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Java Essentials

Classes and Objects

Default Constructor

It is not necessary to supply a constructor for your class. If not defined, the compiler will supply a no-argument constructor. The default no-argument constructor will invoke the no-argument contructor of its parent class. If no such constructor is available in the parent class, a compiler error will be thrown. Any class directly extending the Object class is excempt from this concern, because Object class has an no-argument constructor by default.

Arbitrary Number of Arguments

You can use a construct called varargs to pass an arbitrary number of values to a method. You use varargs when you don't know how many of a particular type of argument will be passed to the method. It is a shortcut to creating an array manually.

public void drawPolygon(Point.. corners) {

You will most commonly see vargars with the printing methods; e.g. the printf method:

public PrintStream printf(String format, Object... args)

allows you to print an arbitrary number of objects:

System.out.printf("%s: %d, %s%n", name, id, address);

Covariant Return Type

When a method uses a class/interface name as its return type, the class of the type of the returned object must be either a sub-class/-interface of, or the exact class/interface of, the return type. Covariant return type is the technique that allows the return type of a method to vary in the same direction as the sub-class/-interface.

Now suppose we have a class hierarchy like this:

Object -> Number -> ImaginaryNumber

and a method declared to return a Number:

public Number returnNumber() {

you can override this method to return a subclass of Number:

public ImaginaryNumber returnNumber() {

Explicit Constructor Invocation

From within a constructor, you can also use the this keyword to call another constructor in the same class. Doing so is called an explicit constructor invocation.

If present, the invocation of another constructor must be the first line in the constructor.

public class Rectangle {
    private int x, y;
    private int width, height;

    public Rectangle() {
        this(0, 0, 1, 1); // Must be the first line in the constructor

    public Rectangle(int width, int height) {
        this(0, 0, width, height); // Must be the first line in the constructor

    public Rectangle(int x, int y, int width, int height) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
        this.width = width;
        this.height = height;


Access Modifiers

Top Level

A class may be declared with the modifer:

  • public:

    the class is visible to all classes everywhere.

  • package private (no explicit modifer):

    the class is visible only within its own package.

Memeber Level

A class member (field or method) may be declared with the public or package private modifier just as with top-level classes, and with the same meaning. Members have two additional access modifiers:

  • private:

    the member can only be accessed in its own class.

  • protected:

    the member can only be access within its own package (as with package private) and, in addition, by a subclass of its class in another package.

Modifier Class Package Subclass world
public Y Y Y Y
protected Y Y Y N
no modifier Y Y N N
private Y N N N


The static modifier, in combination with the final modifier, is used to define constants:

static final double PI = 3.1415926;

Initialization Blocks

Static Initialization Blocks

If initialization requires some logic (e.g. error handling or a for loop to fill a complex array), simple assignment is inadequate. Instance variables can be initialized in constructors, where error handling or other logic can be used. To provide the same capability for class variables, static initialization blocks are provided.

It is not neccessary to declare class fields ar the beginning of the class definition, although this is the most common practice. It is only necessary that they be declared and initialized before they are used.

A static initialization block is a normal block of code enclosed in braces and preceded by the static keyword:

static {
    // Whatever code is needed for initializatino goes here

A class can have any number of static initialization blocks, and they can appear anywhere in the class body. The runtime system guarantees that static initialization blocks are called in the order that thery appear in the source code.

There is an alternative to static blocks -- private static method:

class Whatever {
    public static VarType myVar = initializeClassVariable();

    private static VarType initializeClassVariable() {
        // Initialization code goes here


The advantage of private static methods is that they can be reused later if you need to reinitialize the class variable.

Initializing Instance Variables

Normally, you would put code to initialize an instance variable in a constructor. There are two alternatives to using a constructor to initialize instance variables:

  • Initializer blocks:

    • The Java compiler copies initializer blocks into every constructor. Therefore, this approach can be used to share a block of code between multiple constructors.
        // Whatever code is needed for initialization goes here
  • Final methods:

    • Final methods cannot be overridden in a subclass.
    • This is especially useful if subclasses might want to reuse the initialization method.
    • This method is final because calling non-final methods during instance initialization can cause problems.
    class Whatever {
        private VarType myVar = initializeInstanceVariable();
        protected final VarType initializeInstanceVariable() {
            // Initialization code goes here

Nested Classes

Nested classes |__ Static nested classes |__ Inner classes |__ Local classes |__ Anonymous classes

class OuterClass {
    static class StaticNestedClass {

    class InnerClass {
  • As a member of the outer class, a nested class can be declared private, public, protected, or package private.

Static Nested Classes

  • As with class methods and variables, a static nested class is associated with its outer class.
  • A static nested class cannot refer directly to instance variables or methods defined in tis enclosing class: it can use them only through an object reference.
  • A staic nest class interacts with the instance members of its outer class (and other classes) just like any other top-level class. In effect, a static nested class is behaviorally a top-level class that has been nested in another top-level class for packaging convenience.

Styntax of creating an instance of a static nested class:

OuterClass.StaticNestedClass nestedObject = new OuterClass.StaticNestedClass();

Inner Classes

  • As with instance methods and variables, an inner class is associated with an instance of its enclosing class.
  • An inner class has direct access to that object's methods and fields.
  • Because an inner class is associated with an instance, it cannot define any static memebers itself.
  • Objects that are instances of an innner class exit within an intance of the outer class.
  • There are two special kinds of inner classes:
    • local classes
    • anonymous classes
  • Serializing inner classes is strongly discouraged.

To instantiate an inner class, you must first instantiate the outer class. Then, create the inner object within the outer object with this syntax:

OuterClass.InnerClass innerObject = outerObject.new InnerClass();
Local Classes

Local classes are classes that defined in a block. You typically find local classes defined in the body of a method.

  • A local class can only access local variables that are decalred final or effectively final. (A variable or parameter whose value is never changed after it is initialized is effectively final.)
  • Local classes cannot define or declare any static members. Local classes are non-static because they have access to instance members of the enclosing block. Consequently, they cannot contain most kinds of static declarations.
  • You cannot declarean interface inside a block; interfaces are inherently static.
  • You cannot decalre static initializers or member interfaces in a local class.
  • A local class can have static members provided that they are contant variables. ( A constant variable is a variable of primitive type or type String that is declared final and initialized with a compile-time constant expression.)
Anonymous Classes

While local classes are class declarations, anonymous classes are expressions, which means that you define the class in another expression.

HelloWorld freshGreeting = new HelloWorld() {
    String name = "tout le monde";
    public void greet() {
        greetSomeone("tout le monde");
    public void greetSomeone(String someone) {
        name = someone;
        System.out.println("Salut " + name);
  • An anonymous class has access to the members of its enclosing class.
  • An anonymous class cannot access local variables in its enclosing scope that are not declared as final or effectively final.
  • You cannot declare static initializers or member interfaces in an anonymous class.
  • An anonymous class can have static members provided that they are constant variables.
  • You cannot declare constuctors in an anonymous class.