Iterator Design Pattern in Java

Filed Under: Design Patterns

Iterator design pattern in one of the behavioral pattern. Iterator pattern is used to provide a standard way to traverse through a group of Objects. Iterator pattern is widely used in Java Collection Framework. Iterator interface provides methods for traversing through a collection.

Iterator Design Pattern

iterator design pattern

According to GoF, iterator design pattern intent is:

Provides a way to access the elements of an aggregate object without exposing its underlying represenation.

Iterator pattern is not only about traversing through a collection, we can provide different kind of iterators based on our requirements.

Iterator design pattern hides the actual implementation of traversal through the collection and client programs just use iterator methods.

Iterator Pattern Example

Let’s understand iterator pattern with a simple example. Suppose we have a list of Radio channels and the client program want to traverse through them one by one or based on the type of channel. For example some client programs are only interested in English channels and want to process only them, they don’t want to process other types of channels.

So we can provide a collection of channels to the client and let them write the logic to traverse through the channels and decide whether to process them. But this solution has lots of issues such as client has to come up with the logic for traversal. We can’t make sure that client logic is correct. Furthermore if the number of client grows then it will become very hard to maintain.

Here we can use Iterator pattern and provide iteration based on type of channel. We should make sure that client program can access the list of channels only through the iterator.

The first part of implementation is to define the contract for our collection and iterator interfaces.


public enum ChannelTypeEnum {


ChannelTypeEnum is java enum that defines all the different types of channels.


public class Channel {

	private double frequency;
	private ChannelTypeEnum TYPE;
	public Channel(double freq, ChannelTypeEnum type){

	public double getFrequency() {
		return frequency;

	public ChannelTypeEnum getTYPE() {
		return TYPE;
	public String toString(){
		return "Frequency="+this.frequency+", Type="+this.TYPE;

Channel is a simple POJO class that has attributes frequency and channel type.


public interface ChannelCollection {

	public void addChannel(Channel c);
	public void removeChannel(Channel c);
	public ChannelIterator iterator(ChannelTypeEnum type);

ChannelCollection interface defines the contract for our collection class implementation. Notice that there are methods to add and remove a channel but there is no method that returns the list of channels. ChannelCollection has a method that returns the iterator for traversal. ChannelIterator interface defines following methods;


public interface ChannelIterator {

	public boolean hasNext();
	public Channel next();

Now our base interface and core classes are ready, let’s proceed with the implementation of collection class and iterator.


import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public class ChannelCollectionImpl implements ChannelCollection {

	private List<Channel> channelsList;

	public ChannelCollectionImpl() {
		channelsList = new ArrayList<>();

	public void addChannel(Channel c) {

	public void removeChannel(Channel c) {

	public ChannelIterator iterator(ChannelTypeEnum type) {
		return new ChannelIteratorImpl(type, this.channelsList);

	private class ChannelIteratorImpl implements ChannelIterator {

		private ChannelTypeEnum type;
		private List<Channel> channels;
		private int position;

		public ChannelIteratorImpl(ChannelTypeEnum ty,
				List<Channel> channelsList) {
			this.type = ty;
			this.channels = channelsList;

		public boolean hasNext() {
			while (position < channels.size()) {
				Channel c = channels.get(position);
				if (c.getTYPE().equals(type) || type.equals(ChannelTypeEnum.ALL)) {
					return true;
				} else
			return false;

		public Channel next() {
			Channel c = channels.get(position);
			return c;


Notice the inner class implementation of iterator interface so that the implementation can’t be used by any other collection. Same approach is followed by collection classes also and all of them have inner class implementation of Iterator interface.

Let’s write a simple iterator pattern test program to use our collection and iterator to traverse through the collection of channels.


public class IteratorPatternTest {

	public static void main(String[] args) {
		ChannelCollection channels = populateChannels();
		ChannelIterator baseIterator = channels.iterator(ChannelTypeEnum.ALL);
		while (baseIterator.hasNext()) {
			Channel c =;
		// Channel Type Iterator
		ChannelIterator englishIterator = channels.iterator(ChannelTypeEnum.ENGLISH);
		while (englishIterator.hasNext()) {
			Channel c =;

	private static ChannelCollection populateChannels() {
		ChannelCollection channels = new ChannelCollectionImpl();
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(98.5, ChannelTypeEnum.ENGLISH));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(99.5, ChannelTypeEnum.HINDI));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(100.5, ChannelTypeEnum.FRENCH));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(101.5, ChannelTypeEnum.ENGLISH));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(102.5, ChannelTypeEnum.HINDI));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(103.5, ChannelTypeEnum.FRENCH));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(104.5, ChannelTypeEnum.ENGLISH));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(105.5, ChannelTypeEnum.HINDI));
		channels.addChannel(new Channel(106.5, ChannelTypeEnum.FRENCH));
		return channels;


When I run above program, it produces following output;

Frequency=98.5, Type=ENGLISH
Frequency=99.5, Type=HINDI
Frequency=100.5, Type=FRENCH
Frequency=101.5, Type=ENGLISH
Frequency=102.5, Type=HINDI
Frequency=103.5, Type=FRENCH
Frequency=104.5, Type=ENGLISH
Frequency=105.5, Type=HINDI
Frequency=106.5, Type=FRENCH
Frequency=98.5, Type=ENGLISH
Frequency=101.5, Type=ENGLISH
Frequency=104.5, Type=ENGLISH

Iterator Design Pattern Important Points

  • Iterator pattern is useful when you want to provide a standard way to iterate over a collection and hide the implementation logic from client program.
  • The logic for iteration is embedded in the collection itself and it helps client program to iterate over them easily.

Iterator Design Pattern in JDK

We all know that Collection framework Iterator is the best example of iterator pattern implementation but do you know that java.util.Scanner class also Implements Iterator interface. Read this post to learn about Java Scanner Class.

That’s all for iterator design pattern, I hope it’s helpful and easy to understand.


  1. Korges says:

    Is there any reason why you provided new variable for list in iterator?

    -> private List channels;

    You could refer from Inner Class to


    private List channelsList;

  2. yash says:

    sir aapne isme structure of iterator bhi mention karna tha usse aur acchi se samaj aata tha well explanation is nice

  3. Indukumar Bhayani says:

    Very lucid explanations; Congrats for such a tutorial with great clarity!

    One thing, I would like to point out on the code for the Channel POJO class: Don’t we need to override equals and hashCode methods for removal of Channels from the Collection implementation class?

    1. Pankaj says:

      If you look at the ArrayList remove method, it uses equals() method. Since we haven’t implemented it here, it will use Object class implementation where == is used to check if two objects are equal or not.

      In ideal world we should implement our own equals() method. For example, what if there are other fields in the Channel class that we don’t care about. So we can skip them while comparing if two Channels are equal or not in equals() method implementation.

  4. PriyankaNeeli says:

    I see int position is not initialized. Doesnt it supposed to be ?

    1. Pramod Sapare says:

      It is an instance variable and hence defaults to zero

  5. Monika says:

    Very good example..learnt completely about how iterator works..Thanks for writing !!

    1. Deepak Chourasia says:

      remember iterator might have different algorithms for traversal of the elements so just be aware. That is why we have different kind of Iterator implementations for different types of collections.

  6. sa says:

    Can you clarify how the populateChannels() is intantiated?

    1. Monika says:

      inside populateChannels() we are careating an object of ChannelCollectionImpl which calling its defaut constructor. In that default constructor we are initializing an array list. After that we are adding channels to that array list,

  7. asu says:

    HasNext() and Next() if called one after other, your implementation will not work. you need to keep track if HasNext called before and return the Channel c in Next() before calling get(position) again. Otherwise, hasNext() had moved you to next and calling Next() after , will move you one more place.

  8. Suruchi says:

    How do I change the destination path for the written excel file?

    1. suraj says:


  9. Vikash Saini says:

    I dnt understand .how position variable is working. From where it would get value ?
    Can somebody please answer .

    1. santhosh says:

      Position is an instance variable. In java, all instance variables default value is zero.

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