Here are some guidelines to consider when making the transition to OOP and Java:
The first step is some form of education. Remember the company’s investment in code, and try not to throw everything into disarray for six to nine months while everyone puzzles over unfamiliar features. Pick a small group for indoctrination, preferably one composed of people who are curious, work well together, and can function as their own support network while they’re learning Java.
An alternative approach is the education of all company levels at once, including overview courses for strategic managers as well as design and programming courses for project builders. This is especially good for smaller companies making fundamental shifts in the way they do things, or at the division level of larger companies. Because the cost is higher, however, some may choose to start with project-level training, do a pilot project (possibly with an outside mentor), and let the project team become the teachers for the rest of the company.
2. Low-risk project
Try a low-risk project first and allow for mistakes. Once you’ve gained some experience, you can either seed other projects from members of this first team or use the team members as an OOP technical support staff. This first project may not work right the first time, so it should not be mission-critical for the company. It should be simple, self-contained, and instructive; this means that it should involve creating classes that will be meaningful to the other programmers in the company when they get their turn to learn Java.
3. Model from success
Seek out examples of good object-oriented design before starting from scratch. There’s a good probability that someone has solved your problem already, and if they haven’t solved it exactly you can probably apply what you’ve learned about abstraction to modify an existing design to fit your needs. This is the general concept of design patterns, covered in Thinking in Patterns (with Java) at www.BruceEckel.com.
Use existing class libraries
An important economic motivation for switching to OOP is the easy use of existing code in the form of class libraries (in particular, the Standard Java libraries, which are covered throughout this book). The shortest application development cycle will result when you can create and use objects from off-the-shelf libraries. However, some new programmers don’t understand this, are unaware of existing class libraries, or, through fascination with the language, desire to write classes that may already exist. Your success with OOP and Java will be optimized if you make an effort to seek out and reuse other people’s code early in the transition process.
5. Don’t rewrite existing code in Java
It is not usually the best use of your time to take existing, functional code and rewrite it in Java. If you must turn it into objects, you can interface to the C or C++ code using the Java Native Interface or Extensible Markup Language (XML). There are incremental benefits, especially if the code is slated for reuse. But chances are you aren’t going to see the dramatic increases in productivity that you hope for in your first few projects unless that project is a new one. Java and OOP shine best when taking a project from concept to reality.