Generic Methods in Java

Generic Methods in Java

 Generics in Java is one of important feature added in Java 5 along with Enum, autoboxing and varargs , to provide compile time type-safety. Generics is also considered to be one of tough concept to understand in Java and somewhat it’s true as well. I have read many articles on generics in Java, some of them are quite good and detailed but I still felt that those are either too much technical or exhaustively detailed, so I thought to write a simple yet informative article on Java generics to give a head start to beginners without bothering there head too much. In this Java generics tutorial I will cover How Generics works in Java, Mysterious wild-cards in Generics and some important points about Generic in Java. I will try explaining generics concept in simple words and simple examples

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).

Example:

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

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
    }
}

This would produce the following result:

Array integerArray contains:
1 2 3 4 5 6

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( "Maxm 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" ) );
   }
}

This would produce the following result:

Maximum of 3, 4 and 5 is 5

Maximum of 6.6, 8.8 and 7.7 is 8.8

Maximum 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());
  }
}

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