Variables - Back to Musings

by Nicholas Duchon

Java has a variety of different treatments of variables which are related to where they are declared.

The following table summarizes the different variable treatments:

Name Nature Scope Lifetime Initialization Example
Class instance variables one copy of each variable for each instance of that class - declared in class, outside any method generally, the class and its children as long as the instance is alive Yes - default values given for primitive data types, numbers are 0 or 0.0 and booleans are false a, b, c, sa, sb, sc, tt, ft
Class variables only one copy of each variable for the whole class - declared "static" in class, outside any method generally, the class and its children from the time that any identifier of that class is referenced, i.e., the class is loaded at run time, until the program quits, generally As class instance classCount
Class final variables may be "class instance" or just "class variable", generally should be "static", may not be changed or redefined by any children of the class, normally all uppper case for easy identification as any class variable or class instance variable, as declared as class or class instance, as declared Yes, but normally explicity initialized, may not be changed after initialization in initial declaration (none here)
Method local variables declared inside a method only within the method, may be passed to other methods in parameter lists as long as the original method is active No (main): left, top, dd, ff, ig, tx

(mySum): sum

Method formal parameters declared inside a method, as method variables as method variables as method variables Initialized by caller (main): args - array of String

(mySum): n, m

Block variables declared inside a block or in the "For Init" part of a for loop (pg 608) from when the variable is declared until the block ends with a curly bracket ends when the block ends No ty in for loop
ty in block

Special notes:


   public class TestOne
      int a, b, c = 3;
      String sa, sb="", sc="some string";
      static int classCount = 0;
      public static void main (String[] args)
         int left, top;
         double dd = 17.5;
         float ff = (float) 17.5;    // error without the (float) cast
         int ig = 3;
         static int methodCount = 0; // illegal inside a method
         if (dd < 30) ig = 3;
         ig = ig + 3;
         for (left = 0; left < 10; left++) {
            top = top = 5;
            System.out.println ("Top: " + top);
         } // end for
         for (int ty = 0; ty < 10; ty++) {
            top = ty - 7;
         } // end for
            int ty = 7;
            top = ty + 3;
         } // end block
         top = ty + 7;     // this is an error, ty not defined here
      // the following tests static vs non-static references
      // since main is static
      // generally, tx indicates the class context below
         TestOne tx = new TestOne (); = 37.3;         // ok because tx gives instance reference
         tt = 49.6;            // error, static reference to
instance variable
         mySum (5, 7);         // error, static reference to
instance method
         tx.mySum (5,7);       // ok becuase tx gives
instance reference
         TestOne.classCount++; // class context explicit
      } // end method main
      double tt = 3.7;
      float ft = 4.6f;         // error without the f
      public int mySum (int n, int m) {
         int sum;
         if ((m>0) && (n>0)) {
            sum = 0;
            while (n != 0) {
               sum = sum + n*m;
            } // end while
            return sum;
         } // end if
            return 0;
      } // end method mySum
   } // end class TestOne

Updated: Mar 17, 2017