17

Jan 09

Java: Constructors

Constructors

When you create a new instance (a new object) of a class using the new keyword, a constructor for that class is called. Constructors are used to initialize the instance variables (fields) of an object. Constructors are similar to methods, but with some important differences.

  • Constructor name is class name. A constructors must have the same name as the class its in.
  • Default constructor. If you don’t define a constructor for a class, a default parameterless constructor is automatically created by the compiler. The default constructor calls the default parent constructor (super()) and initializes all instance variables to default value (zero for numeric types, null for object references, and false for booleans).
  • Default constructor is created only if there are no constructors. If you define any constructor for your class, no default constructor is automatically created.
  • Differences between methods and constructors.
    • There is no return type given in a constructor signature (header). The value is this object itself so there is no need to indicate a return value.
    • There is no return statement in the body of the constructor.
    • The first line of a constructor must either be a call on another constructor in the same class (using this), or a call on the superclass constructor (using super). If the first line is neither of these, the compiler automatically inserts a call to the parameterless super class constructor.

    These differences in syntax between a constructor and method are sometimes hard to see when looking at the source. It would have been better to have had a keyword to clearly mark constructors as some languages do.

  • this(...) – Calls another constructor in same class. Often a constructor with few parameters will call a constructor with more parameters, giving default values for the missing parameters. Use this to call other constructors in the same class.
  • super(...). Use super to call a constructor in a parent class. Calling the constructor for the superclass must be the first statement in the body of a constructor. If you are satisfied with the default constructor in the superclass, there is no need to make a call to it because it will be supplied automatically.

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