Thursday, December 29, 2005

Good API Design

Java API Design Guidelines "If your API is worth anything, it will evolve over time...decide what sort of compatibility you will guarantee between revisions...What should the design goals of your API be?...absolutely correct...easy to use...easy to enough...small's much easier to put things in than to take them out."

This seems all well and good.

"Interfaces can be implemented by anybody. Suppose String were an interface. Then you could never be sure that a String you got from somewhere obeyed the semantics you expect: it is immutable; its hashCode() is computed in a certain way; its length is never negative; and so on."

Adding interfaces on top of String like CharSequence was a good thing. It meant that you could process a String or a StringBuffer the same as well as consistently treat something that may have been in memory or on-disk (including being memory mapped via NIO). The way to ensure that String implementations do follow the correct semantics is test driving the interfaces and this requires being able to create a Mock object of that interface - pretty much sealing the deal as far as interfaces are concerned.

Actually, the whole section on interfaces is pretty much a wash as this can be solved by test driving 3 of the 4 points raised. As far as using an abstract class to help with the evolution of the API, you can have both - an interface and a default abstract class for some base implementation.

Exceptions get a going over too, "Use a checked exception "if the exceptional condition cannot be prevented by proper use of the API and the programmer using the API can take some useful action once confronted with the exception." In practice this usually means that a checked exception reflects a problem in interaction with the outside world, such as the network, filesystem, or windowing system."

Related: Evolution Not Creation, Reminder About Incremental and Test Driven Development and 10 Minute Commits for Better Code.
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