The Java Library
A brief overview of Java’s string handling was presented in Chapter 7. In this chapter, it is described in detail. As is the case in most other programming languages, in Java a string is a sequence of characters. But, unlike some other languages that implement strings as character arrays, Java implements strings as objects of type String.
Implementing strings as built-in objects allows Java to provide a full complement of features that make string handling convenient. For example, Java has methods to compare two strings, search for a substring, concatenate two strings, and change the case of letters within a string. Also, String objects can be constructed a number of ways, making it easy to obtain a string when needed.
Somewhat unexpectedly, when you create a String object, you are creating a string that cannot be changed. That is, once a String object has been created, you cannot change the characters that comprise that string. At first, this may seem to be a serious restriction.
However, such is not the case. You can still perform all types of string operations. The difference is that each time you need an altered version of an existing string, a new String object is created that contains the modifications. The original string is left unchanged. This approach is used because fixed, immutable strings can be implemented more efficiently than changeable ones. For those cases in which a modifiable string is desired, Java provides two options: StringBuffer and StringBuilder. Both hold strings that can be modified after they are created.
The String, StringBuffer, and StringBuilder classes are defined in java.lang. Thus, they are available to all programs automatically. All are declared final, which means that none of these classes may be subclassed. This allows certain optimizations that increase performance to take place on common string operations. All three implement the CharSequence interface.
One last point: To say that the strings within objects of type String are unchangeable means that the contents of the String instance cannot be changed after it has been created.
However, a variable declared as a String reference can be changed to point at some other String object at any time.
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