Let's take two big steps forward in our journey in computer science.
First, we'll learn how to work with text data in Java, using a data type called a
Strings also represent another step forward, since they are our first example of a Java object.
We'll spend a lot of time discussing Java objects in future lessons, so this is our first taste of what is yet to come.
Language is one of the things that makes humans special. And, while many animals communicate through vocalizations, written language is even more unique to our species. Words and text have long played an incredibly important role in human societies. So clearly this is a kind of data that we want to be able to work with in our computer programs.
Happily, Java has a special data type specifically for working with text:
Strings differ from
chars, in that they are enclosed in double quotes (") rather than single quotes ('):
Strings are not limited to the limited number of characters that we can store in a
A full discussion of Unicode and how characters are represented in modern programming languages is outside the scope of this class. But it's a fascinating story with lots of interesting wrinkles. Safe to say, we have fully overcome the limitations of early programs ability to work with non-latin alphabets. Unicode even includes emoji:
(Note that the in-browser editor gets a bit weird around emoji, probably because they aren't the same width as other characters.)
One useful thing that we can do with
Strings is combine them.
Java allows us to do this using the
+ operator, which is the only way that a mathematical operator is reused in Java:
Strings as Objects
On one hand,
Strings just seem like any other Java variable.
But there is something new going on here.
Let's explore together:
Strings are Objects
The unusual behavior that we observed above is due to the fact that
String is not one of the eight primitive types.
Everything else in Java is an object.
One way to distinguish between primitive and object types is, by convention, all object types are capitalized.
We'll be talking a lot about objects in future lessons, but for now we'll define an object as something that combines state and behavior, or data and functionality.
Java objects can be seen as uniting two of the basic building blocks that we've already been exploring: variables and methods.
Like a variable, Java objects store information.
Strings store a series of characters.
But in addition, Java objects also come with built-in methods that we can call!
Frequently, those methods operate on the data contained in the object.
Let's look at how that works out with
Strings, our first object.
Note that this is a screencast, rather than a walkthrough, so that we can consult some documentation together!
The best way to familiarize yourself with these features is to browse the official
Over the set of homework problems on
Strings that start with this lesson, we may expect you to use some of their built-in features, and point you at the relevant documentation.
To call a method on a
String, we use so-called dot notation.
Let's explore that in the following walkthrough:
Strings are objects, we need to compare them with each other in a new way: using the
This can be a bit confusing, because sometimes our old friend the
== equality operator will still work on
Strings are one of only two objects that support literals.
We've been using that support throughout this lesson:
But there is another way to create
Strings that hints more at their true nature as Java objects:
Wait, where did we see
Note that there is a small and fairly unimportant difference between initializing a
String using a literal or with
For our purposes it is never important, and so we'll typically use a literal.
However, when we create
new, we can demonstrate that the
== equality operator does not work for
Need more practice? Head over to the practice page.