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Effectively Sealed Classes in Java

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Effectively Sealed Classes in Java

Sealed classes are extremely helpful in class implementation in Java. Check out this post on using sealed classes and the Option class in Java.

· Java Zone ·
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Java is missing various “hot” features from languages like Scala or Kotlin, but luckily some of them can be recreated using existing features — sealed hierarchies are one of these.

In this short article, we’ll see how to achieve the “sealed” effect by playing around with Java.

Sealed Classes

One of the most popular sealed hierarchies that exist is Option. The classic implementation involves making Option a sealed abstract class and providing two subclasses: Some  and None .

In Scala, it looks like:

sealed abstract class Option[+A] extends Product {}

case object None extends Option[Nothing] {}
case class Some[+A](value: A) extends Option[A] {}


If we try to further extend Option, it’s no longer possible as long as we can’t add the extension to the file with the base class — and that’s the essence of class sealing.

Furthermore, we could leverage additional compiler support, for example, when working with pattern matching.

You can find more examples in Kotlin, as well.

Sealed Classes in Java

Since we don’t have a dedicated solution, we need to try to construct our own.

In Java, Optional is implemented in a totally different way, because it’s designed to become a value type in the future — but that’s another story for another time.

But, now, let’s try to achieve sealed-class semantics using Vanilla Java. The whole trick relies on a clever usage of visibility restrictions of private constructors and nested classes:

public abstract class Option<T> {
    // ...
    public final static class Some<T> extends Option<T> { ... }
    public final static class None<T> extends Option<T> { ... }
}


Unfortunately, we can’t really forbid the class from being extended. However, we can make every extension outside the file unusable by making the default constructor private:

public abstract class Option<T> {
    private Option() {}
    // ...
    public final static class Some<T> extends Option<T> { ... }
    public final static class None<T> extends Option<T> { ... }
}


And, now, if we try to create an anonymous implementation, we end up with a compilation error:

Option<Integer> o = new Option<Integer>() {}
// 'Option()' has private access in 'com.pivovarit.sealed.Option'



And, if we try to create a standalone extension, it turns out that the default constructor isn’t visible from the outside:

public class SomeNone<T> extends Option<T> {
    private SomeNone() {
    }
}
// There is no default constructor available in 'com.pivovarit.sealed.Option'


And this is how we end up with an effectively sealed class in Java.


A Complete Example

package com.pivovarit.sealed;

import java.util.function.Supplier;

public abstract class Option<T> {

    abstract T getOrElse(Supplier<T> other);

    private Option() {
    }

    public final static class Some<T> extends Option<T> {

        private final T value;

        public Some(T value) {
            this.value = value;
        }

        @Override
        T getOrElse(Supplier<T> other) {
            return value;
        }
    }

    public final static class None<T> extends Option<T> {
        @Override
        T getOrElse(Supplier<T> other) {
            return other.get();
        }
    }
}


The above code snippet can be found on GitHub.

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Topics:
java ,tutorial ,class ,sealed class ,option ,some ,none

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