Item 17: Minimize Mutability

An immutable class is simply a class whose instances cannot be modified. All of the information contained in each instance is fixed for the lifetime of the object, so no changes can ever be observed.

  • An immutable object can be in exactly one state, the state in which it was created
  • Immutable objects are inherently thread-safe; they require no synchronization. Therefore, they can be shared freely
  • You don’t need to make defensive copies of them as they would be equivalent to the originals
  • Classes should be immutable unless there’s a very good reason to make them mutable
  • Declare every field private final unless there’s a good reason to do otherwise

To make a class immutable, follow these five rules:

  1. Don’t provide “setter” methods — methods that modify fields or objects referred to by fields.
  2. Make all fields final.
  3. Make all fields private. This prevents clients from obtaining access to mutable objects referred to by fields and modifying these objects directly.
  4. Ensure that the class can’t be extended. The simplest way to do this is to declare the class as final. A more sophisticated approach is to make the constructor private and construct instances in factory methods.
  5. If the instance fields include references to mutable objects, don’t allow those objects to be changed:
  • Don’t provide methods that modify the mutable objects.
  • Don’t share references to the mutable objects. Never store references to external, mutable objects passed to the constructor; if necessary, create copies, and store references to the copies. Similarly, create copies of your internal mutable objects when necessary to avoid returning the originals in your methods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *