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Java - Generics

In any nontrivial software project, bugs are simply a fact of life. Careful planning, programming, and testing can help reduce their pervasiveness, but somehow, somewhere, they'll always find a way to creep into your code. This becomes especially apparent as new features are introduced and your code base grows in size and complexity.

Fortunately, some bugs are easier to detect than others. Compile-time bugs, for example, can be detected early on; you can use the compiler's error messages to figure out what the problem is and fix it, right then and there. Runtime bugs, however, can be much more problematic; they don't always surface immediately, and when they do, it may be at a point in the program that is far removed from the actual cause of the problem.

Generics add stability to your code by making more of your bugs detectable at compile time.

Generic Methods


You can write a single generic method declaration that can be called with arguments of different types. Based on the types of the arguments passed to the generic method, the compiler handles each method call appropriately. Following are the rules to define Generic Methods −


  • All generic method declarations have a type parameter section delimited by angle brackets (< and >) that precedes the method's return type ( < E > in the next example).
  • Each type parameter section contains one or more type parameters separated by commas. A type parameter, also known as a type variable, is an identifier that specifies a generic type name.
  • The type parameters can be used to declare the return type and act as placeholders for the types of the arguments passed to the generic method, which are known as actual type arguments.
  • A generic method's body is declared like that of any other method. Note that type parameters can represent only reference types, not primitive types (like int, double and char).

To create objects of generic class, we use following syntax.


/ To create an instance of generic class 
BaseType <Type> obj = new BaseType <Type>()

Note: In Parameter type we can not use primitives like 
      'int','char' or 'double'.

Following example illustrates how we can print an array of different type using a single Generic method −

// A Simple Java program to show working of user defined
// Generic classes

// We use < > to specify Parameter type
public class GenericMethodTest {
   // generic method printArray
   public static < E > void printArray( E[] inputArray ) {
      // Display array elements
      for(E element : inputArray) {
         System.out.printf("%s ", element);
      }
      System.out.println();
   }

   public static void main(String args[]) {
      // Create arrays of Integer, Double and Character
      Integer[] intArray = { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };
      Double[] doubleArray = { 1.1, 2.2, 3.3, 4.4 };
      Character[] charArray = { 'H', 'E', 'L', 'L', 'O' };

      System.out.println("Array integerArray contains:");
      printArray(intArray);   // pass an Integer array

      System.out.println("\nArray doubleArray contains:");
      printArray(doubleArray);   // pass a Double array

      System.out.println("\nArray characterArray contains:");
      printArray(charArray);   // pass a Character array
   }
}

Output:

Array integerArray contains:
1 2 3 4 5

Array doubleArray contains:
1.1 2.2 3.3 4.4

Array characterArray contains:

H E L L O


Bounded Type Parameters


There may be times when you'll want to restrict the kinds of types that are allowed to be passed to a type parameter. For example, a method that operates on numbers might only want to accept instances of Number or its subclasses. This is what bounded type parameters are for.

To declare a bounded type parameter, list the type parameter's name, followed by the extends keyword, followed by its upper bound.

Example
Following example illustrates how extends is used in a general sense to mean either "extends" (as in classes) or "implements" (as in interfaces). This example is Generic method to return the largest of three Comparable objects −

public class MaximumTest {
   // determines the largest of three Comparable objects
 
   public static <T extends Comparable<T>> T maximum(T x, T y, T z) {
      T max = x;   // assume x is initially the largest
     
      if(y.compareTo(max) > 0) {
         max = y;   // y is the largest so far
      }
     
      if(z.compareTo(max) > 0) {
         max = z;   // z is the largest now               
      }
      return max;   // returns the largest object 
   }
 
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.printf("Max of %d, %d and %d is %d\n\n",
         3, 4, 5, maximum( 3, 4, 5 ));

      System.out.printf("Max of %.1f,%.1f and %.1f is %.1f\n\n",

         6.6, 8.8, 7.7, maximum( 6.6, 8.8, 7.7 ));

      System.out.printf("Max of %s, %s and %s is %s\n","pear",

         "apple", "orange", maximum("pear", "apple", "orange"));
   }
}

Output:

Max of 3, 4 and 5 is 5

Max of 6.6,8.8 and 7.7 is 8.8

Max of pear, apple and orange is pear

Generic Classes


A generic class declaration looks like a non-generic class declaration, except that the class name is followed by a type parameter section.

As with generic methods, the type parameter section of a generic class can have one or more type parameters separated by commas. These classes are known as parameterized classes or parameterized types because they accept one or more parameters.

Example
Following example illustrates how we can define a generic class −

public class Box<T> {
   private T t;

   public void add(T t) {
      this.t = t;
   }

   public T get() {
      return t;
   }

   public static void main(String[] args) {
      Box<Integer> integerBox = new Box<Integer>();
      Box<String> stringBox = new Box<String>();
    
      integerBox.add(new Integer(10));
      stringBox.add(new String("Hello World"));

      System.out.printf("Integer Value :%d\n\n", integerBox.get());
      System.out.printf("String Value :%s\n", stringBox.get());
   }
}

Output:

Integer Value :10


String Value :Hello World


This article is contributed by Sibin. Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above

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