Wrapper classes

January 12, 2011 | java.lang


Java is an object-oriented language and can view everything as an object. A simple file can be treated as an object (with java.io.File), an address of a system can be seen as an object (with java.util.URL), an image can be treated as an object (with java.awt.Image) and a simple data type can be converted into an object (with wrapper classes). This tutorial discusses wrapper classes. Wrapper classes are used to convert any data type into an object.

The primitive data types are not objects; they do not belong to any class; they are defined in the language itself. Sometimes, it is required to convert data types into objects in Java language. For example, upto JDK1.4, the data structures accept only objects to store. A data type is to be converted into an object and then added to a Stack or Vector etc. For this conversion, the designers introduced wrapper classes.

What are Wrapper classes?

As the name says, a wrapper class wraps (encloses) around a data type and gives it an object appearance. Wherever, the data type is required as an object, this object can be used. Wrapper classes include methods to unwrap the object and give back the data type. It can be compared with a chocolate. The manufacturer wraps the chocolate with some foil or paper to prevent from pollution. The user takes the chocolate, removes and throws the wrapper and eats it.

Observe the following conversion.

int k = 100; Integer it1 = new Integer(k);

The int data type k is converted into an object, it1 using Integer class. The it1 object can be used in Java programming wherever k is required an object.

The following code can be used to unwrap (getting back int from Integer object) the object it1.

int m = it1.intValue(); System.out.println(m*m); // prints 10000

intValue() is a method of Integer class that returns an int data type.

List of Wrapper classes

In the above code, Integer class is known as a wrapper class (because it wraps around int data type to give it an impression of object). To wrap (or to convert) each primitive data type, there comes a wrapper class. Eight wrapper classes exist in java.lang package that represent 8 data types. Following list gives.

Primitive data type

Wrapper class

















Following is the hierarchy of the above classes.

All the 8 wrapper classes are placed in java.lang package so that they are implicitly imported and made available to the programmer. As you can observe in the above hierarchy, the super class of all numeric wrapper classes is Number and the super class for Character and Boolean is Object. All the wrapper classes are defined as final and thus designers prevented them from inheritance.

Importance of Wrapper classes

There are mainly two uses with wrapper classes.

  1. To convert simple data types into objects, that is, to give object form to a data type; here constructors are used.
  2. To convert strings into data types (known as parsing operations), here methods of type parseXXX() are used.

The following program expresses the style of converting data type into an object and at the same time retrieving the data type from the object.

public class WrappingUnwrapping
  public static void main(String args[])
  {				                  //  data types
    byte grade = 2;
    int marks = 50;
    float price = 8.6f;       		          // observe a suffix of <strong>f</strong> for float
    double rate = 50.5;
 		                                  // data types to objects		
    Byte g1 = new Byte(grade);                    // wrapping  
    Integer m1 = new Integer(marks);
    Float f1 = new Float(price);
    Double r1 = new Double(rate);
                                                                    // let us print the values from objects	
    System.out.println("Values of Wrapper objects (printing as objects)");
    System.out.println("Byte object g1:  " + g1);
    System.out.println("Integer object m1:  " + m1);
    System.out.println("Float object f1:  " + f1);
    System.out.println("Double object r1:  " + r1);
	        // objects to data types (retrieving data types from objects)
    byte bv = g1.byteValue();                 // unwrapping 
    int iv = m1.intValue();
    float fv = f1.floatValue();
    double dv = r1.doubleValue();
                                                                    // let us print the values from data types	
    System.out.println("Unwrapped values (printing as data types)");
    System.out.println("byte value, bv: " + bv);
    System.out.println("int value, iv: " + iv);
    System.out.println("float value, fv: " + fv);
    System.out.println("double value, dv: " + dv);

As you can observe from the screenshot, constructors of wrapper classes are used to convert data types into objects and the methods of the form XXXValue() are used to retrieve back the data type from the object.

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Wrapping and Unwrapping

int marks = 50; Integer m1 = new Integer(marks);

In the above statement, an int data type marks is given an object form m1 just by passing the variable to the constructor of Integer class. Wherever, marks is required as an object, m1 can be used.

After using the Integer object in programming, now the programmer may require back the data type, as objects cannot be used in arithmetic operations. Now the object m1 should be unwrapped.

int iv = m1.intValue();

For unwrapping, the method intValue() of Integer class used. The int value iv can be used in arithmetic operations.

Parsing Operations The other usage of wrapper classes is converting strings into data types. Sometimes, in programming, the programmer retrieves data in the form of strings. Data types are retrieved as strings. For example, the readLine() method of BufferedReader returns a string always of any data type it reads, command-line arguments are retrieved as strings and a text field in GUI gets a string. All these strings should be converted back to data types to use in arithmetic operations. The following program illustrates.

public class ParsingDemo
  public static void main(String args[])
    String price ="100";                 // declare some strings
    String rate = "5.8f";
    String tax ="50.2";
                                         // performing parsing operations on strings	
    int x = Integer.parseInt(price);
    float f1 = Float.parseFloat(rate);
    double y = Double.parseDouble(tax);

    System.out.println("\nPrinting data type values after parsing");
    System.out.println("int value: " + x);
    System.out.println("float value: " + f1);
    System.out.println("double value: " + y);
            // another style of converting strings into data types, very less used               
    Integer i1 = new Integer(price);
    Float f2 = new Float(rate);
    Double d1 = new Double(tax);
	    // extracting data types from wrapper objects
    int x1 = i1.intValue();
    float f3 = f2.floatValue();
    double d2= d1.doubleValue();
    System.out.println("\nPrinting data type values after conversion");
    System.out.println("int value: " + x1);
    System.out.println("float value: " + f3);
    System.out.println("double value: " + d2);

String price = "100"; int x = Integer.parseInt(price);

parseInt() is a static method of java.lang.Integer class that takes a string as parameter and returns an int value corresponding to the string. Similarly, the methods parseFloat(), parseDouble() of Float and Double classes return float and double values. This style of conversion is mostly used in coding. There is another way of converting strings to data types, but is less used. Following is the other way.

String price ="100"; Integer i1 = new Integer(price); int x1 = i1.intValue();

Pass the string, price, to the constructor of Integer class. Now the price is represented as i1, an object of Integer class. From object i1, extract the int value with intValue() method of Integer class. Similarly, there exists methods like floatValue() and doubleValue() of classes Float and Double that return a float value and double value.

Now finally, you can observe that, a string value can be converted to a data type in two ways – using parseInt() method and using intValue() method; both belonging to Integer class.

The next program is another example on string conversions into all data types. Two styles of conversions are given.

  1. Using parsing operation (1st way)
  2. Using xxxValue() method wrapper classes (2nd way)
public class Conversions
  public static void main(String args[])
  {                                     // converting string to byte
    String str2 = "10"; 		// 1st way
    byte b1 = Byte.parseByte(str2);
    System.out.println(b1*b1);          // prints 100
					// 2nd way
    Byte by1 = new Byte(str2);
    byte b2 = by1.byteValue();                                         
    System.out.println(b2*b2);          // prints 100           

                                        // converting string to short
    short s1 = Short.parseShort(str2);  // 1st way
    System.out.println(s1*s1);          // prints 100
    Short sh1 = new Short(str2);	// 2nd way
    short s2 = sh1.shortValue();                                         
    System.out.println(s2*s2);          // prints 100           

                                        // converting string to int

    int i1 = Integer.parseInt(str2);	// 1st way
    System.out.println(i1*i1);          // prints 100

    Integer in1 = new Integer(str2);	// 2nd way
    int i2 = in1.intValue();                                         
    System.out.println(i2*i2);          // prints 100           

                                        // converting string to long

    long l1 = Long.parseLong(str2);	// 1st way
    System.out.println(l1*l1);          // prints 100
    Long lo1 = new Long(str2);		// 2nd way
    long l2 = lo1.longValue();                                         
    System.out.println(l2*l2);          // prints 100           

                                        // converting string to float

    String str3 = "10.5f";       	// 1st way
          // or it can be String str3 = "10.5";  
    float f1 = Float.parseFloat(str3);
    System.out.println(f1*f1);          // prints 110.25
    Float fl1 = new Float(str3);        // 2nd way
    float f2 = fl1.floatValue();
    System.out.println(f2*f2);          // prints 110.25

                                        // converting string to double

    String str4 = "10.5";   		// 1st way
    double d1 = Double.parseDouble(str4);
    System.out.println(d1*d1);          // prints 110.25
    Double do1 = new Double(str4);	// 2nd way
    double d2 = do1.doubleValue();
    System.out.println(d2*d2);          // prints 110.25

                       // converting string to character

    String str1 = "A";
    char ch1 = str1.charAt(0);
    System.out.println(ch1);            // prints A

                       // converting string to boolean

    String str5 = "true";               // 1st way
    boolean b3 = Boolean.parseBoolean(str5);
                                        // 2nd way
    Boolean bo1 = new Boolean(str5);
    boolean b4 = bo1.booleanValue();