Java abstract class

An abstract class is like a structure of data. However, unlike interface, it can define methods and attribute. You can view it as an enforced blueprint for an object. You cannot initiate an object from it but from its sub-classes.

An abstract class is:

  • It cannot be instantiated
  • It can contain constructor and object fields.
  • Contains abstract method (0 to many), and concrete methods
  • Its subclasses must override its abstract method

An abstract class example:

public abstract Animal {

    private int age;
    private String name;

    public Animal(int age, String name) {
        this.age = age; = name;

    public abstract void makeSound();  // define abstract method

    public String getName() {


To create an object that is enforced by abstract class

You can only create it by its subclass.

From the last section, we’ve defined an Animal abstract class. This section will create a subclass that can be used to create an object from.

public class Cat extends Animal {

    public Cat(int age, String name) {
        super(age, name);

    public void makeSound() {

Then in the main:

public class Main {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        Animal silver = new Cat(12, "Silver");
        silver.makeSound();   // Meow


Why we use abstract class? What about interface?

thorough stackoverflow QA

Abstract classes improve the situation by preventing a developer from instantiating the base class, because a developer has marked it as having missing functionality. It also provides compile-time safety so that you can ensure that any classes that extend your abstract class provide the bare minimum functionality to work.

Interfaces are a totally separate topic. An interface lets you describe what operations can be performed on an object. You would typically use interfaces when writing methods, components, etc.

For example:

public class FileDatabase implements IProductDatabase {
    public void addProduct(String name, Double price) {
         //TODO: just write to file

Combine abstract class and interface together

Sometimes you can combine both. Here is an example: You want to create a database connection. Now you have different databases remotely and you want your program to be able to connect to each one. You want to make sure that each connection class has addProduct() method.

You can use interface to define the addProduct() method you want, and use abstract to create the backbone for the subclasses.

The base abstract class:

abstract class RemoteDatabase implements IProductDatabase { 
    public abstract String[] connect();
    public abstract void writeRow(string col1, string col2);

    public void addProduct(String name, Double price) {
        writeRow(name, price.toString());

The subclasses:

public class SqlDatabase extends RemoteDatabase {
    //TODO override connect and writeRow

public class OracleDatabase extends RemoteDatabase { 
    //TODO override connect and writeRow