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Summary

Thursday Mar 1st 2001

Coming up with a design such as TrashVisitor.java that contains a larger amount of code than the earlier designs can seem at first to be counterproductive. It pays to notice what you’re trying to accomplish with various designs. Design patterns in general strive to separate the things that change from the things that stay the same . The “things that change” can refer to many different kinds of changes. Perhaps the change occurs because the program is placed into a new environment or because something in the current environment changes (this could be: “The user wants to add a new shape to the diagram currently on the screen”). Or, as in this case, the change could be the evolution of the code body. While previous versions of the trash-sorting example emphasized the addition of new types of Trash to the system, TrashVisitor.java allows you to easily add new functionality without disturbing the Trash hierarchy. There’s more code in TrashVisitor.java , but adding new functionality to Visitor is cheap. If this is something that happens a lot, then it’s worth the extra effort and code to make it happen more easily.

Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Java Contents | Prev | Next

Coming up with a design such as TrashVisitor.java that contains a larger amount of code than the earlier designs can seem at first to be counterproductive. It pays to notice what you’re trying to accomplish with various designs. Design patterns in general strive to separate the things that change from the things that stay the same . The “things that change” can refer to many different kinds of changes. Perhaps the change occurs because the program is placed into a new environment or because something in the current environment changes (this could be: “The user wants to add a new shape to the diagram currently on the screen”). Or, as in this case, the change could be the evolution of the code body. While previous versions of the trash-sorting example emphasized the addition of new types of Trash to the system, TrashVisitor.java allows you to easily add new functionality without disturbing the Trash hierarchy. There’s more code in TrashVisitor.java, but adding new functionality to Visitor is cheap. If this is something that happens a lot, then it’s worth the extra effort and code to make it happen more easily.

The discovery of the vector of change is no trivial matter; it’s not something that an analyst can usually detect before the program sees its initial design. The necessary information will probably not appear until later phases in the project: sometimes only at the design or implementation phases do you discover a deeper or more subtle need in your system. In the case of adding new types (which was the focus of most of the “recycle” examples) you might realize that you need a particular inheritance hierarchy only when you are in the maintenance phase and you begin extending the system!

One of the most important things that you’ll learn by studying design patterns seems to be an about-face from what has been promoted so far in this book. That is: “OOP is all about polymorphism.” This statement can produce the “two-year-old with a hammer” syndrome (everything looks like a nail). Put another way, it’s hard enough to “get” polymorphism, and once you do, you try to cast all your designs into that one particular mold.

What design patterns say is that OOP isn’t just about polymorphism. It’s about “separating the things that change from the things that stay the same.” Polymorphism is an especially important way to do this, and it turns out to be helpful if the programming language directly supports polymorphism (so you don’t have to wire it in yourself, which would tend to make it prohibitively expensive). But design patterns in general show other ways to accomplish the basic goal, and once your eyes have been opened to this you will begin to search for more creative designs.

Since the Design Patterns book came out and made such an impact, people have been searching for other patterns. You can expect to see more of these appear as time goes on. Here are some sites recommended by Jim Coplien, of C++ fame ( http://www.bell-labs.com/~cope), who is one of the main proponents of the patterns movement:

http://st-www.cs.uiuc.edu/users/patterns

http://c2.com/cgi-bin/wiki

http://c2.com/ppr

http://www.bell-labs.com/people/cope/Patterns/Process/index.html

http://www.bell-labs.com/cgi-user/OrgPatterns/OrgPatterns

http://st-www.cs.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/wikic/wikic

http://www.cs.wustl.edu/~schmidt/patterns.html

http://www.espinc.com/patterns/overview.html

Also note there has been a yearly conference on design patterns, called PLOP, that produces a published proceedings, the third of which came out in late 1997 (all published by Addison-Wesley).

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