Overriding and Hiding Methods in Java

Instance Methods

An instance method in a subclass with the same signature (name, plus the number and the type of its parameters) and return type as an instance method in the superclass overrides the superclass's method.

The ability of a subclass to override a method allows a class to inherit from a superclass whose behavior is "close enough" and then to modify behavior as needed. The overriding method has the same name, number and type of parameters, and return type as the method it overrides. An overriding method can also return a subtype of the type returned by the overridden method. This is called a covariant return type.

When overriding a method, you might want to use the @Override annotation that instructs the compiler that you intend to override a method in the superclass. If, for some reason, the compiler detects that the method does not exist in one of the superclasses, it will generate an error. For more information on @Override, see Annotations.


Class Methods


If a subclass defines a class method with the same signature as a class method in the superclass, the method in the subclass hides the one in the superclass.

The distinction between hiding and overriding has important implications. The version of the overridden method that gets invoked is the one in the subclass. The version of the hidden method that gets invoked depends on whether it is invoked from the superclass or the subclass. Let's look at an example that contains two classes. The first is Animal, which contains one instance method and one class method:

public class Animal {
    public static void testClassMethod() {
        System.out.println("The class" + " method in Animal.");
    }
    public void testInstanceMethod() {
        System.out.println("The instance " + " method in Animal.");
    }
}

The second class, a subclass of Animal, is called Cat:
public class Cat extends Animal {
    public static void testClassMethod() {
        System.out.println("The class method" + " in Cat.");
    }
    public void testInstanceMethod() {
        System.out.println("The instance method" + " in Cat.");
    }

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Cat myCat = new Cat();
        Animal myAnimal = myCat;
        Animal.testClassMethod();
        myAnimal.testInstanceMethod();
    }
}

The Cat class overrides the instance method in Animal and hides the class method in Animal. The main method in this class creates an instance of Cat and calls testClassMethod() on the class and testInstanceMethod() on the instance.

The output from this program is as follows:

output:
The class method in Animal.
The instance method in Cat.

As promised, the version of the hidden method that gets invoked is the one in the superclass, and the version of the overridden method that gets invoked is the one in the subclass.

Advantages method overriding:
  • Method Overriding is used to provide specific implementation of a method that is already provided by its super class.
  • Method Overriding is used for Runtime Polymorphism

Rules for method overriding:

  • The argument list should be exactly the same as that of the overridden method.
  • The return type should be the same or a subtype of the return type declared in the original overridden method in the super class.
  • The access level cannot be more restrictive than the overridden method's access level. For example: if the super class method is declared public then the overridding method in the sub class cannot be either private or public. However the access level can be less restrictive than the overridden method's access level.
  • Instance methods can be overridden only if they are inherited by the subclass.
  • A method declared final cannot be overridden.
  • A method declared static cannot be overridden but can be re-declared.
  • If a method cannot be inherited then it cannot be overridden.
  • A subclass within the same package as the instance's superclass can override any superclass method that is not declared private or final.
  • A subclass in a different package can only override the non-final methods declared public or protected.
  • An overriding method can throw any uncheck exceptions, regardless of whether the overridden method throws exceptions or not. However the overriding method should not throw checked exceptions that are new or broader than the ones declared by the overridden method. The overriding method can throw narrower or fewer exceptions than the overridden method.
  • Constructors cannot be overridden.

Modifiers

The access specifier for an overriding method can allow more, but not less, access than the overridden method. For example, a protected instance method in the superclass can be made public, but not private, in the subclass.
You will get a compile-time error if you attempt to change an instance method in the superclass to a class method in the subclass, and vice versa.

Summary

The following table summarizes what happens when you define a method with the same signature as a method in a superclass.
Defining a Method with the Same Signature as a Superclass's Method
Superclass Instance Method Superclass Static Method
Subclass Instance Method Overrides Generates a compile-time error
Subclass Static Method Generates a compile-time error Hides

Note: In a subclass, you can overload the methods inherited from the superclass. Such overloaded methods neither hide nor override the superclass methods—they are new methods, unique to the subclass. 

Difference between method Overloading and Method Overriding.
There are three basic differences between the method overloading and method overriding. They are as follows:


Method Overloading Method Overriding
1) Method overloading is used to increase the readability of the program.Method overriding is used to provide the specific implementation of the method that is already provided by its super class.
2) method overlaoding is performed within a class.Method overriding occurs in two classes that have IS-A relationship.
3) In case of method overloading parameter must be different.In case of method overriding parameter must be same.



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