Java Reflection Example Tutorial

Filed Under: Java

Java Reflection provides ability to inspect and modify the runtime behavior of application. Reflection in Java is one of the advance topic of core java. Using java reflection we can inspect a class, interface, enum, get their structure, methods and fields information at runtime even though class is not accessible at compile time. We can also use reflection to instantiate an object, invoke it’s methods, change field values.

Java Reflection

java reflection, reflection in java, java reflection example, java reflection tutorial, java reflection api

java reflection tutorial, java reflection example

  1. Reflection in Java

Reflection in Java is a very powerful concept and it’s of little use in normal programming but it’s the backbone for most of the Java, J2EE frameworks. Some of the frameworks that use java reflection are:

  1. JUnit – uses reflection to parse @Test annotation to get the test methods and then invoke it.
  2. Springdependency injection, read more at Spring Dependency Injection
  3. Tomcat web container to forward the request to correct module by parsing their web.xml files and request URI.
  4. Eclipse auto completion of method names
  5. Struts
  6. Hibernate

The list is endless and they all use java reflection because all these frameworks have no knowledge and access of user defined classes, interfaces, their methods etc.

We should not use reflection in normal programming where we already have access to the classes and interfaces because of following drawbacks.

  • Poor Performance – Since java reflection resolve the types dynamically, it involves processing like scanning the classpath to find the class to load, causing slow performance.
  • Security Restrictions – Reflection requires runtime permissions that might not be available for system running under security manager. This can cause you application to fail at runtime because of security manager.
  • Security Issues – Using reflection we can access part of code that we are not supposed to access, for example we can access private fields of a class and change it’s value. This can be a serious security threat and cause your application to behave abnormally.
  • High Maintenance – Reflection code is hard to understand and debug, also any issues with the code can’t be found at compile time because the classes might not be available, making it less flexible and hard to maintain.

  1. Java Reflection for Classes

In java, every object is either a primitive type or reference. All the classes, enums, arrays are reference types and inherit from java.lang.Object. Primitive types are – boolean, byte, short, int, long, char, float, and double.

java.lang.Class is the entry point for all the reflection operations. For every type of object, JVM instantiates an immutable instance of java.lang.Class that provides methods to examine the runtime properties of the object and create new objects, invoke its method and get/set object fields.

In this section, we will look into important methods of Class, for convenience, I am creating some classes and interfaces with inheritance hierarchy.


package com.journaldev.reflection;

public interface BaseInterface {
	
	public int interfaceInt=0;
	
	void method1();
	
	int method2(String str);
}

package com.journaldev.reflection;

public class BaseClass {

	public int baseInt;
	
	private static void method3(){
		System.out.println("Method3");
	}
	
	public int method4(){
		System.out.println("Method4");
		return 0;
	}
	
	public static int method5(){
		System.out.println("Method5");
		return 0;
	}
	
	void method6(){
		System.out.println("Method6");
	}
	
	// inner public class
	public class BaseClassInnerClass{}
		
	//member public enum
	public enum BaseClassMemberEnum{}
}

package com.journaldev.reflection;

@Deprecated
public class ConcreteClass extends BaseClass implements BaseInterface {

	public int publicInt;
	private String privateString="private string";
	protected boolean protectedBoolean;
	Object defaultObject;
	
	public ConcreteClass(int i){
		this.publicInt=i;
	}

	@Override
	public void method1() {
		System.out.println("Method1 impl.");
	}

	@Override
	public int method2(String str) {
		System.out.println("Method2 impl.");
		return 0;
	}
	
	@Override
	public int method4(){
		System.out.println("Method4 overriden.");
		return 0;
	}
	
	public int method5(int i){
		System.out.println("Method4 overriden.");
		return 0;
	}
	
	// inner classes
	public class ConcreteClassPublicClass{}
	private class ConcreteClassPrivateClass{}
	protected class ConcreteClassProtectedClass{}
	class ConcreteClassDefaultClass{}
	
	//member enum
	enum ConcreteClassDefaultEnum{}
	public enum ConcreteClassPublicEnum{}
	
	//member interface
	public interface ConcreteClassPublicInterface{}

}

Let’s look at some of the important refection methods for classes.

Get Class Object

We can get Class of an object using three methods – through static variable class, using getClass() method of object and java.lang.Class.forName(String fullyClassifiedClassName). For primitive types and arrays, we can use static variable class. Wrapper classes provide another static variable TYPE to get the class.


// Get Class using reflection
Class<?> concreteClass = ConcreteClass.class;
concreteClass = new ConcreteClass(5).getClass();
try {
	// below method is used most of the times in frameworks like JUnit
	//Spring dependency injection, Tomcat web container
	//Eclipse auto completion of method names, hibernate, Struts2 etc.
	//because ConcreteClass is not available at compile time
	concreteClass = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass");
} catch (ClassNotFoundException e) {
	e.printStackTrace();
}
System.out.println(concreteClass.getCanonicalName()); // prints com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass

//for primitive types, wrapper classes and arrays
Class<?> booleanClass = boolean.class;
System.out.println(booleanClass.getCanonicalName()); // prints boolean

Class<?> cDouble = Double.TYPE;
System.out.println(cDouble.getCanonicalName()); // prints double

Class<?> cDoubleArray = Class.forName("[D");
System.out.println(cDoubleArray.getCanonicalName()); //prints double[]

Class<?> twoDStringArray = String[][].class;
System.out.println(twoDStringArray.getCanonicalName()); // prints java.lang.String[][]

getCanonicalName() returns the canonical name of the underlying class. Notice that java.lang.Class uses Generics, it helps frameworks in making sure that the Class retrieved is subclass of framework Base Class. Check out Java Generics Tutorial to learn about generics and its wildcards.

Get Super Class

getSuperclass() method on a Class object returns the super class of the class. If this Class represents either the Object class, an interface, a primitive type, or void, then null is returned. If this object represents an array class then the Class object representing the Object class is returned.


Class<?> superClass = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getSuperclass();
System.out.println(superClass); // prints "class com.journaldev.reflection.BaseClass"
System.out.println(Object.class.getSuperclass()); // prints "null"
System.out.println(String[][].class.getSuperclass());// prints "class java.lang.Object"

Get Public Member Classes

getClasses() method of a Class representation of object returns an array containing Class objects representing all the public classes, interfaces and enums that are members of the class represented by this Class object. This includes public class and interface members inherited from superclasses and public class and interface members declared by the class. This method returns an array of length 0 if this Class object has no public member classes or interfaces or if this Class object represents a primitive type, an array class, or void.


Class<?>[] classes = concreteClass.getClasses();
//[class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicEnum, 
//interface com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicInterface,
//class com.journaldev.reflection.BaseClass$BaseClassInnerClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.BaseClass$BaseClassMemberEnum]
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(classes));

Get Declared Classes

getDeclaredClasses() method returns an array of Class objects reflecting all the classes and interfaces declared as members of the class represented by this Class object. The returned array doesn’t include classes declared in inherited classes and interfaces.


//getting all of the classes, interfaces, and enums that are explicitly declared in ConcreteClass
Class<?>[] explicitClasses = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getDeclaredClasses();
//prints [class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassDefaultClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassDefaultEnum, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPrivateClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassProtectedClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicClass, 
//class com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicEnum, 
//interface com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassPublicInterface]
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(explicitClasses));

Get Declaring Class

getDeclaringClass() method returns the Class object representing the class in which it was declared.


Class<?> innerClass = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass$ConcreteClassDefaultClass");
//prints com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass
System.out.println(innerClass.getDeclaringClass().getCanonicalName());
System.out.println(innerClass.getEnclosingClass().getCanonicalName());

Getting Package Name

getPackage() method returns the package for this class. The class loader of this class is used to find the package. We can invoke getName() method of Package to get the name of the package.


//prints "com.journaldev.reflection"
System.out.println(Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.BaseInterface").getPackage().getName());

Getting Class Modifiers

getModifiers() method returns the int representation of the class modifiers, we can use java.lang.reflect.Modifier.toString() method to get it in the string format as used in source code.


System.out.println(Modifier.toString(concreteClass.getModifiers())); //prints "public"
//prints "public abstract interface"
System.out.println(Modifier.toString(Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.BaseInterface").getModifiers())); 

Get Type Parameters

getTypeParameters() returns the array of TypeVariable if there are any Type parameters associated with the class. The type parameters are returned in the same order as declared.


//Get Type parameters (generics)
TypeVariable<?>[] typeParameters = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getTypeParameters();
for(TypeVariable<?> t : typeParameters)
System.out.print(t.getName()+",");

Get Implemented Interfaces

getGenericInterfaces() method returns the array of interfaces implemented by the class with generic type information. We can also use getInterfaces() to get the class representation of all the implemented interfaces.


Type[] interfaces = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getGenericInterfaces();
//prints "[java.util.Map<K, V>, interface java.lang.Cloneable, interface java.io.Serializable]"
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(interfaces));
//prints "[interface java.util.Map, interface java.lang.Cloneable, interface java.io.Serializable]"
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getInterfaces()));		

Get All Public Methods

getMethods() method returns the array of public methods of the Class including public methods of it’s superclasses and super interfaces.


Method[] publicMethods = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getMethods();
//prints public methods of ConcreteClass, BaseClass, Object
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(publicMethods));

Get All Public Constructors

getConstructors() method returns the list of public constructors of the class reference of object.


//Get All public constructors
Constructor<?>[] publicConstructors = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getConstructors();
//prints public constructors of ConcreteClass
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(publicConstructors));

Get All Public Fields

getFields() method returns the array of public fields of the class including public fields of it’s super classes and super interfaces.


//Get All public fields
Field[] publicFields = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getFields();
//prints public fields of ConcreteClass, it's superclass and super interfaces
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(publicFields));

Get All Annotations

getAnnotations() method returns all the annotations for the element, we can use it with class, fields and methods also. Note that only annotations available with reflection are with retention policy of RUNTIME, check out Java Annotations Tutorial.
We will look into this in more details in later sections.


java.lang.annotation.Annotation[] annotations = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getAnnotations();
//prints [@java.lang.Deprecated()]
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(annotations));

  1. Java Reflection for Fields

Reflection API provides several methods to analyze Class fields and modify their values at runtime, in this section we will look into some of the commonly used reflection functions for methods.

Get Public Field

In last section, we saw how to get the list of all the public fields of a class. Reflection API also provides method to get specific public field of a class through getField() method. This method look for the field in the specified class reference and then in the super interfaces and then in the super classes.


Field field = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getField("interfaceInt");

Above call will return the field from BaseInterface that is implemented by ConcreteClass. If there is no field found then it throws NoSuchFieldException.

Field Declaring Class

We can use getDeclaringClass() of field object to get the class declaring the field.


try {
	Field field = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getField("interfaceInt");
	Class<?> fieldClass = field.getDeclaringClass();
	System.out.println(fieldClass.getCanonicalName()); //prints com.journaldev.reflection.BaseInterface
} catch (NoSuchFieldException | SecurityException e) {
	e.printStackTrace();
}

Get Field Type

getType() method returns the Class object for the declared field type, if field is primitive type, it returns the wrapper class object.


Field field = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getField("publicInt");
Class<?> fieldType = field.getType();
System.out.println(fieldType.getCanonicalName()); //prints int			

Get/Set Public Field Value

We can get and set the value of a field in an Object using reflection.


Field field = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getField("publicInt");
ConcreteClass obj = new ConcreteClass(5);
System.out.println(field.get(obj)); //prints 5
field.setInt(obj, 10); //setting field value to 10 in object
System.out.println(field.get(obj)); //prints 10

get() method return Object, so if field is primitive type, it returns the corresponsing Wrapper Class. If the field is static, we can pass Object as null in get() method.

There are several set*() methods to set Object to the field or set different types of primitive types to the field. We can get the type of field and then invoke correct function to set the field value correctly. If the field is final, the set() methods throw java.lang.IllegalAccessException.

Get/Set Private Field Value

We know that private fields and methods can’t be accessible outside of the class but using reflection we can get/set the private field value by turning off the java access check for field modifiers.


Field privateField = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getDeclaredField("privateString");
//turning off access check with below method call
privateField.setAccessible(true);
ConcreteClass objTest = new ConcreteClass(1);
System.out.println(privateField.get(objTest)); // prints "private string"
privateField.set(objTest, "private string updated");
System.out.println(privateField.get(objTest)); //prints "private string updated"

  1. Java Reflection for Methods

Using reflection we can get information about a method and we can invoke it also. In this section, we will learn different ways to get a method, invoke a method and accessing private methods.

Get Public Method

We can use getMethod() to get a public method of class, we need to pass the method name and parameter types of the method. If the method is not found in the class, reflection API looks for the method in superclass.

In below example, I am getting put() method of HashMap using reflection. The example also shows how to get the parameter types, method modifiers and return type of a method.


Method method = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getMethod("put", Object.class, Object.class);
//get method parameter types, prints "[class java.lang.Object, class java.lang.Object]"
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(method.getParameterTypes()));
//get method return type, return "class java.lang.Object", class reference for void
System.out.println(method.getReturnType());
//get method modifiers
System.out.println(Modifier.toString(method.getModifiers())); //prints "public"

Invoking Public Method

We can use invoke() method of Method object to invoke a method, in below example code I am invoking put method on HashMap using reflection.


Method method = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getMethod("put", Object.class, Object.class);
Map<String, String> hm = new HashMap<>();
method.invoke(hm, "key", "value");
System.out.println(hm); // prints {key=value}

If the method is static, we can pass NULL as object argument.

Invoking Private Methods

We can use getDeclaredMethod() to get the private method and then turn off the access check to invoke it, below example shows how we can invoke method3() of BaseClass that is static and have no parameters.


//invoking private method
Method method = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.BaseClass").getDeclaredMethod("method3", null);
method.setAccessible(true);
method.invoke(null, null); //prints "Method3"

  1. Java Reflection for Constructors

Reflection API provides methods to get the constructors of a class to analyze and we can create new instances of class by invoking the constructor. We have already learned how to get all the public constructors.

Get Public Constructor

We can use getConstructor() method on the class representation of object to get specific public constructor. Below example shows how to get the constructor of ConcreteClass defined above and the no-argument constructor of HashMap. It also shows how to get the array of parameter types for the constructor.


Constructor<?> constructor = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getConstructor(int.class);
//getting constructor parameters
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(constructor.getParameterTypes())); // prints "[int]"
		
Constructor<?> hashMapConstructor = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getConstructor(null);
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(hashMapConstructor.getParameterTypes())); // prints "[]"

Instantiate Object using Constructor

We can use newInstance() method on the constructor object to instantiate a new instance of the class. Since we use reflection when we don’t have the classes information at compile time, we can assign it to Object and then further use reflection to access it’s fields and invoke it’s methods.


Constructor<?> constructor = Class.forName("com.journaldev.reflection.ConcreteClass").getConstructor(int.class);
//getting constructor parameters
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(constructor.getParameterTypes())); // prints "[int]"
		
Object myObj = constructor.newInstance(10);
Method myObjMethod = myObj.getClass().getMethod("method1", null);
myObjMethod.invoke(myObj, null); //prints "Method1 impl."

Constructor<?> hashMapConstructor = Class.forName("java.util.HashMap").getConstructor(null);
System.out.println(Arrays.toString(hashMapConstructor.getParameterTypes())); // prints "[]"
HashMap<String,String> myMap = (HashMap<String,String>) hashMapConstructor.newInstance(null);

  1. Reflection for Annotations

Annotations was introduced in Java 1.5 to provide metadata information of the class, methods or fields and now it’s heavily used in frameworks like Spring and Hibernate. Reflection API was also extended to provide support to analyze the annotations at runtime.

Using reflection API we can analyze annotations whose retention policy is Runtime. I have already written a detailed tutorial on annotations and how we can use reflection API to parse annotations, so I would suggest you to check out Java Annotations Tutorial.

Thats all for java reflection example tutorial, I hope you liked the tutorial and understood the importance of Java Reflection API.

Comments

  1. ds says:

    pls post IOC container related post once

  2. Gaurav Arora says:

    Finally , the most complex topic is quite understood. Thanks for explaining it in a more simpler way

  3. Anurag Singh says:

    this post is very nice.
    keep the good post.
    thanks

  4. Thili_ish says:

    Is it possible to determine all the loaded child classes (descendants) of a certain parent class solely through Java reflection API?

  5. Gokku says:

    Thank you for your post.
    I have a question.
    I tried the Get Class Modifiers and my program looks like this

    public class TestClassModifiers {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
    try {
    Class concreteClass = Class
    .forName(“com.java.reflection.ConcreteClass”).getClass();
    // First
    System.out.println(Modifier.toString(concreteClass.getModifiers()));

    // Second
    System.out.println(Modifier.toString(Class.forName(
    “com.java.reflection.ConcreteClass”).getModifiers()));
    // prints “public”

    // prints “public abstract interface”
    System.out.println(Modifier.toString(Class.forName(
    “com.java.reflection.BaseInterface”).getModifiers()));
    } catch (ClassNotFoundException e) {
    // TODO: handle exception
    e.printStackTrace();
    }
    }

    }

    The “First” printed out “public final” while the “Second” printed out only “public”.
    Could you explain that result to me?

  6. sushil says:

    [ you can also add Reflection API interview question ]
    you are quite brilliant,thanks for posting such valuable things, your all interview question are fabulous
    like Struts 2,hibernate,spring… can you please post some cheat sheet of core spring and mvc

    you can also add Reflection API interview question

    At last Good work Hats Off

  7. Ajit says:

    Can we really invoke the private constructor of a singleton class using Reflection and violate its singleton behaviour?

    1. sushil says:

      that why its reflection. to avoid it, you may throw exception from constructor .

      public final class Classname{

      private static final ClassnameINSTANCE = new Classname();

      private Classname() {
      if (INSTANCE != null) {
      throw new IllegalStateException(“Already instantiated”);
      }
      }

      public static Classname getInstance() {
      return INSTANCE;
      }
      }

  8. Deepak says:

    Nice post on Reflection for beginners.

  9. Rajesh says:

    Good Article 🙂

    Small correction – Interface doesn’t inherit from Object – http://stackoverflow.com/questions/6056124/do-interfaces-inherit-from-object-class-in-java

    1. Pankaj says:

      Thanks Rakesh, corrected the post.

  10. Rudrswamy says:

    Is it possible to create a class in such a way that,It should get shield from reflection ,means, that should not allow to inspect and modify the run time behavior of applications.(i.e can we avoid reflection).?

    1. Pankaj says:

      We can’t create a class like that, but I think we can use java policy file or SecurityManager configuration to restrict it.

  11. Dheeraj D. Kamble says:

    Can you please tell me the way in which I can change the attribute of the annotation at runtime using reflection

  12. Nagarjuna says:

    Thanks pankaj, In project discussions my seniors lot of time using a word reflection. I don’t no what is the reflection and when I ask what is the reflection? to those guys they don’t give a proper explanation. But your explanation is very good and it is very helpful

  13. Binh Thanh Nguyen says:

    Thanks, nice post

  14. Roopa says:

    Crisp tutorial with simple yet detailed examples for a beginner like me 🙂 Thanks and Keep posting!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wow, fantastic weblog layout! How long have you
    ever been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The
    whole look of your site is fantastic, as well as the
    content!

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