|By York Davis||
|August 5, 2004 12:00 AM EDT||
Those familiar with the java.util.Comparator interface of the Java API realize its capabilities for sorting a collection of objects based on an attribute of the objects in the collection. This works well when there is only a single field in which sorting is required. When more complex sorting is necessary, the limitations of sorting on a single field become obvious. What about the situation in which a user desires the functionality to sort selectively on any field in object collection? This article describes an implementation of the Comparator interface that along with the reflection API allows an object to be sorted dynamically on any of its publicly accessible fields.
Let's describe the problem a bit more specifically. A collection of employee Transfer Objects (EmployeeTO class) exists. (For a description of the Transfer Object design pattern consult a software design pattern book.) Each EmployeeTO in the collection is a data container object for a single employee's information. For this example, our simplified EmployeeTO object contains only three pieces of data - employee ID, last name, and salary.
A Human Resources application also exists that uses this collection to display a list of all employee data to HR application users. The users of this system have the following requirements:
- Allow sorting on any field on the report
- Allow control of the sort order
Before delving into our dynamic sorting solution that allows sorting on any attribute, let's first look at a simple solution that supports sorting on a single attribute only. This will demonstrate the basic behaviors of Comparator and from this we'll be able to glean the improvements we wish to make. This solution utilizes the more common use of the Comparator interface. There are two classes required to implement this.
EmployeeTO - Simple Version
First, our EmployeeTO can be made sortable by implementing the Comparator interface as shown in Listing 1. In addition to the getters and setters for ID, last name, and salary, EmployeeTO must implement the compare() and equals() methods in order to meet the Comparator's requirements. These methods define how EmployeeTO is to be sorted. The compare() method takes two parameters, both of type Object. Note that compare() returns an int. This return value tells the sort engine the collating sequence equality of two attribute values from each of the object parameters passed to compare(), respectively. We need to write the code that performs this evaluation. The first step in compare() is to cast the two parameters' objects to EmployeeTO objects and extract the employee IDs by calling the getId() method on each object in turn. Now we can compare the values. There are really only three possible outcomes that can result from this comparison. Table 1 describes the results based on these outcomes.
The other method we must code is the equals() method. Although this method is not used for sorting, it must be implemented in order to meet the contract of the Comparator interface.
Sorting the Collection - Simple Version
The SimpleTest class in Listing 2 adds three EmployeeTO objects to a List, then performs a sort on that Collection. (Listings 2-5 can be downloaded from www.sys-con.com/java/sourcec.cfm.) Line 30 of SimpleTest calls the static sort() method of the Collections class to actually perform the sort as follows.
Collections.sort(elements, new EmployeeTO());
The first parameter passed to sort() is the collection object we wish to have sorted. The second parameter is an object of type Comparator that contains the customized sorting logic - in this case EmployeeTO, which implements the Comparator interface. We certainly could have passed any instance of EmployeeTO as the second parameter to the above method call. However, instead of reusing one of the three values initially added to the collection, I chose to pass a new instance of the class for purposes of clarity.
A quick note on encapsulation and responsibility assigning seems to be in order here. In this case, it makes sense to encapsulate the specific compare() method sorting logic within EmployeeTO. With the information we have thus far, EmployeeTO is the only class that requires the knowledge of how it should be sorted. Later, as a dynamic sorting solution is provided, we'll see this sorting logic moved out of the Transfer Object class as the sorting logic becomes less specific to any one particular Transfer Object implementation.
This implementation will run but falls short when it comes to meeting the user's requirements. Remember, we need to be able to sort on any one of the three fields in EmployeeTO based on a user's choice. And let's not forget about the ability to control the sort order.
Let's think about the options that are available to improve what we have and meet the requirements. One option is to code nested if/else statements in our compare() method to allow for sorting on any field in the object based on some field name parameter passed to EmployeeTO. The problem with this solution is that it's difficult to maintain and the code could get rather lengthy as well. If new fields are added to EmployeeTO, we must update compare() appropriately.
What we would really like to do is invoke any given getter method of our Transfer Object at runtime without having to specifically hard code each possible method call in the compare() method. If we could do this, we could use the results of those method calls to dynamically determine equality. In addition, it would be desirable if this dynamic sorting could be reused for any Transfer Object. The good news is that this functionality can be achieved by leveraging the reflection API and the flexibility of the Collections.sort() method.
The java.lang.reflect.Method class provides the ability to invoke a method of a given object based on the value of a string. For example, using a string containing the value "getId", the method getId() of EmployeeTO can be dynamically invoked at runtime. This string value can then be changed as we wish to cause any of the methods of EmployeeTO to be called.
The reflection API provides a variety of interesting features including the ability to pass parameters to methods and the ability to determine method return types. (For a complete list of these capabilities, consult the Java API Javadoc.) We will need the latter capability as the three getter methods of EmployeeTO return different types and it will thus be necessary to be aware of which type we have when doing the comparison in the compare() method. For example, we'll need to code a different sort of equality test on an int return value as opposed to a string.
A dynamic solution will also need to take advantage of the flexibility of the Collections.sort() method. Recall that in our simple sorting solution we passed an instance of an object that implemented the Comparator interface as the second parameter to Collections.sort(). In that case, it was the EmployeeTO object that contained the sorting logic. This worked great for what we needed it to do. Now, however, we want something a bit more sophisticated and flexible. What if we were to create a class that implemented Comparator, which was separate from each Transfer Object? In it we could place our dynamic sorting code and simply pass an instance of this new class as the second parameter to Collections.sort().
Doing this would cause several desirable results. First, we'll have completely decoupled any sorting logic from our Transfer Objects. This is highly desirable as it decreases not only the size of each Transfer Object by essentially eliminating the need for sorting code, but also removes the need for coding individual field comparison logic. Second, we'll have created a reusable utility class that can be used in many different situations where sorting is required. While reusability is not a specifically stated user requirement for our design, it is certainly desirable.
Figure 1 is a UML diagram (with attribute and method details omitted) that shows how the components of both the simple and the dynamic sorting solutions fit together. Really, the only portion that has changed since our simple solution is where the Comparator interface gets implemented. In the first example, EmployeeTO implemented Comparator directly. Now DynamicComparator implements Comparator and contains an intelligent implementation of the compare() method that can be used by any class that requires a collection of objects to be sorted.
Listing 3 shows the completed code listing for DynamicComparator. There are a number of interesting things about this class. First, note the class signature. The class implements two interfaces - Comparator and Serializable. Comparator should come as no surprise since that interface is the essence of the sorting capabilities we desire. Also, although not a requirement, the API docs recommend that any class implementing Comparator implement Serializable as well.
Second, look at the static sort() method. Classes wishing to utilize DynamicComparator will call this method rather than Collections.sort(). I've decided to make sort() static to mimic the Collections.sort() method. Although the DynamicComparator.sort() method is called statically, internally DynamicComparator creates an instance of itself. This is necessary in order for it to provide access to the nonstatic compare() and equals() methods of the Comparator interface that it supports. Next note how this method takes three parameters. The first is the collection object to be sorted. The second is a string that defines the field of each object in the collection on which sorting should be performed. The last parameter is a Boolean specifying the sort order. These three parameters are used as arguments to create a new instance of DynamicComparator that is the second parameter passed to the Collections.sort() method.
Third, take a look at the compare() method. This is where the reflection code really kicks in. One of the first things we need to obtain is a reference to a method object at line 43. We'll use this reference to call methods dynamically. This task is done using the getMethod() helper method, which obtains this value via reflection. Next, we need to determine the return type of the methods we are about to call. Remember that we will need to compare the attribute values of the two objects passed into compare(). If the return type is an int, for instance, we'll certainly have to write different code to do the comparison than if the return type is a string. Once we have the return type, we examine it and, based on its value, dynamically perform the actual method invocation and resulting comparison of the two values.
Note that currently there are three separate "if" test blocks - one each for string, int, and double. The implementation requires comparison logic for any method return type we expect to encounter. For the range of return types in our EmployeeTO example, these three are sufficient. However, additional code would need to be added to DynamicComparator if comparisons of other types are required - short, java.util.Date, java.math.BigDecimal, etc. Coding for each specific return type here is unavoidable as there is no way to dynamically cast Java objects. Similarly, Java-supplied nonobject data types like int, long, and double use entirely different comparison operators than do first-class object types like String or Date.
There are some other important points about this code. First, DynamicComparator fully supports null values. If either or both of the arguments passed to compare() are null, this method knows how to handle the situation accordingly. Second, look at each return statement within compare(). Remember the requirement that the user be able to control not only the sort field but also the sort order? This code supports the latter by essentially reversing the default sort order with a call to getSortOrder(). This is done if the user has decided to sort the result in descending order based on the Boolean value passed into the constructor from the sort() method. Third, the constructMethodName() method converts a Transfer Object attribute name string into a method name by prepending a "get" string and capitalizing the first character of the passed value. For instance, constructMethodName() would convert "salary" to "getSalary".
Last, the equals() method is needed to complete the interface requirements.
EmployeeTO - Enhanced Version
Listing 4 shows the enhanced version of EmployeeTO. The most obvious change is that EmployeeTO is now even simpler than before. Now that all of the sorting logic has been moved to DynamicComparator and the class no longer implements Comparator, we don't need to implement the compare() and equals() methods.
Sorting the Collection - Dynamic Version
Listing 5 is the code for DynamicTest. The only change between this class and SimpleTest is how the sort is called. Here we pass the three parameters to DynamicComparator.sort() (Collection Object, the decapitalized attribute name, and sort ascending flag) and let the DynamicComparator do the rest.
DynamicTest could just as easily have sorted on last name by passing "lastName" or on employee ID by passing "id" as the second parameter on line 29.
Building a class such as DynamicComparator has many benefits in an application that requires robust sorting capabilities. In this design, we have created a reusable, loosely coupled API that can be used to sort a collection of objects based on getter methods. The sort field is easily configurable and also allows control over the sort order.
This design, however, is not without trade-offs. Although using the reflection API allows us to do lots of cool things, using reflection can slow performance. This is particularly true in applications using pre-1.4 versions of Java. In addition, it's possible that applications wishing to sort very large collections may find DynamicComparator too slow.
Other inadequacies of DynamicComparator might become evident as well. Although it allows sorting on any one attribute of a collection of objects in an easily configurable manner, DynamicComparator does not address the potential need to sort by multiple fields - primary and secondary field sorts like that occur automatically with the ORDER BY clause in Structured Query Language (SQL).
This article introduced a reusable implementation of the Comparator interface that utilizes Java reflection to dynamically sort a collection of objects on any one of any number of fields within that object.
If your application or framework has a need for this specific functionality, perhaps this design will fit your needs.
|Java 04/09/08 09:42:59 AM EDT|
Refer below link for code
|Doug Bell 08/26/04 04:26:21 AM EDT|
I meant to mention one other thing about the articles implementation that nobody else mentioned. The implementation and comment for the DynamicComparator.equals method illustrates confusion about the purpose of the method.
As implemented, the equals method breaks all contracts for equals, including the Comparator contract. It would be better to have left the default implementation of equals rather than override it with a method that always returns true.
The equals method is for comparing the DynamicComparator object to another object to see if two Comparators produce the same results. This would not be too difficult to properly implement by checking for equals between the method and sortAsc fields (and Comparator fields if my previous suggestion was implemented).
One final comment is that the Collection should not be passed to the DynamicComparator constructor. It is only needed by the sort method.
|Doug Bell 08/26/04 04:11:27 AM EDT|
sMyles has the right idea about how to fix the DynamicComparator class. (Some of the other comments and code suggestions missed the mark in one or more areas.) Certainly, you''d rather not have to keep modifying the DynamicComparator class to add new algorithms--this is not the correct design for "encapsulation and responsibility assignment" that the article discusses.
However, instead of sMyles suggestion for option 4, just overload sort() and the DynamicComparator constructor to accept a Comparator for comparing any two fields that don''t implement Comparable. This will also allow fields that do implement Comparable, such as String, to use alternate compare algorithms, such as compareToIgnoreCase.
|David Perelman-Hall 08/11/04 03:26:40 PM EDT|
public final class DynamicComparator implements Comparator
// Object Members
// Private Constructor
// Sort invocation starts here
// Compare for Collections.sort here
// Invoke method to gather two comparable objects
// Sort order getter
EmployeeTO e2 = new EmployeeTO();
EmployeeTO e1 = new EmployeeTO();
EmployeeTO e3 = new EmployeeTO();
DynamicComparator.sort(elements, "getLastName", true);
final Iterator li = elements.iterator();
|sMyles 08/11/04 03:14:36 PM EDT|
It is important to note that invoke() returns an Object, not a primitive.
Knowing this, compare() should do the following:
2. Perform the null comparisons on val1 and val2 (without the introduction of val1Null and val2Null) and return the appropriate value * getSortOrder(), if applicable.
3. If it turns out neither return value is null, return val1.compareTo(val2) * getSortOrder()
4 (optional). Include a special case for String objects and return val1.compareToIgnoreCase(val2) * getSortOrder(). How compare() should treat case sensitivity could be specified as a parameter to sort().
Also of note:
|Ceri 08/10/04 05:07:56 PM EDT|
Sorry, formatting seems to have been stripped from my previous message.
|Ceri 08/10/04 05:06:17 PM EDT|
The compare method needs to handle primitive types separately. All non-primitives that implement comparable can be easily grouped together into a single if block (to replace the String handling section of Listing 3):
Class interfaces = method.getReturnType().getInterfaces();
|Mike 08/10/04 12:16:23 PM EDT|
York the method "public int compare(Object o1, Object o2)" is long and makes the class look cluddered(like it needs to be refactored), especially if more fields where added requiring more test to be implemented in this method. Wouldn''t separate class implementation for each sorting type help with this, but on second thought this would lead to class proliferation. Okay in the future, would sometype of generics in 1.5.0 work here for the comparing class in addition to the usage of reflection to stream line this code.
|York 08/09/04 01:22:26 PM EDT|
Source code now available for download!
|S Opoku-Boadu 08/09/04 03:26:33 AM EDT|
Cannot locate Listings 2 - 5
|S Opoku-Boadu 08/09/04 03:25:52 AM EDT|
Cannot locate Listings 2 - 5
|Trevor Leach 08/09/04 12:38:46 AM EDT|
The listings are not in the print version either. Perhaps we''ll get emailed when they are found?
|D Polansky 08/05/04 05:41:40 PM EDT|
Where are listings 3, 4, and 5 referenced in the article?
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Nov. 21, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 738
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Nov. 20, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 1,100
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
Nov. 20, 2014 09:15 PM EST Reads: 1,150
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 20, 2014 07:30 PM EST Reads: 1,300
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Nov. 20, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 1,123
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
Nov. 20, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 832
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
Nov. 20, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,371
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Nov. 20, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 1,646
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Nov. 18, 2014 09:00 PM EST Reads: 1,928
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Nov. 18, 2014 08:15 PM EST Reads: 1,455
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Nov. 18, 2014 08:15 PM EST Reads: 1,374
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Nov. 18, 2014 01:30 PM EST Reads: 1,940
The Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 19th centuries was a period during which predominantly rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban. Advances in steam technology, transportation, mass production and the telegraph collectively transformed industry and society. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to once again transform industry and society just as the Industrial Revolution did. Analyst firm IDC forecasts that the IoT market will grow to $8.9 trillion by 2020 with anywhere between 30 to 50 billion connected autonomous things, making the potential g...
Nov. 15, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,667
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.
Nov. 13, 2014 05:00 AM EST Reads: 3,500
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
Nov. 10, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 2,608
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Nov. 10, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 5,906
Located in booth #314, the Bsquare team will present DataV demos and discuss how DataV will help customers put their data to work to improve business outcomes. DataV is unlocking new initiatives across a wide landscape of customers in industries such as industrial manufacturing, transportation, retail and mobile. The solution is designed to complement a new project start or help to enrich an existing machine investment.
Nov. 6, 2014 03:15 PM EST Reads: 2,332
The Physical Web incorporates beacons that can be put in any small retail store, for example, so that every store now has "an app" for its customers. In this Birds-of-a-Feather session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Scott Jenson, Product Designer at Google, will discuss the Physical Web and how it is an open standard so any device can broadcast a URL wirelessly, so any phone/tablet/watch nearby can see, and rank those devices. When the user taps on one, they just go to that web page. It's really that simple. It's about thinking small, enabling micro-information (what is in my prescription bottle...
Nov. 3, 2014 05:00 PM EST Reads: 2,515
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
Nov. 3, 2014 03:00 PM EST Reads: 3,502
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.
Nov. 3, 2014 02:30 PM EST Reads: 2,793