valueOf() and toString() in Java

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When Java converts data into its string representation during concatenation, it does so by calling one of the overloaded versions of the string conversion method valueOf( ) defined by String. valueOf( ) is overloaded for all the simple types and for type Object. For the simple types, valueOf( ) returns a string that contains the human-readable equivalent of the value with which it is called. For objects, valueOf( ) calls the toString( ) method on the object. We will look more closely at valueOf( ) later in this chapter. Here, let's examine the toString( ) method, because it is the means by which you can determine the string representation for objects of classes that you create.

Every class implements toString( ) because it is defined by Object. However, the default implementation of toString( ) is seldom sufficient. For most important classes that you create, you will want to override toString( ) and provide your own string representations. Fortunately, this is easy to do. The toString( ) method has this general form:

String toString( )

To implement toString( ), simply return a String object that contains the human-readable string that appropriately describes an object of your class. By overriding toString( ) for classes that you create, you allow the resulting strings to be fully integrated into Java's programming environment. For example, they can be used in print( ) and println( ) statements and in concatenation expressions. The following program demonstrates this by overriding toString( ) for the Box class:

// Override toString() for Box class.
class Box {
double width;
double height;
double depth;
Box(double w, double h, double d) {
width = w;
height = h;
depth = d;
}
public String toString() {
return "Dimensions are " + width + " by " +
depth + " by " + height + ".";
}
}

class toStringDemo {
public static void main(String args[]) {
Box b = new Box(10, 12, 14);
String s = "Box b: " + b; // concatenate Box object
System.out.println(b); // convert Box to string
System.out.println(s);
}
}

The output of this program is shown here:

Dimensions are 10 by 14 by 12.
Box b: Dimensions are 10 by 14 by 12.

As you can see, Box's toString( ) method is automatically invoked


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