OOP Concepts in Java – Introduction

Software deals in data. In order to effectively utilize data, you need to parse data to make sense of it, analyze data, update data, store data, and so on. So how do you deal with and make sense of all this data? Object Oriented Programming! 

Object Oriented Programming (OOP) allows you to model data – and the methods/functions that act on that data – in an intuitive way. Once you’ve modeled the required data classes and objects needed by the application, you can interact with that data in a logical way. 

Continue reading to learn about what is Object Oriented Programming, OOP Concepts, Elements, Languages, Modeling, and more.

OOP concepts in Java, OOP concepts, what is object oriented programming

What is Object Oriented Programming?

Object Oriented Programming is a coding paradigm that organizes code around data, aka “objects”, rather than functions and procedures. OOP simplifies software development by enabling us to model any data that we need, and work with that data in a logical way. 

OOP uses classes to define the data model, and provide simple, reusable blueprints for creating objects. By allowing us to model the world around us in an intuitive way, OOP vastly reduces software complexity, development time, and maintenance.

For instance, if you are building an application that manages a restaurant, you would have classes such as Restaurant, Menu, MenuItem, Beverage, Employee and Guest. Once you have the classes that map out the application, you can quickly associate, compare, update, collate, and analyze all the data in that model. 

You can also map these objects to databases, and communicate with other services on the web using these objects in the form of JSON.

Why is OOP important?

  1. Reduces complexity: OOP promotes the reuse of data, helping reduce development time and complexity. Using OOP concepts in Java, you can write a functionality once and reuse it everywhere else.
  2. Reduces maintenance time: OOP makes projects modular, allowing you to isolate and solve issues easier. For example, if the bill amount is not right, it means that the problem is with the Bill class and one can go directly there and start debugging.
  3. Widely applicable: OOP can be used to model any scenario imaginable, making it highly useful and applicable in a variety of business use cases.

Object Oriented Languages

Object Oriented Languages are programming languages with OOP features. There are two main categories of Object Oriented Languages (OOLs):

  1. Class-based OOLs: In these, classes are defined first, and objects are instances of classes. Some examples of these languages are C++, Java, Ruby, Scala, and Eiffel.
  2. Classless OOLs: In these, objects are cloned from their prototypes. Every object can have only one prototype link. Some examples of these languages are Self and Haskel.

Many languages, however, do not fall into either of these two categories. An example is Javascript, which has some properties of each of the two types.

OOP Elements in Java


A Class is a template – or a blueprint – that defines the form of an object. A class specifies the data and the code that acts on objects within that class. Objects are instances of a class, while data members are instance variables.

Classes, in their purest form, define two major aspects of an object: the data and methods. The data is stored as instance variables of different types. This data is used to describe objects of the said class. The methods describe actions that can be performed on that data.

Instance variables are declared outside of methods and exist as members of a class. Each instance of a class – as well as each object – gets their own instance variables. 

The best way to understand the class/object relationship is to take a look at an example. In the code below, we created a basic class called Vehicle, which can tell us the number of passengers and fuel capacity:

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Now that we have created a class, we can create Objects from this class:

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Source: Javatpoint


Objects are used to store data, act on that data and interact with other objects. Each time you create an object (aka an instance) of a class, you are creating an object that contains its own copies of each of the instance variables found in the class. For example, each instance – or object – of the Vehicle class has its own instance variables passengers and fuelCap.

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Now, since each object has its own copies of the instance variables, you can set them to hold distinct values.

All objects have three essential features:

  • State: An object’s state is defined by the instance variables of the object and by the values these have. Thus, you can alter the state of an object by changing the values of the instance variables.
  • Behavior: An object’s behavior is defined by its methods. When an object wants to act on another object, it uses that object’s methods. For security reasons, not all of the object’s methods are visible to other objects.
  • Identity: The identity of an object is independent of its instance variables or methods. For example, two vehicles with the same number of passengers and fuel cap are still two different objects.

Source: Javatpoint

Learn beginner-to-advanced Java skills:

  • Training 1: Intro to Java Basic Concepts
  • Training 2: Object Oriented Programming
  • Training 3: Data Structures

OOP Concepts in Java

There are four primary OOP concepts in Java: Encapsulation, Data Abstraction, Polymorphism and Inheritance.

Encapsulation in Java

Encapsulation in Java is the process of wrapping up variables (data), as well as the methods (code) that act on that data, together as a single unit within a class.

For example, suppose you have two classes – Car and Dog. The Dog class and the Car class are two entirely distinct entities that are not related to each other. Their data (instance variables), and their methods which act on that data are encapsulated within their respective classes. Meaning, all data and methods related to a car will be in the Car class. All data and methods related to a dog will be in the Dog class. And you can create as many objects of these classes as you want.

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Another example depicted below is a Box class, in which we are creating 3 instances – or objects – of the Box class.

OOP concepts in Java, OOP concepts, what is object oriented programming

Data Abstraction in Java

Abstraction in Java is the act of hiding unnecessary details, and only showing essential information to the user. For example, a driver sees a car as a car, rather than as its individual components. 

Abstraction can be achieved with either abstract classes or interfaces. 

Abstract classes are restricted classes that cannot be used to create objects. The instance variables of an abstract class can be accessed when it is inherited from another class. Abstract methods are methods present only in abstract classes, which do not have a body. The body is provided by a subclass that inherits from the abstract class. If a class has even one abstract method, it is an abstract class.

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Interfaces are completely abstract classes that can be used to group related methods. Interfaces do not have any non-abstract methods, while abstract classes can have non-abstract methods.

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Inheritance in Java

Inheritance is when one object acquires many of the properties and behaviors of a parent object. 

Inheritance provides code reusability, allowing us to minimize redundant code by organizing shared attributes in parent classes – known as superclasses. OOP languages allow a class to add a superclass when it’s declared. Child classes – aka subclasses – inherit all public and protected variables and methods from its superclasses.

Using a visual example, “Red Apple” and “Green Apple” only need to define what makes them unique from each other. Their shared attributes will reside within the (parent) Apple class. The attributes shared between Apple and Orange will reside within the Fruit class.

OOP concepts in Java, OOP concepts, what is object oriented programming

For example using code:

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An object of the SportsCar class has direct access to all public and protected members of the Car class. The SportsCar class may use the public and protected variables and methods in the Car class as though they are their own; as though they were defined in the SportsCar class. That said, the Car class has no knowledge of the SportsCar class.

Polymorphism in Java

Polymorphism is the ability of an object to take on many forms, thereby allowing a method to perform different actions based on which object the method is called upon.

For example, in the depiction below we use the steering wheel in the center as an analogy for polymorphism in Java. No matter what car you’re driving, there is a steering wheel. The steering wheel remains constant, however depending on what type of car you’re driving – a sports car vs. a vintage car vs. a semi-truck – the mechanism behind the wheel and the behavior produced can be quite different.

Using the polymorphism OOP concept in Java, we can replicate a concept to make our code easier, more flexible, and more intuitive.

OOP concepts in Java, OOP concepts, what is object oriented programming

One great example of polymorphism is the System.out.println() method that we all use so frequently. It looks like a single method println() – but if it’s a single method, how does it work in so many different ways? 

For instance, if Java is a strongly-typed language how can a single method take as a parameter an int, or a double, or a String, or an object, and a char, etc. How is this possible? Polymorphism. What looks like a single method println() is actually nine separate methods. Each of these methods takes a different parameter type, and has a slightly different behavior to accomplish the goal of printing that value.

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The polymorphism demonstrated by println() is the result of “overloading”. In this case, the println() method is “overloaded” nine times in the Java source code. This allows us to call this method in nine different ways. That said, to the end-user, it looks like a single method.

Another great example of polymorphism in Java is the concept of “overriding”. In this case, a parent class can define a method, and a child class can override the behavior of the parent class. This is where Inheritance and Polymorphism overlap.

To override a method in a parent class, the child class must declare a method with the same return type, name, and parameters. The method signatures must match exactly. @Override is an optional Java annotation that communicates that this method overrides a method in a parent class.

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In the example above, the start() method of the Vehicle class is overridden in the Motorcycle class. This makes perfect sense, while most vehicles start in a similar fashion, a motorcycle actually has a different set of steps and actions required to start it.

For instance, most motorcycles have a kick-start. Using the concept of overriding, we can treat a motorcycle as a vehicle like any other, but we can define specific behaviors to the start() method depending on the which type of vehicle we’re dealing with.

Object Association: Composition and Aggregation

Now that you understand the core OOP concepts in Java, the next step is to consider how all these objects interact with or relate to one another. In short, we can associate objects with one another, we can create objects that are composed of other objects, and we can aggregate objects that, as a whole, represent a larger concept. Let’s take at each below.

Object Association is when there is a relationship between objects of two different classes. For example, we can associate a “Student” with a “Car”. But a student is not comprised of a car. And a car is not comprised of a student. They are two unique objects that can be associated. For example:

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In the example above, we are “associating the Student and Car. But they are not codependent. Each can and does exist independently of the other.

Object Composition is what happens when one class is comprised of one or more other classes. Object composition forms a “part-of” relationship between the two classes. For example, a Vehicle class is a composition of the Battery class and the Engine class. When the vehicle is destroyed, its components are also destroyed. For example:

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In the example above the Vehicle class contains both the Battery and Engine classes as instance variables. The Vehicle class is composed of multiple sub-objects. The Vehicle, in this case, much as is the case in the real world, cannot exist without a Battery and an Engine. This is object composition.

The aggregation association between two or more classes is when the classes can exist independently but as a group can be interpreted as a larger concept. The classes have a unidirectional, “has-a” relationship with each other. For example, a Company class is an aggregation of many objects of the Person class (its employees). However, if the company ends, the persons will continue to exist.

Object Oriented Modeling (OOM)

Now that you understand OOP concepts and Object Association, Object oriented modeling (OOM) is the first step in actual development when using an object oriented approach. Here you model the problem by creating classes that correspond to a real-world entity. Only the attributes and behaviors of the object relevant to the current task at hand are retained, and the others are discarded.

For example, to build a restaurant management system, you may need to model different objects such as Restaurant, Menu, MenuItem, Beverage, Employee, Guest. An employee may have some attributes that are not relevant to the restaurant management system, such as their hobbies or their least favorite color. These are not included in the instance variables for the Employee class.

Steps in Object Oriented Modeling

Object-oriented modeling typically has the following steps:

  • Identification of classes
  • Identification of instance variables of the classes
  • Identification of methods of the classes
  • Identification of relationships between classes

Once these elements are identified, you are ready to begin using OOP concepts in Java!

Summary – OOP Concepts in Java

By allowing us to model the world around us in a logical and intuitive way, OOP vastly simplifies software development and maintenance. With OOP, you can define the data model and required functionality once and reuse it everywhere, reducing complexity and development time.

OOP organizes code around data, aka “objects”, instead of functions and logic. OOP uses classes as blueprints for creating objects. The four main OOP concepts in Java include:

  1. Encapsulation: The process of wrapping up data, and the methods that operate on that data, together as a single unit within a class. For example, all data and methods related to a cat will be in the Cat class. All data and methods related to a dog will be in the Dog class.
  2. Data Abstraction: The process of hiding unnecessary details to the user, and only showing essential information. For example, showing a car as a car, rather than an axle, wheels, doors, windshield, engine, muffler, radiator etc.
  3. Inheritance: When one object acquires many of the properties and behaviors of a parent object. For example, a Red Apple class and a Green Apple class both inherit many properties from the Apple class, which in turn inherits many of its properties from the Fruit class.
  4. Polymorphism: Polymorphism is the ability of an object to take on many forms, thereby allowing a method to perform different actions based on which object the method is called upon. For example, the steering wheel in a semi-truck acts quite differently than the steering wheel in a sports car, even though they are both still steering wheels.

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