents the entire match). The code in Listing 20 replaces each wiki word with a string that "wraps" the word:

Listing 20. Matching groups
String input = "Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.";
Pattern pattern = Pattern.compile("[A-Z][a-z]*([A-Z][a-z]*)+");
Matcher matcher = pattern.matcher(input);
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("Before: " + input);
String result = matcher.replaceAll("blah$0blah");
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("After: " + result);

Run this code and you should get the following console output:

Before: Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.
After: Here is a blahWikiWordblah followed by blahAnotherWikiWordblah,
then blahSomeWikiWordblah.

Another approach to matching groups

Listing 20 references the entire match by including $0 in the replacement string. Any portion of a replacement string of the form $int refers to the group identified by the integer (so $1 refers to group 1, and so on). In other words, $0 is equivalent to matcher.group(0);.

You could accomplish the same replacement goal by using some other methods. Rather than calling replaceAll(), you could do this:

StringBuffer buffer = new StringBuffer();
while (matcher.find()) {
 matcher.appendReplacement(buffer, "blah$0blah");
}
matcher.appendTail(buffer);
Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info("After: " + buffer.toString());

And you'd get the same result:

Before: Here is a WikiWord followed by AnotherWikiWord, then SomeWikiWord.
After: Here is a blahWikiWordblah followed by blahAnotherWikiWordblah,
then blahSomeWikiWordblah.

Generics

The introduction of generics in JDK 5 marked a huge leap forward for the Java language. If you've used C++ templates, you'll find that generics in the Java language are similar, but not exactly the same. If you haven't used C++ templates, then don't worry: This section offers a high-level introduction to generics in the Java language.

What are generics?

With the release of JDK 5, the Java language suddenly sprouted strange and exciting new syntax. Basically, some familiar JDK classes were replaced with their generic equivalents.

Generics is a compiler mechanism whereby you can create (and use) types of things (such as classes or interfaces) in a generic fashion by harvesting the common code and parameterizing (or templatizing) the rest.

Generics in action

To see what a difference generics make, consider the example of a class that has been in the JDK for a long time: java.util.ArrayList, which is a List of Objects that is backed by an array.

Listing 21 shows how java.util.ArrayList is instantiated:

Listing 21. Instantiating ArrayList
ArrayList arrayList = new ArrayList();
arrayList.add("A String");
arrayList.add(new Integer(10));
arrayList.add("Another String");
// So far, so good.

As you can see, the ArrayList is heterogeneous: it contains two String types and one Integer type. Before JDK 5 there was nothing in the Java language to constrain this behavior, which caused many coding mistakes. In Listing 21, for example, everything is looking good so far. But what about accessing the elements of the ArrayList, which Listing 22 tries to do?

Listing 22. An attempt to access elements in ArrayList
ArrayList arrayList = new ArrayList();
arrayList.add("A String");
arrayList.add(new Integer(10));
arrayList.add("Another String");
// So far, so good.
*processArrayList(arrayList);
*// In some later part of the code...
private void processArrayList(ArrayList theList) {
   for (int aa = 0; aa < theList.size(); aa++) {
     // At some point, this will fail...
     String s = (String)theList.get(aa);
   }
}

Without prior knowledge of what's in the ArrayList, you either must check the element you want to access to see if you can handle its type, or face a possible ClassCastException.

With generics, you can specify the type of item that went in the ArrayList. Listing 23 shows how:

Listing 23. A second attempt, using generics
ArrayList<String> arrayList = new ArrayList<String>();
arrayList.add("A String");
arrayList.add(new Integer(10));// compiler error!
arrayList.add("Another String");
// So far, so good.
*processArrayList(arrayList);
*// In some later part of the code...
private void processArrayList(ArrayList<String> theList) {
   for (int aa = 0; aa < theList.size(); aa++) {
     // No cast necessary...
     String s = theList.get(aa);
   }
}

Iterating with generics

Generics enhance the Java language with special syntax for dealing with entities like Lists that you commonly want to step through, element by element. If you want to iterate through ArrayList, for instance, you could rewrite the code from Listing 23 like so:

private void processArrayList(ArrayList<String> theList) {
 for (String s : theList) {
   String s = theList.get(aa);
 }
}

This syntax works for any type of object that is Iterable (that is, implements the Iterable interface).

Parameterized classes

Parameterized classes really shine when it comes to collections, so that's how you'll look at them. Consider the (real) List interface. It represents an ordered collection of objects. In the most common use case, you add items to the List and then access those items either by index or by iterating over the List.

If you're thinking about parameterizing a class, consider whether the following criteria apply:

  • A core class is at the center of some kind of wrapper: that is, the "thing" at the center of the class might apply widely, and the features (attributes, for example) surrounding it are identical.
  • Common behavior: you do pretty much the same operations regardless of the "thing" at the center of the class.

Applying these two criteria, it's pretty obvious that a collection fits the bill:

  • The "thing" is the class of which the collection comprises.
  • The operations (such as add, remove, size, and clear) are pretty much the same regardless of the object of which the collection is comprised.

A parameterized List

In generics syntax, the code to create a List looks like this:

List<E> listReference = new concreteListClass<E>();

The E, which stands for Element, is the "thing" I mentioned earlier. The concreteListClass is the class from the JDK you are instantiating. The JDK includes several List<E> implementations, but you'll use ArrayList<E>. Another way you might see a generic class discussed is Class<T>, where T stands for Type. When you see E in Java code, it's usually referring to a collection of some kind. And when you see T, it's denoting a parameterized class.

So, to create an ArrayList of, say, java.lang.Integer, you'd do this:

List<Integer> listOfIntegers = new ArrayList<Integer>();

SimpleList: A parameterized class

Now suppose you want to create your own parameterized class called SimpleList, with three methods:

  • add() adds an element to the end of the SimpleList.
  • size() returns the current number of elements in the SimpleList.
  • clear() completely clears the contents of the SimpleList.

Listing 24 shows the syntax to parameterize SimpleList:

Listing 24. Parameterizing SimpleList
package com.makotogroup.intro;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;
public class SimpleList<E> {
 private List<E> backingStore;
 public SimpleList() {
   backingStore = new ArrayList<E>();
 }
 public E add(E e) {
   if (backingStore.add(e))
     return e;
   else
     return null;
 }
 public int size() {
   return backingStore.size();
 }
 public void clear() {
   backingStore.clear();
 }
}

SimpleList can be parameterized with any Object subclass. To create and use a SimpleList of, say, java.math.BigDecimal objects, you'd do this:

public static void main(String[] args) {
 SimpleList<BigDecimal> sl = new SimpleList<BigDecimal>();
 sl.add(BigDecimal.ONE);
 log.info("SimpleList size is : " + sl.size());
 sl.add(BigDecimal.ZERO);
 log.info("SimpleList size is : " + sl.size());
 sl.clear();
 log.info("SimpleList size is : " + sl.size());
}

And you'd get this output:

May 5, 2010 6:28:58 PM com.makotogroup.intro.Application main
INFO: SimpleList size is : 1
May 5, 2010 6:28:58 PM com.makotogroup.intro.Application main
INFO: SimpleList size is : 2
May 5, 2010 6:28:58 PM com.makotogroup.intro.Application main
INFO: SimpleList size is : 0

Enum types

In JDK 5, a new data type was added to the Java language, called enum. Not to be confused with java.util.Enumeration, enum represents a set of constant objects that are all related to a particular concept, each of which represents a different constant value in that set. Before enum was introduced to the Java language, you would have defined a set of constant values for a concept (say, gender) like so:

public class Person {
 public static final String MALE = "male";
 public static final String FEMALE = "female";
}

Whatever code needed to reference that constant value would have been written something like this:

public void myMethod() {
 //. . .
 String genderMale = Person.MALE;
 //. . .
}

Defining constants with enum

Using the enum type makes defining constants much more formal, and also more powerful. Here's the enum definition for Gender:

public enum Gender {
 MALE,
 FEMALE
}

That just scratches the surface of what you can do with enums. In fact, enums are much like classes, so they can have constructors, attributes, and methods:

package com.makotogroup.intro;

public enum Gender {
 MALE("male"),
 FEMALE("female");

 private String displayName;
 private Gender(String displayName) {
   this.displayName = displayName; 
 }

 public String getDisplayName() {
   return this.displayName;
 }
}

One difference between a class and an enum is that an enum's constructor must be declared private, and it cannot extend (or inherit from) other enums. However, an enum can implement an interface.

An enum implements an interface

Suppose you define an interface, Displayable:

package com.makotogroup.intro;
public interface Displayable {
 public String getDisplayName();
}

Your Gender enum could implement this interface (as well as any other enum that needed to produce a friendly display name), like so:

package com.makotogroup.intro;

public enum Gender implements Displayable {
 MALE("male"),
 FEMALE("female");

 private String displayName;
 private Gender(String displayName) {
   this.displayName = displayName; 
 }
 @Override
 public String getDisplayName() {
   return this.displayName;
 }
}

See Resources to learn more about generics.


I/O

This section is an overview of the java.io package. You'll learn to use some of its tools to collect and manipulate data from a variety of sources.

Working with external data

More often than not, the data you use in your Java programs will come from an external data source, such as a database, direct byte transfer over a socket, or file storage. The Java language gives you many tools to get information from these sources, and most of them are located in the java.io package.

Files

Of all the data sources available to your Java applications, files are the most common and often the most convenient. If you want to read a file in your Java application, you must use streams that parse its incoming bytes into Java language types.

java.io.File is a class that defines a resource on your file system and represents that resource in an abstract way. Creating a File object is easy:

File f = new File("temp.txt");
File f2 = new File("/home/steve/testFile.txt");

The File constructor takes the name of the file it will create. The first call creates a file called temp.txt in the given directory. The second call creates a file in a specific location on my Linux system. You can pass any String to the constructor of File, so long as it is a valid file name for your OS, whether or not the file that it references even exists.

This code asks the newly created File object if the file exists:

File f2 = new File("/home/steve/testFile.txt");
if (f2.exists()) {
 // File exists. Process it...
} else {
 // File doesn't exist. Create it...
 f2.createNewFile();
}

java.io.File has some other handy methods that you can use to delete files, create directories (by passing a directory name as the argument to File's constructor), determine whether a resource is a file, directory, or symbolic link, and more.

The real action of Java I/O is in writing to and reading from data sources, which is where streams come in.

Using streams in Java I/O

You can access files on the file system using streams. At the lowest level, streams allow a program to receive bytes from a source or to send output to a destination. Some streams handle all kinds of 16-bit characters (Reader and Writer types). Others handle only 8-bit bytes (InputStream and OutputStream types). Within these hierarchies are several flavors of streams, all found in the java.io package. At the highest level of abstraction are character streams and byte streams.

Byte streams read (InputStream and subclasses) and write (OutputStream and subclasses) 8-bit bytes. In other words, a byte stream can be considered a more raw type of stream. Here's a summary of two common byte streams and their usage:

  • FileInputStream/FileOutputStream: Reads bytes from a file, writes bytes to a file.
  • ByteArrayInputStream/ByteArrayOutputStream: Reads bytes from an in-memory array, writes bytes to an in-memory array.

Character streams

Character streams read (Reader and its subclasses) and write (Writer and its subclasses) 16-bit characters. Here's a selected listing of character streams and their usage:

  • StringReader/StringWriter: Read and write characters to and from Strings in memory.
  • InputStreamReader/InputStreamWriter (and subclasses FileReader/FileWriter): Form a bridge between byte streams and character streams. The Reader flavors read bytes from a byte stream and convert them to characters. The Writer flavors convert characters to bytes to put them on byte streams.
  • BufferedReader/BufferedWriter: Buffer data while reading or writing another stream, making read and write operations more efficient.

Rather than try to cover streams in their entirety, I'll focus on the recommended streams for reading and writing files. In most cases, these are character streams.

Reading from a File

There are several ways to read from a File. Arguably the simplest approach is to:

  1. Create an InputStreamReader on the File you want to read from.
  2. Call read() to read one character at a time until you reach the end of the file.

Listing 25 is an example in reading from a File:

Listing 25. Reading from a File
Logger log = Logger.getAnonymousLogger();
StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
try {
 InputStream inputStream = new FileInputStream(new File("input.txt"));
 InputStreamReader reader = new InputStreamReader(inputStream);
 try {
   int c = reader.read();
   while (c != -1) {
     sb.append(c);
   }
 } finally {
 reader.close();
 }
} catch (IOException e) {
 log.info("Caught exception while processing file: " + e.getMessage());
}

Writing to a File

As with reading from a File, there are several ways to write to a File. Once again, I'll go with the simplest approach:

  1. Create a FileOutputStream on the File you want to write to.
  2. Call write() to write the character sequence.

Listing 26 is an example of writing to a File:

Listing 26. Writing to a File
Logger log = Logger.getAnonymousLogger();
StringBuilder sb = getStringToWriteSomehow();
try {
 OutputStream outputStream = new FileOutputStream(new File("output.txt"));
 OutputStreamWriter writer = new OutputStreamWriter(outputStream);
 try {
   writer.write(sb.toString());
 } finally {
   writer.close();
 }
} catch (IOException e) {
 log.info("Caught exception while processing file: " + e.getMessage());
}

Buffering streams

Reading and writing character streams one character at a time is not exactly efficient, so in most cases, you'll probably want to use buffered I/O instead. To read from a file using buffered I/O, the code looks just like Listing 25, except that you wrap the InputStreamReader in a BufferedReader, as shown in Listing 27:

Listing 27. Reading from a File with buffered I/O
Logger log = Logger.getAnonymousLogger();
StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
try {
 InputStream inputStream = new FileInputStream(new File("input.txt"));
 BufferedReader reader = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(inputStream));
 try {
   String line = reader.readLine();
   while (line != null) {
     sb.append(line);
     line = reader.readLine();
   }
 } finally {
 reader.close();
 }
} catch (IOException e) {
 log.info("Caught exception while processing file: " + e.getMessage());
}

Writing to a file using buffered I/O is the same: you just wrap the OutputStreamWriter in a BufferedWriter, as shown in Listing 28

Listing 28. Writing to a File with buffered I/O
Logger log = Logger.getAnonymousLogger();
StringBuilder sb = getStringToWriteSomehow();
try {
 OutputStream outputStream = new FileOutputStream(new File("output.txt"));
 BufferedWriter writer = new BufferedWriter(new OutputStreamWriter(outputStream));
 try {
   writer.write(sb.toString());
 } finally {
   writer.close();
 }
} catch (IOException e) {
 log.info("Caught exception while processing file: " + e.getMessage());
}

I've merely scratched the surface of what's possible with this essential Java library. On your own, try applying what you've learned about files to other data sources.


Java serialization

Java serialization is another one the Java platform's essential libraries. Serialization is primarily used for object persistence and object remoting, two use cases where you need to be able to take a snapshot of the state of an object and then reconstitute it at a later time. This section gives you a taste of the Java Serialization API and shows how to use it in your programs.

What is object serialization?

Serialization is a process where the state of an object and its metadata (such as the object's class name and the names of its attributes) are stored in a special binary format. Putting the object into this format — serializing it — preserves all the information necessary to reconstitute (or deserialize) the object whenever you need to do so.

There are two primary use cases for object serialization:

  • Object persistence means storing the object's state in a permanent persistence mechanism such as a database.
  • Object remoting means sending the object to another computer or system.

java.io.Serializable

The first step to making serialization work is to enable your objects to use the mechanism. Every object you want to be serializable must implement an interface called java.io.Serializable:

import java.io.Serializable;
public class Person implements Serializable {
// etc...
}

The Serializable interface marks the objects of the Person class to the runtime as serializable. Every subclass of Person will also be marked as serializable.

Any attributes of an object that are not serializable will cause the Java runtime to throw a NotSerializableException if it tries to serialize your object. You can manage this by using the transient keyword to tell the runtime not to try to serialize certain attributes. In that case, you are responsible for making sure the attributes are restored so that your object will function properly.

Serializing an object

Now you'll try an example that combines what you've just learned about Java I/O with what you're learning now about serialization.

Suppose you create and populate a Manager object (recall that Manager is in the inheritance graph of Person, which is serializable) and then want to serialize that object to an OutputStream, in this case to a file. That process is shown in Listing 29:

Listing 29. Serializing an object
Manager m = new Manager();
m.setEmployeeNumber("0001");

m.setGender(Gender.FEMALE);
m.setAge(29);
m.setHeight(170);
m.setName("Mary D. Boss");
m.setTaxpayerIdentificationNumber("123-45-6789");
log.info("About to write object using serialization... object looks like:");
m.printAudit(log);
try {
 String filename = "Manager-" + m.hashCode() + ".ser";
 ObjectOutputStream oos = new ObjectOutputStream(new FileOutputStream(filename));
 oos.writeObject(m);
 log.info("Wrote object...");
} catch (Exception e) {
 log.log(Level.SEVERE, "Caught Exception processing object", e);
}

The first step is to create the object and set some attribute values. Next, you create an OutputStream, in this case a FileOutputStream, and then call writeObject() on that stream. writeObject() is a method that uses Java serialization to serialize an object to the stream.

In this example, you are storing the object in a file, but this same technique is used for any type of serialization.

Deserializing an object

The whole point of serializing an object is to be able to reconstitute, or deserialize, it. Listing 30 reads the file you've just serialized and deserializes its contents, thus restoring the state of the Manager object:

Listing 30. Deserializing an object
Manager m = new Manager();
m.setEmployeeNumber("0001");
m.setGender(Gender.FEMALE);
m.setAge(29);
m.setHeight(170);
m.setName("Mary D. Boss");
m.setTaxpayerIdentificationNumber("123-45-6789");
log.info("About to write object using serialization... object looks like:");
m.printAudit(log);
try {
 String filename = "Manager-" + m.hashCode() + ".ser";
 ObjectOutputStream oos = new ObjectOutputStream(new FileOutputStream(filename));
 oos.writeObject(m);
 log.info("Wrote object...");

 ObjectInputStream ois = new ObjectInputStream(new FileInputStream(filename));
 m = (Manager)ois.readObject();
 log.info("Read object using serialization... object looks like:");
 m.printAudit(log);
} catch (Exception e) {
 log.log(Level.SEVERE, "Caught Exception processing object", e);
}

For most application purposes, marking your objects as serializable is all you'll ever need to worry about when it comes to serialization. In cases where you do need to serialize and deserialize your objects explicitly, you can use the technique shown in Listings 29 and 30. But as your application objects evolve, and you add and remove attributes to and from them, serialization takes on a new layer of complexity.

serialVersionUID

Back in the early days of middleware and remote object communication, developers were largely responsible for controlling the "wire format" of their objects, which caused no end of headaches as technology began to evolve.

Suppose you added an attribute to an object, recompiled it, and redistributed the code to every machine in an application cluster. The object would be stored on a machine with one version of the serialization code, but accessed by other machines that might have a different version of the code. When those machines tried to deserialize the object, bad things often happened.

Java serialization metadata — the information included in the binary serialization format — is sophisticated and solves many of the problems that plagued early middleware developers. But it cannot solve every problem.

Java serialization uses a property called serialVersionUID to help you deal with different versions of objects in a serialization scenario. You don't need to declare this property on your objects; by default, the Java platform uses an algorithm that computes a value for it based on your class's attributes, its class name, and position in the local galactic cluster. Most of the time, that works fine. But if you add or remove an attribute, that dynamically generated value will change, and the Java runtime will throw an InvalidClassException.

To avoid this, you should get in the habit of explicitly declaring a serialVersionUID:

import java.io.Serializable;
public class Person implements Serializable {
 private static final long serialVersionUID = 20100515;
// etc...
}

I recommend using some kind of scheme for your serialVersionUID version number (I've used the current date in the example above), and you should declare it private static final and of type long.

You may be wondering when to change this property. The short answer is that you should change it whenever you make an incompatible change to the class, which usually means you've removed an attribute. If you have one version of the object on one machine that has the attribute removed, and the object gets remoted to a machine with a version of the object where the attribute is expected, then things can get weird.

As a rule of thumb, any time you add or remove features (meaning attributes and methods) of a class, you should change its serialVersionUID. Better to get an InvalidClassException on the other end of the wire than an application bug that's due to an incompatible class change.


Conclusion to Part 2

The "Introduction to Java programming" tutorial has covered a significant portion of the Java language, but the language is huge. A single tutorial can't possibly encompass it all.

As you continue learning about the Java language and platform, you'll probably want to study further into topics like regular expressions, generics, and Java serialization. Eventually, you may also want to explore topics not covered in this introductory tutorial, such as concurrency and persistence. Another topic worthy of exploration is Java 7, which will bring many potentially groundbreaking changes to the Java platform. See Resources for some good starting points for learning more about Java programming concepts, including those too advanced to be explored in this introductory format.

Resources

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  • JDK 6: Download JDK 6 from Sun (Oracle).
  • Eclipse: Download the Eclipse IDE for Java Developers.
  • IBM developer kits: IBM provides a number of Java developer kits for use on popular platforms.

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SITE_ID=1
Zone=Java technology
ArticleID=508383
ArticleTitle=Introduction to Java programming, Part 2: Constructs for real-world applications
publish-date=08192010