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Thinking in Java
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RTTI syntax

Java performs its RTTI using the Class object, even if you’re doing something like a cast. The class Class also has a number of other ways you can use RTTI.

First, you must get a reference to the appropriate Class object. One way to do this, as shown in the previous example, is to use a string and the Class.forName( ) method. This is convenient because you don’t need an object of that type in order to get the Class reference. However, if you do already have an object of the type you’re interested in, you can fetch the Class reference by calling a method that’s part of the Object root class: getClass( ). This returns the Class reference representing the actual type of the object. Class has many interesting methods demonstrated in the following example:

// Testing class Class.
import com.bruceeckel.simpletest.*;

interface HasBatteries {}
interface Waterproof {}
interface Shoots {}
class Toy {
  // Comment out the following default constructor
  // to see NoSuchMethodError from (*1*)
  Toy() {}
  Toy(int i) {}

class FancyToy extends Toy
implements HasBatteries, Waterproof, Shoots {
  FancyToy() { super(1); }

public class ToyTest {
  private static Test monitor = new Test();
  static void printInfo(Class cc) {
    System.out.println("Class name: " + cc.getName() +
      " is interface? [" + cc.isInterface() + "]");
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    Class c = null;
    try {
      c = Class.forName("FancyToy");
    } catch(ClassNotFoundException e) {
      System.out.println("Can't find FancyToy");
    Class[] faces = c.getInterfaces();
    for(int i = 0; i < faces.length; i++)
    Class cy = c.getSuperclass();
    Object o = null;
    try {
      // Requires default constructor:
      o = cy.newInstance(); // (*1*)
    } catch(InstantiationException e) {
      System.out.println("Cannot instantiate");
    } catch(IllegalAccessException e) {
      System.out.println("Cannot access");
    monitor.expect(new String[] {
      "Class name: FancyToy is interface? [false]",
      "Class name: HasBatteries is interface? [true]",
      "Class name: Waterproof is interface? [true]",
      "Class name: Shoots is interface? [true]",
      "Class name: Toy is interface? [false]"
} ///:~

You can see that class FancyToy is quite complicated, since it inherits from Toy and implements the interfaces HasBatteries, Waterproof, and Shoots. In main( ), a Class reference is created and initialized to the FancyToy Class using forName( ) inside an appropriate try block.

The Class.getInterfaces( ) method returns an array of Class objects representing the interfaces that are contained in the Class object of interest.

If you have a Class object, you can also ask it for its direct base class using getSuperclass( ). This, of course, returns a Class reference that you can further query. This means that at run time, you can discover an object’s entire class hierarchy.

The newInstance( ) method of Class can, at first, seem like just another way to clone( ) an object. However, you can create a new object with newInstance( ) without an existing object, as seen here, because there is no Toy object—only cy, which is a reference to y’s Class object. This is a way to implement a “virtual constructor,” which allows you to say “I don’t know exactly what type you are, but create yourself properly anyway.” In the preceding example, cy is just a Class reference with no further type information known at compile time. And when you create a new instance, you get back an Object reference. But that reference is pointing to a Toy object. Of course, before you can send any messages other than those accepted by Object, you have to investigate it a bit and do some casting. In addition, the class that’s being created with newInstance( ) must have a default constructor. In the next section, you’ll see how to dynamically create objects of classes using any constructor, with the Java reflection API (Application Programmer Interface).

The final method in the listing is printInfo( ), which takes a Class reference and gets its name with getName( ), and finds out whether it’s an interface with isInterface( ). Thus, with the Class object you can find out just about everything you want to know about an object.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire