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Thinking in Java
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An object provides services

While you’re trying to develop or understand a program design, one of the best ways to think about objects is as “service providers.” Your program itself will provide services to the user, and it will accomplish this by using the services offered by other objects. Your goal is to produce (or even better, locate in existing code libraries) a set of objects that provide the ideal services to solve your problem.

A way to start doing this is to ask “if I could magically pull them out of a hat, what objects would solve my problem right away?” For example, suppose you are creating a bookkeeping program. You might imagine some objects that contain pre-defined bookkeeping input screens, another set of objects that perform bookkeeping calculations, and an object that handles printing of checks and invoices on all different kinds of printers. Maybe some of these objects already exist, and for the ones that don’t, what would they look like? What services would those objects provide, and what objects would they need to fulfill their obligations? If you keep doing this, you will eventually reach a point where you can say either “that object seems simple enough to sit down and write” or “I’m sure that object must exist already.” This is a reasonable way to decompose a problem into a set of objects.

Thinking of an object as a service provider has an additional benefit: it helps to improve the cohesiveness of the object. High cohesion is a fundamental quality of software design: It means that the various aspects of a software component (such as an object, although this could also apply to a method or a library of objects) “fit together” well. One problem people have when designing objects is cramming too much functionality into one object. For example, in your check printing module, you may decide you need an object that knows all about formatting and printing. You’ll probably discover that this is too much for one object, and that what you need is three or more objects. One object might be a catalog of all the possible check layouts, which can be queried for information about how to print a check. One object or set of objects could be a generic printing interface that knows all about different kinds of printers (but nothing about bookkeeping—this one is a candidate for buying rather than writing yourself). And a third object could use the services of the other two to accomplish the task. Thus, each object has a cohesive set of services it offers. In a good object-oriented design, each object does one thing well, but doesn’t try to do too much. As seen here, this not only allows the discovery of objects that might be purchased (the printer interface object), but it also produces the possibility of an object that might be reused somewhere else (the catalog of check layouts).

Treating objects as service providers is a great simplifying tool, and it’s very useful not only during the design process, but also when someone else is trying to understand your code or reuse an object—if they can see the value of the object based on what service it provides, it makes it much easier to fit it into the design.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire