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Instances and Access Modifiers

Instances and Access Modifiers

Creating a new object creates a new instance of that class. Because two different objects are seperate instances, things can happen inside each one without affecting the other. We've already seen many cases where instances matter. For example, inside the constructor, like this:

	
    public class Pet {
        String name;
        int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }
    }
	

The this keyword refers to the current instance of the class. Sometimes, you will want data or methods to remain inaccessible to other classes. This is where access modifiers come in to play.

Access Modifiers

Access modifiers change how a class, method, or property can be accessed by other classes. For example, we can restrict direct access to name and weight by marking them as private:

	
    public class Pet {
        private String name;
        private int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }
    }
	

Of course, these are properties you want accessible in some fashion. This is why getters (and setter) methods exist:

	
    public class Pet {
        private String name;
        private int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }

        public String getName() {
            return name;
        }

        public int getWeight() {
            return weight;
        }
    }
	

Which lets you get things like this:

	
    pet.getName();
    pet.getWeight();
	

In this particular instance, it doesn't really add much value, but sometimes you want to do some validation or calculations using the property. In that case, you definitely want to restrict direct access of a property and instead make users go through specific methods.

Public

The public access modifier is usable on classes, properties, methods, and constructors. This makes them accessible for all classes:

	
    public class Pet {
        public String name;
        public int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }
    }
	

Private

The private access modifier is usable on properties, methods, and constructors. They make the code only accessible within that class:

	
    public class Pet {
        private String name;
        private int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }
    }
	

To access these values, the class needs to provide a public method inside that returns that value.

Protected

The protected access modifier is usable on properties, methods, and constructors. They make the code only accessible within that class and any class that extends it:

	
    public class Pet {
        protected String name;
        protected int weight;

        Pet(String name, int weight) {
            this.name = name;
            this.weight = weight;
        }
    }

    public class Cat extends Pet {
        Cat(String name, int weight) {
            super(name, weight);
        }
    }
	

Static

The static makes properties and methods available for use without the need for instances or objects:

	
    public class Main {

        public static void main(String[] args) {
            hello();
        }

        public static void hello() {
            System.out.println("Hello");
        }
    }
	

Final

The final keyword makes it so that a defined property cannot be overridden:

	
    public class Main {

        final static int example = 0;

        public static void main(String[] args) {
            example = 1; // this would fail
        }
    }