Saturday, February 27, 2021

Java NullPointerException Avoidance and Enhancement Tactics

An encountered NullPointerException can be a useful mechanism for highlighting when a certain code flow or certain data has led to unexpected results (and the messages provided by NullPointerException are much improved with JDK 15). However, there are other times when the presence of null is not an exceptional condition and for those such cases there are several tactics that can be used to easily and cleanly avoid an unwanted NullPointerException. Even when the occurrence of a NullPointerException helps identify problems, there are other tactics we can use to make the most of these opportunities.

The code samples featured in this post are part of class NullSafeTactics and its full source code is available on GitHub.

Contents

Elegantly Avoiding Unnecessary NullPointerExceptions

Implicit Java String Conversion

There are often times when we want the string representation of something that is potentially null and we do not want the access of that string representation to result in a NullPointerException. An example of this is when we log certain conditions and the context we include in the logged message includes a variable or field that is null. It is highly unlikely in such a case that we want a NullPointerException to be possibly thrown during the attempted logging of some potentially different condition. Fortunately, Java's string conversion is often available in these situations.

Even when the field variable NULL_OBJECT of type Object is null, the following code will NOT result in a NullPointerException thanks to Java's string conversion handling a null implicitly and converting it to the "null" string instead.

/**
 * Demonstrates that Java string conversion avoids {@link NullPointerException}.
 */
public void demonstrateNullSafeStringConversion()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Implicit Java String Conversion",
      () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + NULL_OBJECT + "'.");
}

The output from running the above code snippet demonstrates that the NullPointerException does not get thrown.

Feb 25, 2021 9:26:19 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Implicit Java String Conversion' completed without exception!

The implicit Java string conversion avoided a NullPointerException. When toString() is explicitly called on that same null, a NullPointerException is encountered. This is shown in the next code listing and the output it leads to is shown after the code listing.

/**
 * Demonstrates that explicit {@link Object#toString()} on {@code null} leads to
 * {@link NullPointerException}.
 */
public void demonstrateNullUnsafeExplicitToString()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Unsafe Explicit toString() Invocation on null",
      () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + NULL_OBJECT.toString() + "'.");
}
Feb 25, 2021 9:32:06 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Unsafe Explicit toString() Invocation on null': java.lang.NullPointerException: Cannot invoke "Object.toString()" because "dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics.NULL_OBJECT" is null

Note that these examples in this post have been executed with a JDK 17 early access release, so the NullPointerExceptions shown in this post benefit from the better NPE messages introduced with JDK 14 (and are enabled by default since JDK 15).

Null-safe String Representation with String.valueOf(Object)

Allowing Java's implicit string conversion to represent null as the "null" string is the cleanest and easiest way to handle null when constructing strings. However, there are many times when we need a string representation of a Java object when implicit string conversion is not available. In such cases, String.valueOf(Object) can be used to achieve functionality similar to the implicit string conversion. When an object is passed to String.valueOf(Object), that method will return the results of the object's toString() if that object is not null or will return the "null" string if the object is null.

The following code listing demonstrates String.valueOf(Object) in action and the output from running that code is shown after the code listing.

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link String#valueOf(Object)} will render {@code null} safely
 * as "null" string.
 *
 * In many cases, use of {@link String#valueOf(Object)} is unnecessary because Java's
 * string conversion will perform the same effect. {@link String#valueOf(Object)} is
 * necessary when Java is not able to implicitly convert to a {@link String}.
 *
 * See also https://marxsoftware.blogspot.com/2009/04/value-of-stringvalueof.html.
 */
public void demonstrateNullSafeStringValueOf()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Null-safe String Representation with String.valueOf(Object)",
      () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + String.valueOf(NULL_OBJECT) + "'.");
}
Feb 25, 2021 10:05:52 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Null-safe String Representation with String.valueOf(Object)' completed without exception!

There are several overloaded versions of String#valueOf accepting parameter types other than Object, but they all behave similarly.

Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object)

The Objects class provides several methods to allow for elegant handling of potential nulls. One of these, Objects.toString(Object) works exactly like the just-discussed String.valueOf(Object). In fact, as described in the post "String.valueOf(Object) versus Objects.toString(Object)", the Objects.toString(Object) method delegates to the String.valueOf(Object) method.

The following code listing demonstrates use of Objects.toString(Object) and the output from running it follows the code listing.

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link Objects#toString(Object)} will render {@code null} safely
 * as "null" string.
 *
 * In many cases, use of {@link Objects#toString(Object)} is unnecessary because Java's
 * string conversion will perform the same effect. {@link Objects#toString(Object)} is
 * necessary when Java is not able to implicitly convert to a {@link String}.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsToString()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object)",
      () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + Objects.toString(NULL_OBJECT) + "'.");
}
Feb 25, 2021 10:19:52 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object)' completed without exception!

I tend to use String.valueOf(Object) instead of Objects.toString(Object) because the latter calls the former anyway and because there are overloaded versions of String#valueOf.

Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object, String)

The approaches covered so far in this post (implicit string conversion, String#valueOf methods, and Objects.toString(Object)) all result in the "null" string when a null is presented to them. There are times when we may prefer to have something other than the "null" string be presented as the string representation of null. An example of this is when we want to return an empty string from a method rather than returning null from a method. The following code listing demonstrates using Objects.toString(Object, String) to have an empty string be provided when first passed-in argument turns out to be null.

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link Objects#toString(Object, String)} will render {@code null}
 * potentially safely as the "default" string specified as the second argument.
 *
 * In many cases, use of {@link Objects#toString(Object, String)} is unnecessary because
 * Java's string conversion will perform the same effect. {@link Objects#toString(Object)}
 * is necessary when Java is not able to implicitly convert to a {@link String} or when
 * it is desired that the string representation of the {@code null} be something other
 * than the "null" string.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsToStringWithDefault()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object,String) Using Empty String Default",
      () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + Objects.toString(NULL_OBJECT, "") + "'.");
}
Feb 25, 2021 10:33:16 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Null-safe String Representation with Objects.toString(Object,String) Using Empty String Default' completed without exception!

Default Value Replacement of null for Any Object

The JDK-provided methods covered so far are useful for safely acquiring string representation of objects that might be null. Sometimes, we may want to handle a potential instance that might be null of a class other than String. In that case, the Objects.requireNonNullElse(T, T) method allows specification of a default value that should be used if the object in question (first parameter to the method) is null. This is demonstrated with the following code listing and its accompanying output that follows it.

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link Objects#requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)} will render
 * {@code null} safely for any potential {@code null} passed to it by returning the
 * supplied default instead when the object in question is {@code null}. Two
 * examples are included in this method's demonstration:
 * 
    *
  1. {@code null} {@link Object} safely rendered as custom supplied default "null" string
  2. *
  3. {@code null} {@link TimeUnit} safely rendered as custom supplied default {@link TimeUnit#SECONDS}
  4. *
* * In many cases, use of {@link Objects#requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)} is not * necessary because Java's string conversion will perform the same effect. * {@link Objects#requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)} is necessary when Java is not * able to implicitly convert to a {@link String} or when the potentially {@code null} * object is not a {@link String} or when the object to have a default returned * when it is {@code null} is of class other than {@link String}. */ public void demonstrateNullSafeObjectsRequireNonNullElse() { executeOperation( "Null-safe String Representation with Objects.requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)", () -> "The value of the 'null' object is '" + Objects.requireNonNullElse(NULL_OBJECT, "null") + "'"); executeOperation("Null-safe TimeUnit access with Objects.requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)", () -> "The value used instead of 'null' TimeUnit is '" + Objects.requireNonNullElse(NULL_TIME_UNIT, TimeUnit.SECONDS) + "'"); }
Feb 28, 2021 2:54:45 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Null-safe String Representation with Objects.requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)' completed without exception!
Feb 28, 2021 2:54:45 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Null-safe TimeUnit access with Objects.requireNonNullElse(Object, Object)' completed without exception!

Another Objects method with slightly different name (requireNonNullElseGet(T, Supplier<? extends T>)) allows the default that will be used in place of null to be specified using a Supplier. The advantage of this approach is that the operation used to compute that default value will only be executed if the object is null and the cost of executing that Supplier is NOT incurred if the specified object is null (Supplier deferred execution).

Comparing enums Safely

Although Java enums can be compared for equality using Enum.equals(Object), I prefer to use the operators == and != for comparing enums because the latter is null-safe (and arguably makes for easier reading).

The code listing and associated output that follow demonstrate that comparing enums with == is null-safe but comparing enums with .equals(Object) is NOT null-safe.

/**
 * Demonstrates that comparing a potentially {@code null} enum is
 * {@code null}-safe when the {@code ==} operator (or {@code !=}
 * operator) is used, but that potentially comparing a {@code null}
 * enum using {@link Enum#equals(Object)} results in a
 * {@link NullPointerException}.
 *
 * See also https://marxsoftware.blogspot.com/2011/07/use-to-compare-java-enums.html.
 */
public void demonstrateEnumComparisons()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using == with enums is null Safe",
      () -> NULL_TIME_UNIT == TimeUnit.MINUTES);
   executeOperation(
      "Using .equals On null Enum is NOT null Safe",
      () -> NULL_TIME_UNIT.equals(TimeUnit.MINUTES));
}
INFO: Demonstration 'Using == with enums is null Safe' completed without exception!
Feb 28, 2021 4:30:17 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Using .equals On null Enum is NOT null Safe': java.lang.NullPointerException: Cannot invoke "java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit.equals(Object)" because "dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics.NULL_TIME_UNIT" is null
Feb 28, 2021 4:30:17 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation

Comparing Objects Safely with Known Non-null Object on LHS of .equals(Object)

When we know that at least one of two objects being compared is definitely NOT null, we can safely compare the two objects (even if the other one may be null), by calling Object.equals(Object) against the known non-null object. There still is an element of risk here if the class which you're calling .equals(Object) against has its Object.equals(Object) method implemented in such a way that passing in a null argument leads to a NullPointerException. However, I've never encountered a JDK class or even custom class that has made that mistake (and it is a mistake in my opinion to have a Object.equals(Object) overridden method not be able to handle a supplied null and simply return false in that case instead of throwing NullPointerException). The tactic of calling .equals(Object) against the known non-null object is demonstrated in the next code listing and associated output.

/**
 * Demonstrates that comparisons against known non-{@code null} strings can be
 * {@code null}-safe as long as the known non-{@code null} string is on the left
 * side of the {@link Object#equals(Object)} method ({@link Object#equals(Object)})
 * is called on the known non-{@code null} string rather than on the unknown
 * and potential {@code null}.
 */
public void demonstrateLiteralComparisons()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using known non-null literal on left side of .equals",
         () -> "Inspired by Actual Events".equals(NULL_STRING));
   executeOperation(
      "Using potential null variable on left side of .equals can result in NullPointerExeption",
      () -> NULL_STRING.equals("Inspired by Actual Events"));
}
Feb 28, 2021 4:46:20 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Using known non-null literal on left side of .equals' completed without exception!
Feb 28, 2021 4:46:20 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Using potential null variable on left side of .equals can result in NullPointerExeption': java.lang.NullPointerException: Cannot invoke "String.equals(Object)" because "dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics.NULL_STRING" is null

Although it was specifically String.equals(Object) demonstrated above, this tactic applies to instances of any class as long as the class's .equals(Object) method can gracefully handle a supplied null (and I cannot recall ever encountering one that didn't handle null).

Case Insensitive Comparison of Strings Safely with Known Non-null String on LHS of .equals(Object)

Placing the known non-null object on the left side of the .equals(Object) call is a general null-safe tactic for any object of any type. For String in particular, there are times when we want a null-safe way to compare two strings without regard to the case of the characters in the strings (case insensitive comparison). The String.equalsIgnoreCase(String) method works well for this and will be a null-safe operation if we use a known non-null String on the left side of that method (method called against the known non-null String).

The code listing and associated output that follow demonstrate null-safe use of String.equalsIgnoreCase(String).

/**
 * Demonstrates that case-insensitive comparisons against known non-{@code null}
 * strings can be {@code null}-safe as long as the known non-{@code null} string
 * is on the left side of the {@link Object#equals(Object)} method
 * ({@link Object#equals(Object)}) is called on the known non-{@code null} String
 * rather than on the unknown potential {@code null}).
 */
public void demonstrateLiteralStringEqualsIgnoreCase()
{
   executeOperation(
      "String.equalsIgnoreCase(String) is null-safe with literal string on left side of method",
      () -> "Inspired by Actual Events".equalsIgnoreCase(NULL_STRING));
   executeOperation(
      "Using potential null variable of left side of .equalsIgnoreCase can result in NPE",
      () -> NULL_STRING.equalsIgnoreCase("Inspired by Actual Events"));
}
Feb 28, 2021 7:03:42 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'String.equalsIgnoreCase(String) is null-safe with literal string on left side of method' completed without exception!
Feb 28, 2021 7:03:42 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Using potential null variable of left side of .equalsIgnoreCase can result in NPE': java.lang.NullPointerException: Cannot invoke "String.equalsIgnoreCase(String)" because "dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics.NULL_STRING" is null

These last two demonstrations used literal strings as the "known non-null" strings against which methods were called, but other strings and objects could also be used. Constants and known previously initialized fields and variables are all candidates for the objects against which the comparison methods can be called safely as long as it's known that those fields and variables can never be changed to null. For fields, this condition is only guaranteed if that field is always initialized to a non-null value with the instance and is immutable. For variables, this condition is only guaranteed if that variable is initialized to an unknown value and is final. There are many "in between" cases where it is most likely that certain objects are not null, but guarantees cannot be made. In those cases, it is less risky to explicitly check each object being compared for null before comparing them with .equals(Object) or to use the Objects.equals(Object, Object) method, which is covered next.

Safely Comparing Objects When Neither is Known to be Non-null

The Objects.equals(Object, Object) method is a highly convenient way to compare two objects for equality when we don't know whether either or both might be null. This convenience method's documentation explains its behavior and it's probably what most of u would do if writing this code ourselves, "Returns true if the arguments are equal to each other and false otherwise. Consequently, if both arguments are null, true is returned. Otherwise, if the first argument is not null, equality is determined by calling the equals method of the first argument with the second argument of this method. Otherwise, false is returned."

This is demonstrated in the next code listing and associated output.

/**
 * Demonstrates that comparisons of even potential {@code null}s is safe
 * when {@link Objects#equals(Object, Object)} is used.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsEquals()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using Objects.equals(Object, Object) is null-safe",
      () -> Objects.equals(NULL_OBJECT, LocalDateTime.now()));
}
Feb 28, 2021 5:11:19 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Using Objects.equals(Object, Object) is null-safe' completed without exception!

I like to use the Objects.equals(Object, Object) to quickly build my own class's .equals(Objects) methods in a null-safe manner.

The method Objects.deepEquals(Object, Object) is not demonstrated here, but it's worth pointing out its existence. The method's documentation states, "Returns true if the arguments are deeply equal to each other and false otherwise. Two null values are deeply equal. If both arguments are arrays, the algorithm in Arrays.deepEquals is used to determine equality. Otherwise, equality is determined by using the equals method of the first argument."

Null-safe Hashing

The methods Objects.hashCode(Object) (single object) and Objects.hash(Object...) (sequences of objects) can be used to safely generate hash codes for potentially null references. This is demonstrated in the following code listing and associated output.

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link Objects#hashCode(Object)} is {@code null}-safe.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsHashCode()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using Objects.hashCode(Object) is null-safe",
      () -> Objects.hashCode(NULL_OBJECT));
}

/**
 * Demonstrates that {@link Objects#hash(Object...)} is {@code null}-safe.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsHash()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using Objects.hash(Object...) is null-safe",
      () -> Objects.hash(NULL_OBJECT, NULL_STRING, NULL_TIME_UNIT));
}
Feb 28, 2021 5:11:19 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Using Objects.hashCode(Object) is null-safe' completed without exception!
Feb 28, 2021 5:11:19 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
INFO: Demonstration 'Using Objects.hash(Object...) is null-safe' completed without exception!

These methods can be convenient for generating one's own null-safe hashCode() methods on custom classes.

It's also important to note that there is a warning in the documentation that the hash code generated by Objects.hash(Object...) for a single supplied Object is not likely to be the same value as a hash code generated for that same Object when calling the Object's own hashCode() method or when calling Objects.hashCode(Object) on that Object.

Elegantly Handling Useful NullPointerExceptions

The tactics described and demonstrated so far were primarily aimed at avoiding NullPointerException in situations where we fully anticipated a reference being null but that presence of a null is in no way exceptional and so we don't want any exception (including NullPointerException) to be thrown. The remainder of the descriptions and examples in this post will focus instead of situations where we want to handle a truly unexpected (and therefore exceptional) null as elegantly as possible. In many of these cases, we do NOT want to preclude the NullPointerException from being thrown because its occurrence will communicate to us some unexpected condition (often bad data or faulty upstream code logic) that we need to address.

The improved NullPointerException messages have made unexpected NullPointerExceptions far more meaningful. However, we can often take a few additional tactics to further improve the usefulness of the NullPointerException that is thrown when we run into an unanticipated null. These tactics include adding our own custom context details to the exception and throwing the exception early so that a bunch of logic is not performed needlessly that may also need to be reverted.

Controlling When and What Related to Unexpected null

I like to use Objects.requireNonNull(T, String) at the beginning of my public methods that accept arguments which will lead to a NullPointerException if a passed-in argument is null. While a NullPointerException is thrown in either case (either implicitly when an attempt to deference the null or when Objects.requireNonNull(T, String) is called), I like the ability to be able to specify a string with details and context about what's happing when the null is unexpectedly encountered.

The Objects.requireNonNull(T) method does not allow one to specify a string with additional context, but it is still a useful guard method. Both of these methods allow the developer to take control of when a NullPointerException will be thrown for the unexpected null and this control allows the developer to preclude unnecessary logic from being performed. We'd rather not waste time/cycles on something that is going to lead to that exception anyway and we can often choose places in the code where it's cleaner to check for null and throw the exception to avoid having to "undo" pr "revert" logic that has been performed.

The following code listing and associated output demonstrate both of these methods in action.

/**
 * Demonstrates using {@link Objects#requireNonNull(Object)} and
 * {@link Objects#requireNonNull(Object, String)} to take control of
 * when an {@link NullPointerException} is thrown. The method accepting
 * a {@link String} also allows control of the context that is provided
 * in the exception message.
 *
 * It is not demonstrated here, but a similar method is
 * {@link Objects#requireNonNull(Object, Supplier)} that allows a
 * {@link Supplier} to be used to provide the message for when an
 * unexpected {@code null} is encountered.
 */
public void demonstrateObjectsRequiresNonNullMethods()
{
   executeOperation(
      "Using Objects.requireNonNull(T)",
      () -> Objects.requireNonNull(NULL_OBJECT));

   executeOperation(
      "Using Objects.requireNonNull(T, String)",
      () -> Objects.requireNonNull(NULL_OBJECT, "Cannot perform logic on supplied null object."));
}
Feb 28, 2021 5:59:42 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Using Objects.requireNonNull(T)': java.lang.NullPointerException
Feb 28, 2021 5:59:42 PM dustin.examples.nullsafe.tactics.NullSafeTactics executeOperation
SEVERE: Exception encountered while trying to run operation for demonstration 'Using Objects.requireNonNull(T, String)': java.lang.NullPointerException: Cannot perform logic on supplied null object.

The output shows us that the method that accepted a String was able to provide that additional context in its message, which can be very useful when figuring out why the unexpected null occurred.

I don't demonstrate it here, but it's worth noting that another overloaded version of this method (Objects.requireNonNull(T, Supplier<String>)) allows a developer to use a Supplier to supply a custom NullPointerException for complete control over the exception that is thrown. The use of the Supplier and its deferred execution means that this exception generation will only be performed when the object is null. One might choose to implement this Supplier as a relatively expensive operation checking various data sources and/or instance values and would not need to worry about incurring that cost unless the unexpected null was encountered.

Other Null-Handling Tactics

There are other tactics that can be used to either avoid unnecessary NullPointerExceptions or to make NullPointerExceptions due to unexpected null more useful. These include explicit checking for null in conditionals and use of Optional.

Conclusion

This post has discussed and demonstrated tactics for using standard JDK APIs to appropriately avoid unnecessary NullPointerExceptions and to more effectively use NullPointerExceptions to indicate unexpected nulls. There are several simple tactics to ensure that expected nulls do not lead to NullPointerException. There are also tactics available to control when a NullPointerException is thrown and what details are provided in it when an unexpected null is encountered.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

JDK 17: Hexadecimal Formatting and Parsing

Build 3 of JDK 17 Early Access Builds includes the implementation for JDK-8251989 ("Hex formatting and parsing utility"). This newly introduced functionality for parsing and formatting hexadecimal values is encapsulated in the new class java.util.HexFormat and is the subject of this post.

Running javap against the new java.util.HexFormat class provides an easy way to see an overview of its API. The following output is generated from running javap java.util.HexFormat:

Compiled from "HexFormat.java"
public final class java.util.HexFormat {
  static final boolean $assertionsDisabled;
  public static java.util.HexFormat of();
  public static java.util.HexFormat ofDelimiter(java.lang.String);
  public java.util.HexFormat withDelimiter(java.lang.String);
  public java.util.HexFormat withPrefix(java.lang.String);
  public java.util.HexFormat withSuffix(java.lang.String);
  public java.util.HexFormat withUpperCase();
  public java.util.HexFormat withLowerCase();
  public java.lang.String delimiter();
  public java.lang.String prefix();
  public java.lang.String suffix();
  public boolean isUpperCase();
  public java.lang.String formatHex(byte[]);
  public java.lang.String formatHex(byte[], int, int);
  public <A extends java.lang.Appendable> A formatHex(A, byte[]);
  public <A extends java.lang.Appendable> A formatHex(A, byte[], int, int);
  public byte[] parseHex(java.lang.CharSequence);
  public byte[] parseHex(java.lang.CharSequence, int, int);
  public byte[] parseHex(char[], int, int);
  public char toLowHexDigit(int);
  public char toHighHexDigit(int);
  public <A extends java.lang.Appendable> A toHexDigits(A, byte);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(byte);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(char);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(short);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(int);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(long);
  public java.lang.String toHexDigits(long, int);
  public boolean isHexDigit(int);
  public int fromHexDigit(int);
  public int fromHexDigits(java.lang.CharSequence);
  public int fromHexDigits(java.lang.CharSequence, int, int);
  public long fromHexDigitsToLong(java.lang.CharSequence);
  public long fromHexDigitsToLong(java.lang.CharSequence, int, int);
  public boolean equals(java.lang.Object);
  public int hashCode();
  public java.lang.String toString();
  static {};
}

The javap-generated listing shown above indicates that there are two static factory methods for obtaining an instance of HexFormat: HexFormat.of() and HexFormat.ofDelimiter(String). Both of these factory methods specify instances of HexFormat with "preset parameters." The remainder of the public methods are instance methods that are generally used for one of five categories of action:

  • Instruct the HexFormat instance to apply different parameters than the preset parameters the instance was instantiated with
  • Indicate configured parameters of HexFormat instance
  • Convert to and from hexadecimal representations
  • Indicate characteristics of characters and character sequences
  • Overridden Object methods: toString(), equals(Object), hashCode()

The class-level Javadoc for HexFormat's summarizes the purposes of the HexFormat class in a single sentence: "HexFormat converts between bytes and chars and hex-encoded strings which may include additional formatting markup such as prefixes, suffixes, and delimiters." That class-level Javadoc-based documentation also provides useful examples of applying the HexFormat class to covert between these types and to apply prefixes, suffixes, and delimiters. The class-level documentation further explains that the HexFormat class is "immutable and threadsafe" and is a "value-based class."

In the last version of HexFormat class source code that I saw, it was advertising "@since 16", which is one piece of evidence of the work that has been invested in this class in terms of implementation, review, and incorporated feedback (the 33 commits is another piece of evidence). The official release of HexFormat is actually JDK 17, but the JDK 17 Early Access API Documentation still shows "@since 16" as of this writing.

In this post, I provide some simple examples of applying HexFormat and these code listings are available on GitHub. Fortunately, the class-level Javadoc-based API documentation provides really good examples of applying HexFormat. I like it when classes' Javadoc shows examples of how to apply those classes and the HexFormat documentation does a good job of covering many aspects of using that class. My examples will cover a smaller portion of the class's API and is meant solely as an introduction to the basic availability of this class.

Acquiring an Instance of HexFormat

There are two static methods for acquiring an instance of HexFormat and one of those is demonstrated here:

/** Instance of {@link HexFormat} used in this demonstration. */
private static final HexFormat HEX_FORMAT_UPPER_CASE = HexFormat.of().withUpperCase();

The withUpperCase() method instructs the instance of HexFormat to "use uppercase hexadecimal characters" ("0-9", "A-F").

Converting Integers to Hexadecimal

The code snippet shown next demonstrates use of HexFormat.toHexDigits():

/**
 * Demonstrates use of {@link HexFormat#toHexDigits(int)}.
 */
public void demoIntegerToHexadecimal()
{
   for (int integerValue = 0; integerValue < 17; integerValue++)
   {
      out.println("Hexadecimal representation of integer " + integerValue + ": '"
         + HEX_FORMAT_UPPER_CASE.toHexDigits(integerValue) + "'.");
   }
}

When the above code snippet is executed, the output looks like this:

Hexadecimal representation of integer 0: '00000000'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 1: '00000001'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 2: '00000002'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 3: '00000003'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 4: '00000004'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 5: '00000005'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 6: '00000006'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 7: '00000007'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 8: '00000008'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 9: '00000009'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 10: '0000000A'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 11: '0000000B'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 12: '0000000C'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 13: '0000000D'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 14: '0000000E'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 15: '0000000F'.
Hexadecimal representation of integer 16: '00000010'.

Demonstrating HexFormat.isHexDigit(int)

The following code demonstrates HexFormat.isHexDigit(int):

/**
 * Demonstrates use of {@link HexFormat#isHexDigit(int)}.
 */
public void demoIsHex()
{
   for (char characterValue = 'a'; characterValue < 'i'; characterValue++)
   {
      out.println("Is character '" + characterValue + "' a hexadecimal value? "
         + HEX_FORMAT_UPPER_CASE.isHexDigit(characterValue));
   }
   for (char characterValue = 'A'; characterValue < 'I'; characterValue++)
   {
      out.println("Is character '" + characterValue + "' a hexadecimal value? "
         + HEX_FORMAT_UPPER_CASE.isHexDigit(characterValue));
   }
}

Here is the output from running the above code snippet:

Is character 'a' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'b' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'c' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'd' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'e' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'f' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'g' a hexadecimal value? false
Is character 'h' a hexadecimal value? false
Is character 'A' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'B' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'C' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'D' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'E' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'F' a hexadecimal value? true
Is character 'G' a hexadecimal value? false
Is character 'H' a hexadecimal value? false

Demonstrating HexFormat.toString()

The HexFormat class provides an overriden version of the Object.toString() method and this is demonstrated in the following code snippet and corresponding output from running that code snippet.

/**
 * Demonstrates string representation of instance of
 * {@link HexFormat}.
 *
 * The {@link HexFormat#toString()} method provides a string
 * that shows the instance's parameters (not class name):
 * "uppercase", "delimiter", "prefix", and "suffix"
 */
public void demoToString()
{
   out.println("HexFormat.toString(): " + HEX_FORMAT_UPPER_CASE);
}
HexFormat.toString(): uppercase: true, delimiter: "", prefix: "", suffix: ""

Other Examples of HexFormat

The Javadoc-based class-level documentation for HexFormat contains more examples of how to apply this class. The examples demonstrate instantiation methods HexFormat.of() and HexFormat.ofDelimiter(String); demonstrate utility methods toHexDigit(byte), fromHexDigits(CharSequence), formatHex(byte[]), and parseHex(String); and demonstrate instance specialization methods withUpperCase() and withPrefix(String). I like that the latter examples are "realistic" examples of how operations might be used in practical situations (such as with byte fingerprints).

JDK Uses of HexFormat

The JDK and its tests already use HexFormat. The following are some examples of this.