1. Lesson: Language Basics
  2. Variables
    1. Naming
    2. Primitive Data Types
    3. Default Values
    4. Literals
    5. Using Underscore Characters in Numeric Literals
    6. Arrays
    7. Declaring a Variable to Refer to an Array
    8. Creating, Initializing, and Accessing an Array
    9. Copying Arrays
    10. Summary of Variables
    11. Questions and Exercises: Variables
  3. Expressions, Statements, and Blocks
    1. Expressions
    2. Statements
    3. Blocks
    4. Questions and Exercises: Expressions, Statements, and Blocks
  4. Control Flow Statements
    1. The if-then Statement
    2. The if-then-else Statement
    3. The switch Statement
    4. Using Strings in switch Statements
    5. The while and do-while Statements
    6. The for Statement
    7. The break Statement
    8. The continue Statement
    9. The return Statement
    10. Summary of Control Flow Statements
    11. Questions and Exercises: Control Flow Statements
  5. Lesson: Classes and Objects
    1. Classes
    2. Declaring Classes
    3. Declaring Member Variables
    4. Access Modifiers
    5. Types
    6. Variable Names
    7. Defining Methods
    8. Naming a Method
    9. Overloading Methods
    10. Providing Constructors for Your Classes
    11. Passing Information to a Method or a Constructor
    12. Parameter Types
    13. Arbitrary Number of Arguments
    14. Parameter Names
    15. Passing Primitive Data Type Arguments
    16. Passing Reference Data Type Arguments
    17. Objects
    18. Creating Objects
    19. Declaring a Variable to Refer to an Object
    20. Instantiating a Class
    21. Initializing an Object
    22. Using Objects
    23. Referencing an Object's Fields
    24. Calling an Object's Methods
    25. The Garbage Collector
    26. More on Classes
    27. Returning a Value from a Method
    28. Returning a Class or Interface
    29. Using the this Keyword
    30. Using this with a Field
    31. Using this with a Constructor
    32. Controlling Access to Members of a Class
    33. Understanding Instance and Class Members
    34. Class Variables
    35. Class Methods
    36. Constants
    37. The Bicycle Class
    38. Initializing Fields
    39. Static Initialization Blocks
    40. Initializing Instance Members
    41. Summary of Creating and Using Classes and Objects
    42. Questions and Exercises: Classes
    43. Questions and Exercises: Objects
  6. Nested Classes
    1. Why Use Nested Classes?
    2. Static Nested Classes
    3. Inner Classes
    4. Inner Class Example
    5. Local and Anonymous Inner Classes
    6. Modifiers
    7. Summary of Nested Classes
    8. Questions and Exercises: Nested Classes
  7. Enum Types
    1. Questions and Exercises: Enum Types
  8. Annotations
    1. Documentation
    2. Annotations Used by the Compiler
    3. Annotation Processing
    4. Questions and Exercises: Annotations
  9. Lesson: Interfaces and Inheritance
    1. Interfaces
    2. Interfaces in Java
    3. Interfaces as APIs
    4. Interfaces and Multiple Inheritance
    5. Defining an Interface
    6. The Interface Body
    7. Implementing an Interface
    8. A Sample Interface, Relatable
    9. Implementing the Relatable Interface

5.32.Controlling Access to Members of a Class

Access level modifiers determine whether other classes can use a particular field or invoke a particular method. There are two levels of access control:

  • At the top level—public, or package-private (no explicit modifier).
  • At the member level—public, private, protected, or package-private (no explicit modifier).

A class may be declared with the modifier public, in which case that class is visible to all classes everywhere. If a class has no modifier (the default, also known as package-private), it is visible only within its own package (packages are named groups of related classes—you will learn about them in a later lesson.)

At the member level, you can also use the public modifier or no modifier (package-private) just as with top-level classes, and with the same meaning. For members, there are two additional access modifiers: private and protected. The private modifier specifies that the member can only be accessed in its own class. The protected modifier specifies that the member can only be accessed within its own package (as with package-private) and, in addition, by a subclass of its class in another package.

The following table shows the access to members permitted by each modifier.

Access Levels
Modifier Class Package Subclass World
public Y Y Y Y
protected Y Y Y N
no modifier Y Y N N
private Y N N N

The first data column indicates whether the class itself has access to the member defined by the access level. As you can see, a class always has access to its own members. The second column indicates whether classes in the same package as the class (regardless of their parentage) have access to the member. The third column indicates whether subclasses of the class — declared outside this package — have access to the member. The fourth column indicates whether all classes have access to the member.

Access levels affect you in two ways. First, when you use classes that come from another source, such as the classes in the Java platform, access levels determine which members of those classes your own classes can use. Second, when you write a class, you need to decide what access level every member variable and every method in your class should have.

Let’s look at a collection of classes and see how access levels affect visibility. The following figure shows the four classes in this example and how they are related.

Classes and Packages of the Example Used to Illustrate Access Levels

The following table shows where the members of the Alpha class are visible for each of the access modifiers that can be applied to them.

Visibility
Modifier Alpha Beta Alphasub Gamma
public Y Y Y Y
protected Y Y Y N
no modifier Y Y N N
private Y N N N

Tips on Choosing an Access Level: If other programmers use your class, you want to ensure that errors from misuse cannot happen. Access levels can help you do this.

  • Use the most restrictive access level that makes sense for a particular member. Use private unless you have a good reason not to.
  • Avoid public fields except for constants. (Many of the examples in the tutorial use public fields. This may help to illustrate some points concisely, but is not recommended for production code.) Public fields tend to link you to a particular implementation and limit your flexibility in changing your code.
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