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Java style guide


Whitespace characters

Aside from the line terminator sequence, the ASCII horizontal space character (0x20) is the only whitespace character that appears anywhere in a source file. This implies that:

  1. All other whitespace characters in string and character literals are escaped.
  2. Tab characters are not used for indentation.

Special escape sequences

For any character that has a special escape sequence (\b, \t, \n, \f, \r, ", ' and \), that sequence is used rather than the corresponding octal (e.g. \012) or Unicode (e.g. \u000a) escape.

Source file structure

A source file consists of, in order:

  1. Package statement
  2. Import statements
  3. Exactly one top-level class

Exactly one blank line separates each section that is present.

Package statement

The package statement is not line-wrapped. The column limit (See later section) does not apply to package statements.

Import statements

Import statements can be wildcard or single imports

Import statements are not line-wrapped. The column limit (See later section) does not apply to import statements.

Import statement ordering

Import statements are divided into the following groups, in this order, with each group separated by a single blank line:

  1. Third-party imports, one group per top-level package, in ASCII sort order. For example: android, com, junit, org, sun
  2. java imports
  3. javax imports
  4. imports from your own top level package
  5. All static imports in a single group

Within a group there are no blank lines, and the imported names appear in ASCII sort order. (Note: this is not the same as the import statements being in ASCII sort order; the presence of semicolons warps the result.)

Class declaration

Exactly one top-level class declaration

Each top-level class resides in a source file of its own.

Class member ordering

The ordering of the members of a class can have a great effect on learnability, but there is no single correct recipe for how to do it. Different classes may order their members differently.

What is important is that each class order its members in some logical order, which its maintainer could explain if asked. For example, new methods are not just habitually added to the end of the class, as that would yield "chronological by date added" ordering, which is not a logical ordering.

Having said that, I prefer this ordering:

  1. Constants
  2. Fields
  3. Constructors
  4. Override methods and callbacks (public or private)
  5. Public methods
  6. Private methods
  7. Inner classes or interfaces

Overloads: never split

When a class has multiple constructors, or multiple methods with the same name, these appear sequentially, with no intervening members.



Braces are used where optional

Braces are used with if, else, for, do and while statements, even when the body is empty or contains only a single statement.

Nonempty blocks: K & R style

Braces follow the Kernighan and Ritchie style ("Egyptian brackets") for nonempty blocks and block-like constructs:

  • No line break before the opening brace.
  • Line break after the opening brace.
  • Line break before the closing brace.
  • Line break after the closing brace if that brace terminates a statement or the body of a method, constructor or named class. For example, there is no line break after the brace if it is followed by else or a comma.


return new MyClass() {
  @Override public void method() {
    if (condition()) {
      try {
      } catch (ProblemException e) {

A few exceptions for enum classes are given in the Enum classes section.

Empty blocks: may be concise

An empty block or block-like construct may be closed immediately after it is opened, with no characters or line break in between ({}), unless it is part of a multi-block statement (one that directly contains multiple blocks: if/else-if/else or try/catch/finally).


void doNothing() {} // No need to implement this callback 

Block indentation: +4 spaces

Each time a new block or block-like construct is opened, the indent increases by four spaces. When the block ends, the indent returns to the previous indent level. The indent level applies to both code and comments throughout the block. (See the example in the section Nonempty blocks: K & R Style.)

One statement per line

Each statement is followed by a line-break.

Column limit: 80, 100 or 120 characters

Projects are free to choose a column limit of either 80, 100 or 120 characters. Except as noted below, any line that would exceed this limit must be line-wrapped, as explained in the Section, Line-wrapping.

  1. Lines where obeying the column limit is not possible (for example, a long URL in Javadoc, or a long JSNI method reference).
  2. package and import statements (see Sections on Package statement and Import statements).
  3. Command lines in a comment that may be cut-and-pasted into a shell.


Terminology Note: When code that might otherwise legally occupy a single line is divided into multiple lines, typically to avoid overflowing the column limit, this activity is called line-wrapping.

There is no comprehensive, deterministic formula showing exactly how to line-wrap in every situation. Very often there are several valid ways to line-wrap the same piece of code.

Tip: Extracting a method or local variable may solve the problem without the need to line-wrap.

Where to break

The prime directive of line-wrapping is: prefer to break at a higher syntactic level. Also:

  • When a line is broken at a non-assignment operator the break comes before the symbol.
    • This also applies to the following "operator-like" symbols: the dot separator (.), the ampersand in type bounds (<T extends Foo & Bar>), and the pipe in catch blocks (catch (FooException | BarException e)).
  • When a line is broken at an assignment operator the break typically comes after the symbol.
    • This also applies to the "assignment-operator-like" colon in an enhanced for (foreach) statement.
  • A method or constructor name stays attached to the open parenthesis (() that follows it.
  • A comma (,) stays attached to the token that precedes it.

Indent continuation lines at least +4 spaces

When line-wrapping, each line after the first (each continuation line) is indented at least +4 from the original line.

When there are multiple continuation lines, indentation may be varied beyond +4 as desired. In general, two continuation lines use the same indentation level if and only if they begin with syntactically parallel elements.

The section on Horizontal alignment addresses the discouraged practice of using a variable number of spaces to align certain tokens with previous lines.


Vertical Whitespace

A single blank line appears:

  1. Between consecutive members (or initializers) of a class: fields, constructors, methods, nested classes, static initializers, instance initializers.
  • Exception: A blank line between two consecutive fields (having no other code between them) is optional. Such blank lines are used as needed to create logical groupings of fields.
  1. Within method bodies, as needed to create logical groupings of statements.
  2. Optionally before the first member or after the last member of the class (neither encouraged nor discouraged).
  3. As required by other sections of this document (such as the section on Import statements).

Multiple consecutive blank lines are discouraged.

Horizontal whitespace

Beyond where required by the language or other style rules, and apart from literals, comments and Javadoc, a single ASCII space also appears in the following places only.

  1. Separating any reserved word, such as if, for or catch, from an open parenthesis (() that follows it on that line
  2. Separating any reserved word, such as else or catch, from a closing curly brace (}) that precedes it on that line
  3. Before any open curly brace ({), with two exceptions:
  • @SomeAnnotation({a, b}) (no space is used)
  • String[][] x = {{"foo"}}; (no space is required between {{, by item 8 below)
  1. On both sides of any binary or ternary operator. This also applies to the following "operator-like" symbols:
  • the ampersand in a conjunctive type bound: <T extends Foo & Bar>
  • the pipe for a catch block that handles multiple exceptions: catch (FooException | BarException e)
  • the colon (:) in an enhanced for ("foreach") statement
  1. After ,:; or the closing parenthesis ()) of a cast
  2. On both sides of the double slash (//) that begins an end-of-line comment. Here, multiple spaces are allowed, but not required.
  3. Between the type and variable of a declaration: List<String> list
  4. Optional just inside both braces of an array initializer
  • new int[] {5, 6} and new int[] { 5, 6 } are both valid

Note: This rule never requires or forbids additional space at the start or end of a line, only interior space.

Horizontal alignment: never required

Terminology Note: Horizontal alignment is the practice of adding a variable number of additional spaces in your code with the goal of making certain tokens appear directly below certain other tokens on previous lines.

This practice is permitted, but is never required and is discouraged. It is not even required to maintain horizontal alignment in places where it was already used.

Here is an example without alignment, then using alignment:

private int x; // this is fine
private Color color; // this too

private int   x;      // permitted, but future edits
private Color color;  // may leave it unaligned

Tip: Alignment can aid readability, but it creates problems for future maintenance. Consider a future change that needs to touch just one line. This change may leave the formerly-pleasing formatting mangled, and that is allowed.

More often it prompts the coder (perhaps you) to adjust whitespace on nearby lines as well, possibly triggering a cascading series of reformattings. That one-line change now has a "blast radius."

This can at worst result in pointless busywork, but at best it still corrupts version history information, slows down reviewers and exacerbates merge conflicts.

Grouping parentheses: recommended

Optional grouping parentheses are omitted only when author and reviewer agree that there is no reasonable chance the code will be misinterpreted without them, nor would they have made the code easier to read.

It is not reasonable to assume that every reader has the entire Java operator precedence table memorized.

Specific constructs

Enum classes

After each comma that follows an enum constant, a line-break is required.

Since enum classes are classes, all other rules for formatting classes apply.

Variable declarations

One variable per declaration

Every variable declaration (field or local) declares only one variable: declarations such as int a, b; are not used.

Declared when needed, initialized as soon as possible

Local variables are not habitually declared at the start of their containing block or block-like construct. Instead, local variables are declared close to the point they are first used (within reason), to minimize their scope. Local variable declarations typically have initializers, or are initialized immediately after declaration.


Array initializers: can be "block-like"

Any array initializer may optionally be formatted as if it were a "block-like construct." For example, the following are all valid (not an exhaustive list):

// My preference for array with short elements
new int[] {           
	0, 1, 2, 3

// My preference for array with long elements
new int[] {

// Only if it aids readability
new int[] {
  0, 1,
  2, 3

// I rarely use this
new int[]
	{0, 1, 2, 3}
No C-style array declarations

The square brackets form a part of the type, not the variable: String[] args, not String args[].

Switch statements

Terminology Note: Inside the braces of a switch block are one or more statement groups. Each statement group consists of one or more switch labels (either case FOO: or default:), followed by one or more statements.


As with any other block, the contents of a switch block are indented +4.

After a switch label, a newline appears, and the indentation level is increased +4, exactly as if a block were being opened. The following switch label returns to the previous indentation level, as if a block had been closed.

Fall-through: commented

Within a switch block, each statement group either terminates abruptly (with a break, continue, return or thrown exception), or is marked with a comment to indicate that execution will or might continue into the next statement group.

Any comment that communicates the idea of fall-through is sufficient (typically // fall through). This special comment is not required in the last statement group of the switch block. Example:

switch (input) {
    case 1:
    case 2:
	    // fall through
  	case 3:
The default case is present

Each switch statement includes a default statement group, even if it contains no code.


Annotations applying to a class, method or constructor appear immediately after the documentation block, and each annotation is listed on a line of its own (that is, one annotation per line). These line breaks do not constitute line-wrapping , so the indentation level is not increased. Example:

public String getNameIfPresent() { ... }

Exception: A single parameterless annotation may instead appear together with the first line of the signature, for example:

@Override public int hashCode() { ... }

Annotations applying to a field also appear immediately after the documentation block, but in this case, multiple annotations (possibly parameterized) may be listed on the same line; for example:

@Partial @Mock DataLoader loader;

There are no specific rules for formatting parameter and local variable annotations.


Block comment style

Block comments are indented at the same level as the surrounding code. They may be in /* ... / style or // ... style. For multi-line / ... */ comments, subsequent lines must start with * aligned with the * on the previous line.

* This is          // And so           /* Or you can
* okay.            // is this.          * even do this. */

Comments are not enclosed in boxes drawn with asterisks or other characters.

Multi-line comments are discouraged for any use other than Javadoc. This makes it simpler to temporarily comment out code.

Big blocks of comments are a code smell as well, so I feel that single line comments encourages better (self-documented) code.


Class and member modifiers, when present, appear in the order recommended by the Java Language Specification:

public protected private abstract static final transient volatile synchronized native strictfp

Numeric Literals

long-valued integer literals use an uppercase L suffix, never lowercase (to avoid confusion with the digit 1). For example, 3000000000L rather than 3000000000l.


Rules common to all identifiers

Identifiers use only ASCII letters and digits, and in two cases noted below, underscores. Thus each valid identifier name is matched by the regular expression \w+ .

Special prefixes or suffixes, like those seen in the examples name_, mName, s_name and kName, are not used.

Rules by identifier type

Package names

Package names are all lowercase, with consecutive words simply concatenated together (no underscores). For example, com.example.deepspace, not com.example.deepSpace or com.example.deep_space.

Class names

Class names are written in UpperCamelCase.

Class names are typically nouns or noun phrases. For example, Character or ImmutableList. Interface names may also be nouns or noun phrases (for example, List), but may sometimes be adjectives or adjective phrases instead (for example, Readable).

There are no specific rules or even well-established conventions for naming annotation types.

Test classes are named starting with the name of the class they are testing, and ending with Test. For example, HashTest or HashIntegrationTest.

Method names

Method names are written in lowerCamelCase.

Method names are typically verbs or verb phrases. For example, sendMessage or stop.

Underscores may appear in JUnit test method names to separate logical components of the name. One typical pattern is test_, for example testPop_emptyStack. There is no One Correct Way to name test methods.

Constant names

Constant names use CONSTANT_CASE: all uppercase letters, with words separated by underscores. But what is a constant, exactly?

Every constant is a static final field, but not all static final fields are constants. Before choosing constant case, consider whether the field really feels like a constant. For example, if any of that instance's observable state can change, it is almost certainly not a constant. Merely intending to never mutate the object is generally not enough. Examples:

// Constants
static final int NUMBER = 5;
static final ImmutableList<String> NAMES = ImmutableList.of("Ed", "Ann");
static final Joiner COMMA_JOINER = Joiner.on(',');  // because Joiner is immutable
static final SomeMutableType[] EMPTY_ARRAY = {};
enum SomeEnum { ENUM_CONSTANT }

// Not constants
static String nonFinal = "non-final";
final String nonStatic = "non-static";
static final Set<String> mutableCollection = new HashSet<String>();
static final ImmutableSet<SomeMutableType> mutableElements = ImmutableSet.of(mutable);
static final Logger logger = Logger.getLogger(MyClass.getName());
static final String[] nonEmptyArray = {"these", "can", "change"};

These names are typically nouns or noun phrases.

Non-constant field names

Non-constant field names (static or otherwise) are written in lowerCamelCase.

These names are typically nouns or noun phrases. For example, computedValues or index.

Parameter names

Parameter names are written in lowerCamelCase.

Short (1-3 character) parameter names should be avoided.

Local variable names

Local variable names are written in lowerCamelCase, and can be abbreviated more liberally than other types of names.

However, one-character names should be avoided, except for temporary and looping variables.

Even when final and immutable, local variables are not considered to be constants, and should not be styled as constants.

Type variable names

Each type variable is named in one of two styles:

  • A single capital letter, optionally followed by a single numeral (such as E, T, X, T2)
  • A name in the form used for classes, followed by the capital letter T (examples: RequestT, FooBarT).

Camel case: defined

Sometimes there is more than one reasonable way to convert an English phrase into camel case, such as when acronyms or unusual constructs like "IPv6" or "iOS" are present. To improve predictability, Google Style specifies the following (nearly) deterministic scheme.

Beginning with the prose form of the name:

  1. Convert the phrase to plain ASCII and remove any apostrophes. For example, "Müller's algorithm" might become "Muellers algorithm".
  2. Divide this result into words, splitting on spaces and any remaining punctuation (typically hyphens).
  • Recommended: if any word already has a conventional camel-case appearance in common usage, split this into its constituent parts (e.g., "AdWords" becomes "ad words"). Note that a word such as "iOS" is not really in camel case per se; it defies any convention, so this recommendation does not apply.
  1. Now lowercase everything (including acronyms), then uppercase only the first character of:
  • ... each word, to yield upper camel case, or
  • ... each word except the first, to yield lower camel case
  1. Finally, join all the words into a single identifier.

Note that the casing of the original words is almost entirely disregarded. Examples:

Prose form Correct Incorrect
"XML HTTP request" XmlHttpRequest XMLHTTPRequest
"new customer ID" newCustomerId newCustomerID
"inner stopwatch" innerStopwatch innerStopWatch
"supports IPv6 on iOS?" supportsIpv6OnIos supportsIPv6OnIOS
"YouTube importer" YouTubeImporter YoutubeImporter*
*Acceptable, but not recommended.

Note: Some words are ambiguously hyphenated in the English language: for example "nonempty" and "non-empty" are both correct, so the method names checkNonempty and checkNonEmpty are likewise both correct.

Programming Practices

@Override: always used

A method is marked with the @Override annotation whenever it is legal. This includes a class method overriding a superclass method, a class method implementing an interface method, and an interface method respecifying a superinterface method.

Exception: @Override may be omitted when the parent method is @Deprecated.

Static members: qualified using class

When a reference to a static class member must be qualified, it is qualified with that class's name, not with a reference or expression of that class's type.

Foo aFoo = ...;
Foo.aStaticMethod(); // good
aFoo.aStaticMethod(); // bad
somethingThatYieldsAFoo().aStaticMethod(); // very bad

Finalizers: not used

It is extremely rare to override Object.finalize.

Tip: Don't do it. If you absolutely must, first read and understand Effective Java Item 7, "Avoid Finalizers," very carefully, and then don't do it.

Exception handling

This is important enough to get it's own section

Basic exception handling

Every Exception in Java extends the Throwable class (Directly or indirectly). The Throwable class has 2 direct subclasses: Error and Exception. Exceptions are further divided into checked and runtime exceptions.

This gives us three types of exceptions in Java:

  1. Errors: Errors signify truly exceptional situations that your app cannot anticipate or recover from. For example, hardware failure, JVM crashes or out of memory errors. As these are so unpredictable and impossible to recover from, you should never catch these.
  2. Checked Exceptions: These are the exceptional scenarios that you can anticipate and recover from. Things like FileNotFoundException or IOException. These should be caught and logged as well as dealt with. If you are not going to deal with it, you should not catch it and let it propagate up to the caller to deal with.
  3. Runtime Exceptions: These are quite simply caused by bad programming or bugs in your code. These extend the RuntimeException class and include things like NullPointerException and ArrayIndexOutOfBoundException. These should never be caught and should rather be prevented by doing Null checks or bounds checking in your code.

Caught exceptions: not ignored

Except as noted below, it is very rarely correct to do nothing in response to a caught exception. (Typical responses are to log it, or if it is considered "impossible", rethrow it as an AssertionError.)

When it truly is appropriate to take no action whatsoever in a catch block, the reason this is justified is explained in a comment.

try {
    int i = Integer.parseInt(response);
	return handleNumericResponse(i);
} catch (NumberFormatException ok) {
	// it's not numeric; that's fine, just continue
return handleTextResponse(response);

Exception: In tests, a caught exception may be ignored without comment if it is named expected. The following is a very common idiom for ensuring that the method under test does throw an exception of the expected type, so a comment is unnecessary here.

try {
} catch (NoSuchElementException expected) {}

NEVER catch generic exception

You should never do this:

try {
    someComplicatedIOFunction();        // may throw IOException
    someComplicatedParsingFunction();   // may throw ParsingException
    someComplicatedSecurityFunction();  // may throw SecurityException
    // phew, made it all the way
} catch (Exception e) {                 // I'll just catch all exceptions
    handleError();                      // with one generic handler!

Do not do this. In almost all cases it is inappropriate to catch generic Exception or Throwable (preferably not Throwable because it includes Error exceptions). It is very dangerous because it means that Exceptions you never expected (including RuntimeExceptions like ClassCastException) get caught in application-level error handling.

It obscures the failure handling properties of your code, meaning if someone adds a new type of Exception in the code you're calling, the compiler won't help you realize you need to handle the error differently. In most cases you shouldn't be handling different types of exception the same way.



General form

The basic formatting of Javadoc blocks is as seen in this example:

 * Multiple lines of Javadoc text are written here,
 * wrapped normally...
public int method(String p1) { ... }

... or in this single-line example:

/** An especially short bit of Javadoc. */

The basic form is always acceptable. The single-line form may be substituted when there are no at-clauses present, and the entirety of the Javadoc block (including comment markers) can fit on a single line.


One blank line—that is, a line containing only the aligned leading asterisk (*)—appears between paragraphs, and before the group of "at-clauses" if present. Each paragraph but the first has

immediately before the first word, with no space after.


Any of the standard "at-clauses" that are used appear in the order @param, @return, @throws, @deprecated, and these four types never appear with an empty description. When an at-clause doesn't fit on a single line, continuation lines are indented four (or more) spaces from the position of the @.

The summary fragment

The Javadoc for each class and member begins with a brief summary fragment. This fragment is very important: it is the only part of the text that appears in certain contexts such as class and method indexes.

This is a fragment—a noun phrase or verb phrase, not a complete sentence. It does not begin with A {@code Foo} is a..., or This method returns..., nor does it form a complete imperative sentence like Save the record.. However, the fragment is capitalized and punctuated as if it were a complete sentence.

Tip: A common mistake is to write simple Javadoc in the form /** @return the customer ID */. This is incorrect, and should be changed to /** Returns the customer ID. */.

Where Javadoc is used

At the minimum, Javadoc is present for every public class, and every public or protected member of such a class, with a few exceptions noted below.

Other classes and members still have Javadoc as needed. Whenever an implementation comment would be used to define the overall purpose or behavior of a class, method or field, that comment is written as Javadoc instead. (It's more uniform, and more tool-friendly.)

Exception: self-explanatory methods

Javadoc is optional for "simple, obvious" methods like getFoo, in cases where there really and truly is nothing else worthwhile to say but "Returns the foo".

Important: it is not appropriate to cite this exception to justify omitting relevant information that a typical reader might need to know. For example, for a method named getCanonicalName, don't omit its documentation (with the rationale that it would say only /** Returns the canonical name. */) if a typical reader may have no idea what the term "canonical name" means!

Exception: overrides

Javadoc is not always present on a method that overrides a supertype method.


Copyright 2015 Riaan Cornelius.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.