Java Nested and Inner Class

Java Nested and Inner Class

In this tutorial, you will learn about the nested class in Java and its types with the help of examples.

In Java, you can define a class within another class. Such class is known as nested class. For example,

class OuterClass {
    // ...
    class NestedClass {
        // ...
    }
}

There are two types of nested classes you can create in Java.

  • Non-static nested class (inner class)
  • Static nested class

Recommended reading:

Let's first look at non-static nested classes.


Non-Static Nested Class (Inner Class)

A non-static nested class is a class within another class. It has access to members of the enclosing class (outer class). It is commonly known as inner class.

Since the inner class exists within the outer class, you must instantiate the outer class first, in order to instantiate the inner class.

Here's an example of how you can declare inner classes in Java.

Example 1: Inner class

class CPU {
    double price;
    // nested class
    class Processor{

        // members of nested class
        double cores;
        String manufacturer;

        double getCache(){
            return 4.3;
        }
    }

    // nested protected class
    protected class RAM{

        // members of protected nested class
        double memory;
        String manufacturer;

        double getClockSpeed(){
            return 5.5;
        }
    }
}

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // create object of Outer class CPU
        CPU cpu = new CPU();

       // create an object of inner class Processor using outer class
        CPU.Processor processor = cpu.new Processor();

        // create an object of inner class RAM using outer class CPU
        CPU.RAM ram = cpu.new RAM();
        System.out.println("Processor Cache = " + processor.getCache());
        System.out.println("Ram Clock speed = " + ram.getClockSpeed());
    }
}

Output:

Processor Cache = 4.3
Ram Clock speed = 5.5

In the above program, there are two nested classes: Processor and RAM inside the outer class: CPU. We can declare the inner class as protected. Hence, we have declared the RAM class as protected.

Inside the Main class,

  • we first created an instance of an outer class CPU named cpu.
  • Using the instance of the outer class, we then created objects of inner classes:
     
    CPU.Processor processor = cpu.new Processor;
    
    CPU.RAM ram = cpu.new RAM();

Note: We use the dot (.) operator to create an instance of the inner class using the outer class.


Accessing Members of Outer Class within Inner Class

We can access the members of the outer class by using this keyword. If you want to learn about this keyword, visit Java this keyword

Example 2: Accessing Members

class Car {
    String carName;
    String carType;

    // assign values using constructor
    public Car(String name, String type) {
        this.carName = name;
        this.carType = type;
    }

    // private method
    private String getCarName() {
        return this.carName;
    }

// inner class
    class Engine {
        String engineType;
        void setEngine() {

           // Accessing the carType property of Car
            if(Car.this.carType.equals("4WD")){

                // Invoking method getCarName() of Car
                if(Car.this.getCarName().equals("Crysler")) {
                    this.engineType = "Smaller";
                } else {
                    this.engineType = "Bigger";
                }

            }else{
                this.engineType = "Bigger";
            }
        }
        String getEngineType(){
            return this.engineType;
        }
    }
}

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

// create an object of the outer class Car
        Car car1 = new Car("Mazda", "8WD");

        // create an object of inner class using the outer class
        Car.Engine engine = car1.new Engine();
        engine.setEngine();
        System.out.println("Engine Type for 8WD= " + engine.getEngineType());

        Car car2 = new Car("Crysler", "4WD");
        Car.Engine c2engine = car2.new Engine();
        c2engine.setEngine();
        System.out.println("Engine Type for 4WD = " + c2engine.getEngineType());
    }
}

Output:

Engine Type for 8WD= Bigger
Engine Type for 4WD = Smaller

In the above program, we have the inner class named Engine inside the outer class Car. Here, notice the line,

if(Car.this.carType.equals("4WD")) {...}

We are using this keyword to access the carType variable of the outer class. You may have noticed that instead of using this.carType we have used Car.this.carType.

It is because if we had not mentioned the name of the outer class Car, then this keyword will represent the member inside the inner class.

Similarly, we are also accessing the method of the outer class from the inner class.

if (Car.this.getCarName().equals("Crysler") {...}

It is important to note that, although the getCarName() is a private method, we are able to access it from the inner class.


Static Nested Class

In Java, we can also define a static class inside another class. Such class is known as static nested class. Static nested classes are not called static inner classes.

Unlike inner class, a static nested class cannot access the member variables of the outer class. It is because the static nested class doesn't require you to create an instance of the outer class.

OuterClass.NestedClass obj = new OuterClass.NestedClass();

Here, we are creating an object of the static nested class by simply using the class name of the outer class. Hence, the outer class cannot be referenced using OuterClass.this.

Example 3: Static Inner Class

class MotherBoard {

   // static nested class
   static class USB{
       int usb2 = 2;
       int usb3 = 1;
       int getTotalPorts(){
           return usb2 + usb3;
       }
   }

}
public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {

       // create an object of the static nested class
       // using the name of the outer class
       MotherBoard.USB usb = new MotherBoard.USB();
       System.out.println("Total Ports = " + usb.getTotalPorts());
   }
}

Output:

Total Ports = 3

In the above program, we have created a static class named USB inside the class MotherBoard. Notice the line,

MotherBoard.USB usb = new MotherBoard.USB();

Here, we are creating an object of USB using the name of the outer class.

Now, let's see what would happen if you try to access the members of the outer class:


Example 4: Accessing members of Outer class inside Static Inner Class

class MotherBoard {
   String model;
   public MotherBoard(String model) {
       this.model = model;
   }

   // static nested class
   static class USB{
       int usb2 = 2;
       int usb3 = 1;
       int getTotalPorts(){
           // accessing the variable model of the outer classs
           if(MotherBoard.this.model.equals("MSI")) {
               return 4;
           }
           else {
               return usb2 + usb3;
           }
       }
   }
}
public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {

       // create an object of the static nested class
       MotherBoard.USB usb = new MotherBoard.USB();
       System.out.println("Total Ports = " + usb.getTotalPorts());
   }
}

When we try to run the program, we will get an error:

error: non-static variable this cannot be referenced from a static context

This is because we are not using the object of the outer class to create an object of the inner class. Hence, there is no reference to the outer class Motherboard stored in Motherboard.this.


Key Points to Remember

  • Java treats the inner class as a regular member of a class. They are just like methods and variables declared inside a class.
  • Since inner classes are members of the outer class, you can apply any access modifiers like private, protected to your inner class which is not possible in normal classes.
  • Since the nested class is a member of its enclosing outer class, you can use the dot (.) notation to access the nested class and its members.
  • Using the nested class will make your code more readable and provide better encapsulation.
  • Non-static nested classes (inner classes) have access to other members of the outer/enclosing class, even if they are declared private.