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Thinking in Java
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Nesting interfaces

Interfaces may be nested within classes and within other interfaces.[34] This reveals a number of very interesting features:

//: c08:nesting:NestingInterfaces.java
package c08.nesting;

class A {
  interface B {
    void f();
  }
  public class BImp implements B {
    public void f() {}
  }
  private class BImp2 implements B {
    public void f() {}
  }
  public interface C {
    void f();
  }
  class CImp implements C {
    public void f() {}
  }
  private class CImp2 implements C {
    public void f() {}
  }
  private interface D {
    void f();
  }
  private class DImp implements D {
    public void f() {}
  }
  public class DImp2 implements D {
    public void f() {}
  }
  public D getD() { return new DImp2(); }
  private D dRef;
  public void receiveD(D d) {
    dRef = d;
    dRef.f();
  }
}

interface E {
  interface G {
    void f();
  }
  // Redundant "public":
  public interface H {
    void f();
  }
  void g();
  // Cannot be private within an interface:
  //! private interface I {}
}

public class NestingInterfaces {
  public class BImp implements A.B {
    public void f() {}
  }
  class CImp implements A.C {
    public void f() {}
  }
  // Cannot implement a private interface except
  // within that interface's defining class:
  //! class DImp implements A.D {
  //!  public void f() {}
  //! }
  class EImp implements E {
    public void g() {}
  }
  class EGImp implements E.G {
    public void f() {}
  }
  class EImp2 implements E {
    public void g() {}
    class EG implements E.G {
      public void f() {}
    }
  }
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    A a = new A();
    // Can't access A.D:
    //! A.D ad = a.getD();
    // Doesn't return anything but A.D:
    //! A.DImp2 di2 = a.getD();
    // Cannot access a member of the interface:
    //! a.getD().f();
    // Only another A can do anything with getD():
    A a2 = new A();
    a2.receiveD(a.getD());
  }
} ///:~


The syntax for nesting an interface within a class is reasonably obvious, and just like non-nested interfaces, these can have public or package-access visibility. You can also see that both public and package-access nested interfaces can be implemented as public, package-access, and private nested classes.

As a new twist, interfaces can also be private, as seen in A.D (the same qualification syntax is used for nested interfaces as for nested classes). What good is a private nested interface? You might guess that it can only be implemented as a private inner class as in DImp, but A.DImp2 shows that it can also be implemented as a public class. However, A.DImp2 can only be used as itself. You are not allowed to mention the fact that it implements the private interface, so implementing a private interface is a way to force the definition of the methods in that interface without adding any type information (that is, without allowing any upcasting).

The method getD( ) produces a further quandary concerning the private interface: It’s a public method that returns a reference to a private interface. What can you do with the return value of this method? In main( ), you can see several attempts to use the return value, all of which fail. The only thing that works is if the return value is handed to an object that has permission to use it—in this case, another A, via the receiveD( ) method.

Interface E shows that interfaces can be nested within each other. However, the rules about interfaces—in particular, that all interface elements must be public—are strictly enforced here, so an interface nested within another interface is automatically public and cannot be made private.

NestingInterfaces shows the various ways that nested interfaces can be implemented. In particular, notice that when you implement an interface, you are not required to implement any interfaces nested within. Also, private interfaces cannot be implemented outside of their defining classes.

Initially, these features may seem like they are added strictly for syntactic consistency, but I generally find that once you know about a feature, you often discover places where it is useful.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire