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Thinking in Java
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Array summary

To summarize what you’ve seen so far, your first and most efficient choice to hold a group of objects should be an array, and you’re forced into this choice if you want to hold a group of primitives. In the remainder of this chapter we’ll look at the more general case, when you don’t know at the time you’re writing the program how many objects you’re going to need, or if you need a more sophisticated way to store your objects. Java provides a library of container classes to solve this problem, the basic types of which are List, Set, and Map. You can solve a surprising number of problems by using these tools.

Among their other characteristics—Set, for example, holds only one object of each value, and Map is an associative array that lets you associate any object with any other object—the Java container classes will automatically resize themselves. So, unlike arrays, you can put in any number of objects and you don’t need to worry about how big to make the container while you’re writing the program.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire