Generics in Java
Generics mean parameterized types. The idea is to allow type (Integer, String, … etc, and user-defined types) to be a parameter to methods, classes, and interfaces. Using Generics, it is possible to create classes that work with different data types.
An entity such as class, interface, or method that operates on a parameterized type is called a generic entity.
The Object is the superclass of all other classes and Object reference can refer to any type object. These features lack type safety. Generics add that type safety feature. We will discuss that type of safety feature in later examples.
Generics in Java is similar to templates in C++. For example, classes like HashSet, ArrayList, HashMap, etc use generics very well. There are some fundamental differences between the two approaches to generic types.
Like C++, we use <> to specify parameter types in generic class creation. To create objects of a generic class, we use the 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'.
We can also pass multiple Type parameters in Generic classes.
We can also write generic functions that can be called with different types of arguments based on the type of arguments passed to the generic method, the compiler handles each method.
java.lang.Integer = 11 java.lang.String = GeeksForGeeks java.lang.Double = 1.0
Generics work only with Reference Types:
When we declare an instance of a generic type, the type argument passed to the type parameter must be a reference type. We cannot use primitive data types like int, char.
The above line results in a compile-time error, that can be resolved by using type wrappers to encapsulate a primitive type.
But primitive type array can be passed to the type parameter because arrays are reference type.
Generic Types Differ Based on Their Type Arguments:
Consider the following Java code.
error: incompatible types: Test cannot be converted to Test
Even though iObj and sObj are of type Test, they are the references to different types because their type parameters differ. Generics add type safety through this and prevent errors.
Advantages of Generics:
Programs that use Generics has got many benefits over non-generic code.
1. Code Reuse: We can write a method/class/interface once and use it for any type we want.
2. Type Safety: Generics make errors to appear compile time than at run time (It’s always better to know problems in your code at compile time rather than making your code fail at run time). Suppose you want to create an ArrayList that store name of students and if by mistake programmer adds an integer object instead of a string, the compiler allows it. But, when we retrieve this data from ArrayList, it causes problems at runtime.
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.ClassCastException: java.lang.Integer cannot be cast to java.lang.String at Test.main(Test.java:19)
How generics solve this problem?
At the time of defining ArrayList, we can specify that this list can take only String objects.
15: error: no suitable method found for add(int) al.add(10); ^
3. Individual Type Casting is not needed: If we do not use generics, then, in the above example every time we retrieve data from ArrayList, we have to typecast it. Typecasting at every retrieval operation is a big headache. If we already know that our list only holds string data then we need not typecast it every time.
4. Generics promotes code reusability.
5. Implementing generic algorithms: By using generics, we can implement algorithms that work on different types of objects and at the same, they are type safe too.
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