Kotlin Constructors

Many OOP languages have special code that is used to initialize a class to a valid state. Such code is referred to as a constructor method. The constructor runs when an instance of a class is created.

Like all methods, constructors can have zero or more parameters. Let’s consider the constructor found in the ArrayList class found in java.util.collections.

ArrayList<?> list = new ArrayList<>(); //Default constructor
ArrayList<?> list2 = new ArrayList<>(list); //Secondary constructor

The above Java code snippet demonstrates multiple constructor. The first constructor is called the default constructor and accepts no arguments. It creates an empty ArrayList object. The other constructor takes an existing collection object and automatically adds all objects contained in the collection passed into the constructor into the new list. Let’s walk through the various forms of constructors we can define in Kotlin.

Default Constructors

When no constructor is specified, Kotlin will supply an empty no argument constructor.

class ChalkBoard {
    val message = "New Baconings"
}

val chalkBoard = ChalkBoard()
println(chalkBoard.message)

The ChalkBoard class has no constructor. When we create a ChalkBoard object, we just use the () for the default constructor.

Constructor with Required Parameters

We can also define constructors that force us to use valid data.

class Bob(val position : String)

val bob = Bob("Cook")
println(bob.position)

Notice how the Bob class has a position parameter of type String. When we create an instance of Bob, we have to supply a String to the constructor. There is no default constructor for Bob. Since we used the val keyword in front of the position argument, Kotlin created a position property on Bob. This lets use print Bob’s position in the println statement.

Constructor with Initialization Block

We aren’t limited to just setting properties in a constructor. Kotlin also lets us create an initialization block that runs immediately after our properties have been set.

class Linda(val position : String){
    //This is the initialization block that runs when an instance
    //of this class is created
    init {
        check(position.isNotBlank(), { "Linda needs a job!" })
        println("Linda was created with $position")
    }
}

val linda = Linda("Cook's wife")
println(linda.position)

The above code still set’s Linda’s position property, but when the constructor runs, it will also print “Lnda was created with [specified position]” because of the init block found immedialy after the constructor as long was position is not an empty String. If position is blank, the init block would throw an exception with the message “Linda needs a job!”. Init blocks can do other things besides validation, but validation is certainly a common use case of the init block.

Property Initializers

Kotlin also provides property initialization blocks. Let’s consider Gene.

class Gene(position : String){
    //This is the property initialization section
    val beefSquash = position.toUpperCase()
}

val gene = Gene("Beefsquash")
println(gene.beefSquash)

Gene has a constructor that takes a position, but notice that there is no val or var keyword prior to position. Since the var/val keyword is missing, Kotlin does not generate a position property for Gene. On the first line of the class body, we have val beefSquash = position.toUpperCase(). The code creates a beefSquash property on Gene and sets it to the upper case value of position. This lets us create properties outside of the constructor and initialize them to the arguments found in the constructor.

Access modifiers on Constructors

A common OOP pattern is to create private constructors and use factory or builder objects to create an instance of a class. Our Tina class shows a stripped down example of the factory pattern.

class Tina private constructor(val position : String){

    //We have to use a companion object to make getInstance() visible
    companion object {
        //We can only use the constructor from within Tina because it's private
        fun getInstance(position : String) = Tina(position)
    }
}

//Can't do this because Tina's constructor is private
//val tina = Tina("Cook");

//We can do this
val tina = Tina.getInstance("Itchy Grill Cook")
println(tina.position)

Whenever we need to add access modifiers or annotations to a constructor, the constructor keyword is required. In this case, we have private constructor in front of the parameters of Tina’s constructor. Only code found within the Tina class may use the constructor because private restricts the visibility of the constructor. Tina objects can only be created by invoking the getInstance() method which creates and returns a Tina object.

Multiple Constructors

Koltin doesn’t limit us to using only constructor. We are actually free to have as many constructors as we need.

class Louise (val position: String){

    //Calling this(...) after the colon but before the { will invoke the
    //first constructor
    constructor(position: String, age : Int): this(position){
        println("Inside secondary constructor with $position and $age")
    }
}
//Call the single argument constructor
val lousieSingle = Louise("Bunny Ears")

//Call the secondary constructor
val louise = Louise("Bunny Ears", 10)
println(louise.position)

Louise has a regular constructor, but inside of the class body, we can define additional constructors by using the constructor keyword and then specifying our arguments. We are free to reuse code between our constructors by using the this keyword followed by the parameters of the constructor we wish to use. Kotlin will use function overloading to resolve to the correct constructor (or issue a compiler error if one can’t be found). In the example, we see two different ways to create a Louise object. We can use her primary constructor, or her secondary constructor, which also print “Inside secondary constructor with $position and $age” to the console.

Optional Arguments

The final constructor technique involves using optional arguments to specify a default value if a parameter is ommitted. Let’s take a look at Teddy.

class Teddy (val position : String = "customer", val favoriteFood : String = "burger")

val teddyDefault = Teddy()
println(teddyDefault.position + ", " + teddyDefault.favoriteFood)

val teddyArguments = Teddy(position = "Best Customer", favoriteFood = "Burger of the Day")
println(teddyArguments.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

val teddyFood = Teddy(favoriteFood = "Burger of the day")
println(teddyFood.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

val teddyPosition = Teddy(position = "Best Customer")
println(teddyPosition.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

We actually have four constructors for Teddy. The first one is a no argument constructor that initializes Teddy’s poistion to customer and his favoriteFood to burger. The other constructor let’s us specify Teddy’s posistion and his favoriteFood. The third constructor let’s use specify Teddy’s favoriteFood and use his default position. Finally we can use the constructor that specifies Teddy’s position, but use the default for favorite foods.

Putting it all Together

package ch1.constructors

class ChalkBoard {
    val message = "New Baconings"
}

/**
 * Kotlin class with an empty constructor
 */
class Bob(val position : String)

/**
 * Kotlin class with initialization block
 */
class Linda(val position : String){
    //This is the initialization block that runs when an instance
    //of this class is created
    init {
        check(position.isNotBlank(), { "Linda needs a job!" })
        println("Linda was created with $position")
    }
}

/**
 * Kotlin class with a property initializer
 */
class Gene(position : String){
    //This is the property initialization section
    val beefSquash = position.toUpperCase()
}

/**
 * Kotlin class with private constructor
 */
class Tina private constructor(val position : String){

    //We have to use a companion object to make getInstance() visible
    companion object {
        //We can only use the constructor from within Tina because it's private
        fun getInstance(position : String) = Tina(position)
    }
}

/**
 * Kotlin class with multiple constructors
 */
class Louise (val position: String){

    //Calling this(...) after the colon but before the { will invoke the
    //first constructor
    constructor(position: String, age : Int): this(position){
        println("Inside secondary constructor with $position and $age")
    }
}

/**
 * Kotlin class that has a constructor with optional arguments. We can use one,
 * both, or none of the arguments when we create an instance of Teddy
 */
class Teddy (val position : String = "customer", val favoriteFood : String = "burger")

fun main(args : Array<String>){
    val chalkBoard = ChalkBoard()
    println(chalkBoard.message)

    val bob = Bob("Cook")
    println(bob.position)

    val linda = Linda("Cook's wife")
    println(linda.position)

    val gene = Gene("Beefsquash")
    println(gene.beefSquash)

    val tina = Tina.getInstance("Itchy Grill Cook")
    println(tina.position)

    val louise = Louise("Bunny Ears", 10)
    println(louise.position)

    val teddyDefault = Teddy()
    println(teddyDefault.position + ", " + teddyDefault.favoriteFood)

    val teddyArguments = Teddy(position = "Best Customer", favoriteFood = "Burger of the Day")
    println(teddyArguments.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

    val teddyFood = Teddy(favoriteFood = "Burger of the day")
    println(teddyFood.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

    val teddyPosition = Teddy(position = "Best Customer")
    println(teddyPosition.position + ", " + teddyArguments.favoriteFood)

}

Here’s the output

New Baconings
Cook
Linda was created with Cook's wife
Cook's wife
BEEFSQUASH
Itchy Grill Cook
Inside secondary constructor with Bunny Ears and 10
Bunny Ears
customer, burger
Best Customer, Burger of the Day
customer, Burger of the Day
Best Customer, Burger of the Day

References

https://kotlinlang.org/docs/reference/classes.html

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