Few programming languages are as widespread as Java. The language has been used since 1995 on various electronic devices and is still used today. From smartphones to smart fridges, Java’s features are here to stay.
While many people know of Java, there are still some facts and features that only seasoned professionals are aware of. In addition, after decades of service, the language has acquired many new features. Here are some of the top features of Java.
Facts and Features of Java
Created by James Gosling while working for Sun Microsystems, Java was originally only meant for TV sets and set-top boxes. Today, you can find it on practically any electronic device.
Simple to Use
Java and its syntax are relatively simple to understand by most programmers, even if they’re not experts. Sun Microsystems (now a part of Oracle) once stated that Java is simple for three reasons:
- It’s based on C++.
- Many complicated features of C++ were removed.
- Java has an Automatic Garbage Collection.
Being based on C++ means a programmer can transition to Java without finding it entirely unfamiliar. Java, C, and C++ all share many features. Those familiar with programming basics and object-oriented programming will master Java faster than others.
C++ has many ambiguous and niche features like operator overloading and explicit pointers. Java does away with them to create a streamlined language that isn’t difficult to understand. Other features are present but implemented in a way users find less confusing.
The Automatic Garbage Collection function of Java lets the language delete objects that aren’t used. By deleting these objects, you free up memory and can create new programs. Without garbage collection, a program can terminate abruptly due to OutOfMemory errors.
Java remains popular thanks to fewer confusing features, familiarity, and a function that frees up memory automatically without user input.
Java is a multi-threaded language, allowing users to run programs of at least two parts simultaneously. In addition, each element can be designated to work on a different task independently. Therefore, multithreading conserves computer resources, especially if a computer has more than one CPU.
In other words, Java lets programmers create lightweight processes within a process. The CPU will run all these simultaneously and waste little resources.
In addition, there is a single-threaded application. These simple programs have sequences and have their code executed line after line. Thus, nothing is running in parallel to another.
All threads will use a single memory area and share it among themselves. Even so, when there’s an exception in one of them, the others are usually not directly affected.
Multithreading and multiprocessing are two Java features, but many programmers prefer the former over the latter. Besides saving memory, content-switching between threads is slightly faster than using multiprocessing.
Java threads have five states in a life cycle:
Of those five states, there are two types: user threads and daemon threads. All threads and their life cycles are controlled by Java Virtual Machine (JVM), a component of the Java programming language. Thread classes are what give Java its multithreading support.
Object-oriented programming (OOP) refers to a paradigm that uses real-world concepts such as classes and objects. The goal is to make programs containing classes that are abstract reusable code blueprints. Classes are then used to create individual objects.
A class may contain methods and functions only available to objects of a particular type. For example, the “house” class can have a method called “villa.” Therefore, an object within the “house” class might be named “yellowVilla” because it has been modified by a method.
Java is inherently designed for object-oriented programming. It has four main OOP concepts, namely:
With abstraction, Java can represent complex ideas using simple things. Abstraction allows users to employ classes, objects, and variables to reproduce complicated code. Since you can do so much with little effort, programmers save time instead of creating complex objects from scratch.
For example, the house is seen as a house instead of its various components and other features.
Encapsulation with Java happens when you wrap information under one unit. It binds code and the data it’s designed to modify together. Think of it as a vitamin capsule preventing the contents from leaking, but for Java.
Inheritance allows one Java class to gain the methods and fields of another. It’s a crucial part of OOP. A subclass inherits from a superclass, which is the parent.
Thanks to inheritance, you can derive a new class from existing ones if there are some shared attributes. You save plenty of time doing so.
Java can differentiate one entity from another even if they share the same name. It does so by analyzing their signatures and declarations. There are two main types of polymorphism in Java, overloading and overriding.
Thanks to Java’s powerful OOP capabilities, developers and programmers can save time and reuse code. In addition, the data structures made using the features of Java tend to be more organized.
Compared to C++, Java is much more dynamic. If the environment evolves, you can make it follow suit. In addition, programmers can introduce new things. These include brand new class libraries, methods, and objects.
C++ is a platform-dependent language. When you create a program with its compiler, you get an .exe file. This file will only run on one operating system but not another.
Unlike C++ and other platform-dependent languages, Java operates fine no matter what platform it’s run on. However, you do need to download the correct Java Virtual Machine for the platform you wish to run the code on. Therefore, the language itself is independent, but the virtual machine isn’t.
The way Java manages to be platform-independent is through byte code. The process of running Java code on a device goes as follows:
- A programmer writes Java code.
- The Java compile compiles it.
- Byte code is produced.
- JVM runs and interprets the byte code before executing it.
- The byte code is converted into machine code.
- Finally, the program runs and outputs whatever the programmer intended.
Byte code is an intermediate representation that the JVM converts. For example, programmers write source code, which is changed into byte code. Since devices can’t understand it directly, JVM will interpret it.
With JVM installed on a smart TV, the source code written on a PC is easily converted into outputs. In addition, the TV will have the correct JVM build installed because its OS requires a compatible version.
Java is considered portable too. Since the byte code can be sent to other devices running JVM, you don’t need to start any implementation processes. It’s ready to go the moment you load it onto the device.
Many programmers trust Java due to several inherent features that provide security measures against viruses and malware. That’s why Java is still used in cryptography, secure communications, and more. In addition, its safe nature has been extensively battle-tested.
Java has no explicit pointers and runs all programs in a virtual sandbox, disconnecting it from your PC’s systems. This way, should anything decide to attack, it’s stuck in a fake PC designated for testing purposes only. There’s very little the malware can do in a contained environment.
The classloader separates local classes from the ones downloaded from the internet. Java’s classloader is part of the Java Runtime Environment, which runs classes in the JVM.
After many years, Oracle has collected a database of illegal codes. Should someone try to run it without knowledge, Java will inform them. This type of code is usually found in malware and viruses designed to control objects on a system.
When running any program, Java uses access modifiers to monitor memory access and prevent unauthorized manipulation. Therefore, it’s difficult for viruses to enter a Java applet.
By default, Java provides an extensive set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and other tools. Here’s a list of the built-in high-level security features.
- Platform Security
- Secure Communications
- Access Control
- Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
Though Java comes with these security solutions, developers can still install extra security applications from other sources.
Languages are divided into two categories. Some like C are compiled languages, while Java is grouped into the interpreted language category. The reason is Java must be decoded before machines understand it.
Many agree that compiled languages are usually faster than interpreted languages because the former doesn’t require resources dedicated to conversion. Java follows this trend, so it’s naturally slower than C, C++, and others.
However, Java uses a Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler. This compiler will only handle the methods that are being called. It also caches interpretations to make the process faster.
In addition, Java byte code closely resembles native code. This resemblance reduces the time required for interpretation. Thus, Java tends to be faster than traditional interpreted languages most of the time.
Since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, they improved upon Java over the next decade or so. So today, you can always receive the newest versions of Java after you’ve downloaded it once.
In addition, Google and IBM are big Java users themselves. As a result, Google Cloud has native Java compatibility, allowing users to build programs online. As the Java-based Android operating system owner, Google is undoubtedly successful because of this popular programming language.
As Android is based on Java, it’s natural to see many of its apps predominantly developed using the features of Java too.
IBM’s WebSphere Application Server is a secure Java Runtime Environment. The company also contributed much to the programming language and has honored its open-source nature.
Java Is Open-Source
Sun Microsystems made Java open-source software in 2006, following a long journey of releasing patents to the public domain and distributing open-source software like OpenOffice and Linux. Being an open-source programming language, anyone with the skills and knowledge can modify and share Java without fear of legal repercussions.
Therefore, Java is now highly accessible, and there are many open-source Java libraries and frameworks for anyone to use. You only need to search for them.
Extensive Community Support
Even with Oracle’s customer service, any aspiring programmer can find new Java tips and tricks by searching for tutorials or watching YouTube videos. Java’s user community is large and mature, meaning you can trust it for assistance if you run into a wall. A quick search usually lets you find the answer you’re looking for.
With forums and social media, finding help with Java is not difficult. In addition, members of the Java family everywhere have been helping people with programming issues and errors for years.
Java Is Distributed
Unlike some programming languages, Java can create distributable applications. You can split a Java program into several parts and store them on different machines. As Programmer A sits on Computer A, they can also access the code stored on Computer B.
Java’s distributed nature is handy for large projects, which are more efficient to run when split into multiple parts. It has two concepts – Remote Method Invocation and Enterprise JavaBeans – for this purpose. Besides, Java comes with class libraries for HTTP and FTP, so network connections are much easier to establish than programming in C or C++.
No matter where the programmers are, they can collaborate on one project and increase efficiency.
Java Is Everywhere
Your smartphone, smart TV, ATMs, and other electronic devices contain some Java code. This programming language has influenced how technology develops for decades and is still actively improved.
Millions of Programmers Use Java
Currently, there are at least 10 million Java developers worldwide. Many aspiring programmers are also learning Java due to how ubiquitous it is. The language’s open-source nature is one of the contributing factors.
Rich in History
Java has been through many versions and updates, accruing new features over the years. Today, the language is still evolving as many people find new uses. However, all the features of Java above are why Java is still popular after decades of service, even as new languages are being developed.
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