Copying object in java

Let us Assume an object- obj1, that contains two objects, containedObj1 and containedObj2.

shallow copying:

shallow copying creates a new instance of the same class and copies all the fields to the new instance and returns it. Object class provides a clone method and provides support for the shallow copying.

Deep copying:

A deep copy occurs when an object is copied along with the objects to which it refers. obj1 after a deep copy has been performed on it. Not only has obj1 been copied, but the objects contained within it have been copied as well. We can use Java Object Serialization to make a deep copy. Unfortunately, this approach has some problems too(detailed examples).

Possible Problems:

clone is tricky to implement correctly.
It's better to use Defensive copyingcopy constructors or static factory methods.
  1. If you have an object, that you know has a public clone() method, but you don’t know the type of the object at compile time, then you have problem. Java has an interface called Cloneable. In practice, we should implement this interface if we want to make an object CloneableObject.clone is protected, so we must override it with a public method in order for it to be accessible.
  2. Another problem arises when we try deep copying of a complex object. Assume that the clone() method of all member object variables also does deep copy, this is too risky of an assumption. You must control the code in all classes.
For example org.apache.commons.lang.SerializationUtils will have method for Deep clone using serialization(Source). If we need to clone Bean then there are couple of utility methods in org.apache.commons.beanutils (Source).
  • cloneBean will Clone a bean based on the available property getters and setters, even if the bean class itself does not implement Cloneable.
  • copyProperties will Copy property values from the origin bean to the destination bean for all cases where the property names are the same.
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