OCP11 – Local Variable Type Inference

Working with Local Variable Type Inference

After Java 10 we can use the keyword var instead of the type for local variables (like the primitive or the reference type) under certain conditions within a code block.

public void whatTypeAmI {
    var name = "Hello";
    var size = 7;

The formal name of this feature is local variable type inference but we have to consider two main parts for this feature.

Local variable.

This feature can only be used with local variables only.

public class VarKeyword {
    var tricky = "Hello";

IMPORTANT -> Exam trick This code won’t compile because it exists a difference between instance variable (the tricky from class) and local variable.

Var feature local variable type inference only works with local variables and not instance variables.

Type Inference of var

When you type var, you are instructing the compiler to determine the type for you. The compiler looks at the code on the line of the declaration and uses it to infer the type.

public void reassignment() {
    var number = 7; // (1)
    number = 4;     // (2)
    number = "five";  // (3) DOES NOT COMPILE

On (1) it will work as expected with the compiler determining that we want is an int variable. On (2) it will work without any problem. On (3) it does not work because we are trying to assign an String to an int. Its similar to do int number = "five";

IMPORTANTE TO CONSIDER var is a specific type from Java defined at compile time but it does not change type at runtime.

Despite we cannot change the type, we are able to manage the value following this example:

var apples = (short) 10; // (1)
apples = (byte) 5; // (2)
apples = 1_000_000;  // (3) DOES NOT COMPILE

On (1) we are creating an apples var of short type. On (2) we are assigning a byte to the apples var. We are not changing its type but its value. We can do that because the byte value can be fit inside the short value. Important – We are storing a short not a byte (by using var instead of short we are delegating the type management to the compiler). On (3) the code does not compile because 1 M is beyond the limits of short type. The compiler will manage the value as an int and when it tries to assign the value into the short, it reports an error indicating that we can\’t assign the value to apples.

As a general rule we consider that the var variable declaration and its initialization value is done in a single line.

Examples with var

Do this code compile?

public void doesThisCompile(boolean check) {
    var question;   // (1)
    question = 1;
    var answer;     // (2)
    if (check) {
        answer = 2;
    } else {
        answer = 3;

The code won’t compile. Main reason is due to that the compiler only looks at the line with the declaration. Doing it separately will produce a compilation error because question and answer are not assigned when defined.

But what about the if/else structure? We are in the same situation as before, we are not doing the assignment on the same line as the declaration so it won’t count for var.

Does this code compile?

public void twoTypes {
    int a, var b= 3;    // (1) DOES NOT COMPILE
    var n = null;       // (2) DOES NOT COMPILE

On (1) it won’t compile because all the types declared on a single line must be the same type and share the same declaration. We can’t write

    int a, int b = 3;
    // or 
    var a = 2, b = 3;

General Rule – Java does not allow var in multiple-variable declarations.

On (2) we have a single line where the compiler is being asked to infer the type null. This means that it could be any reference type but the only choice the compiler could make is Object.

Var and null

A var cannot be initialized with a null value but later we can assign this null value after its declaration.

Does this compile?

var n = myData; // We declare and assign the var
n = null;           // but we assign to it a null value

We can do this in this way because the real data type for n is an object (String type in this example).

It exists a way in which we can assign a null value directly to var but it requires an object type and a cast transformation. Example:

var p = (String) null;

The reason why we can apply this transformation is because the type is provided so the compiler and the compiler is able to apply the inference and set the type of var to be String.

Does this compile?

On the other hand, when we work with primitive types like int, float, etc…. we cannot assign a null value to them.

var m = 4;
m = null; // (1) DOES NOT COMPILE

On (1) it won\’t compile because despite the use of var type, we are trying to assign a null value to a primitive type (in in the example).

Does this compile?

public int addition(var a, var b) { // DOES NOT COMPILE
    return a+b;

In this example we have a and b being method parameters not local variables.

IMPORTANTE NOTE TO CONSIDER – Exam Trick Var is only used for local variable type inference.

If you see var used in constructors, method parameters or instance variables you will get a compilation error.

Does this compile?

package class Var {
    public void var() {
        var var = var;
    public void Var() {
        Var var = new Var();

Yes this code compiles because Java being case sensitive does not introduce any conflict using the class name Var in the example. It is highly recommended not to use this development style to avoid confusions, ease the readiness of the code and remove ambiguity.

Does this compile?

Var is not a reserved word in Java (and is used as an identifier) but it is considered a reserved type name which it means it cannot be use to define a class, enum or interface.

public class var() {    // (1) DOES NOT COMPILE
    public var(){

On (1) it won’t compile due to the error on the class name, because being var a reserved type name it can not be used in class name.

Does this code compile?

The use of var in the real world helps developers to read the source code in an easy way.

// From the original implementation like....
PileOfPapersToFileInFilingCabinet pileOfPapersToFileInFilingCabinet = new PileOfPapersToFileInFilingCabinet();
// to use var we see a big difference when reading the source code
var pileOfPapersToFileInFilingCabinet = new PileOfPapersToFileInFilingCabinet()

Var general rules

  1. Var is widely used in the exam because it allows tricky questions, so learning this var general rules is a must. It is also recommended to follow this programming style description link .
  2. A var is used as a local variable in a constructor, method or initializer block.
  3. A var cannot be used in constructor or method params, instance or class variables.
  4. A var is always initialized on the same line (or statement) where it is declared.
  5. The value of a var can change but the type don’t.
  6. A var cannot be initialized with a null value without a type.
  7. A var is not permitted in a multiple-variable declarations.
  8. A var is a reserved type name but not a reserved word meaning it can be used as an identifier except for class, enum or interface.

Var examples

Several examples could be found here.