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Java Secret: Generated methods

07.19.2011
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 The Java compiler generates extra methods which appear in stack traces. These can be confusing at first. What are they and why do they exist?

The access model in the JVM

The access model in the JVM has not changed significantly since version 1.0. However, Java 5.0 added features such as inner/nested classes and convariant return types which were not in the original design. So how are they supported?

The issue with nested classes

Nested classes can access private methods and fields of an outer class. However the JVM does not support this so the compiler generates methods as a workaround.

Private Methods


In this example, the inner class calls a private method init() of the outer class.

public class PrivateMethod { // line 4
    private void init() {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException(); // line 6
    };

    class Inner {
        Inner() {
            init();
        }
    }

     public static void main(String... args) {
        PrivateMethod pm = new PrivateMethod();
        Inner inner = pm.new Inner();
    }
}

So what does the stack trace look like when we run this?

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.UnsupportedOperationException
 at com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod.init(PrivateMethod.java:6)
 at com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod.access$000(PrivateMethod.java:4)
 at com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod$Inner.(PrivateMethod.java:11)
 at com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod.main(PrivateMethod.java:17)

In the stack trace there is a method called access$000 on line 4 which is the first line of the class. Is this a real method? What do we see in the byte code?

$ javap -c -private -classpath . com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod

static void <b>access$000</b>(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   invokespecial   #1; //Method init:()V
   4:   return

$ javap -c -private -classpath . com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod\$Inner
Compiled from "PrivateMethod.java"
public class com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod$Inner extends java.lang.Object{
final com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod this$0;

com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod$Inner(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateMethod);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   aload_1
   2:   putfield        #1; //Field this$0:Lcom/google/code/java/core/javac/generated/PrivateMethod;
   5:   aload_0
   6:   invokespecial   #2; //Method java/lang/Object."":()V
   9:   aload_1
   10:  invokestatic    #3; //Method com/google/code/java/core/javac/generated/PrivateMethod.
                        <b>access$000</b>:(Lcom/google/code/java/core/javac/generated/PrivateMeth
   13:  return

}
The compiler has added a static method which is not private so the Inner class can access the private method of the outer class indirectly.

Private Fields

Private fields are accessed via a getter and setter, but the compiler can generate methods for assignment operations such as ++ and *=
public class PrivateField {
    private int num = 0;

    public class Inner {
        public void set(int n) {
            num = n;
        }

        public int get() {
            return num;
        }

        public void increment() {
            num++;
        }

        public void multiply(int n) {
            num *= n;
        }
    }
}
Compiles with four generated methods, one for each of get, set, ++ and *=
$ javap -c -private -classpath . com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateField
<b>setter</b>
static int access$002(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateField, int);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   iload_1
   2:   dup_x1
   3:   putfield        #1; //Field num:I
   6:   ireturn

<b>getter</b>
static int access$000(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateField);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   getfield        #1; //Field num:I
   4:   ireturn

increment ++
static int access$008(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateField);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   dup
   2:   getfield        #1; //Field num:I
   5:   dup_x1
   6:   iconst_1
   7:   iadd
   8:   putfield        #1; //Field num:I
   11:  ireturn

multiplier *=
static int access$028(com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.PrivateField, int);
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   dup
   2:   getfield        #1; //Field num:I
   5:   iload_1
   6:   imul
   7:   dup_x1
   8:   putfield        #1; //Field num:I
   11:  ireturn

Covariant return types

Covariant return types is a feature which was added to Java 5.0 but isn't supported in the JVM. For this reason, the compiler generates a method which overrides all the super methods and their return types.
public class CovariantReturnTypeA {
    public Object method() { return 1L; }
}

public class CovariantReturnTypeB extends CovariantReturnTypeA {
    public Number method() { return 2.0; }
}

public class CovariantReturnTypeC extends CovariantReturnTypeB {
    public Integer method() { return 3; }
}

The last method() overrides the method which returns Number and the method which returns Object. To implement this, the compile generates a method with the same signature which calls the method which returns Integer
$ javap -c -private -classpath . com.google.code.java.core.javac.generated.CovariantReturnTypeC

public java.lang.Integer method();
  Code:
   0:   iconst_3
   1:   invokestatic    #2; //Method java/lang/Integer.valueOf:(I)Ljava/lang/Integer;
   4:   areturn

public java.lang.Number method();
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   invokevirtual   #3; //Method method:()Ljava/lang/Integer;
   4:   areturn

public java.lang.Object method();
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   invokevirtual   #3; //Method method:()Ljava/lang/Integer;
   4:   areturn
There are three implementations of method() in the byte code.

Performance implications

The performance implications for Java Standard Edition are small as these methods can be inlined and effectively have no impact. In Java Mobile Edition, this might not be the case.

They can cause some confusion and if this is a problem you can make the fields/methods package-local instead and the generated methods will go away.

From http://vanillajava.blogspot.com/2011/07/java-secret-generated-methods.html

Published at DZone with permission of Peter Lawrey, author and DZone MVB.

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