Next we begin our exploration of relationships between Java classes.
So far the
classes that we've created have stood alone—or at least we thought.
In this lesson we'll see that all Java
classes are related to each other, and how to utilize those connections to reflect real-world relationships and improve our Java code.
Let's begin this lesson with a puzzle:
If we compile and run this code, we see something printed.
Which is... weird!
The snippet above uses dot notation to call a method on
But where is that instance method defined?
Do you see it?
So why does this code work?
On some level, this lesson is about figuring that out.
Java allows us to establish relationships between classes. Specifically, Java allows one class to inherit state and behavior by extending another class. Let's look at an example of this:
extendsand Inheritance Terminology
We use the
extends keyword to create a relationship between two classes.
This relationship is one way.
The terminology that we use here is helpful.
We refer to the class that is
extended as the parent and the class that
extends as the child:
This helps us remember that we cannot create circular class relationships. This won't compile:
We can also establish multiple levels of inheritance. When we do, we use similar family-based terminology:
When we extend a class, we need to make sure that our parent class is set up properly when instances of our class are created.
For example, consider the
class hierarchy below.
Whenever an instance of
Student is created, we are also creating an instance of
So we need to make sure that the
Person constructor gets called.
Let's see how to do that:
As a final observation, note that
private still works the way that we expect.
A class that extends another does not gain access to its
However, none of this really resolves our puzzle. We still don't know why this works:
So where is
toString coming from?
To fill in the missing piece of the puzzle, we need to meet the
class that sits at the top of Java's class hierarchy,
So it's nice and all that every class will inherit a
toString method from
But this method really isn't very useful!
For example, if my
Pet has a
name, I might want to display that instead.
Can we do this?
Let's look at how:
We'll get into this more tomorrow and review exactly how Java locates various method and field names when it compiles your code.
Need more practice? Head over to the practice page.