Serializing Objects in Java

Adding object persistence to Java applications using serialization is easy. Serialization allows you to save the current state of an object to a container, typically a file. At some later time, you can retrieve the saved data values and create an equivalent object. Depending on which interface you implement, you can choose to have the object and all its referenced objects saved and restored automatically, or you can specify which fields should be saved and restored. Java also provides several ways of protecting sensitive data in a serialized object, so objects loaded from a serialized representation should prove no less secure than those classes loaded at application startup. Versioning provides a measure of the backward compatibility of class versions. The code needed to add serialization to your application is simple and flexible.

Code

The following code illustrates the writing and reading of Serializable and Externalizable classes. ObjectReaderWriter is the primary application class. At runtime it displays a “Save As…” FileDialog, allowing you to specify an output file to receive the stream containing the serialized objects. (All the sample objects are written to the same file.) It then prompts for an input file from which to read a stream.

This arrangement of the sample code allows you to write out the serialized data to one file, make changes to the class format for one or more of the data classes, recompile and rerun, and attempt to read one of the older versions back in.

The class MySerialObject contains a reference to an instance of the class MyInternalObject, to demonstrate the saving of nested object references in the stream. MySerialObject also contains a field (of type int) that is marked transient, and upon restoration you will find that the default value 0 gets assigned to that variable.

The class MyVersionObject demonstrates the use of versioning with a programmer-specified SUID. You only need to change the SUID when you make changes to the class structure that render it incompatible with older versions of that same class, and whose serialized instances have previously been written to disk.

You can compile the .java (source) files using the javac (Java compiler) tool or simply using javac Utility.You can then optionally create a .jar (Java archive) file containing the resulting .class (output) files.

Main Java Class:  ObjectReaderWriter.java

import java.awt.*;
import java.io.*;

public class ObjectReaderWriter {
  String filePath;

  public static void main( String args[] ) {
    ObjectReaderWriter orw = new ObjectReaderWriter();
  }

  ObjectReaderWriter() {
    try {
      //  Create instances of each data class to be serialized.
      MySerialObject serialObject = new MySerialObject();

      MyExternObject externObject = new MyExternObject();

      MyVersionObject versionObject = new MyVersionObject();

      //  Allow the user to specify an output file.
      FileDialog fd = new FileDialog( new Frame(),
        “Save As…”, FileDialog.SAVE );
      fd.show();
      filePath = new String( fd.getDirectory() + fd.getFile() );

      //  Create a stream for writing.
      FileOutputStream fos = new FileOutputStream( filePath );

      //  Next, create an object that can write to that file.
      ObjectOutputStream outStream =
        new ObjectOutputStream( fos );

      //  Save each object.
      outStream.writeObject( serialObject );

      externObject.writeExternal( outStream );

      outStream.writeObject( versionObject );

      //  Finally, we call the flush() method for our object, which
      //    forces the data to
      //  get written to the stream:
      outStream.flush();

      //  Allow the user to specify an input file.
      fd = new FileDialog( new Frame(), “Open…”,
          FileDialog.LOAD );
      fd.show();
      filePath = new String( fd.getDirectory() + fd.getFile() );

      //  Create a stream for reading.
      FileInputStream fis = new FileInputStream( filePath );

      //  Next, create an object that can read from that file.
      ObjectInputStream inStream = new ObjectInputStream( fis );

      // Retrieve the Serializable object.
      serialObject = ( MySerialObject )inStream.readObject();

      //  Display what we retrieved:
      System.out.println( serialObject.getS() );
      System.out.println( “i = ” + serialObject.getI() );
      serialObject.displayInternalObjectAttrs();

      // Retrieve the Externalizable object.
      externObject.readExternal( inStream );

      //  Display what we retrieved:
      System.out.println( externObject.getS() );
      System.out.println( “i = ” + externObject.getI() );

      // Retrieve the versioned object.
      versionObject = ( MyVersionObject )
        inStream.readObject();
      //  Display what we retrieved:
      System.out.println( versionObject.getS() );
      System.out.println( “i = ” + versionObject.getI() );

      // Display the SUID of the versioned class in the VM,
      // not necessarily the serialized object.
      ObjectStreamClass myObject = ObjectStreamClass.lookup(
          Class.forName( “MyVersionObject” ) );
      long theSUID = myObject.getSerialVersionUID();

      System.out.println
        ( “The SUID of class MyVersionObject = ” + theSUID );
    }
    catch ( InvalidClassException e ) {
      System.out.println( “InvalidClassException…” );
    }
    catch ( ClassNotFoundException e ) {
      System.out.println( “ClassNotFoundException…” );
    }
    catch ( OptionalDataException e ) {
      System.out.println( “OptionalDataException…” );
    }
    catch ( FileNotFoundException e ) {
      System.out.println( “FileNotFoundException…” );
    }
    catch ( IOException e ) {
      System.out.println( “IOException…” );
    }
  }
}

MySerialObject.java

MySerialObject.java
The serializable data class.

import java.io.*;

public class MySerialObject implements Serializable {
  private transient int i;
  private String s;
  MyInternalObject mio;

  MySerialObject() {
    i = 64;
    s = new String( "Instance of MySerialObject..." );
    mio = new MyInternalObject();
  }

  public int getI() {
    return i;
  }

  public String getS() {
    return s;
  }

  public void displayInternalObjectAttrs() {
    System.out.println( mio.getS() );
    System.out.println( "i = " + mio.getI() );
  }
}

Listing 3: MyInternalObject.java

MyInternalObject.java
The nested data class.

import java.io.*;

public class MyInternalObject implements Serializable {
  private int i;
  private String s;

  MyInternalObject() {
    i = 128;
    s = new String( "Instance of MyInternalObject..." );
  }
  public int getI() {
    return i;
  }

  public String getS() {
    return s;
  }
}

Listing 4: MyExternObject.java

MyExternObject.java
The externalizable data class.

import java.io.*;

public class MyExternObject implements Externalizable {
  private int i;
  private String s;

  MyExternObject() {
    i = 256;
    s = new String( "Instance of MyExternObject..." );
  }

  public int getI() {
    return i;
  }

  public String getS() {
    return s;
  }

  public void writeExternal( ObjectOutput out ) throws
      IOException {
    out.writeInt( this.i );
    out.writeObject( this.s );
  }

  public void readExternal( ObjectInput in ) throws
      IOException, ClassNotFoundException {
    this.i = in.readInt();
    this.s = ( String )in.readObject();
  }
}

Listing 5: MyVersionObject.java

MyVersionObject.java
The versioned data class.

import java.io.*;

public class MyVersionObject implements Serializable {
  static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;
  private int i;
  private String s;

  //  Uncomment the next two lines to verify that default values will be substituted if
  //  the value is not present in the stream at deserialization time.
  //  private int i2 = -1; private String s2 = "This is the new String field";

  MyVersionObject() {
    i = 512;
    s = new String( "Instance of MyVersionObject..." );
  }

  public int getI() {
    return i;
  }

  public String getS() {
    return s;
  }
}
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