Manning OCA Java SE 7 Reading Note: Chapter 3

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This is a post that I moved from my old blog site. This is the reading note for OCA Java SE 7 Certification Guide from Manning. Please note that all definations and examples in this post are taken from the book.

Chapter 3: Methods and Encapsulation

This chapter mainly covers:

  • Defining the scope of variables

  • Explaining an object’s life cycle

  • Creating methods with primitive and object arguments and return values

  • Creating overloaded methods and constructors

  • Reading and writing to object fields

  • Calling methods on objects

  • Applying encapsulation principles to a class

3.1 Scope of Variables

Valid scope of variable:

  • Local variable (also known as method-local variables)

  • Method parameter (also known as method arguments)

  • Instance variable (also known as attributes, fields, and nonstatic variables)

  • Class variable (also known as static variables)

The life span of a variable is determined by its scope.

Local Variable, Method Parameter

Local variables are defined within method, with the shortest scope (life span).

The variables that accept values in a method are called method parameters. They’re accessible only in the method that defines them.

The scope of methods parameters can never be shorter than scope of local variables.

Instance Variables, Class Variables

Instance is another name for an object.

Hence, an instance variable is available for the life of an object. An instance variable is declared within a class, outside of all of the methods. It’s accessible to all the nonstatic methods defined in a class.

A class variable is defined by using the keyword static . A class variable belongs to a class, not to individual objects of the class. A class variable is shared across all objects.

You don’t even need an object to access a class variable. It can be accessed by using the name of the class in which it’s defined:

class Person{
    public int age; //Instance Variable
    static String name; //Class Variable

class Test{
    public static void main(String args...){ = "Bob"; //Use of Class Variable
        Person p = new Person();
        p.age = 12; //Use of Instance Variable

        Person p2 = new Person();
        System.out.println(; //Still Bob, because class variable is independent of instance
        System.our.println(p2.age); //Null. New instance hasn't define the value of this instance variable

        //You can change class variable once, then all instances will have the changed class variable

The scope of an instance variable is longer than that of a local vari- able or a method parameter.

Compare Scopes, Overlapping Scopes

Local variables are defined within a method and are normally used to store the intermediate results of a calculation.

Method parameters are used to pass values to a method. These values can be manipulated and may also be stored as the state of an object by assigning them to instance variables.

Instance variables are used to store the state of an object. These are the values that need to be accessed by multiple methods.

Class variables are used to store values that should be shared by all the objects of a class.

Same Name Problem

  • you can’t define a static variable and an instance variable with the same name in a class

  • local variables and method parameters can’t be defined with the same name.

  • A class can define local variables with the same name as the instance or class variables.

3.2 Object's Life Cycle

Java doesn’t allow you to allocate or deallocate memory yourself when you create or destroy objects. Java manages memory for allocating objects and reclaiming the memory occupied by unused objects, using Java's garbage collector.

Java also provides a method called finalize, which is accessible to all of the classes.

All Java classes can override the method finalize, which executes just before an object is garbage collected;

An object’s life cycle starts when it’s created and lasts until it goes out of its scope or is no longer referenced by a variable.

Create Object

An object is created when you use the keyword new. You need to declare and initialize it.

If you just do ClassName myclass;, no objects of class ClassName are created in the class Object Life Cycle; it declares only a variable of type ClassName; Only declaration step is done.

Since Strings can also be initialized using the = operator, you can just do String a = "a"; to create a String object.

If you just do new ClassName(), you only finish initialize step.

Creating an object in this manner will execute the relevant constructors of the class.

Access Object

Once an object is created, it can be accessed using its reference variable.

It become inaccessible/eligible to be garbage collected when it:

  • goes out of scope

  • its reference variable is explicitly set to null

  • reassign another object to this variable (i.e. reinitialized)

You can determine only which objects are eligible to be garbage collected.

You can never determine when a particular object will be garbage collected.

i.e. "which objects are sure to be col- lected during the next GC cycle" is unknown.

3.3 Create Methods with Arguments and Return Values

Methods are used to define the behavior of an object.


A method may or may not return a value.

One that doesn’t return a value has a return type of void.

If you don’t assign the returned value from a method, it’s neither a compilation error nor a runtime exception

A method can return a primitive value or an object of any class.

The returned value from a method may or may not be assigned to a variable.

If you do assignment operation with a method that is void, the code will not compile.

If you just run a method with return type, without any assignment, this line of code will do nothing.

The variable you use to accept the returned value from a method must be compatible with the returned value. For example, you can not return a int when method needs a double.

For methds that define a return type, the return statement must be immediately followed by a return value;

You can use the return statement in a method even if it doesn’t return a value.

Usually this statement is used to define an early exit from a method

However, the return statement must be the last statement to execute in a method, if present. Othewise code will failt to compile.

The return statement need not be the last statement in a method. i.e. You can return in a leaf of if loop.

Method Parameters

  • Method parameters are the variables that appear in the definition of a method.

  • Method arguments are the actual values that are passed to a method while executing it.

The ellipsis (...) that follows the data type indicates that the method parameter may be passed an array or multiple comma-separated values

You can define only one ellipsis variable argument in a parameter list

And it should be the last variable in the parameter list

For example, public void test(String... a, String... b) and public void test(String... a, int b) will not compile.

Rules to Remember

  • You can define multiple parameters for a method.

  • The method parameter can be a primitive type or objects referenced by a class or referenced by an interface.

  • The method’s parameters are separated by commas.

  • Each method parameter is preceded by the name of its type. Each method parameter must have an explicit type declared with its name.

  • You can’t declare the type once and then list them separated by commas, as you can for variables.

  • A method can be an instance method (nonstatic) or a class method (static).

  • A method can take zero or more parameters but can return only zero or one values.

3.4 Create an Overloaded Method

Overloaded methods are methods with the same name but different method parameter lists.

Rules to Remember

  • Overloaded methods must have different method parameters from one another.

  • Overloaded methods may or may not define a different return type.

  • Overloaded methods may or may not define different access modifiers.

  • Overloaded methods can’t be defined by only changing their return type or access modifiers.

Argument List

The argument lists can differ in terms of any of the following:

  • Change in the number of parameters that are accepted

  • Change in the types of parameters that are accepted

  • Change in the positions of the parameters that are accepted (based on parameter type, not variable names)

when you try to execute this method using values that can be passed to both versions of the overloaded methods. In this case, the code will fail to compile:

class MyClass {
    double calcAverage(double marks1, int marks2) {
            return (marks1 + marks2)/2.0;
    double calcAverage(int marks1, double marks2) {
            return (marks1 + marks2)/2.0;
    public static void main(String args[]) {
            MyClass myClass = new MyClass();
            myClass.calcAverage(2, 3); //Two method are same here
} }

3.5 Contructor of a Class

Constructors are special methods that create and return an object of the class in which they’redefined.

Constructors have the same name as the name of the class in which they’re defined, and they don’t specify a return type—not even void .

i.e. A constructor must not define any return type.

Constructor is called when a object is initialized, for example new ClassName();

A constructor can accomplish the following tasks:

  • Call the base class’s constructor; this can be an implicit or explicit call.

  • Initialize all of the instance variables of a class with their default values.

User-Defined Constructors

An author may or may not define a constructor in a class. If the author does define a constructor in a class, it’s known as a user-defined constructor.

Because a constructor is called as soon as an object is created, you can use it to assign default values to the instance variable of your class:

class Employee {
    String name;
    int age;

    Employee() {
    age = 20;

Because a constructor is a method, you can also pass method parameters to it:

class Employee {
    String name;
    int age;

    Employee(int newAge, String newName) {
    name = newName;
    age = newAge;
//You can use it via new Employee(12,"Lisa");

A constructor does have an implicit return type, which is the class in which it’s defined.

It creates and returns an object of its class, which is why you can’t define a return type for a constructor.

You can define constructors using any of the four access modifiers.

If you define a return tyoe for a contructor, Java will treat it as another method, not a constructor, which also implies that it won’t be called implicitly when you create an object of its class.

Initialize Block

An initializer block is defined within a class, not as a part of a method. It executes for every object that’s created for a class.

If you define both an initializer and a constructor for a class, both of these will execute. The initializer block will execute prior to the constructor:

class Employee {
    Employee() {
    System.out.println("Employee:constructor"); //Constructor
    System.out.println("Employee:initializer"); //Initialize Block
class TestEmp {
    public static void main(String args[]) {
    Employee e = new Employee();
    //Employee: initializer

Initializer blocks are used to initialize the variables of anonymous classes.

An anonymous class is a type of inner class. In the absence of a name, anonymous classes can’t define a constructor and rely on an initializer block to initialize their variables upon the creation of an object of their class.

Default Constructor

In the absence of a user-defined constructor, Java inserts a default constructor.

This constructor doesn’t accept any method arguments.

It calls the constructor of the super (parent) class and assigns default values to all the instance variables.

Code Example of a default constructor:

Employee() {
    super(); //Use super to call parent class constructor
    name = null; //Assign defalt value to instance variables
    age = 0;

if you modify the class later by adding a constructor to it, the Java compiler will remove the default, no-argument constructor that it initially added to the class.

i.e. Java defines a default constructor if and only if you don’t define a constructor.

So if you defined a constructor which takes parameters, but when you create instance you just do new ClassName(), the code will fail to compile.

Overloaded Constructors

Similar as overloaded methods, overloaded constructor must:

  • be defined using different argument lists.

  • can’t be defined by just a change in the access modifiers.

  • Because constructors don’t define a return type, there’s no point to defining invalid overloaded constructors with different return types.

Overloaded constructors are invoked by using the keyword this — an implicit reference that’s accessible to all objects that refer to an object itself:

class Employee {
    String name;
    int age;
    Employee() {
    this(null, 0);
    //this is used to call anther constructor which takes two parameters
    Employee(String newName, int newAge) {
    name = newName;
    age = newAge;

However, when you invoke an overloaded constructor using the keyword this , it must be the first statement in your constructor. i.e. Employee(){ int a = 0; this(null,0); } cannot compile. - Also, you can’t invoke a constructor within a class by using the class’s name. i.e. Employee(){ Employee(null,0); } will not compile. - Employee(){ this() } will create infinate loop. Code will not compile.

Rules to Remember

  • Overloaded constructors must be defined using different argument lists.

  • Overloaded constructors can’t be defined by just a change in the access modifiers.

  • Overloaded constructors may be defined using different access modifiers.

  • A constructor can call another overloaded constructor by using the keyword this .

  • A constructor can’t invoke a constructor by using its class’s name.

3.6 Accessing Object Fields

An object field is another name for an instance variable defined in a class.

A setter method is used to set the value of a variable.

A getter method is used to retrieve the value of a variable.

The name of an object field is not determined by the name of its getter or setter methods. i.e. Setter and Getter can have different name comparing to variable name.

The default value of an object is null

The default value of an int is 0

If you set an instance variable private, then you cannot use object.instanceName to assign value. Will not compile.

Java uses the dot notation ( . ) to execute a method on a reference variable. For example: person.setName();

When you call a method, you must pass to it the exact number of method parameters that are defined by it.

If a method has parameter as ..., you can pass multiple parameters to it, with same type:

public int daysOffWork(int... days){
public static void main(String... args){
    System.out.println(e.daysOffWork(1, 2, 3, 4));
    System.out.println(e.daysOffWork(1, 2, 3));
    //All code above work fine

3.7 Apply Encapsulation Principles to a Class

A well-encapsulated object doesn’t expose its internal parts to the outside world.

the object fields of a class that isn’t well encapsulated are exposed outside of the class. This approach enables the users of the class to assign arbitrary values to the object fields.

Information Hiding

Encapsulation is the concept of defining variables and the methods together in a class. Information hiding originated from the application and purpose of the concept of encapsulation.

The terms encapsulation and information hiding are used inter- changeably.

By exposing object functionality only through methods, you can prevent your private variables from being assigned any values that don’t fit your requirements.

One of the best ways to create a well-encapsulated class is to define its instance variables as private variables and allow access to these variables using public methods.

3.8 Passing Objects and Primitives to Methods

Passing Primitives to Methods

The value of a primitive data type is copied and passed on to a method. Hence, the variable whose value was copied doesn’t change.

i.e. When you pass a primitive variable to a method, its value remains the same after the execution of the method.


class Employee {
    int age;
    void modifyVal(int a) {
    a = a + 1;
class Office {
    public static void main(String args[]) {
    Employee e = new Employee();
    System.out.println(e.age); //Prints 0
    e.modifyVal(e.age); //Prints 1. This method never access the object field age
    System.out.println(e.age); //Prints 0

It’s okay to define a method parameter with the same name as an instance variable (or object field).

Within a method, a method parameter takes precedence over an object field.

On the code above, when the method modifyVal refers to the variable age , it refers to the method parameter age , not the instance variable age .

To access the instance variable age within the method modifyVal , the variable name age needs to be prefixed with the keyword this ( this is a keyword that refers to the object itself).

Passing Object References to Methods

When you pass an object reference to a method, the method can assign it to another variable.

In this case, the state of the object, which was passed on to the method, remains intact/complete.

Code Example:

class Person {
    private String name;
    Person(String newName) {
    name = newName;
    public String getName() {
    return name;
    public void setName(String val) {
    name = val;
class Test {
    public static void swap(Person p1, Person p2) {
    //Method to swap two
    Person temp = p1;
    object references
    p1 = p2;
    p2 = temp;

    public static void main(String args[]) {
    Person person1 = new Person("John");
    Person person2 = new Person("Paul");

    System.out.println(person1.getName() + ":" + person2.getName());
    //Prints John:Paul
    swap(person1, person2);
    System.out.println(person1.getName()+ ":" + person2.getName());
    //Prints John:Paul

Explaination of swap method (Make sure you won't mix order!):

  • Person temp = p1: make temp refer to the object referred to by p1.

  • p1 = p2: makes p1 refer to the object referred to by p2 .

  • p2 = temp; makes p2 refer to the object referred to by temp.

On the code above, however, the reference variables person1 and person2 are still referring to the objects that they passed to the method swap.

We can change the value by using setter for person_name.

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