Tue. Jul 16th, 2019

Java Interfaces

Interfaces

 

Using the keyword interface, you can fully abstract a class’ interface from its implementation. That is, using interface, you can specify what a class must do, but not how it does it. Interfaces are syntactically similar to classes, but they lack instance variables, and their methods are declared without any body. Once it is defined, any number of classes can implement an interface. Also, one class can implement any number of interfaces. To implement an interface, a class must create the complete set of methods defined by the interface. How ever, each class is free to determine the details of its own implementation. By providing the interface keyword, Java allows you to fully utilize the “one interface, multiple methods” aspect of polymorphism. Interfaces are designed to support dynamic method resolution at run time. Normally, in order for a method to be called from one class to another, both classes need to be present at compile time so the Java compiler can check to ensure that the method signatures are compatible.

Defining an Interface

An interface is defined much like a class. This is the general form of an interface:

 

access interface name {

return-type method-name1(parameter-list);

return-type method-name2(parameter-list);

type final-varname1 = value;

type final-varname2 = value;

// …

return-type method-nameN(parameter-list);

type final-varnameN = value;

}

 

Here, access is either public or not used. When no access specifier is included, then default access results, and the interface is only available to other members of the package in which it is declared. When it is declared as public, the interface can be used by any other code. name is the name of the interface, and can be any valid identifier. Notice that the methods which are declared have no bodies. They end with a semicolon after the parameter list. They are, essentially, abstract methods; there can be no default implementation of any method specified within an interface. Each class that includes an interface must implement all of the methods. Variables can be declared inside of interface declarations. They are implicitly final and static, meaning they cannot be changed by the implementing class. They must also be initialized with a constant value. All methods and variables are implicitly public if the interface, itself, is declared as public. Here is an example of an interface definition. It declares a simple interface which contains one method called callback( ) that takes a single integer parameter.

 

interface Callback {

void callback(int param);

}

Implementing Interfaces

Once an interface has been defined, one or more classes can implement that interface. To implement an interface, include the implements clause in a class definition, and then create the methods defined by the interface. The general form of a class that includes the implements clause looks like this:

 

access class classname [extends superclass]

[implements interface [,interface…]] {

// class-body

}

 

Here, access is either public or not used. If a class implements more than one interface, the interfaces are separated with a comma. If a class implements two interfaces that declare the same method, then the same method will be used by clients of either interface. The methods that implement an interface must be declared public. Also, the type signature of the implementing method must match exactly the type signature specified in the interface definition. Here is a small example class that implements the Callback interface shown earlier.

 

class Client implements Callback {

// Implement Callback’s interface

public void callback(int p) {

System.out.println(“callback called with ” + p);

}

}

 

Notice that callback( ) is declared using the public access specifier. When you implement an interface method, it must be declared as public. It is both permissible and common for classes that implement interfaces to define additional members of their own. For example, the following version of Client implements callback( ) and adds the method nonIfaceMeth( ):

 

class Client implements Callback {

// Implement Callback’s interface

public void callback(int p) {

System.out.println(“callback called with ” + p);

}

void nonIfaceMeth() {

System.out.println(“Classes that implement interfaces ” +

“may also define other members, too.”);

}

}

Accessing Implementations through Interface References

 

You can declare variables as object references that use an interface rather than a class type. Any instance of any class that implements the declared interface can be referred to by such a variable. When you call a method through one of these references, the correct version will be called based on the actual instance of the interface being referred to. This is one of the key features of interfaces. The method to be executed is looked up dynamically at run time, allowing classes to be created later than the code which calls methods on them. The calling code can dispatch through an interface without having to know anything about the “callee.” This process is similar to using a superclass reference to access a subclass object, as described earlier. The following example calls the callback( ) method via an interface reference variable:

 

class TestIface {

public static void main(String args[]) {

Callback c = new Client();

c.callback(42);

}

}

 

The output of this program is shown here:

callback called with 42

 

Notice that variable c is declared to be of the interface type Callback, yet it was assigned an instance of Client. Although c can be used to access the callback( ) method, it cannot access any other members of the Client class. An interface reference variable only has knowledge of the methods declared by its interface declaration. Thus, c could not be used to access nonIfaceMeth( ) since it is defined by Client but not Callback. While the preceding example shows, mechanically, how an interface reference variable can access an implementation object, it does not demonstrate the polymorphic power of such a reference. To sample this usage, first create the second implementation of Callback, shown here:

 

// Another implementation of Callback.

class AnotherClient implements Callback {

// Implement Callback’s interface

public void callback(int p) {

System.out.println(“Another version of callback”);

System.out.println(“p squared is ” + (p*p));

}

}

 

Now, try the following class:

 

class TestIface2 {

public static void main(String args[]) {

Callback c = new Client();

AnotherClient ob = new AnotherClient();

c.callback(42);

c = ob; // c now refers to AnotherClient object

c.callback(42);

}

}

 

The output from this program is shown here:

callback called with 42

Another version of callback

p squared is 1764

 

As you can see, the version of callback( ) that is called is determined by the type of object that c refers to at run time. While this is a very simple example, you will see another, more practical one shortly.

Partial Implementations

If a class includes an interface but does not fully implement the methods defined by that interface, then that class must be declared as abstract. For example:

 

abstract class Incomplete implements Callback {

int a, b;

void show() {

System.out.println(a + ” ” + b);

}

// …

}

 

Here, the class Incomplete does not implement callback( ) and must be declared as abstract. Any class that inherits Incomplete must implement callback( ) or be declared abstract itself.

Interfaces Can Be Extended

One interface can inherit another by use of the keyword extends. The syntax is the same as for inheriting classes. When a class implements an interface that inherits another interface, it must provide implementations for all methods defined within the interface inheritance chain. Following is an example:

 

// One interface can extend another.

interface A {

void meth1();

void meth2();

}

// B now includes meth1() and meth2() — it adds meth3().

interface B extends A {

void meth3();

}

// This class must implement all of A and B

class MyClass implements B {

public void meth1() {

System.out.println(“Implement meth1().”);

}

public void meth2() {

System.out.println(“Implement meth2().”);

}

public void meth3() {

System.out.println(“Implement meth3().”);

}

}

class IFExtend {

public static void main(String arg[]) {

MyClass ob = new MyClass();

ob.meth1();

ob.meth2();

ob.meth3();

}

}

 

Any class that implements an interface must implement all methods defined by that interface, including any that are inherited from other interfaces.