Immutable Class & Objects - Learners Pool

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Immutable Class & Objects

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Immutable objects are instances whose state doesn’t change after it has been initialized. For example, String is an immutable class and once instantiated its value never changes.

public final class Color
   final private int red;
   final private int green;
   final private int blue;
   private void check(int red, int green, int blue) 
       if (red < 0 || red > 255 || green < 0 || green > 255 || blue < 0 || blue > 255) 
              throw new IllegalArgumentException();
    public Color(int red, int green, int blue) 
        check(red, green, blue); = red; = green; = blue;
     public Color invert() 
            return new Color(255,255,255 );
Advantage Of Immutability:
The advantage of immutability comes with concurrency. It is difficult to maintain correctness in mutable objects, as multiple threads could be trying to change the state of the same object, leading to some threads seeing a different state of the same object, depending on the timing of the reads and writes to the said object.
By having an immutable object, one can ensure that all threads that are looking at the object will be seeing the same state, as the state of an immutable object will not change.

Rules to define immutable classes:
The following rules define a simple strategy for creating immutable objects.
  • Don't provide "setter" methods - methods that modify fields or objects referred to by fields.
  • Make all fields final and private. Don't allow subclasses to override methods. The simplest way to do this is to declare the class as final. A more sophisticated approach is to make the constructor private and construct instances in factory methods.
  • If the instance fields include references to mutable objects, don't allow those objects to be changed
  • Don't provide methods that modify the mutable objects.
  • Don't share references to the mutable objects. Never store references to external, mutable objects passed to the constructor; if necessary, create copies, and store references to the copies. Similarly, create copies of your internal mutable objects when necessary to avoid returning the originals in your methods.
Immutable Objects:
An immutable object is an object whose state cannot be changed. An immutable class is a class whose instances are immutable by design, and implementation. The Java class which is most commonly presented as an example of immutability is java.lang.String.
Some basic types and classes in Java are fundamentally mutable. For example, all array types are mutable, and so are classes like java.util.Data. This can be awkward in situations where an immutable type is mandated. One way to deal with this is to create an immutable wrapper for the mutable type. Here is a simple wrapper for an array of integers
public class ImmutableIntArray 
   private final int[] array;
   public ImmutableIntArray(int[] array) 
        this.array = array.clone();
   public int[] getValue() 
      return this.clone();
This class works by using defensive copying to isolate the mutable state (the int[]) from any code that might mutate it:
  • The constructor uses clone() to create a distinct copy of the parameter array. If the caller of the constructor subsequent changed the parameter array, it would not affect the state of the ImmutableIntArray.
  • The getValue() method also uses clone() to create the array that is returned. If the caller were to change the result array, it would not affect the state of the ImmutableIntArray.

We could also add methods to ImmutableIntArray to perform read-only operations on the wrapped array; e.g. get its length, get the value at a particular index, and so on.
Note that an immutable wrapper type implemented this way is not type compatible with the original type. You cannot simply substitute the former for the latter.

Points to consider to create Immutable Object:
  •  All properties must be set in the constructor(s) or factory method(s).There should be no setters.
  • If it is necessary to include setters for interface compatibility reasons, they should either do nothing or throw an exception.
  •  All properties should be declared as private and final.
  • For all properties that are references to mutable types: 
    • the property should be initialized with a deep copy of the value passed via the constructor
    • the property's getter should return a deep copy of the property value.
  • The class should be declared as final to prevent someone creating a mutable subclass of an immutable class.
A couple of other things to note:
  • Immutability does not prevent object from being nullable; e.g. null can be assigned to a String variable.
  • If an immutable classes properties are declared as final, instances are inherently thread-safe. This makes immutable classes a good building block for implementing multi-threaded applications.

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