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Chapter: Java The Complete Reference : The Java Language : Enumerations, Autoboxing, and Annotations (Metadata)

Type Wrappers - Java

As you know, Java uses primitive types (also called simple types), such as int or double, to hold the basic data types supported by the language.

Type Wrappers


As you know, Java uses primitive types (also called simple types), such as int or double, to hold the basic data types supported by the language. Primitive types, rather than objects, are used for these quantities for the sake of performance. Using objects for these values would add an unacceptable overhead to even the simplest of calculations. Thus, the primitive types are not part of the object hierarchy, and they do not inherit Object.


Despite the performance benefit offered by the primitive types, there are times when you will need an object representation. For example, you can’t pass a primitive type by reference to a method. Also, many of the standard data structures implemented by Java operate on objects, which means that you can’t use these data structures to store primitive types. To handle these (and other) situations, Java provides type wrappers, which are classes that encapsulate a primitive type within an object. The type wrapper classes are described in detail in Part II, but they are introduced here because they relate directly to Java’s autoboxing feature.


The type wrappers are Double, Float, Long, Integer, Short, Byte, Character, and


Boolean. These classes offer a wide array of methods that allow you to fully integrate the primitive types into Java’s object hierarchy. Each is briefly examined next.



Character is a wrapper around a char. The constructor for Character is Character(char ch)


Here, ch specifies the character that will be wrapped by the Character object being created. To obtain the char value contained in a Character object, call charValue( ), shown here:


char charValue( )


It returns the encapsulated character.



Boolean is a wrapper around boolean values. It defines these constructors:


Boolean(boolean boolValue)

Boolean(String boolString)

In the first version, boolValue must be either true or false. In the second version, if boolString contains the string "true" (in uppercase or lowercase), then the new Boolean object will be true. Otherwise, it will be false.

To obtain a boolean value from a Boolean object, use booleanValue( ), shown here: boolean booleanValue( )


It returns the boolean equivalent of the invoking object.


The Numeric Type Wrappers


By far, the most commonly used type wrappers are those that represent numeric values. These are Byte, Short, Integer, Long, Float, and Double. All of the numeric type wrappers inherit the abstract class Number. Number declares methods that return the value of an object in each of the different number formats. These methods are shown here:


byte byteValue( ) double doubleValue( ) float floatValue( )

int intValue( ) long longValue( ) short shortValue( )


For example, doubleValue( ) returns the value of an object as a double, floatValue( ) returns the value as a float, and so on. These methods are implemented by each of the numeric type wrappers.


All of the numeric type wrappers define constructors that allow an object to be constructed from a given value, or a string representation of that value. For example, here are the constructors defined for Integer:


Integer(int num) Integer(String str)


If str does not contain a valid numeric value, then a NumberFormatException is thrown. All of the type wrappers override toString( ). It returns the human-readable form of the value contained within the wrapper. This allows you to output the value by passing a type wrapper object to println( ), for example, without having to convert it into its primitive type.


The following program demonstrates how to use a numeric type wrapper to encapsulate a value and then extract that value.


// Demonstrate a type wrapper.

class Wrap {


public static void main(String args[]) {


Integer iOb = new Integer(100);


int i = iOb.intValue();


System.out.println(i + " " + iOb); // displays 100 100






This program wraps the integer value 100 inside an Integer object called iOb. The program then obtains this value by calling intValue( ) and stores the result in i.

The process of encapsulating a value within an object is called boxing. Thus, in the program, this line boxes the value 100 into an Integer:


Integer iOb = new Integer(100);


The process of extracting a value from a type wrapper is called unboxing. For example, the program unboxes the value in iOb with this statement:


int i = iOb.intValue();


The same general procedure used by the preceding program to box and unbox values has been employed since the original version of Java. However, since JDK 5, Java fundamentally improved on this through the addition of autoboxing, described next.


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