Best Functional Programming Practices – When to Use Functional?


For any paradigm, the global developer community experiences several common issues in their development of projects. To counter the recurring issues, they begin exercising certain practices for getting the most out of a paradigm. For functional programming in Java too, there have been a number of practices which have been deemed as useful and valuable for programmers. Let’s go over some of them.

Default Methods

Functional interfaces remain “functional” even if default methods are added. Though, if more than one abstract method is added, then they are no longer a functional interface.

 

 

 

 

@FunctionalInterface

public interface Test {

String A();

default void defaultA() {}

}

As long as the abstract methods of functional interface retain identical signatures, they can be extended by other functional interfaces. For instance,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@FunctionalInterface

public interface TestExtended extends B, C {}

@FunctionalInterface

public interface B {

String A();

default void defaultA() {}

}

 

@FunctionalInterface

public interface C {

String A();

default void defaultB () {}

}

 

 

When usually interfaces are extended, they encounter certain issues. They are recurrent with functional interfaces too when they run with default methods. For instance, if the interfaces B and C have a default method known as defaultD()  then you may get the following error.

interface Test inherits unrelated defaults for defaultD() from types C and D…

To solve this error, the defaultD() method can be overridden with the Test interface.

It should be noted that from the software architecture perspective, the use of a lot of default methods in an interface is detrimental and discouraged. This is something which should be used for updating older interfaces while escaping any backward compatibility issue.

Method References

Many times, methods which were implemented before are called out by lambdas. Hence, for such cases, it is good to make use of method references, a new feature in Java 8.

For example, if we have the following lambda expression.

x -> x.toUpperCase();

Then it can be replaced by:

String::toUpperCase;

Now, this type of code does not only reduce line of codes but it is also quite readable.

Effectively Final

Whenever a variable is accessed which is not “final” and resides in lambda expression, then an error is likely to be caused. This is where “effectively final” comes into play. When a variable is only assigned once then the compiler thinks of it as a final variable. There is nothing wrong in using these types of variables in lambda expressions as their state is managed by the compiler and it can notify for an error as soon as their state is meddled with. For instance, the following code cannot work.

public void A(){

String lVar = “localvariable”;

Test test = parameter -> {

String lVar = parameter;

return lVar;

};

}

In return, the compiler may notify you that “lVar” does not need to be defined because it already has been in the scope.

No Mutation for Object Variables

Lambda expressions are predominantly used in parallelism or parallel computing because of their protection for threads. The paradigm “effectively final” can help at times but sometimes it is not good enough. An object’s value cannot be changed from the closing scope by lambdas. On the other hand, with mutable object variables, it is possible for a state in lambda expression to be modified. For instance check the following.

int[] n = new int[1];

Runnable rn = () -> n[0]++;

rn.run();

Now the above code is perfectly legal because the “n” variable stays “effectively final”. However, it has referenced an object and the state of that object can change. Hence, use this example to remember not writing code which may give rise to mutations.

When to Use Functional?

Before learning functional programming, you must be curious about its actual advantage over other paradigms. When you have a task at hand where you are dabbling with parallelism and concurrency, in such cases functional programming can be a good choice. In real life scenarios, for this purpose Erlang was used a lot in Erricson for its telecommunication work. Likewise, Whatsapp has always been involved in a similar use. Other success stories include the reputable Lucent.

For any individual who has dialed a number in the past three decades in US, there are strong possibilities of their use of devices which have code in a language known as Pdiff. Pdiff itself was created from a functional programming language, Standard ML.

Pdiff’s example can be used to recall functional programming’s brilliance with DSLs (domain specific languages). Sometimes, common programming languages like C++, C#, and Java struggle to create a solution for certain issues where DSLs were the life-savers. While DSLs are not used to design entire systems but they can prove invaluable to code one or two modules. Industry experts consider functional programming as an excellent option to write DSL.

Moreover, functional programming is quite good at solving algorithms, particularly those filled with mathematics. Mathematical problems can be solved well in functional, perhaps due to its closeness in theoretical foundations with mathematics.

When to Not Use Functional?

So when to not use functional programming? It is said that functional programming does not work well with the general “library glue code”. It is a disaster for recipe with the general building of structure classes which are used in mainstream development. This means that in case your code-base is filled with classes working like structures, and if the properties of your object are changing continuously, then functional is probably not the best idea.

Likewise, functional is also not good for GUIs (graphical user interface). The reason is that GUIs have always been deemed more suitable for OOP because of the reusability factor. In GUI applications, modules are derived with little changes from other modules. There is also the “state” factor as GUIs are stateful (at least in the view).

 

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