Java optional parameters in practice

When you design a method in a Java class, some parameters may be optional for its execution. No matter it is inside a DTO, a fat model domain object, or a simple stateless service class, optional method parameters are common.

From this article you will learn how to handle optional parameters in Java. We’ll focus on regular method, class constructors with optional fields, and quickly look at bad practices of the discussed topic. We’ll stop for a moment to look at Java 8 Optional and assess if it fits our needs.

Let’s get started.

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Java 8 Optional use cases

It’s been almost two years since Java 8 was officially released and many excellent articles about new enhancements and related best practices have been written through that time. Surprisingly, one of the more controversial topics amongst all the added features is the Optional class. The type is a container, which can be either empty or contain a non-null value. Such construction reminds the user of an Optional object that the situation when there’s nothing inside must be handled appropriately. Although the definition of the type on Javadoc is quite descriptive, when it comes to identifying valid use cases it’s getting more problematic.

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