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Aug 10, 2012

Article: Functional programming in Java


In addition to the usual set of concepts like OO programming, and AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), the functional programming offers a different way to think about software and solve some of the problems. For example, manipulating a collection of objects and mathematical computations. Java is not a functional programming language. Scala, Clojure, and Groovy are functional programming languages and run on the JVM and can interact with legacy Java classes. Programming with multiple programming languages like Java, Scala, Clojure, and Groovy is known as the polyglot programming.


This article focuses on how you can implement functional programming in Java with some verbosity. You can't do the following in Java to iterate through a collection of items and print each item


items.each(new Function() { public void apply(String item) { System.out.println("print:" + item); }})



But, you can achieve the similar results  in Java as shown below:

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.Iterator;
import java.util.List;

public class FuncProg {
 
 public static void main(String[] args) {
  //list of Java technologies
  List<String> items = Arrays.asList("Java", "JEE", "JDBC", "JMS");
  
  new Functional<String>().each(items, new FuncProg.Function<String>() {
   @Override
   public void apply(String item) {
    System.out.println("print: " + item);
   }
  });
 }
 
 //inner functional class. This could be defined as a separate outer class
 public static class Functional<T> {
  public void each(final Iterable<T> items, final Function<T> f){
     Iterator<T> it = items.iterator();
     while(it.hasNext()){
      f.apply(it.next());
     }
  }
 }
 
 //interface for the function
 public interface Function<T> {
  void apply(T item);
 }

}


Hmmm, you might think that the above functionality can be easily implemented by having two methods perform the relevant tasks. The true functional programming languages have much more concise syntax to achieve this. The real power of functional programming is realized when you want greater reuse of the functions as demonstrated below with Java code. You can have different combinations of iterating through a collection and computing each item in the collection. The Functional class provides different possible iteration logic and the Function interface provides different way to compute each item.



Step 1: Define the interface that applies some functionality to each item.

public interface Function<T> {
 void apply(T item);
}

Step 2: Define the class that can process a collection in different ways.

import java.util.Iterator;

public final class Functional<T> {
 
 public void each(final Iterable<T> items, final Function<T> f) {
  Iterator<T> it = items.iterator();
  while (it.hasNext()) {
   f.apply(it.next());
  }
 }

 public void eachSecondItem(final Iterable<T> items, final Function<T> f) {
  Iterator<T> it = items.iterator();
  int i = 0;
  while (it.hasNext()) {
   T item = it.next();
   // every second item
   if (i % 2 == 0) {
    f.apply(item);
   }
   ++i;
  }
 }
}

Step 3: Finally the sample test class and the implementations of the Function interface.

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.List;

public class FuncProg {
 
 public static void main(String[] args) {
     //list of Java technologies
  List<String> items = Arrays.asList("Java", "JEE", "JDBC", "JMS", "XML");
  
  //print each item: Function is defined as anonymous inner class but can be extracted to its own class
  new Functional<String>().each(items, new PrintFunction<String>());
  
  //print items that are abbreviation like JEE, JDBC, JMS
  new Functional<String>().each(items, new PrintAbbreviationFunction<String>());
  
  //print every second item
  new Functional<String>().eachSecondItem (items, new PrintFunction<String>());
  
  //print every second abbreviated item
        new Functional<String>().eachSecondItem (items, new PrintAbbreviationFunction<String>());
       
 }
 
 //Inner class. This could be in its own separate class
 static class PrintFunction<T> implements Function<T> {
  @Override
  public void apply(T item) {
   System.out.println("print: " + item);
  }
 }

 //Inner class. This could be in its own separate class
    static class PrintAbbreviationFunction<T> implements Function<T> {
      @Override
   public void apply(T item) {
    char[] chars = ((String)item).toCharArray();
    boolean allCaps = true;
    for (Character charVal : chars) {
     if(Character.isLowerCase(charVal)){
      allCaps = false;
      break;
     }
    }
    
    if(allCaps){
     System.out.println("print abbrevated item: " + item);
    }
   }
  }
}



The output for the above code is:
print: Java
print: JEE
print: JDBC
print: JMS
print: XML
print abbrevated item: JEE
print abbrevated item: JDBC
print abbrevated item: JMS
print abbrevated item: XML
print: Java
print: JDBC
print: XML
print abbrevated item: JDBC
print abbrevated item: XML


So, understanding functional programming is very useful.If you want true functional programming, with closures and functions as first class objects, pick another language. Scala, Clojure, Groovy all run on the JVM and can interact with legacy Java classes. This knowledge will be handy in writing code in JavaScript where functions are first class objects and can be referenced and passed around. In functional programming, you need to grasp the concepts like functions as first-class values, currying, immutable values, and closures. Look at the JavaScript examples for better understanding of functional programming.


Here is another example of creating a closure in Java  as shown below:


public class JavaClosure {

 public static void main(String[] args) {
  
  //Create a closure with an anonymous inner class
  Runnable workerThreadObject = new Runnable() {
   
   @Override
   public void run() {
    System.out.println("Printed from a newly created worker thread '" + Thread.currentThread().getName() + "'");
    
   }
  };
  
  System.out.println("Printed from main thread '" + Thread.currentThread().getName() +  "' that is always started by the JVM.");
  
  
  JavaClosure jc = new JavaClosure();
  jc.callAnotherMethod(workerThreadObject);
 }

 private void callAnotherMethod(Runnable workerThreadObject) {
  
  //invoke the closure method on the object that gets passed around
  Thread thread1 = new Thread(workerThreadObject);
  thread1.start();  //calls the run method in the closure 
  
 }

}


The output will be

Printed from main thread 'main' that is always started by the JVM.
Printed from a newly created worker thread 'Thread-0'


Closures are very common in JavaScript and you can learn more about JavaScript closures.

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