Java Reflection oddities with inner and enum class constructor parameters

Note: edited on 16/5/2013 to add info about enum constructors as well.

About Java inner classes

Java allows member classes (classes that are defined inside other classes), local classes (classes that are defined inside statement blocks) and anonymous classes (classes with no names):

class Outer {
    Object anonymous = new Object(){}; // this is an anonymous class

    // anonymous initialisation block
    {
        // this is a local class
        class Local{}
        Local l = new Local();
    }

    Outer() {
        // this is a local named class in a constructor
        class Local{}
        Local l = new Local();
    }

    void method() {
        // this is a local named class in a method
        class Local{}
        Local l = new Local();
    }

    // this is a member class
    class Inner{}
    Inner i = new Inner();
}

The Java Language Specification classifies member, local and anonymous classes as inner classes.

Implementation “details”

What the Java Language or Virtual Machine specifications do not tell you is how they are implemented. Some of it is explained already in other articles, such as how the Java compiler generates synthetic methods to allow these members classes access to private fields, which would not be allowed by the JVM.

Another implementation detail of inner classes that is handy to know is that inner class constructors take extra synthetic parameters. It is relatively well-known that the first synthetic parameter of an inner class constructor will be its enclosing instance, which it will store in a this$X synthetic field. This is valid for all three kinds of inner classes: member, local and anonymous.

But it is generally not known that local classes who capture non-constant final variables will require all these variables to be passed as extra synthetic constructor parameters (captured constant final variables will be inlined and not generate extra synthetic constructor parameters):

class Outer {
    void method() {
        final String constant = "foo";
        final String nonConstant = "foo".toUpperCase();
        class Local{
            /* synthetic fields and constructor: 

            Outer this$0;
            String nonConstant;

            Local(Outer this$0, String nonConstant){
                this.this$0 = this$0;
                this.nonConstant = nonConstant;
            }
            */
        }
        Local l = new Local();
    }
}

Another example: Java enum classes

Java allows you to create enumeration classes, which is essentially little more than syntactic sugar to help you define a list of singleton values of a given type.

The following Java code:

enum Colours {
    RED, BLUE;
}

Is essentially equivalent to:

final class Colours extends java.lang.Enum {
    public final static Colours RED = new Colours("RED", 0);
    public final static Colours BLUE = new Colours("BLUE", 1);

    private final static values = new Colours[]{ RED, BLUE };

    private Colours(String name, int sequence){
        super(name, sequence);
    }

    public static Colours[] values(){
        return values;
    }

    public static Colours valueOf(String name){
        return (Colours)java.lang.Enum.valueOf(Colours.class, name);
    }
}

As you can see, it saves quite some code, but also adds synthetic fields, methods and constructor parameters. If you had defined your own constructor, with its own set of parameters, like this:

enum Colours {
    RED("rouge"), BLUE("bleu");

    public final String french;

    Colours(String french){
        this.french = french;
    }
}

You would have gotten the following Java code generated:

final class Colours extends java.lang.Enum {
    public final static Colours RED = new Colours("RED", 0, "rouge");
    public final static Colours BLUE = new Colours("BLUE", 1, "bleu");

    private final static values = new Colours[]{ RED, BLUE };

    public final String french;

    private Colours(String name, int sequence, String french){
        super(name, sequence);
        this.french = french;
    }

    public static Colours[] values(){
        return values;
    }

    public static Colours valueOf(String name){
        return (Colours)java.lang.Enum.valueOf(Colours.class, name);
    }
}

Luckily, enums can’t be inner classes, so they will not have an extra synthetic parameter inserted for the container instance to add to those two.

OK, but why should I care?

In most cases you don’t care, other than for your own curiosity. But if you’re doing Java reflection with inner or enum classes, there are a few things you should know, and because I haven’t found them listed or specified online, I thought it would be important to make a list of things to help others figure it out, because different compilers will produce different results in the Java reflection API.

The question is what happens when you use Java reflection to get a java.lang.reflect.Constructor instance for inner or enum class constructors? In particular, what happens with the methods that allow you to access the parameter types (pre-generics: getParameterTypes()), the generic parameter types (post-generics: getGenericParameterTypes()) and annotations (getParameterAnnotations()), and the answer is: it depends.

Suppose the following Java classes:

class Outer {
    class Inner {
        Inner(){}
        Inner(String param){}
        Inner(@Deprecated Integer param){}
    }
}
enum class Enum {
    ;// yes this is required
    Enum(){}
    Enum(String param){}
    Enum(@Deprecated Integer param){}
}

Here are the size of the arrays returned by these three reflection methods, on each of our constructor, and how they differ depending on the Java compiler used:

Outer.Inner.class
.getDeclaredConstructor()
Outer.Inner.class
.getDeclaredConstructor(
String.class)
Outer.Inner.class
.getDeclaredConstructor(
Integer.class)
getParameterTypes()
.length
1 2 2
getGenericParameterTypes()
.length
compiled with Eclipse
1 2 2
getGenericParameterTypes()
.length
compiled with Javac
0 1 1
getParameterAnnotations()
.length
1 2 1

And the results are consistent for our enum class:

Enum.class
.getDeclaredConstructor()
Enum.class
.getDeclaredConstructor(
String.class)
Enum.class
.getDeclaredConstructor(
Integer.class)
getParameterTypes()
.length
2 3 3
getGenericParameterTypes()
.length
compiled with Eclipse
2 3 3
getGenericParameterTypes()
.length
compiled with Javac
0 1 1
getParameterAnnotations()
.length
2 3 1

As you can see, the synthetic parameters are always included in getParameterTypes(), but are only included in getGenericParameterTypes() when compiled with Eclipse.

getParameterAnnotations() on the other hand, will always include synthetic parameters except when at least one of your constructor parameters are annotated.

With this info, you now understand the differences between the results of these methods, but so far I still haven’t found a way to determine which parameter is synthetic or not, because although you can make a good guess for the this$X synthetic parameter, which is required by every inner class, you have no way of knowing the number of non-constant captured variables that will end up as synthetic parameters to local class constructors.

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