Java Language Callable and Future


While Runnable provides a means to wrap code to be executed in a different thread, it has a limitation in that it cannot return a result from the execution. The only way to get some return value from the execution of a Runnable is to assign the result to a variable accessible in a scope outside of the Runnable.

Callable was introduced in Java 5 as a peer to Runnable. Callable is essentially the same except it has a call method instead of run. The call method has the additional capability to return a result and is also allowed to throw checked exceptions.

The result from a Callable task submission is available to be tapped via a Future

Future can be considered a container of sorts that houses the result of the Callable computation. Computation of the callable can carry on in another thread, and any attempt to tap the result of a Future will block and will only return the result once it is available.

Callable Interface

public interface Callable<V> {
    V call() throws Exception;


interface Future<V> {
    V get();
    V get(long timeout, TimeUnit unit);
    boolean cancel(boolean mayInterruptIfRunning);
    boolean isCancelled();
    boolean isDone();

Using Callable and Future example:

public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    ExecutorService es = Executors.newSingleThreadExecutor();
    System.out.println("Time At Task Submission : " + new Date());
    Future<String> result = es.submit(new ComplexCalculator());
    // the call to Future.get() blocks until the result is available.So we are in for about a 10 sec wait now
    System.out.println("Result of Complex Calculation is : " + result.get());
    System.out.println("Time At the Point of Printing the Result : " + new Date());

Our Callable that does a lengthy computation

public class ComplexCalculator implements Callable<String> {

    public String call() throws Exception {
        // just sleep for 10 secs to simulate a lengthy computation
        System.out.println("Result after a lengthy 10sec calculation");
        return "Complex Result"; // the result 


Time At Task Submission : Thu Aug 04 15:05:15 EDT 2016
Result after a lengthy 10sec calculation
Result of Complex Calculation is : Complex Result
Time At the Point of Printing the Result : Thu Aug 04 15:05:25 EDT 2016

Other operations permitted on Future

While get() is the method to extract the actual result Future has provision

  • get(long timeout, TimeUnit unit) defines maximum time period during current thread will wait for a result;
  • To cancel the task call cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning). The flag mayInterrupt indicates that task should be interrupted if it was started and is running right now;
  • To check if task is completed/finished by calling isDone();
  • To check if the lengthy task were cancelled isCancelled().