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Java Composition Vs Inheritance: Java Explained

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Understanding composition and inheritance in Java can be overwhelming to new developers. In this article, we’ll explain the differences between composition and inheritance, the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, tips for writing efficient code using these techniques, and provide examples of Java code using them.

What is Composition?

Composition is a way of combining objects or classes into larger structures. It’s similar to object-oriented programming (OOP) as it allows for code reuse, but instead of using inheritance to achieve this, composition is used. With composition, each object is given its own methods and fields, which can then be used in a larger structure. An example of composition is a car object which has an engine and a body. In this case, the engine and the body are independent objects which are then combined to form the car.

Composition is a powerful tool for software development, as it allows for the creation of complex systems from simpler components. It also allows for the reuse of code, which can save time and money. Additionally, composition can help to reduce the complexity of code, as it allows for the separation of concerns. This makes it easier to debug and maintain code, as each component can be tested and modified independently.

What is Inheritance?

Inheritance is a way of achieving code reuse by having objects that share common properties and methods. It allows developers to create classes (objects) that inherit properties and methods from parent classes. An example of inheritance is an Employee class that has a name and age property, and a salary method. This class can then be extended with classes such as Manager and Salesperson, which would inherit the name and age property, as well as the salary method from the Employee class.

Inheritance is a powerful tool for developers, as it allows them to create complex applications with minimal effort. It also allows for code reuse, which can save time and money. Additionally, inheritance can help to reduce the amount of code that needs to be written, as the same code can be used in multiple classes. This can help to make applications more efficient and easier to maintain.

Benefits of Composition over Inheritance

The main benefit of composition over inheritance is that it helps encapsulate data better than inheritance does. This helps reduce code duplication and improves maintainability as any changes made in one object are not propagated to other objects. Additionally, for large projects, composition can be easier to debug as it’s easier to identify the exact location of an issue in a complex hierarchy of objects.

Composition also allows for greater flexibility in terms of object creation. By using composition, objects can be created with different combinations of components, allowing for greater customization and scalability. Furthermore, composition allows for better code reuse as components can be reused in different objects. This helps reduce the amount of code that needs to be written and makes it easier to maintain.

Benefits of Inheritance over Composition

The main benefit of inheritance over composition is that it allows developers to abstract out common code into reusable parent classes. This helps reduce repeated code and allows developers to more quickly create and maintain programs. Additionally, inheritance can be easier to debug because issues are propagated down the hierarchy of classes.

How to Choose Between Composition and Inheritance in Java

When choosing between composition and inheritance in Java, it is important to consider the size and complexity of your project. If the project is large and complex, composition might be a better option as it helps to encapsulate data better than inheritance does. On the other hand, if the project is small, then inheritance may be a better option as it can be quicker and easier to debug issues.

Tips for Writing Efficient Code Using Java Composition and Inheritance

When writing code using composition and inheritance in Java, there are several tips that developers should follow. First, use clever names for objects and fields to avoid confusion. Second, keep code modularized so that related features are grouped together for ease of navigation through the project structure. Third, use design patterns where appropriate to ensure consistency across the project. Finally, use small methods that each perform one task to avoid confusing logic.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Java Composition and Inheritance

One of the most common mistakes when using Java composition and inheritance is creating unnecessarily complex structures. This can lead to difficult-to-maintain projects that are hard to debug and lack clarity when it comes to how objects interact with each other. Additionally, it’s important to understand the concept of “coupling” when using inheritance. Coupling occurs when a parent class makes assumptions about its child classes, which can lead to brittle designs.

Examples of Java Code Using Composition and Inheritance

Below are two examples of Java code using composition and inheritance respectively. The first example uses composition to create a Car class which has fields such as an Engine and a Body. The second example uses inheritance to create an Employee class which can be extended with subclasses such as Manager or Salesperson.

Class Car { private Engine engine; private Body body; public Car(Engine engine, Body body) { this.engine = engine; this.body = body; } // getter and setter methods }
Class Employee { private String name; private int age; public Employee(String name, int age) { this.name = name; this.age = age; } public Double salary() { // logic for calculating salary goes here } // getter and setter methods }
Class Manager extends Employee { public Manager(String name, int age) { super(name, age); } @Override public Double salary() { // logic for calculating manager salary goes here } }
Class Salesperson extends Employee { public Salesperson(String name, int age) { super(name, age); } @Override public Double salary() { // logic for calculating salesperson salary goes here } }

Summary

Composition and inheritance are common techniques used in Java for code reuse. Each technique has its own benefits and drawbacks that should be taken into account when determining which approach to use in a project. When using composition and inheritance in Java, it’s important to use clever names for objects, keep code modularized, use design patterns, use small methods and avoid creating unnecessarily complex structures.

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma is Software Engineer at Bito with a robust background in distributed systems, chatbots, large language models (LLMs), and SaaS technologies. With over six years of experience, Sarang has demonstrated expertise as a lead software engineer and backend engineer, primarily focusing on software infrastructure and design. Before joining Bito, he significantly contributed to Engati, where he played a pivotal role in enhancing and developing advanced software solutions. His career began with foundational experiences as an intern, including a notable project at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, to develop an assistive website for the visually challenged.

Written by developers for developers

This article was handcrafted with by the Bito team.

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