Chapter: Java The Complete Reference - The Java Language - Inheritance

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Using final with Inheritance - Java

The keyword final has three uses. First, it can be used to create the equivalent of a named constant. This use was described in the preceding chapter. The other two uses of final apply to inheritance. Both are examined here.

Using final with Inheritance

 

The keyword final has three uses. First, it can be used to create the equivalent of a named constant. This use was described in the preceding chapter. The other two uses of final apply to inheritance. Both are examined here.

 

Using final to Prevent Overriding

 

While method overriding is one of Java’s most powerful features, there will be times when you will want to prevent it from occurring. To disallow a method from being overridden, specify final as a modifier at the start of its declaration. Methods declared as final cannot be overridden. The following fragment illustrates final:

 

class A {

 

final void meth() {

 

System.out.println("This is a final method.");

 

}

 

}

 

class B extends A {

 

void meth() { // ERROR! Can't override. 

System.out.println("Illegal!");

 

}

 

}

 

Because meth( ) is declared as final, it cannot be overridden in B. If you attempt to do so, a compile-time error will result.

Methods declared as final can sometimes provide a performance enhancement: The compiler is free to inline calls to them because it “knows” they will not be overridden by a subclass. When a small final method is called, often the Java compiler can copy the bytecode for the subroutine directly inline with the compiled code of the calling method, thus eliminating the costly overhead associated with a method call. Inlining is an option only with final methods. Normally, Java resolves calls to methods dynamically, at run time. This is called late binding. However, since final methods cannot be overridden, a call to one can be resolved at compile time. This is called early binding.

Using final to Prevent Inheritance

 

Sometimes you will want to prevent a class from being inherited. To do this, precede the class declaration with final. Declaring a class as final implicitly declares all of its methods as final, too. As you might expect, it is illegal to declare a class as both abstract and final since an abstract class is incomplete by itself and relies upon its subclasses to provide complete implementations.

 

Here is an example of a final class:

 

final class A { //...

 

}

 

// The following class is illegal.

 

class B extends A { // ERROR! Can't subclass A //...

 

}

As the comments imply, it is illegal for B to inherit A since A is declared as final.

 

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