A method of Object for comparing two objects. If you
don’t override equals, the default version simply
compares the references, in other words even if all the fields in the two objects are
identical the objects will still not compare as equal. They will compare as equal
only when both references point to precisely the same object. This default
equals is usually useless as the proverbial tits on a
bull. You have to write your own equals to compare field
by field, ignoring irrelevant fields. You can override equals like this:
Note that your method must work even when passed a null or an Object of the wrong type.
Note that the method signature specifies Object. If
you change it to something else, you won’t be overriding the official
equals method, but creating a new unrelated method that
will only be used in some contexts.
Whenever you implement an equals method, you must
implement a corresponding hashCode
The parameter to equals must not be null and, of course, the first Object must
not be null either.
That holds for Object.equals and String.equals.
The equals method implements an equivalence
relation. In other words, your equals method must
behave in a civilised way, behaving as people would expect a method called
equals ought to behave.
It must be reflexive: x.equals(x) should return
It must be symmetric: x.equals(y) should return
true if and only if y.equals(x).
It must be transitive: if x.equals(y) and
y.equals(z), then x.equals(z) should return true.
It must be consistent: multiple invocations of x.equals(y) must consistently return true or consistently return false, provided no information used in equals comparisons on
the object is modified.
What happens if your equals method violates
these rules or your hashCode method does not match
your equals method? Usually all that happens is the
various collections such as Hashtable, HashMap and HashSet don’t work.
Java can’t find the objects you put in the collections. Unfortunately, you
won’t get a warning message explaining what you did wrong, so best to write
a little test code to make sure your methods behave according to the four rules.
equals is a method of Object so every object implements it. There is no corresponding
interface, so generics do not apply.
Nearly always you should override equals (
Objectother ) not equals ( SomethingElseother ). Otherwise methods like HashSet.
contains or HashMap.
get which use equals (
Objectother ), will use the
default == implementation of equals rather than yours. You can get this wrong and your code will
still almost work.
Here is a strategy for writing an equals method for some Object:
Check for equality of the cached hashcodes. If they are not equal you know
right away the two Objects can’t be equal.
You then compare the two addresses/references. If equal, you know the entire
Objects must be equal (the same).
Failing that, you check the Object sizes. If they
are not the same you know the two can’t be equal. There is no method to give
you the aggregate Object size. By that I mean the sum of
the lengths of the variable parts of the Object that
participate in the equality test.
Failing that, you do your byte by byte comparison.
Whenever you implement equals, you must also
implement a matching hashCode.