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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Some Reasons Why Interfaces Are Very Cool

  1. They encourage smart application design. Say that you have an application like an e-commerce site. You have to access a database a lot for different reasons. On one occasion, you need to retrieve products and display the catalog; another time, you need to store customer information. Now, these operations aren't related much in terms of the domain. But they do the same thing: interact with the database. You might create an interface called DataAccessor that defines all of the operations that can be done with the database: select, insert, update, delete, and so forth. Then, you have one standard way that all of the programmers on your project can write to. All of your database access contracts, even if written by people working on unrelated parts of the app, will look the same.

  2. They promote readability. I have seen enough people come and go in different jobs that I am a firm believer in doing what you can to make your code readable. Interfaces promote readability because readers of your code know what to expect of a class that implements an interface. Also, it gives readers a second, concise location to overview what the class does.

  3. They promote maintainability. The reason that they promote maintainability is more complicated, and we'll get to it in a moment. In a nutshell, if a class implements an interface, you can use the interface type as the reference type of instances of that class. That means that later you can swap out the actual implementation without breaking any of your code. That ability is an instance of polymorphism, one of the pillars of object-oriented programming. More on this in a mo.

  4. They allow flexibility in your class definitions. In Java, you are only allowed to explicitly extend, or inherit from, one class. This is different from languages like C++ and C# that allow you to extend multiple classes. By allowing Java classes to extend from one class and also implement an interface at the same time, we can in effect skirt the fact that we're not allowed multiple inheritance, because of polymorphism. In fact, Java programmers are often encouraged to implement an interface instead of inheriting from a class when faced with that choice. Programmers probably come to such a crossroads when creating a new thread. You can create a thread by extending the Thread class or by implementing the Runnable interface. They both get you a thread. But you can implement as many interfaces as you want—you can only inherit from one class. So the idea is to prefer interfaces over inheritance unless you really are extending the definition of what your superclass can do. That is, nine times out of ten we aren't actually extending the functionality of a thread when we write extends Thread. We're not making a more specific, more functional kind of thread; we're just wanting to spawn a new instance of a regular old thread so that we can execute some code separately from the main program thread. In this case, you should implement Runnable and get your thread that way. That leaves you with the ability to extend a different class if you want to, one whose functionality your class is closer to, or that you really need to inherit from.

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