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Java Interface

Java Interface

In this tutorial, we will learn about Java interfaces. We will learn how to implement interfaces and when to use them in detail with the help of examples.

An interface is a fully abstract class that includes a group of methods without a body.

In Java, an interface defines a set of specifications that other classes must implement. For example,

interface Language {
   public void getName();
}

Here, we have used the interface keyword to create an interface named Language. The Language interface defines a specification getName().

Now, every class that uses this interface should implement the getName() specification.


Example: Java Interface

// create an interface
interface Language {
  void getName(String name);
}

// class implements interface
class ProgrammingLanguage implements Language {

  // implementation of abstract method
  public void getName(String name) {
    System.out.println("Programming Language: " + name);
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    ProgrammingLanguage language = new ProgrammingLanguage();
    language.getName("Java");
  }
}

Output

Programming Language: Java

In the above example, we have created an interface named Language. The interface includes an abstract method getName().

Here, the ProgrammingLanguage class implements the interface and provides the implementation for the method.

It is not compulsory to use abstract keyword while declaring abstract methods inside an interface. It because an interface only includes abstract methods not regular methods.

Note: All the methods inside an interface are implicitly public and all fields are implicitly public static final. For example,

interface Language {
  
  // by default public static final
  String type = "programming language";

  // by default public
  void getName();
}

Implementing an Interface

Like abstract classes, we cannot create objects of an interface. However, we can implement an interface.

We use the implements keyword to implement an interface. For example,

// create an interface
interface Polygon {
  void getArea(int length, int breadth);
}

// implement the Polygon interface
class Rectangle implements Polygon {

  // implementation of abstract method
  public void getArea(int length, int breadth) {
    System.out.println("The area of the rectangle is " + (length * breadth));
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // create an object
    Rectangle r1 = new Rectangle();
    r1.getArea(5, 6);
  }
}

Output

The area of the rectangle is 30

In the above example, we have created an interface named Polygon. The interface contains an abstract method getArea().

Here, the Rectangle class implements Polygon. And, provides the implementation of the getArea() method.

Note: A class can implement multiple interfaces. For example,

interface A {
  // members of A
}

interface B {
  // members of B
}

class C implements A, B {
  // abstract members of A
  // abstract members of B
}

Extending an Interface

Similar to classes, interfaces can extend other interfaces. The extends keyword is used for extending interfaces. For example,

interface Line {
  // members of Line interface
}

// extending interface
interface Polygon extends Line {
  // members of Polygon interface
  // members of Line interface
}

Here, the Polygon interface extends the Line interface. Now, if any class implements Polygon, it should provide implementations for all the abstract methods of both Line and Polygon.

Note: An interface can extend multiple interfaces. For example,

interface A {
   ...
}
interface B {
   ... 
}

interface C extends A, B {
   ...
}

Advantages of Interface in Java

Now that we know what interfaces are, let's learn about why interfaces are used in Java.

  • Interfaces provide specifications that a class (which implements it) must follow.

    In our previous example, we have used getArea() as a specification inside the interface Polygon. This is like setting a rule that, we should be able to get the area of every polygon.

    Now any class that implements the Polygon interface must provide an implementation for the getArea() method.
  • Similar to abstract classes, interfaces help us to achieve abstraction in Java.

    Here, we know getArea() calculates the area of polygons but the way area is calculated is different for different polygons. Hence, the implementation of getArea() is independent of one another.
  • Interfaces are also used to achieve multiple inheritance in Java. For example,
     
    interface Line {
    ...
    }
    
    interface Polygon {
    ...
    }
    
    class Rectangle implements Line, Polygon {
    ...
    }

    Here, the class Rectangle is implementing two different interfaces. This is how we achieve multiple inheritance in Java.

default methods in Java Interfaces

With the release of Java 8, we can now add methods with implementation inside an interface. These methods are called default methods.

To declare default methods inside interfaces, we use the default keyword. For example,

public default void getSides() {
   // body of getSides()
}

Why default methods?

Let's take a scenario to understand why default methods are introduced in Java.

Suppose, we need to add a new method in an interface.

We can add the method in our interface easily without implementation. However, that's not the end of the story. All our classes that implement that interface must provide an implementation for the method.

If a large number of classes were implementing this interface, we need to track all these classes and make changes in them. This is not only tedious but error-prone as well.

To resolve this, Java introduced default methods. Default methods are inherited like ordinary methods.

Let's take an example to have a better understanding of default methods.

Example: Default Method in Java Interface

interface Polygon {
  void getArea();

  // default method 
  default void getSides() {
    System.out.println("I can get sides of a polygon.");
  }
}

// implements the interface
class Rectangle implements Polygon {
  public void getArea() {
    int length = 6;
    int breadth = 5;
    int area = length * breadth;
    System.out.println("The area of the rectangle is " + area);
  }

  // overrides the getSides()
  public void getSides() {
    System.out.println("I have 4 sides.");
  }
}

// implements the interface
class Square implements Polygon {
  public void getArea() {
    int length = 5;
    int area = length * length;
    System.out.println("The area of the square is " + area);
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {

    // create an object of Rectangle
    Rectangle r1 = new Rectangle();
    r1.getArea();
    r1.getSides();

    // create an object of Square
    Square s1 = new Square();
    s1.getArea();
    s1.getSides();
  }
}

Output

The area of the rectangle is 30
I have 4 sides.
The area of the square is 25
I can get sides of a polygon.

In the above example, we have created an interface named Polygon. It has a default method getSides() and an abstract method getArea().

Here, we have created two classes Rectangle and Square that implement Polygon.

The Rectangle class provides the implementation of the getArea() method and overrides the getSides() method. However, the Square class only provides the implementation of the getArea() method.

Now, while calling the getSides() method using the Rectangle object, the overridden method is called. However, in the case of the Square object, the default method is called.


private and static Methods in Interface

The Java 8 also added another feature to include static methods inside an interface.

Similar to a class, we can access static methods of an interface using its references. For example,

// create an interface
interface Polygon {
  staticMethod(){..}
}

// access static method
Polygon.staticMethod();

Note: With the release of Java 9, private methods are also supported in interfaces.

We cannot create objects of an interface. Hence, private methods are used as helper methods that provide support to other methods in interfaces.


Practical Example of Interface

Let's see a more practical example of Java Interface.

// To use the sqrt function
import java.lang.Math;

interface  Polygon {
   void getArea();
  
 // calculate the perimeter of a Polygon
   default void getPerimeter(int... sides) {
      int perimeter = 0;
      for (int side: sides) {
         perimeter += side;
      }

   System.out.println("Perimeter: " + perimeter);
   }
}

class Triangle implements Polygon {
   private int a, b, c;
   private double s, area;

// initializing sides of a triangle
   Triangle(int a, int b, int c) {
      this.a = a;
      this.b = b;
      this.c = c;
      s = 0;
   }

// calculate the area of a triangle
   public void getArea() {
      s = (double) (a + b + c)/2;
      area = Math.sqrt(s*(s-a)*(s-b)*(s-c));
      System.out.println("Area: " + area);
   }
}

class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      Triangle t1 = new Triangle(2, 3, 4);

// calls the method of the Triangle class
      t1.getArea();

// calls the method of Polygon
      t1.getPerimeter(2, 3, 4);
   }
}

Output

Area: 2.9047375096555625
Perimeter: 9

In the above program, we have created an interface named Polygon. It includes a default method getPerimeter() and an abstract method getArea().

We can calculate the perimeter of all polygons in the same manner so we implemented the body of getPerimeter() in Polygon.

Now, all polygons that implement Polygon can use getPerimeter() to calculate perimeter.

However, the rule for calculating the area is different for different polygons. Hence, getArea() is included without implementation.

Any class that implements Polygon must provide an implementation of getArea().