Java’s New Features

In the module, I will show some new features in Java that have been added with Java 8 or later. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, as there are tons of additions. This Wikipedia page is a good starting point if you want to see all additions. Here, I am highlighting a view that I personally have found useful.


Lambda Bodies and Streams

Introduced in Java 8 This new feature will be covered in depth in the “Code Quality” module.

However, as a quick useful example, consider a sorting example we looked at in Prerequisite Knowledge.

From the class, line 23-25.

    public void sortStudentsByName() {
        Collections.sort(students, new StudentNameComparator());

And From the class

    public int compare(Student s1, Student s2) {
        int lastNameComparison = s1.getLastName().compareTo(s2.getLastName());
        if (lastNameComparison != 0) {
            return lastNameComparison;
        } else { 
            return s1.getFirstName().compareTo(s2.getFirstName());

Written this way, every single way we could sort students would require writing a separate Comparator class. While there’s nothing wrong with this from a design perspective, it can add a lot of boilerplate classes that all basically do the same thing, but just sort on different fields.

Instead, we can remove the need to write a seperate class by using a Lambda body. We can replace Line 23-25 in, line 23-25. with:

    public void sortStudentsByName() {
        students.sort((x, y) -> {
            if (x.getLastName().equals(y.getLastName())) {
                return x.getFirstName().compareTo(y.getFirstName());
            } else {
                return x.getLastName().compareTo(y.getLastName());

And now, we no longer need the class at all!

While we won’t dive deep into the mechanics of this yet, we are effectively defining our own compare(Student x, Student y) function in-place. This means we are taking all the complexity of sorting and encapsulating it entirely within one function in the Enrollment class, rather than creating a separate class which adds to the complexity of the whole code base.

var keyword

Introduced in Java 11

In Java 10, java introduced the var keyword that allows you to create local variables with an implied type.

import java.util.*;

public class VarExample {
    public List<Integer> listOfFirstNNumbers(int n) {
        var numberList = new ArrayList<Integer>();
        for (var i = 0; i < n; i++) {
        return numberList;

In the above, numberList will be an ArrayList<Integer> and i will be an int. Just like any other Java variable, the type of the variable still cannot be changed after initialization.

Note that the data type must be derivable at compile-time. So something like var x = null is not allowed, because the data type cannot be derived when the line is compiled. Additionally, you must immediately initialize the variable, so you cannot, for example, say:

    var x;
    x = 5;

The variable must be initialized at the time it is created.

Additionally, var can only be used for local variables. You cannot use var with class fields. Additionally, you cannot use var as a return-type or parameter type for methods. Always remember that var does not change the nature of a Java variable. The variable still has a specific type that cannot change.


Introduced in Java 16

A record is a useful, shorter way of declaring a Java Data Transfer Object, or DTO. A DTO is useful as a class for modelling data that can easily be passed between different modules, tiers, and layers of the system. The idea is that these objects should be used only to store tightly coupled information. The class shouldn’t do anything else.

Think of DTOs as sort of like a paper form, where the form has very specific fields to fill out. Once filled out (“instantiated” in Java terms), the form can be copied, passed to other departments, etc. However, the form only exists to show collected information. The form, by itself, can’t do anything. However, each department that receives the form can do something with it.

Here is an example of a Java Record below:

public record Employee(
        int id,
        String firstName,
        String lastName,
        String email
) {


This Employee record is a data type that has an id, first and last name, and an email. You’ll notice that the record has no class body. While you can add a body to the record, you often won’t need to, because the record keyword automatically gives the class:

  • getters
  • useful toString()
  • useful equals(Object o) and hashCode()

You’ll notice that I didn’t list setters. That’s because each field in the Employee record are private final variables. That is, after an Employee record is created, you cannot modify the fields. That is, each record is immutable[^1]. As such, if you are modelling data that will need to change, you likely will still want to use a Java class instead of a record.

However, this doesn’t allow us to avoid writing a lot of boilerplate code. With just the above Employee record, we can do the following:

instantiate records

By default, we are given a Constructor that lets us specify the value of each field. Remember, because these variables are final, we cannot change their value after instantiation.

    Employee steve = new Employee(15, "Steve", "Smith", "");

get field values

We are given a getter for each field, which is just the field’s name as a zero-argument method.



We are given a default toString() method that returns a string listing the record’s data type, and the value of each field. This code:


…prints out:

    Employee[id=15, firstName=Steve, lastName=Smith,]

Note that you can override the toString() method if you wish.

check equality and store in hash tables

Records also give you a default equals(Object o) and hashCode() function. The equals method returns true if-and-only-if the values are every field are equal.

    Employee alsoSteve = new Employee(15, "Steve", "Smith", "");

    // prints true

The hashCode() function similarly uses all fields to form the hashCode().

A downside of records is that, as yet, they don’t work with many ORMs like Hibernate. If you aren’t familiar with ORMs, don’t worry. It’s somethign we will cover later in the class.

Text Blocks

Introduced in Java 15

In Java, we generally assign long String values over multiple lines. Example:

    String longText = "This is a really really really really really really " +
                "really really really really long String";

However, this approach can be annoying when trying to format data. This is because we have to add our own \n and \t characters, as well as any other white space, to get the output formatted how we want.

For example, say if we wanted to print a String that looked like:

    1. This is an outline
        a. outlines have major parts with numbers
        b. and subparts with letters
    2. This is a major part
        a. This is a sub-part
            i. we can use RomanNumerals to go deeper

With Java as you have used it, that will probably look something like:

String toPrint = "1. This is an outline\n" +
    "\ta. outlines have major parts with numbers\n" + 
    "\tb. and subparts with letters\n" +
    "2. This is a major part\n" +
    "\ta. This is a sub-part\n" +
    "\t\ti. we can use RomanNumerals to go deeper\n";

However, with Java Text Blocks, we can do this much more easily:

String toPrint = """
    1. This is an outline
        a. outlines have major parts with numbers
        b. and subparts with letters
    2. This is a major part
        a. This is a sub-part
            i. we can use RomanNumerals to go deeper""";

This is an example of using a text-block. Java will preserve the format of your text, including new-lines, indents, spaces, etc. For you.

You can also use this with the formatted function to generate a String from a textblock with variable values plugged in. Example:

String studentInfoWithGPA = """
    Name: %s
    Computing ID: %s
    Student Number: %d
    GPA: %.2f
    """.formatted(name, compID, studentNumber, getGPA());

If you are unfamiliar with the formatted function, here is a good tutorial on GeeksforGeeks..

Switch Expressions

Introduced in Java 14

Switch statements, which are not new, let you do something like:

    public int getDaysInMonth(int month) {
        switch (month) {
            case 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12:
                return 31;
            case 4, 6, 9, 11:
                return 30;
            case 2:
                return 28;
                throw new IllegalArgumentException(
                        "Invalid month number: " + month);

Switch expressions let us shorten the above to:

    public int getDaysInMonth(int month) {
        return switch (month) {
            case 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12 -> 31;
            case 4, 6, 9, 11 -> 30;
            case 2 -> 28;
            default -> throw new IllegalArgumentException(
            "Invalid month number: " + month);

We can also use it in assignment statements:

    public String getDayOfTheWeekName(int dayOfTheWeek) {
        int normalizedWeekday = dayOfTheWeek % 7;
        String nameOfDay = switch(normalizedWeekday) {
            case 0 -> "Sun";
            case 1 -> "Mon";
            case 2 -> "Tues";
            case 3 -> "Wednes";
            case 4 -> "Thurs";
            case 5 -> "Fri";
            case 6 -> "Satur";
            default -> "IGNORED";
        return nameOfDay + "day";

This syntax is very similar to Lambda bodies, which we will cover in the Code Quality module.

Sealed Classes and Interfaces

Introduced in Java 15

We like to use Java interfaces and abstract classes in Java for polymorphism. However, because interfaces and abstract classes are generally public, it prevents us from controlling which classes can implement an interface or extend an abstract class.

Generally, this isn’t a problem. In fact, the very idea of polymorphism exists to support the Open-Closed Principle:

“software entities (classes, modules, functions, etc.) should be open for extension but closed for modification.” Bertrand Meyer, Object-Oriented Software Construction (1988).

However, if we want to prevent a class or interface from being extended, we can make it a sealed class.


public sealed interface TimeKeeper permits StopWatch, IntervalTimer {
    void startTimer();
    long getElapseTimeInMilliseconds();
    void stopTimer();

This means that only the classes StopWatch and IntervalTimer can implement TimeKeeper. That is, those two classes are the only valid classes to use the TimeKeeper interface.

In general, if you are unsure if you should make an interface/class sealed, then you should not. However, this can be useful if you intentionally want to restrict an interface or class from being extended.


[^1] - Note that you can have mutable fields in a record. For example, you can have a record which contains a List or Map. This lets you still use things like the add() functions on those fields. However, this is bad design. If you plan for a class to be mutable, you generally shouldn’t use Java records. Additionally, these field objects cannot be re-instantiated after the Employee record is created. If your record has such fields, you must override the equals and hashcode functions so that they do not rely on any fields with a mutable datatype.

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