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Fundamentally object oriented

Expressions, Statements, and Blocks

Now that you understand variables and operators, it’s time to learn about expressions, statements, and blocks. Operators may be used in building expressions, which compute values; expressions are the core components of statements; statements may be grouped into blocks.

Expressions

An expression is a construct made up of variables, operators, and method invocations, which are constructed according to the syntax of the language, that evaluates to a single value. You’ve already seen examples of expressions, illustrated in bold below:

int cadence = 0; anArray[0] = 100; System.out.println("Element 1 at index 0: " + anArray[0]); int result = 1 + 2; // result is now 3 if (value1 == value2) 
    System.out.println("value1 == value2");

The data type of the value returned by an expression depends on the elements used in the expression. The expression cadence = 0 returns an int because the assignment operator returns a value of the same data type as its left-hand operand; in this case, cadence is an int. As you can see from the other expressions, an expression can return other types of values as well, such as boolean or String.

The Java programming language allows you to construct compound expressions from various smaller expressions as long as the data type required by one part of the expression matches the data type of the other. Here’s an example of a compound expression:

1 * 2 * 3

In this particular example, the order in which the expression is evaluated is unimportant because the result of multiplication is independent of order; the outcome is always the same, no matter in which order you apply the multiplications. However, this is not true of all expressions. For example, the following expression gives different results, depending on whether you perform the addition or the division operation first:

x + y / 100    // ambiguous

You can specify exactly how an expression will be evaluated using balanced parenthesis: ( and ). For example, to make the previous expression unambiguous, you could write the following:

(x + y) / 100  // unambiguous, recommended

If you don’t explicitly indicate the order for the operations to be performed, the order is determined by the precedence assigned to the operators in use within the expression. Operators that have a higher precedence get evaluated first. For example, the division operator has a higher precedence than does the addition operator. Therefore, the following two statements are equivalent:

x + y / 100 

x + (y / 100) // unambiguous, recommended

When writing compound expressions, be explicit and indicate with parentheses which operators should be evaluated first. This practice makes code easier to read and to maintain.

Statements

Statements are roughly equivalent to sentences in natural languages. A statement forms a complete unit of execution. The following types of expressions can be made into a statement by terminating the expression with a semicolon (;).

  • Assignment expressions
  • Any use of ++ or --
  • Method invocations
  • Object creation expressions

Such statements are called expression statements. Here are some examples of expression statements.

// assignment statement
aValue = 8933.234;
// increment statement
aValue++;
// method invocation statement
System.out.println("Hello World!");
// object creation statement
Bicycle myBike = new Bicycle();

In addition to expression statements, there are two other kinds of statements: declaration statements and control flow statements. A declaration statement declares a variable. You’ve seen many examples of declaration statements already:

// declaration statement
double aValue = 8933.234;

Finally, control flow statements regulate the order in which statements get executed.

Blocks

block is a group of zero or more statements between balanced braces and can be used anywhere a single statement is allowed. The following example, BlockDemo, illustrates the use of blocks:

class BlockDemo {
     public static void main(String[] args) {
          boolean condition = true;
          if (condition) { // begin block 1
               System.out.println("Condition is true.");
          } // end block one
          else { // begin block 2
               System.out.println("Condition is false.");
          } // end block 2
     }
}

Arithmetic and Unary Operators

Arithmetic Operators

The Java programming language provides operators that perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There’s a good chance you’ll recognize them by their counterparts in basic mathematics. The only symbol that might look new to you is “%”, which divides one operand by another and returns the remainder as its result.

Operator Description
+ Additive operator (also used for String concatenation)
- Subtraction operator
* Multiplication operator
/ Division operator
% Remainder operator

The Unary Operators

The unary operators require only one operand; they perform various operations such as incrementing/decrementing a value by one, negating an expression, or inverting the value of a boolean.

Operator Description
+ Unary plus operator; indicates positive value (numbers are positive without this, however)
- Unary minus operator; negates an expression
++ Increment operator; increments a value by 1
-- Decrement operator; decrements a value by 1
! Logical complement operator; inverts the value of a boolean

Operators

Now that you’ve learned how to declare and initialize variables, you probably want to know how to do something with them. Learning the operators of the Java programming language is a good place to start. Operators are special symbols that perform specific operations on one, two, or three operands, and then return a result.

As we explore the operators of the Java programming language, it may be helpful for you to know ahead of time which operators have the highest precedence. The operators in the following table are listed according to precedence order. The closer to the top of the table an operator appears, the higher its precedence. Operators with higher precedence are evaluated before operators with relatively lower precedence. Operators on the same line have equal precedence. When operators of equal precedence appear in the same expression, a rule must govern which is evaluated first. All binary operators except for the assignment operators are evaluated from left to right; assignment operators are evaluated right to left.

Operator Precedence
Operators Precedence
postfix expr++ expr--
unary ++expr --expr +expr -expr ~ !
multiplicative * / %
additive + -
shift << >> >>>
relational < > <= >= instanceof
equality == !=
bitwise AND &
bitwise exclusive OR ^
bitwise inclusive OR |
logical AND &&
logical OR ||
ternary ? :
assignment = += -= *= /= %= &= ^= |= <<= >>= >>>=

In general-purpose programming, certain operators tend to appear more frequently than others; for example, the assignment operator “=” is far more common than the unsigned right shift operator “>>>”. With that in mind, the following discussion focuses first on the operators that you’re most likely to use on a regular basis, and ends focusing on those that are less common. Each discussion is accompanied by sample code that you can compile and run. Studying its output will help reinforce what you’ve just learned.

Arrays

An array is a container object that holds a fixed number of values of a single type. The length of an array is established when the array is created. After creation, its length is fixed. You have seen an example of arrays already, in the main method of the “Hello World!” application. This section discusses arrays in greater detail.

Each item in an array is called an element, and each element is accessed by its numerical index. As shown in the preceding illustration, numbering begins with 0.

The following program, ArrayDemo, creates an array of integers, puts some values in the array, and prints each value to standard output.

class ArrayDemo {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // declares an array of integers
        int[] anArray;

        // allocates memory for 10 integers
        anArray = new int[10];
           
        // initialize first element
        anArray[0] = 100;
        // initialize second element
        anArray[1] = 200;
        // and so forth
        anArray[2] = 300;
        anArray[3] = 400;
        anArray[4] = 500;
        anArray[5] = 600;
        anArray[6] = 700;
        anArray[7] = 800;
        anArray[8] = 900;
        anArray[9] = 1000;

        System.out.println("Element at index 0: "
                           + anArray[0]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 1: "
                           + anArray[1]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 2: "
                           + anArray[2]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 3: "
                           + anArray[3]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 4: "
                           + anArray[4]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 5: "
                           + anArray[5]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 6: "
                           + anArray[6]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 7: "
                           + anArray[7]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 8: "
                           + anArray[8]);
        System.out.println("Element at index 9: "
                           + anArray[9]);
    }
} 

The output from this program is:

Element at index 0: 100
Element at index 1: 200
Element at index 2: 300
Element at index 3: 400
Element at index 4: 500
Element at index 5: 600
Element at index 6: 700
Element at index 7: 800
Element at index 8: 900
Element at index 9: 1000

In a real-world programming situation, you would probably use one of the supported looping constructs to iterate through each element of the array, rather than write each line individually as in the preceding example. However, the example clearly illustrates the array syntax.

Declaring a Variable to Refer to an Array

The preceding program declares an array (named anArray) with the following line of code:

// declares an array of integers
int[] anArray;

Like declarations for variables of other types, an array declaration has two components: the array’s type and the array’s name. An array’s type is written as type[], where type is the data type of the contained elements; the brackets are special symbols indicating that this variable holds an array. The size of the array is not part of its type (which is why the brackets are empty). An array’s name can be anything you want, provided that it follows the rules and conventions as previously discussed in the naming section. As with variables of other types, the declaration does not actually create an array; it simply tells the compiler that this variable will hold an array of the specified type.

Similarly, you can declare arrays of other types:

byte[] anArrayOfBytes;
short[] anArrayOfShorts;
long[] anArrayOfLongs;
float[] anArrayOfFloats;
double[] anArrayOfDoubles;
boolean[] anArrayOfBooleans;
char[] anArrayOfChars;
String[] anArrayOfStrings;

You can also place the brackets after the array’s name:

// this form is discouraged
float anArrayOfFloats[];

However, convention discourages this form; the brackets identify the array type and should appear with the type designation.

Creating, Initializing, and Accessing an Array

One way to create an array is with the new operator. The next statement in the ArrayDemo program allocates an array with enough memory for 10 integer elements and assigns the array to the anArray variable.

// create an array of integers
anArray = new int[10];

If this statement is missing, then the compiler prints an error like the following, and compilation fails:

ArrayDemo.java:4: Variable anArray may not have been initialized.

The next few lines assign values to each element of the array:

anArray[0] = 100; // initialize first element
anArray[1] = 200; // initialize second element
anArray[2] = 300; // and so forth

Each array element is accessed by its numerical index:

System.out.println("Element 1 at index 0: " + anArray[0]);
System.out.println("Element 2 at index 1: " + anArray[1]);
System.out.println("Element 3 at index 2: " + anArray[2]);

Alternatively, you can use the shortcut syntax to create and initialize an array:

int[] anArray = { 
    100, 200, 300,
    400, 500, 600, 
    700, 800, 900, 1000
};

Here the length of the array is determined by the number of values provided between braces and separated by commas.

You can also declare an array of arrays (also known as a multidimensional array) by using two or more sets of brackets, such as String[][] names. Each element, therefore, must be accessed by a corresponding number of index values.

Primitive Data Types

The Java programming language is statically-typed, which means that all variables must first be declared before they can be used. This involves stating the variable’s type and name, as you’ve already seen:

int gear = 1;

Doing so tells your program that a field named “gear” exists, holds numerical data, and has an initial value of “1”. A variable’s data type determines the values it may contain, plus the operations that may be performed on it. In addition to int, the Java programming language supports seven other primitive data types. A primitive type is predefined by the language and is named by a reserved keyword. Primitive values do not share state with other primitive values. The eight primitive data types supported by the Java programming language are:

  • byte: The byte data type is an 8-bit signed two’s complement integer. It has a minimum value of -128 and a maximum value of 127 (inclusive). The byte data type can be useful for saving memory in large arrays, where the memory savings actually matters. They can also be used in place of int where their limits help to clarify your code; the fact that a variable’s range is limited can serve as a form of documentation.
  • short: The short data type is a 16-bit signed two’s complement integer. It has a minimum value of -32,768 and a maximum value of 32,767 (inclusive). As with byte, the same guidelines apply: you can use a short to save memory in large arrays, in situations where the memory savings actually matters.
  • int: By default, the int data type is a 32-bit signed two’s complement integer, which has a minimum value of -231 and a maximum value of 231-1. In Java SE 8 and later, you can use the int data type to represent an unsigned 32-bit integer, which has a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 232-1. Use the Integer class to use int data type as an unsigned integer. See the section The Number Classes for more information. Static methods like compareUnsigneddivideUnsigned etc have been added to the Integer class to support the arithmetic operations for unsigned integers.
  • long: The long data type is a 64-bit two’s complement integer. The signed long has a minimum value of -263 and a maximum value of 263-1. In Java SE 8 and later, you can use the long data type to represent an unsigned 64-bit long, which has a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 264-1. Use this data type when you need a range of values wider than those provided by int. The Long class also contains methods like compareUnsigneddivideUnsigned etc to support arithmetic operations for unsigned long.
  • float: The float data type is a single-precision 32-bit IEEE 754 floating point. Its range of values is beyond the scope of this discussion, but is specified in the Floating-Point Types, Formats, and Values section of the Java Language Specification. As with the recommendations for byte and short, use a float (instead of double) if you need to save memory in large arrays of floating point numbers. This data type should never be used for precise values, such as currency. For that, you will need to use the java.math.BigDecimal class instead. Numbers and Strings covers BigDecimal and other useful classes provided by the Java platform.
  • double: The double data type is a double-precision 64-bit IEEE 754 floating point. Its range of values is beyond the scope of this discussion, but is specified in the Floating-Point Types, Formats, and Values section of the Java Language Specification. For decimal values, this data type is generally the default choice. As mentioned above, this data type should never be used for precise values, such as currency.
  • boolean: The boolean data type has only two possible values: true and false. Use this data type for simple flags that track true/false conditions. This data type represents one bit of information, but its “size” isn’t something that’s precisely defined.
  • char: The char data type is a single 16-bit Unicode character. It has a minimum value of '\u0000' (or 0) and a maximum value of '\uffff' (or 65,535 inclusive).

In addition to the eight primitive data types listed above, the Java programming language also provides special support for character strings via the java.lang.String class. Enclosing your character string within double quotes will automatically create a new String object; for example, String s = "this is a string";String objects are immutable, which means that once created, their values cannot be changed. The String class is not technically a primitive data type, but considering the special support given to it by the language, you’ll probably tend to think of it as such. 

Default Values

It’s not always necessary to assign a value when a field is declared. Fields that are declared but not initialized will be set to a reasonable default by the compiler. Generally speaking, this default will be zero or null, depending on the data type. Relying on such default values, however, is generally considered bad programming style.

The following chart summarizes the default values for the above data types.

Data Type Default Value (for fields)
byte 0
short 0
int 0
long 0L
float 0.0f
double 0.0d
char ‘\u0000’
String (or any object)   null
boolean false

Variables

As you learned in the previous lesson, an object stores its state in fields.

int cadence = 0;
int speed = 0;
int gear = 1;

The What Is an Object? discussion introduced you to fields, but you probably have still a few questions, such as: What are the rules and conventions for naming a field? Besides int, what other data types are there? Do fields have to be initialized when they are declared? Are fields assigned a default value if they are not explicitly initialized? We’ll explore the answers to such questions in this lesson, but before we do, there are a few technical distinctions you must first become aware of. In the Java programming language, the terms “field” and “variable” are both used; this is a common source of confusion among new developers, since both often seem to refer to the same thing.

The Java programming language defines the following kinds of variables:

  • Instance Variables (Non-Static Fields) Technically speaking, objects store their individual states in “non-static fields”, that is, fields declared without the static keyword. Non-static fields are also known as instance variables because their values are unique to each instance of a class (to each object, in other words); the currentSpeed of one bicycle is independent from the currentSpeed of another.
  • Class Variables (Static Fields) A class variable is any field declared with the static modifier; this tells the compiler that there is exactly one copy of this variable in existence, regardless of how many times the class has been instantiated. A field defining the number of gears for a particular kind of bicycle could be marked as static since conceptually the same number of gears will apply to all instances. The code static int numGears = 6; would create such a static field. Additionally, the keyword final could be added to indicate that the number of gears will never change.
  • Local Variables Similar to how an object stores its state in fields, a method will often store its temporary state in local variables. The syntax for declaring a local variable is similar to declaring a field (for example, int count = 0;). There is no special keyword designating a variable as local; that determination comes entirely from the location in which the variable is declared — which is between the opening and closing braces of a method. As such, local variables are only visible to the methods in which they are declared; they are not accessible from the rest of the class.
  • Parameters You’ve already seen examples of parameters, both in the Bicycle class and in the main method of the “Hello World!” application. Recall that the signature for the main method is public static void main(String[] args). Here, the args variable is the parameter to this method. The important thing to remember is that parameters are always classified as “variables” not “fields”. This applies to other parameter-accepting constructs as well (such as constructors and exception handlers) that you’ll learn about later in the tutorial.

Having said that, the remainder of this tutorial uses the following general guidelines when discussing fields and variables. If we are talking about “fields in general” (excluding local variables and parameters), we may simply say “fields”. If the discussion applies to “all of the above”, we may simply say “variables”. If the context calls for a distinction, we will use specific terms (static field, local variables, etc.) as appropriate. You may also occasionally see the term “member” used as well. A type’s fields, methods, and nested types are collectively called its members.

Naming

Every programming language has its own set of rules and conventions for the kinds of names that you’re allowed to use, and the Java programming language is no different. The rules and conventions for naming your variables can be summarized as follows:

  • Variable names are case-sensitive. A variable’s name can be any legal identifier — an unlimited-length sequence of Unicode letters and digits, beginning with a letter, the dollar sign “$“, or the underscore character “_“. The convention, however, is to always begin your variable names with a letter, not “$” or “_“. Additionally, the dollar sign character, by convention, is never used at all. You may find some situations where auto-generated names will contain the dollar sign, but your variable names should always avoid using it. A similar convention exists for the underscore character; while it’s technically legal to begin your variable’s name with “_“, this practice is discouraged. White space is not permitted.
  • Subsequent characters may be letters, digits, dollar signs, or underscore characters. Conventions (and common sense) apply to this rule as well. When choosing a name for your variables, use full words instead of cryptic abbreviations. Doing so will make your code easier to read and understand. In many cases it will also make your code self-documenting; fields named cadencespeed, and gear, for example, are much more intuitive than abbreviated versions, such as sc, and g. Also keep in mind that the name you choose must not be a keyword or reserved word.
  • If the name you choose consists of only one word, spell that word in all lowercase letters. If it consists of more than one word, capitalize the first letter of each subsequent word. The names gearRatio and currentGear are prime examples of this convention. If your variable stores a constant value, such as static final int NUM_GEARS = 6, the convention changes slightly, capitalizing every letter and separating subsequent words with the underscore character. By convention, the underscore character is never used elsewhere.

What Is a Package?

A package is a namespace that organizes a set of related classes and interfaces. Conceptually you can think of packages as being similar to different folders on your computer. You might keep HTML pages in one folder, images in another, and scripts or applications in yet another. Because software written in the Java programming language can be composed of hundreds or thousands of individual classes, it makes sense to keep things organized by placing related classes and interfaces into packages.

The Java platform provides an enormous class library (a set of packages) suitable for use in your own applications. This library is known as the “Application Programming Interface”, or “API” for short. Its packages represent the tasks most commonly associated with general-purpose programming. For example, a String object contains state and behavior for character strings; a File object allows a programmer to easily create, delete, inspect, compare, or modify a file on the filesystem; a Socket object allows for the creation and use of network sockets; various GUI objects control buttons and checkboxes and anything else related to graphical user interfaces. There are literally thousands of classes to choose from. This allows you, the programmer, to focus on the design of your particular application, rather than the infrastructure required to make it work.

The Java Platform API Specification contains the complete listing for all packages, interfaces, classes, fields, and methods supplied by the Java SE platform. Load the page in your browser and bookmark it. As a programmer, it will become your single most important piece of reference documentation.

What Is an Interface?

As you’ve already learned, objects define their interaction with the outside world through the methods that they expose. Methods form the object’s interface with the outside world; the buttons on the front of your television set, for example, are the interface between you and the electrical wiring on the other side of its plastic casing. You press the “power” button to turn the television on and off.

In its most common form, an interface is a group of related methods with empty bodies. A bicycle’s behavior, if specified as an interface, might appear as follows:

interface Bicycle {

    //  wheel revolutions per minute
    void changeCadence(int newValue);

    void changeGear(int newValue);

    void speedUp(int increment);

    void applyBrakes(int decrement);
}

To implement this interface, the name of your class would change (to a particular brand of bicycle, for example, such as ACMEBicycle), and you’d use the implements keyword in the class declaration:

class ACMEBicycle implements Bicycle {

    int cadence = 0;
    int speed = 0;
    int gear = 1;

   // The compiler will now require that methods
   // changeCadence, changeGear, speedUp, and applyBrakes
   // all be implemented. Compilation will fail if those
   // methods are missing from this class.

    void changeCadence(int newValue) {
         cadence = newValue;
    }

    void changeGear(int newValue) {
         gear = newValue;
    }

    void speedUp(int increment) {
         speed = speed + increment;   
    }

    void applyBrakes(int decrement) {
         speed = speed - decrement;
    }

    void printStates() {
         System.out.println("cadence:" +
             cadence + " speed:" + 
             speed + " gear:" + gear);
    }
}

Implementing an interface allows a class to become more formal about the behavior it promises to provide. Interfaces form a contract between the class and the outside world, and this contract is enforced at build time by the compiler. If your class claims to implement an interface, all methods defined by that interface must appear in its source code before the class will successfully compile.

What Is Inheritance?

Different kinds of objects often have a certain amount in common with each other. Mountain bikes, road bikes, and tandem bikes, for example, all share the characteristics of bicycles (current speed, current pedal cadence, current gear). Yet each also defines additional features that make them different: tandem bicycles have two seats and two sets of handlebars; road bikes have drop handlebars; some mountain bikes have an additional chain ring, giving them a lower gear ratio.

Object-oriented programming allows classes to inherit commonly used state and behavior from other classes. In this example, Bicycle now becomes the superclass of MountainBikeRoadBike, and TandemBike. In the Java programming language, each class is allowed to have one direct superclass, and each superclass has the potential for an unlimited number of subclasses:

The syntax for creating a subclass is simple. At the beginning of your class declaration, use the extends keyword, followed by the name of the class to inherit from:

class MountainBike extends Bicycle {

    // new fields and methods defining 
    // a mountain bike would go here

}

This gives MountainBike all the same fields and methods as Bicycle, yet allows its code to focus exclusively on the features that make it unique. This makes code for your subclasses easy to read. However, you must take care to properly document the state and behavior that each superclass defines, since that code will not appear in the source file of each subclass.

What Is a Class?

In the real world, you’ll often find many individual objects all of the same kind. There may be thousands of other bicycles in existence, all of the same make and model. Each bicycle was built from the same set of blueprints and therefore contains the same components. In object-oriented terms, we say that your bicycle is an instance of the class of objects known as bicycles. A class is the blueprint from which individual objects are created.

The following Bicycle class is one possible implementation of a bicycle:

class Bicycle {

    int cadence = 0;
    int speed = 0;
    int gear = 1;

    void changeCadence(int newValue) {
         cadence = newValue;
    }

    void changeGear(int newValue) {
         gear = newValue;
    }

    void speedUp(int increment) {
         speed = speed + increment;   
    }

    void applyBrakes(int decrement) {
         speed = speed - decrement;
    }

    void printStates() {
         System.out.println("cadence:" +
             cadence + " speed:" + 
             speed + " gear:" + gear);
    }
}

The syntax of the Java programming language will look new to you, but the design of this class is based on the previous discussion of bicycle objects. The fields cadencespeed, and gear represent the object’s state, and the methods (changeCadencechangeGearspeedUp etc.) define its interaction with the outside world.

You may have noticed that the Bicycle class does not contain a main method. That’s because it’s not a complete application; it’s just the blueprint for bicycles that might be used in an application. The responsibility of creating and using new Bicycle objects belongs to some other class in your application.

Here’s a BicycleDemo class that creates two separate Bicycle objects and invokes their methods:

class BicycleDemo {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Create two different 
        // Bicycle objects
        Bicycle bike1 = new Bicycle();
        Bicycle bike2 = new Bicycle();

        // Invoke methods on 
        // those objects
        bike1.changeCadence(50);
        bike1.speedUp(10);
        bike1.changeGear(2);
        bike1.printStates();

        bike2.changeCadence(50);
        bike2.speedUp(10);
        bike2.changeGear(2);
        bike2.changeCadence(40);
        bike2.speedUp(10);
        bike2.changeGear(3);
        bike2.printStates();
    }
}

The output of this test prints the ending pedal cadence, speed, and gear for the two bicycles:

cadence:50 speed:10 gear:2
cadence:40 speed:20 gear:3
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