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Learning Java, 4th Edition

Cover of Learning Java, 4th Edition by Daniel Leuck... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Learning Java
  2. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book
    2. New Developments
      1. New in This Edition (Java 6 and 7)
    3. Using This Book
    4. Online Resources
    5. Conventions Used in This Book
    6. Using Code Examples
    7. Safari® Books Online
    8. How to Contact Us
    9. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. A Modern Language
    1. Enter Java
      1. Java’s Origins
      2. Growing Up
    2. A Virtual Machine
    3. Java Compared with Other Languages
    4. Safety of Design
      1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify...
      2. Type Safety and Method Binding
      3. Incremental Development
      4. Dynamic Memory Management
      5. Error Handling
      6. Threads
      7. Scalability
    5. Safety of Implementation
      1. The Verifier
      2. Class Loaders
      3. Security Managers
    6. Application and User-Level Security
    7. A Java Road Map
      1. The Past: Java 1.0–Java 1.6
      2. The Present: Java 7
      3. The Future
      4. Availability
  4. 2. A First Application
    1. Java Tools and Environment
    2. Configuring Eclipse and Creating a Project
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. HelloJava
      1. Classes
      2. The main() Method
      3. Classes and Objects
      4. Variables and Class Types
      5. HelloComponent
      6. Inheritance
      7. The JComponent Class
      8. Relationships and Finger Pointing
      9. Package and Imports
      10. The paintComponent() Method
    4. HelloJava2: The Sequel
      1. Instance Variables
      2. Constructors
      3. Events
      4. The repaint() Method
      5. Interfaces
    5. HelloJava3: The Button Strikes!
      1. Method Overloading
      2. Components
      3. Containers
      4. Layout
      5. Subclassing and Subtypes
      6. More Events and Interfaces
      7. Color Commentary
      8. Static Members
      9. Arrays
      10. Our Color Methods
    6. HelloJava4: Netscape’s Revenge
      1. Threads
      2. The Thread Class
      3. The Runnable Interface
      4. Starting the Thread
      5. Running Code in the Thread
      6. Exceptions
      7. Synchronization
  5. 3. Tools of the Trade
    1. JDK Environment
    2. The Java VM
    3. Running Java Applications
      1. System Properties
    4. The Classpath
      1. javap
    5. The Java Compiler
    6. JAR Files
      1. File Compression
      2. The jar Utility
      3. The pack200 Utility
    7. Policy Files
      1. The Default Security Manager
      2. The policytool Utility
      3. Using a Policy File with the Default Security Manager
  6. 4. The Java Language
    1. Text Encoding
      1. Javadoc Comments
    3. Types
      1. Primitive Types
      2. Reference Types
      3. A Word About Strings
    4. Statements and Expressions
      1. Statements
      2. Expressions
    5. Exceptions
      1. Exceptions and Error Classes
      2. Exception Handling
      3. Bubbling Up
      4. Stack Traces
      5. Checked and Unchecked Exceptions
      6. Throwing Exceptions
      7. try Creep
      8. The finally Clause
      9. Try with Resources
      10. Performance Issues
    6. Assertions
      1. Enabling and Disabling Assertions
      2. Using Assertions
    7. Arrays
      1. Array Types
      2. Array Creation and Initialization
      3. Using Arrays
      4. Anonymous Arrays
      5. Multidimensional Arrays
      6. Inside Arrays
  7. 5. Objects in Java
    1. Classes
      1. Accessing Fields and Methods
      2. Static Members
    2. Methods
      1. Local Variables
      2. Shadowing
      3. Static Methods
      4. Initializing Local Variables
      5. Argument Passing and References
      6. Wrappers for Primitive Types
      7. Autoboxing and Unboxing of Primitives
      8. Variable-Length Argument Lists
      9. Method Overloading
    3. Object Creation
      1. Constructors
      2. Working with Overloaded Constructors
      3. Static and Nonstatic Initializer Blocks
    4. Object Destruction
      1. Garbage Collection
      2. Finalization
      3. Weak and Soft References
    5. Enumerations
      1. Enum Values
      2. Customizing Enumerations
  8. 6. Relationships Among Classes
    1. Subclassing and Inheritance
      1. Shadowed Variables
      2. Overriding Methods
      3. Special References: this and super
      4. Casting
      5. Using Superclass Constructors
      6. Full Disclosure: Constructors and Initialization
      7. Abstract Methods and Classes
    2. Interfaces
      1. Interfaces as Callbacks
      2. Interface Variables
      3. Subinterfaces
    3. Packages and Compilation Units
      1. Compilation Units
      2. Package Names
      3. Class Visibility
      4. Importing Classes
    4. Visibility of Variables and Methods
      1. Basic Access Modifiers
      2. Subclasses and Visibility
      3. Interfaces and Visibility
    5. Arrays and the Class Hierarchy
      1. ArrayStoreException
    6. Inner Classes
      1. Inner Classes as Adapters
      2. Inner Classes Within Methods
  9. 7. Working with Objects and Classes
    1. The Object Class
      1. Equality and Equivalence
      2. Hashcodes
      3. Cloning Objects
    2. The Class Class
    3. Reflection
      1. Modifiers and Security
      2. Accessing Fields
      3. Accessing Methods
      4. Accessing Constructors
      5. What About Arrays?
      6. Accessing Generic Type Information
      7. Accessing Annotation Data
      8. Dynamic Interface Adapters
      9. What Is Reflection Good For?
    4. Annotations
      1. Using Annotations
      2. Standard Annotations
      3. The apt Tool
  10. 8. Generics
    1. Containers: Building a Better Mousetrap
      1. Can Containers Be Fixed?
    2. Enter Generics
      1. Talking About Types
    3. “There Is No Spoon”
      1. Erasure
      2. Raw Types
    4. Parameterized Type Relationships
      1. Why Isn’t a List<Date> a List<Object>?
    5. Casts
    6. Writing Generic Classes
      1. The Type Variable
      2. Subclassing Generics
      3. Exceptions and Generics
      4. Parameter Type Limitations
    7. Bounds
      1. Erasure and Bounds (Working with Legacy Code)
    8. Wildcards
      1. A Supertype of All Instantiations
      2. Bounded Wildcards
      3. Thinking Outside the Container
      4. Lower Bounds
      5. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
      6. <?>, <Object>, and the Raw Type
      7. Wildcard Type Relationships
    9. Generic Methods
      1. Generic Methods Introduced
      2. Type Inference from Arguments
      3. Type Inference from Assignment Context
      4. Explicit Type Invocation
      5. Wildcard Capture
      6. Wildcard Types Versus Generic Methods
    10. Arrays of Parameterized Types
      1. Using Array Types
      2. What Good Are Arrays of Generic Types?
      3. Wildcards in Array Types
    11. Case Study: The Enum Class
    12. Case Study: The sort() Method
    13. Conclusion
  11. 9. Threads
    1. Introducing Threads
      1. The Thread Class and the Runnable Interface
      2. Controlling Threads
      3. Death of a Thread
    2. Threading an Applet
      1. Issues Lurking
    3. Synchronization
      1. Serializing Access to Methods
      2. Accessing class and instance Variables from Multiple Threads
      3. The wait() and notify() Methods
      4. Passing Messages
      5. ThreadLocal Objects
    4. Scheduling and Priority
      1. Thread State
      2. Time-Slicing
      3. Priorities
      4. Yielding
    5. Thread Groups
      1. Working with ThreadGroups
      2. Uncaught Exceptions
    6. Thread Performance
      1. The Cost of Synchronization
      2. Thread Resource Consumption
    7. Concurrency Utilities
      1. Executors
      2. Locks
      3. Synchronization Constructs
      4. Atomic Operations
    8. Conclusion
  12. 10. Working with Text
    1. Text-Related APIs
    2. Strings
      1. Constructing Strings
      2. Strings from Things
      3. Comparing Strings
      4. Searching
      5. Editing
      6. String Method Summary
      7. StringBuilder and StringBuffer
    3. Internationalization
      1. The java.util.Locale Class
      2. Resource Bundles
    4. Parsing and Formatting Text
      1. Parsing Primitive Numbers
      2. Tokenizing Text
    5. Printf-Style Formatting
      1. Formatter
      2. The Format String
      3. String Conversions
      4. Primitive and Numeric Conversions
      5. Flags
      6. Miscellaneous
    6. Formatting with the java.text Package
      1. MessageFormat
    7. Regular Expressions
      1. Regex Notation
      2. The java.util.regex API
  13. 11. Core Utilities
    1. Math Utilities
      1. The java.lang.Math Class
      2. Big/Precise Numbers
      3. Floating-Point Components
      4. Random Numbers
    2. Dates and Times
      1. Working with Calendars
      2. Time Zones
      3. Parsing and Formatting with DateFormat
      4. Printf-Style Date and Time Formatting
    3. Timers
    4. Collections
      1. The Collection Interface
      2. Iterator
      3. Collection Types
      4. The Map Interface
      5. Collection Implementations
      6. Hash Codes and Key Values
      7. Synchronized and Unsynchronized Collections
      8. Read-Only and Read-Mostly Collections
      9. WeakHashMap
      10. EnumSet and EnumMap
      11. Sorting Collections
      12. A Thrilling Example
    5. Properties
      1. Loading and Storing
      2. System Properties
    6. The Preferences API
      1. Preferences for Classes
      2. Preferences Storage
      3. Change Notification
    7. The Logging API
      1. Overview
      2. Logging Levels
      3. A Simple Example
      4. Logging Setup Properties
      5. The Logger
      6. Performance
    8. Observers and Observables
  14. 12. Input/Output Facilities
    1. Streams
      1. Basic I/O
      2. Character Streams
      3. Stream Wrappers
      4. Pipes
      5. Streams from Strings and Back
      6. Implementing a Filter Stream
    2. File I/O
      1. The Class
      2. File Streams
      3. RandomAccessFile
      4. Resource Paths
    3. The NIO File API
      1. FileSystem and Path
      2. NIO File Operations
      3. Directory Operations
      4. Watching Paths
    4. Serialization
      1. Initialization with readObject()
      2. SerialVersionUID
    5. Data Compression
      1. Archives and Compressed Data
      2. Decompressing Data
      3. Zip Archive As a Filesystem
    6. The NIO Package
      1. Asynchronous I/O
      2. Performance
      3. Mapped and Locked Files
      4. Channels
      5. Buffers
      6. Character Encoders and Decoders
      7. FileChannel
      8. Scalable I/O with NIO
  15. 13. Network Programming
    1. Sockets
      1. Clients and Servers
      2. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T110720-0500” comment="one of those sections I hate to get rid of but is less relevant in terms of the example... should probably find a more modern example...”The DateAtHost Client
      3. The TinyHttpd Server
      4. Socket Options
      5. Proxies and Firewalls
    2. Datagram Sockets
      1. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T141346-0500” comment="I actually rewrote this as a standalone client but then decided to leave it as an applet”The HeartBeat Applet
      2. InetAddress
    3. Simple Serialized Object Protocols
      1. A Simple Object-Based Server
    4. Remote Method Invocation
      1. Real-World Usage
      2. Remote and Nonremote Objects
      3. An RMI Example
      4. RMI and CORBA
    5. Scalable I/O with NIO
      1. Selectable Channels
      2. Using Select
      3. LargerHttpd
      4. Nonblocking Client-Side Operations
  16. 14. Programming for the Web
    1. Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
    2. The URL Class
      1. Stream Data
      2. Getting the Content as an Object
      3. Managing Connections
      4. Handlers in Practice
      5. Useful Handler Frameworks
    3. Talking to Web Applications
      1. Using the GET Method
      2. Using the POST Method
      3. The HttpURLConnection
      4. SSL and Secure Web Communications
      5. URLs, URNs, and URIs
    4. Web Services
      1. XML-RPC
      2. WSDL
      3. The Tools
      4. The Weather Service Client
  17. 15. Web Applications and Web Services
    1. Web Application Technologies
      1. Page-Oriented Versus “Single Page” Applications
      2. JSPs
      3. XML and XSL
      4. Web Application Frameworks
      5. Google Web Toolkit
      6. HTML5, AJAX, and More...
    2. Java Web Applications
      1. The Servlet Lifecycle
      2. Servlets
      3. The HelloClient Servlet
      4. The Servlet Response
      5. Servlet Parameters
      6. The ShowParameters Servlet
      7. User Session Management
      8. The ShowSession Servlet
      9. The ShoppingCart Servlet
      10. Cookies
      11. The ServletContext API
      12. Asynchronous Servlets
    3. WAR Files and Deployment
      1. Configuration with web.xml and Annotations
      2. URL Pattern Mappings
      3. Deploying HelloClient
      4. Error and Index Pages
      5. Security and Authentication
      6. Protecting Resources with Roles
      7. Secure Data Transport
      8. Authenticating Users
      9. Procedural Authorization
    4. Servlet Filters
      1. A Simple Filter
      2. A Test Servlet
      3. Declaring and Mapping Filters
      4. Filtering the Servlet Request
      5. Filtering the Servlet Response
    5. Building WAR Files with Ant
      1. A Development-Oriented Directory Layout
      2. Deploying and Redeploying WARs with Ant
    6. Implementing Web Services
      1. Defining the Service
      2. Our Echo Service
      3. Using the Service
      4. Data Types
    7. Conclusion
  18. 16. Swing
    1. Components
      1. Peers and Look-and-Feel
      2. The MVC Framework
      3. Painting
      4. Enabling and Disabling Components
      5. Focus, Please
      6. Other Component Methods
      7. Layout Managers
      8. Insets
      9. Z-Ordering (Stacking Components)
      10. The revalidate() and doLayout() Methods
      11. Managing Components
      12. Listening for Components
      13. Windows, Frames and Splash Screens
      14. Other Methods for Controlling Frames
      15. Content Panes
      16. Desktop Integration
    2. Events
      1. Event Receivers and Listener Interfaces
      2. Event Sources
      3. Event Delivery
      4. Event Types
      5. The java.awt.event.InputEvent Class
      6. Mouse and Key Modifiers on InputEvents
      7. Focus Events
    3. Event Summary
      1. Adapter Classes
      2. Dummy Adapters
    4. The AWT Robot!
    5. Multithreading in Swing
  19. 17. Using Swing Components
    1. Buttons and Labels
      1. HTML Text in Buttons and Labels
    2. Checkboxes and Radio Buttons
    3. Lists and Combo Boxes
    4. The Spinner
    5. Borders
    6. Menus
    7. Pop-Up Menus
      1. Component-Managed Pop Ups
    8. The JScrollPane Class
    9. The JSplitPane Class
    10. The JTabbedPane Class
    11. Scrollbars and Sliders
    12. Dialogs
      1. File Selection Dialog
      2. The Color Chooser
  20. 18. More Swing Components
    1. Text Components
      1. The TextEntryBox Application
      2. Formatted Text
      3. Filtering Input
      4. Validating Data
      5. Say the Magic Word
      6. Sharing a Data Model
      7. HTML and RTF for Free
      8. Managing Text Yourself
    2. Focus Navigation
      1. Trees
      2. Nodes and Models
      3. Save a Tree
      4. Tree Events
      5. A Complete Example
    3. Tables
      1. A First Stab: Freeloading
      2. Round Two: Creating a Table Model
      3. Round Three: A Simple Spreadsheet
      4. Sorting and Filtering
      5. Printing JTables
    4. Desktops
    5. Pluggable Look-and-Feel
    6. Creating Custom Components
      1. Generating Events
      2. A Dial Component
      3. Model and View Separation
  21. 19. Layout Managers
    1. FlowLayout
    2. GridLayout
    3. BorderLayout
    4. BoxLayout
    5. CardLayout
    6. GridBagLayout
      1. The GridBagConstraints Class
      2. Grid Coordinates
      3. The fill Constraint
      4. Spanning Rows and Columns
      5. Weighting
      6. Anchoring
      7. Padding and Insets
      8. Relative Positioning
      9. Composite Layouts
    7. Other Layout Managers
    8. Absolute Positioning
  22. 20. Drawing with the 2D API
    1. The Big Picture
    2. The Rendering Pipeline
    3. A Quick Tour of Java 2D
      1. Filling Shapes
      2. Drawing Shape Outlines
      3. Convenience Methods
      4. Drawing Text
      5. Drawing Images
      6. The Whole Iguana
    4. Filling Shapes
      1. Solid Colors
      2. Color Gradients
      3. Textures
      4. Desktop Colors
    5. Stroking Shape Outlines
    6. Using Fonts
      1. Font Metrics
    7. Displaying Images
      1. The Image Class
      2. Image Observers
      3. Scaling and Size
    8. Drawing Techniques
      1. Double Buffering
      2. Limiting Drawing with Clipping
      3. Offscreen Drawing
    9. Printing
  23. 21. Working with Images and Other Media
    1. Loading Images
      1. ImageObserver
      2. MediaTracker
      3. ImageIcon
      4. ImageIO
    2. Producing Image Data
      1. Drawing Animations
      2. BufferedImage Anatomy
      3. Color Models
      4. Creating an Image
      5. Updating a BufferedImage
    3. Filtering Image Data
      1. How ImageProcessor Works
      2. Converting an Image to a BufferedImage
      3. Using the RescaleOp Class
      4. Using the AffineTransformOp Class
    4. Saving Image Data
    5. Simple Audio
    6. Java Media Framework
  24. 22. JavaBeans
    1. What’s a Bean?
      1. What Constitutes a Bean?
    2. The NetBeans IDE
      1. Installing and Running NetBeans
    3. Properties and Customizers
    4. Event Hookups and Adapters
      1. Taming the Juggler
      2. Molecular Motion
    5. Binding Properties
      1. Constraining Properties
    6. Building Beans
      1. The Dial Bean
      2. Design Patterns for Properties
    7. Limitations of Visual Design
    8. Serialization Versus Code Generation
    9. Customizing with BeanInfo
      1. Getting Properties Information
    10. Handcoding with Beans
      1. Bean Instantiation and Type Management
      2. Working with Serialized Beans
      3. Runtime Event Hookups with Reflection
    11. BeanContext and BeanContextServices
    12. The Java Activation Framework
    13. Enterprise JavaBeans and POJO-Based Enterprise Frameworks
  25. 23. Applets
    1. The Politics of Browser-Based Applications
    2. Applet Support and the Java Plug-in
    3. The JApplet Class
      1. Applet Lifecycle
      2. The Applet Security Sandbox
      3. Getting Applet Resources
      4. The <applet> Tag
      5. Attributes
      6. Parameters
      7. ¿Habla Applet?
      8. The Complete <applet> Tag
      9. Loading Class Files
      10. Packages
      11. appletviewer
    4. Java Web Start
    5. Conclusion
  26. 24. XML
    1. The Butler Did It
    2. A Bit of Background
      1. Text Versus Binary
      2. A Universal Parser
      3. The State of XML
      4. The XML APIs
      5. XML and Web Browsers
    3. XML Basics
      1. Attributes
      2. XML Documents
      3. Encoding
      4. Namespaces
      5. Validation
      6. HTML to XHTML
    4. SAX
      1. The SAX API
      2. Building a Model Using SAX
      3. XMLEncoder/Decoder
    5. DOM
      1. The DOM API
      2. Test-Driving DOM
      3. Generating XML with DOM
      4. JDOM
    6. XPath
      1. Nodes
      2. Predicates
      3. Functions
      4. The XPath API
      5. XMLGrep
    7. XInclude
      1. Enabling XInclude
    8. Validating Documents
      1. Using Document Validation
      2. DTDs
      3. XML Schema
      4. The Validation API
    9. JAXB Code Binding and Generation
      1. Annotating Our Model
      2. Generating a Java Model from an XML Schema
      3. Generating an XML Schema from a Java Model
    10. Transforming Documents with XSL/XSLT
      1. XSL Basics
      2. Transforming the Zoo Inventory
      3. XSLTransform
      4. XSL in the Browser
    11. Web Services
    12. The End of the Book
  27. A. The Eclipse IDE
    1. The IDE Wars
    2. Getting Started with Eclipse
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. Using Eclipse
      1. Getting at the Source
      2. The Lay of the Land
      3. Running the Examples
      4. Building the Ant-Based Examples
      5. Loner Examples
    4. Eclipse Features
      1. Coding Shortcuts
      2. Autocorrection
      3. Refactoring
      4. Diffing Files
      5. Organizing Imports
      6. Formatting Source Code
    5. Conclusion
  28. B. BeanShell: Java Scripting
    1. Running BeanShell
    2. Java Statements and Expressions
      1. Imports
    3. BeanShell Commands
    4. Scripted Methods and Objects
      1. Scripting Interfaces and Adapters
    5. Changing the Classpath
    6. Learning More . . .
  29. Glossary
  30. Index
  31. About the Authors
  32. Colophon
  33. Copyright
O'Reilly logo


We’ll start by taking a closer look at the Java String class (or, more specifically, java.lang.String). Because working with Strings is so fundamental, it’s important to understand how they are implemented and what you can do with them. A String object encapsulates a sequence of Unicode characters. Internally, these characters are stored in a regular Java array, but the String object guards this array jealously and gives you access to it only through its own API. This is to support the idea that Strings are immutable; once you create a String object, you can’t change its value. Lots of operations on a String object appear to change the characters or length of a string, but what they really do is return a new String object that copies or internally references the needed characters of the original. Java implementations make an effort to consolidate identical strings used in the same class into a shared-string pool and to share parts of Strings where possible.

The original motivation for all of this was performance. Immutable Strings can save memory and be optimized for speed by the Java VM. The flip side is that a programmer should have a basic understanding of the String class in order to avoid creating an excessive number of String objects in places where performance is an issue. That was especially true in the past, when VMs were slow and handled memory poorly. Nowadays, string usage is not usually an issue in the overall performance of a real application.[29]

Constructing Strings

Literal strings, defined in your source code, are declared with double quotes and can be assigned to a String variable:

    String quote = "To be or not to be";

Java automatically converts the literal string into a String object and assigns it to the variable.

Strings keep track of their own length, so String objects in Java don’t require special terminators. You can get the length of a String with the length() method. You can also test for a zero length string by using isEmpty():

    int length = quote.length();
    boolean empty = quote.isEmpty();

Strings can take advantage of the only overloaded operator in Java, the + operator, for string concatenation. The following code produces equivalent strings:

    String name = "John " + "Smith";
    String name = "John ".concat("Smith");

Literal strings can’t span lines in Java source files, but we can concatenate lines to produce the same effect:

    String poem =
        "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves\n" +
        "   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:\n" +
        "All mimsy were the borogoves,\n" +
        "   And the mome raths outgrabe.\n";

Embedding lengthy text in source code is not normally something you want to do. In this and the following chapter, we’ll talk about ways to load Strings from files, special packages called resource bundles, and URLs. Technologies like Java Server Pages and template engines also provide a way to factor out large amounts of text from your code. For example, in Chapter 14, we’ll see how to load our poem from a web server by opening a URL like this:

    InputStream poem = new URL(

In addition to making strings from literal expressions, you can construct a String directly from an array of characters:

    char [] data = new char [] { 'L', 'e', 'm', 'm', 'i', 'n', 'g' };
    String lemming = new String( data );

You can also construct a String from an array of bytes:

    byte [] data = new byte [] { (byte)97, (byte)98, (byte)99 };
    String abc = new String(data, "ISO8859_1");

In this case, the second argument to the String constructor is the name of a character-encoding scheme. The String constructor uses it to convert the raw bytes in the specified encoding to the internally used standard 2-byte Unicode characters. If you don’t specify a character encoding, the default encoding scheme on your system is used. We’ll discuss character encodings more when we talk about the Charset class, IO, in Chapter 12.[30]

Conversely, the charAt() method of the String class lets you access the characters of a String in an array-like fashion:

    String s = "Newton";
    for ( int i = 0; i < s.length(); i++ )
        System.out.println( s.charAt( i ) );

This code prints the characters of the string one at a time. Alternately, we can get the characters all at once with toCharArray(). Here’s a way to save typing a bunch of single quotes and get an array holding the alphabet:

    char [] abcs = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz".toCharArray();

The notion that a String is a sequence of characters is also codified by the String class implementing the interface java.lang.CharSequence, which prescribes the methods length() and charAt() as well as a way to get a subset of the characters.

Strings from Things

Objects and primitive types in Java can be turned into a default textual representation as a String. For primitive types like numbers, the string should be fairly obvious; for object types, it is under the control of the object itself. We can get the string representation of an item with the static String.valueOf() method. Various overloaded versions of this method accept each of the primitive types:

    String one = String.valueOf( 1 ); // integer, "1"
    String two = String.valueOf( 2.384f );  // float, "2.384"
    String notTrue = String.valueOf( false ); // boolean, "false"

All objects in Java have a toString() method that is inherited from the Object class. For many objects, this method returns a useful result that displays the contents of the object. For example, a java.util.Date object’s toString() method returns the date it represents formatted as a string. For objects that do not provide a representation, the string result is just a unique identifier that can be used for debugging. The String.valueOf() method, when called for an object, invokes the object’s toString() method and returns the result. The only real difference in using this method is that if you pass it a null object reference, it returns the String “null” for you, instead of producing a NullPointerException:

    Date date = new Date();
    // Equivalent, e.g., "Fri Dec 19 05:45:34 CST 1969"
    String d1 = String.valueOf( date );
    String d2 = date.toString();

    date = null;
    d1 = String.valueOf( date );  // "null"
    d2 = date.toString();  // NullPointerException!

String concatenation uses the valueOf() method internally, so if you “add” an object or primitive using the plus operator (+), you get a String:

    String today = "Today's date is :" + date;

You’ll sometimes see people use the empty string and the plus operator (+) as shorthand to get the string value of an object. For example:

    String two = "" + 2.384f;
    String today = "" + new Date();

Comparing Strings

The standard equals() method can compare strings for equality; they contain exactly the same characters in the same order. You can use a different method, equalsIgnoreCase(), to check the equivalence of strings in a case-insensitive way:

    String one = "FOO";
    String two = "foo";

    one.equals( two );             // false
    one.equalsIgnoreCase( two );   // true

A common mistake for novice programmers in Java is to compare strings with the == operator when they intend to use the equals() method. Remember that strings are objects in Java, and == tests for object identity; that is, whether the two arguments being tested are the same object. In Java, it’s easy to make two strings that have the same characters but are not the same string object. For example:

    String foo1 = "foo";
    String foo2 = String.valueOf( new char [] { 'f', 'o', 'o' }  );

    foo1 == foo2         // false!
    foo1.equals( foo2 )  // true

This mistake is particularly dangerous because it often works for the common case in which you are comparing literal strings (strings declared with double quotes right in the code). The reason for this is that Java tries to manage strings efficiently by combining them. At compile time, Java finds all the identical strings within a given class and makes only one object for them. This is safe because strings are immutable and cannot change. You can coalesce strings yourself in this way at runtime using the String intern() method. Interning a string returns an equivalent string reference that is unique across the VM.

The compareTo() method compares the lexical value of the String to another String, determining whether it sorts alphabetically earlier than, the same as, or later than the target string. It returns an integer that is less than, equal to, or greater than zero:

    String abc = "abc";
    String def = "def";
    String num = "123";

    if ( abc.compareTo( def ) < 0 )         // true
    if ( abc.compareTo( abc ) == 0 )        // true
    if ( abc.compareTo( num ) > 0 )         // true

The compareTo() method compares strings strictly by their characters’ positions in the Unicode specification. This works for simple text but does not handle all language variations well. The Collator class, discussed next, can be used for more sophisticated comparisons.

The Collator class

The java.text package provides a sophisticated set of classes for comparing strings in specific languages. German, for example, has vowels with umlauts and another character that resembles the Greek letter beta and represents a double “s.” How should we sort these? Although the rules for sorting such characters are precisely defined, you can’t assume that the lexical comparison we used earlier has the correct meaning for languages other than English. Fortunately, the Collator class takes care of these complex sorting problems.

In the following example, we use a Collator designed to compare German strings. You can obtain a default Collator by calling the Collator.getInstance() method with no arguments. Once you have an appropriate Collator instance, you can use its compare() method, which returns values just like String’s compareTo() method. The following code creates two strings for the German translations of “fun” and “later,” using Unicode constants for these two special characters. It then compares them, using a Collator for the German locale. (Locales help you deal with issues relevant to particular languages and cultures; we’ll talk about them in detail later in this chapter.) The result in this case is that “fun” (Spaß) sorts before “later” (später):

    String fun = "Spa\u00df";
    String later = "sp\u00e4ter";

    Collator german = Collator.getInstance(Locale.GERMAN);
    if (, later) < 0) // true

Using collators is essential if you’re working with languages other than English. In Spanish, for example, “ll” and “ch” are treated as unique characters and alphabetized separately. A collator handles cases like these automatically.


The String class provides several simple methods for finding fixed substrings within a string. The startsWith() and endsWith() methods compare an argument string with the beginning and end of the String, respectively:

    String url = "";
    if ( url.startsWith("http:") )  // true

The indexOf() method searches for the first occurrence of a character or substring and returns the starting character position, or -1 if the substring is not found:

    String abcs = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
    int i = abcs.indexOf( 'p' );     // 15
    int i = abcs.indexOf( "def" );   // 3
    int I = abcs.indexOf( "Fang" );  // -1

Similarly, lastIndexOf() searches backward through the string for the last occurrence of a character or substring.

The contains() method handles the very common task of checking to see whether a given substring is contained in the target string:

    String log = "There is an emergency in sector 7!";
    if  ( log.contains("emergency") ) pageSomeone();

    // equivalent to
    if ( log.indexOf("emergency") != -1 ) ...

For more complex searching, you can use the Regular Expression API, which allows you to look for and parse complex patterns. We’ll talk about regular expressions later in this chapter.


A number of methods operate on the String and return a new String as a result. While this is useful, you should be aware that creating lots of strings in this manner can affect performance. If you need to modify a string often or build a complex string from components, you should use the StringBuilder class, as we’ll discuss shortly.

trim() is a useful method that removes leading and trailing whitespace (i.e., carriage return, newline, and tab) from the String:

    String str = "   abc   ";
    str = str.trim();  // "abc"

In this example, we threw away the original String (with excess whitespace), and it will be garbage-collected.

The toUpperCase() and toLowerCase() methods return a new String of the appropriate case:

    String down = "FOO".toLowerCase();      // "foo"
    String up   = down.toUpperCase();       // "FOO"

substring() returns a specified range of characters. The starting index is inclusive; the ending is exclusive:

    String abcs = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
    String cde = abcs.substring( 2, 5 ); // "cde"

The replace() method provides simple, literal string substitution. One or more occurrences of the target string are replaced with the replacement string, moving from beginning to end. For example:

    String message = "Hello NAME, how are you?".replace( "NAME", "Penny" );
    // "Hello Penny, how are you?"
    String xy = "xxooxxxoo".replace( "xx", "X" );
    // "XooXxoo"

The String class also has two methods that allow you to do more complex pattern substitution: replaceAll() and replaceFirst(). Unlike the simple replace() method, these methods use regular expressions (a special syntax) to describe the replacement pattern, which we’ll cover later in this chapter.

String Method Summary

Table 10-2 summarizes the methods provided by the String class.

Table 10-2. String methods




Gets a particular character in the string


Compares the string with another string


Concatenates the string with another string


Checks whether the string contains another string


Returns a string equivalent to the specified character array


Checks whether the string ends with a specified suffix


Compares the string with another string


Compares the string with another string, ignoring case


Copies characters from the string into a byte array


Copies characters from the string into a character array


Returns a hashcode for the string


Searches for the first occurrence of a character or substring in the string


Fetches a unique instance of the string from a global shared-string pool


Returns true if the string is zero length


Searches for the last occurrence of a character or substring in a string


Returns the length of the string


Determines if the whole string matches a regular expression pattern


Checks whether a region of the string matches the specified region of another string


Replaces all occurrences of a character in the string with another character


Replaces all occurrences of a regular expression pattern with a pattern


Replaces the first occurrence of a regular expression pattern with a pattern


Splits the string into an array of strings using a regular expression pattern as a delimiter


Checks whether the string starts with a specified prefix


Returns a substring from the string


Returns the array of characters from the string


Converts the string to lowercase


Returns the string value of an object


Converts the string to uppercase


Removes leading and trailing whitespace from the string


Returns a string representation of a value

StringBuilder and StringBuffer

In contrast to the immutable string, the java.lang.StringBuilder class is a modifiable and expandable buffer for characters. You can use it to create a big string efficiently. StringBuilder and StringBuffer are twins; they have exactly the same API. StringBuilder was added in Java 5.0 as a drop-in, unsynchronized replacement for StringBuffer. We’ll come back to that in a bit.

First, let’s look at some examples of String construction:

    // Could be better
    String ball = "Hello";
    ball = ball + " there.";
    ball = ball + " How are you?";

This example creates an unnecessary String object each time we use the concatenation operator (+). Whether this is significant depends on how often this code is run and how big the string actually gets. Here’s a more extreme example:

    // Bad use of + ...
    while( (line = readLine()) != EOF )
        text += line;

This example repeatedly produces new String objects. The character array must be copied over and over, which can adversely affect performance. The solution is to use a StringBuilder object and its append() method:

    StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder("Hello");
    sb.append(" there.");
    sb.append(" How are you?");

    StringBuilder text = new StringBuilder();
    while( (line = readline()) != EOF )
        text.append( line );

Here, the StringBuilder efficiently handles expanding the array as necessary. We can get a String back from the StringBuilder with its toString() method:

    String message = sb.toString();

You can also retrieve part of a StringBuilder as a String by using one of the substring() methods.

You might be interested to know that when you write a long expression using string concatenation, the compiler generates code that uses a StringBuilder behind the scenes:

    String foo = "To " + "be " + "or";

It is really equivalent to:

    String foo = new
      StringBuilder().append("To ").append("be ").append("or").toString();

In this case, the compiler knows what you are trying to do and takes care of it for you.

The StringBuilder class provides a number of overloaded append() methods for adding any type of data to the buffer. StringBuilder also provides a number of overloaded insert() methods for inserting various types of data at a particular location in the string buffer. Furthermore, you can remove a single character or a range of characters with the deleteCharAt() and delete() methods. Finally, you can replace part of the StringBuilder with the contents of a String using the replace() method. The String and StringBuilder classes cooperate so that, in some cases, no copy of the data has to be made; the string data is shared between the objects.

You should use a StringBuilder instead of a String any time you need to keep adding characters to a string; it’s designed to handle such modifications efficiently. You can convert the StringBuilder to a String when you need it, or simply concatenate or print it anywhere you’d use a String.

As we said earlier, StringBuilder was added in Java 5.0 as a replacement for StringBuffer. The only real difference between the two is that the methods of StringBuffer are synchronized and the methods of StringBuilder are not. This means that if you wish to use StringBuilder from multiple threads concurrently, you must synchronize the access yourself (which is easily accomplished). The reason for the change is that most simple usage does not require any synchronization and shouldn’t have to pay the associated penalty (slight as it is).

[29] When in doubt, measure it! If your String-manipulating code is clean and easy to understand, don’t rewrite it until someone proves to you that it is too slow. Chances are that they will be wrong. And don’t be fooled by relative comparisons. A millisecond is 1,000 times slower than a microsecond, but it still may be negligible to your application’s overall performance.

[30] On Mac OS X, the default encoding is MacRoman. In Windows, it is CP1252. On some Unix platforms it is ISO8859_1.

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