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J2SE 5 (1.5) Features
Sun's decision to jump from Java 1.4 to 5.0 in their latest Java release caused some discussion within technical circles, not least because it was launched with twin names of Java 1.4 and Java 5.0 dependant on which community was using it. Sun explain their decision here. The ServerSide people have their views on it. Putting the versioning debate aside alongside the comprehensive improvements to many of the Java libraries, Java 5.0 introduced radical changes to the Java programming langauge. The key changes were:
  • Generics - Avoid the dreaded cast when pulling objects from Collections
  • Enhanced For Loop - Syntactic Sugar
  • Autoboxing/Unboxing - Eliminates the need for int -> Integer, long -> Long, etc
  • Typesafe Enums - Sophisticated C like enums
  • Varargs - C like variable length function arguments
  • Static Import - Use static members without qualifying by containing class
  • Metadata - Add metadata to your classes
Generics
Generics are without doubt the most dramatic change to the Java programming language. In some ways similar to C++ which has templates and C# which has a similar mechanism, Java classes now appear to have an additional dimension. Generics appear most prominently in Java Collection classes, typically used to avoid the use of casting when dealing with collections of objects. Java programmers will probably be very familiar with the following piece of code:
for(Iterator it = c.iterator(); it.hasNext(); ) {
  MyObject mo = (MyObject)it.next();
}
The issue with the Java collections is that they must be capable of containing the most high level of objects - the Object - to make them useful. Obviously this means that casts are required when extracting objects from a collection related Class as can be seen in the code fragment above. The key to generics is that an additional dimension of type is used, so for example rather than declaring and defining an List as
List l = new ArrayList();
we now add an additional type parameter. The concept of the type parameter is central to generics.
List<String> l = new ArrayList<String>();
Returning to the code fragment with the use of Iterator and casts, it is now safe iterate through collections and avoid the cast.
List<String> l = new ArrayList<String>();
...
Add items to l
...
for(Iterator it = c.iterator(); it.hasNext(); ) {
  MyObject mo = it.next();
}
Generics also present an extra level of type safety, if the programmer mistakenly tried an incorrect cast a runtime error would occur. The compiler ensures the assignment is correct at compile time. The use of generics is not restricted
Enhanced for loop
The generics example which shows the use of the Iterator class is a coding cliche, Java 5 has introduced a short cut (read syntactic sugar). We can now iterator through a collection using this statement:
 for(Collectoin col : var) {
   var.invokeMethod();
 }
 
Autoboxing/unboxing
The Java Collection classes can only contain references, primatives such as int and long much be wrapped in their corresponding wrapper class (Integer, Long) and then 'unbox' the method. Integer.intValue(). The following code sample illustrates this.
List al = new ArrayList();
al.add(12);
int g = al.get(0);
Variable arguments
Variable arguments have long been a feature of C, these can seen in action below.
public void varMethod(Object ... args) {
  // args is now available as a local array
  for(int i = 0; i < args.length; i++) {
    
  }
}
Enums
An enum is a variable that contains an bounded integer value, which will be familiar to C, C++ and C# rogrammers.
enum Type { CIRCLE, RECTANGLE, TRIANGLE }
Static imports
As a shortcut static imports now allow the import of static methods which would previously need to be prefixed, the following code fragments demonstrates this in action.
import static java.lang.Math;

...

int m = min(45,678);
Metadata
Similar to attributes in C# which provide a facility to annotate code with metadata Java 5 has annotations. In style they appear to be like Javadocs, although unlike Javadocs it is possible to define new annotation types. A code example demonstrates these concepts. It is important to remember the @Retention annotation which annotates the definition of the Dev annotation, as by default the retention policy is compile time which means that annotation detail cannot be derived via reflection (i.e. the reflection example below will run silently as no annotations are found).
import java.util.*;
import java.lang.reflect.*;
import java.lang.annotation.*;

@Retention(RetentionPolicy.RUNTIME)
@interface Dev {
        String str();
}

public class GenericsTest {

    public static void main(String args[]) {
       Method ms[] = GenericsTest.class.getMethods();
       for(int i = 0; i < ms.length; i++) {
         if(ms[i].isAnnotationPresent(Dev.class)) {
           Annotation ans[] = ms[i].getDeclaredAnnotations();
           for(Annotation a : ans) {
             System.out.println(a);
           }
         }
       }
    }


    @Dev(str = "testing") 
       public void devMethod() {
    }
}
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