Java

What is the difference between public, private, protected and default?

Public, Private and Protected are known as Access Modifiers. In most programming languages there is another accress modifier and that is known as ‘default’. In C++ there are 3 access modifies public, private and protected. In Java there are four access modifier public, private, protected and default.

In java if we don’t specify any access modifier in methods or fields, it assumes as ‘default’ but in C++ it assumes as ‘private’.

First of all let me specify all the four in short and then explain in detail.

Public :: All other classes and methods can access.
Private :: No other classes and methods could access.
Protected :: Only those classes who inherited that class or is in the same package of that class could access.
Default :: Classes which are in the same package as that class could access.

Public

Lets say I have class called as Bar in package com.csetutorials

package com.csetutorials;
public class Bar {
	public int counter;
}

So in this case I could change the value of field counter from any class any method.

package com.csetutorials;
public class Foo {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.counter = 10;
		System.out.println(bar.counter); // Output: 10
	}
}

If we run the class Foo it will display the output ’10’ stats that we can change its value

Private

In the above examples in class Bar, change the access modifier of field counter from public to private

package com.csetutorials;
public class Bar {
	private int value;
}

Now run the class Foo and see what happens. You will see the following error

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.Error: Unresolved compilation problems: 
	The field Bar.counter is not visible
	The field Bar.counter is not visible

	at com.csetutorials.Foo.main(Foo.java:7)

You could see that in this case we have changed the accessability of field counter in class Bar. Now no method from any other class could aceess or modify the value of counter field. Only the members (fields and method) of class Bar can change or modify the value of counter.

Here is the example :

package com.csetutorials;
public class Bar {
	private int counter;
	public int getCounter() {
		return counter;
	}
	public void setCounter(int counter) {
		this.counter = counter;
	}
}

In the above example getCounter() method can access counter field and setCounter() method can change the value of counter. We can call these methods (since they are both public) to set and get the value of counter. Here is the example below.

package com.csetutorials;
public class Foo {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.setCounter(10);
		System.out.println(bar.getCounter()); // Output: 10
	}
}

Protected

Protected falls somewhere between Private and Public. Any method or field who are protected can be accessed or modified by only those classes who extends their class and not any other. If it doesn’t inherit that class then both the classes should be in same package to access that class member.

Example :

package com.csetutorials;
public class Bar {
	protected int counter;
}
package com.csetutorials;
public class Foo {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.counter = 10;
		System.out.println(bar.counter); // Output: 10
	}
}

As you can see Foo class can access counter because both the classes Bar and Foo are in the same package ‘com.csetutorials’ but suppose there is a class which is not in package com.csetutorials then it can’t access counter directly.

package com.mypackage;
import com.csetutorials.Bar;
public class Test {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.counter = 10;
		System.out.println(bar.counter);
	}
}

In this case java will throw exception

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.Error: Unresolved compilation problems: 
	The field Bar.counter is not visible
	The field Bar.counter is not visible

	at com.mypackage.Test.main(Test.java:9)

So to access the counter field
Lets suppose we can’t change the class Bar. Therefore what we do is we create a class lets say FooBar in package com.mypackage and FooBar will extend the class Bar because classes that extends a class can access its protected members.

package com.mypackage;
import com.csetutorials.Bar;
public class FooBar extends Bar {
	public int getCounterFromBar() {
		return counter; // return super.counter;
	}
	public void setCounterForBar(int x) {
		counter = x;  //  super.counter = x;
	}
}
package com.mypackage;
public class Test {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		FooBar foobar = new FooBar();
		foobar.setCounterForBar(20);
		System.out.println(foobar.getCounterFromBar()); // output : 20
	}
}

When we run Test class, output will be 10

Default

If a class member is default then it can only be accessible by those class that are in the same package.

If we don’t specify an access modifier then java automatically assumes that member as default, but C++ assumes as private.

Example :

package com.csetutorials;
public class Bar {
	int counter;
}

In Java, here,in class Bar we haven’t specified whether counter field is public, private or protected. So it assumes counter field as default.

package com.csetutorials;
public class Foo {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.counter = 10;
		System.out.println(bar.counter); // Output: 10
	}
}

So Foo class can access counter field.

package com.mypackage;
import com.csetutorials.Bar;
public class Test {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Bar bar = new Bar();
		bar.counter = 10;
		System.out.println(bar.counter); // Output: 10
	}
}

So Test class can’t access counter field because its not in the same package and will throw exception while compiling.

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.Error: Unresolved compilation problems: 
	The field Bar.counter is not visible
	The field Bar.counter is not visible

	at com.mypackage.Test.main(Test.java:9)

NOTE : 1. In case of C++ even Foo class can’t access counter field because it becomes public.
2. All the above conditions also applies to methods(function) also.

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