Java Language Java Pitfalls - Language syntax Pitfall - Ignoring method visibility


Even experienced Java developers tend to think that Java has only three protection modifiers. The language actually has four! The package private (a.k.a. default) level of visibility is often forgotten.

You should pay attention to what methods you make public. The public methods in an application are the application’s visible API. This should be as small and compact as possible, especially if you are writing a reusable library (see also the SOLID principle). It is important to similarly consider the visibility of all methods, and to only use protected or package private access where appropriate.

When you declare methods that should be private as public, you expose the internal implementation details of the class.

A corollary to this is that you only unit test the public methods of your class - in fact you can only test public methods. It is bad practice to increase the visibility of private methods just to be able to run unit tests against those methods. Testing public methods that call the methods with more restrictive visibility should be sufficient to test an entire API. You should never expand your API with more public methods only to allow unit testing.