posted on January 20, 2012 in development, OOP

OOP: Lesson 1 - Basics

Today we will be learning the basics of object-oriented programming. As I mentioned in the introduction post to this series we have to make sure that we know the basic ideas and words that describe them.

Java, Gists and Eclipse

We will be using Java examples. You can download the examples clicking on the "raw" link at the bottom and comment on them or add something on my GitHub Gist page. Do not get stuck with Git, Gists or what this is - go along with the fact that the code examples are hosted there. If you enable JavaScript for this domain you will also see them embedded in this post.

Before we start let me say two things. I know that many people use an IDE like Eclipse or NetBeans for Java development. For the sake of understanding what happens I will just use an ordinary editor and the command line in this post. Well, I always use those - this does not mean that you should too. If you are comfortable with Eclipse just read the post, understand what it is doing and everything is fine. You just have to figure out how to create a project and add the code by yourself.

Now would be a good time, if you have not already, to visit Oracle and get the latest JDK. Currently Java SE 7u2. I skip the hint that you should also install it...

Our first code

Let us take a look at the first few lines of code we will be using for this example. The code is not perfect. And this has a good reasons. We will use the knowledge we are gaining to make this code better.

Really simple, isn't it?

Compile & Execute

This is Java specific, but you should now it, so you can work with all the following examples. For everyone that is not forced to use Java: "Sorry - I know it sucks, but stop complaining and play nicely with the rest of us."

There are two stages. First you compile your code to byte code using

javac lesson1.java

This will generate a file called lesson1.class. We can run our program using the JVM (Java Virtual Machine)

java lesson1

No you do not add a file extension. As I said in the first post, sometimes stuff will be a bit vague. But this is totally fine, you do not need to know Java internals to understand OOP and how it is working. If you ever wanted to know what happens when you hit the green "play" button in Eclipse - now you do.

Structure

As you can clearly see there is a class called lesson1. The name of this class is what you use when you execute your program. Even if you name the file lesson2, javac will create a lesson1.class file.

Every time you run java something the JVM is looking for a method called main in something.class. It will start executing stuff you put in there. Always add the keywords public static void and add String args[] as expected argument.

Doing stuff

We print something to the console. But how does Java now what System.out.println should do? There is an easy and a correct explanation. I think we should go with the easy one since it is accurate enough, not confusing and with some exceptions a common definition.

Every time you write a program a set of predefined classes and methods are automatically added. You do not have to import them or tell the compiler and runtime (JVM) where they are. They are just there and you can use them.

Comments

Most of the time people will tell you to comment your code. Sometimes they are right sometimes they are just idiots. You have to think what you are commenting.

Adding a comment that tells everyone that this is the main method is pretty useless. Everyone looking at your code already knows this.

Adding comments to explain complex procedures, algorithms or give people a quick idea what your method is actually doing is a good idea.

Methods are a complex thing when talking about comments. If you just wrote one that only prints an argument to the screen you do not need comments. On the other hand if you connect to a database, delete 5 rows and close the connection a short comment would be a good idea.

The difference between those two comment styles is simply explained. If you use // everything till the end of the line is a comment. If you use /* everything till */ is a comment. No matter how many lines are included.

Quick summary

There are classes, methods, some of them that are magically available, no matter if you do something or not and there are comments that tend to be problematic when two programmers discuss how important and verbose you should be.

In the next post we will learn how to place {}, why there is public, static, void, what it means and why methods are no functions.

German

As usual a short translation of everything that is important.

I would love to talk to you about this post, your ideas or awesome projects.

I am @fallenhitokiri on Twitter and GitHub or you can send me a mail.