Java List interface

A list in java represents a collection which is ordered.
Ordered means it maintains the order of insertion,  elements are inserted at an index and can be retrieved using their index or position.
Index is numeric value which begins at 0.
So, the first element of list has 0 index, second has 1 index and the last element of the list has an index equal to one less than total number number of elements.

Java List hierarchy
Below illustration depicts the position of list interface in java collection framework
java list hierarchy in collection framework
Java list creation
List is an interface and resides in java.util package. Since it is an interface, its object or instance can not be created.

For creating a list, we can use any of its implementation classes such as

Following are the examples in which a list can be created using these implementation classes

// array list implementation
List<String> names = new ArrayList<>();
// linked list implementation
List<Integer> integers = new LinkedList<>();
// vector implementation
List<Double> numbers = new Vector<>();
// stack implementation
List<String> stack = new Stack<>();

Java List features

  1. Java list is an ordered collection. Elements maintain insertion order.
  2. Elements of java list can be accessed and inserted using index.
  3. Java list allows duplicate elements.
  4. Java list allows null elements. This also depends on list implementations.
  5. Java list is a generic interface. This means that it can hold elements of different types.

Important List interface methods
Following are commonly used methods declared in list interface. All list implementation classes must provide implementations of these methods.

1. add(E)
Adds the element supplied as argument to the end of list.

This method throws

  • UnsupportedOperationException if the list implementation does not support addition.
  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.

2. addAll(Collection)
Adds all the elements of the supplied collection argument to the end of this list.
Throws

  • UnsupportedOperationException if the list implementation does not support addition.
  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.
  • IllegalArgumentException if some property of the supplied argument does not allow adding it to the list.

3. contains(Object)
Returns true if any element of the list matches the supplied argument element. Elements are compared and should match as per equals() method.
Throws

  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.

4. get(int)
Returns the element at the supplied index.
Throws,

  • IndexOutOfBoundsException, if the index is less than 0 or greater than the size of list.

5. indexOf(Object)
Returns the index of first element from the list which matches the supplied argument element. Elements are compared and should match as per equals() method.
If the element is not present, -1 is returned.
Throws

  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.

6. iterator()
Returns an iterator to loop over the elements of the list.

7. listIterator()
Returns an object of ListIterator interface for iterating over list elements.
This is a special iterator that can loop a list in forward and reverse directions,  get the index of current position and also add and remove list elements during iteration.

7. remove(E)
Removes the first element from the list which matches the supplied argument element. Elements are compared and should match as per equals() method.
Throws

  • UnsupportedOperationException if the list implementation does not support addition.
  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.

8. remove(index)
It removes the element at the specified index. All the elements are shifted to the left.
Returns the element that was removed.
Throws

  • UnsupportedOperationException if the list implementation does not support addition.
  • IndexOutOfBoundsException, if the index is less than 0 or greater than the size of list.

9. set(int, E)
Replaces the element at the index with the supplied argument element.
Returns existing element at that index.
Throws,

  • UnsupportedOperationException if the list implementation does not support updating values.
  • ClassCastException, if the type of added element is incompatible with the type of list.
  • NullPointerException, if the element is null and list implementation does not allow null values.
  • IllegalArgumentException, if some property of the supplied argument does not allow adding it to the list.

List interface example
Below is a code snippet that uses ArrayList implementation of List interface to show its usage.

// create a list
List<String> names = new ArrayList<>();
// add elements
names.add("Abc");
names.add("Def");
names.add("Ghi");
// get name at second position
String name = names.get(1);
System.out.println("Second name is: " + name);
// check if list has value
boolean contains = names.contains("Ghi");
System.out.println("List contains name: " + contains);
contains = names.contains("Xyz");
System.out.println("List contains name: " + contains);
// update third name
names.set(2, "Jkl");
// get third name
name = names.get(2);
System.out.println("Third name is: " + name);
// get size
int size = names.size();
System.out.println("List size : " + size);
// remove element
String removed = names.remove(2);
System.out.println("Element removed is : " + removed);
// get size again
size = names.size();
System.out.println("List size : " + size);

Below is the output

Second name is: Def
List contains name: true
List contains name: false
Third name is: Jkl
List size : 3
Element removed is : Jkl
List size : 2

List.of() java 9
In java 9, a new of() method has been added to List interface. This is a static interface method which creates and returns a list.
There are overloaded versions of this method, which accept multiple elements as arguments and return a list with these values added to it. Example,

List<Object> empty = List.of();
System.out.println("List empty: " + empty.isEmpty());
List<String> names = List.of("A", "B", "C");
System.out.println("List size: "+names.size());

Output is

List empty: true
List size: 3

Any number of arguments can be supplied to of(), since there is an overloaded variant of this method which accepts variable arguments(or var args).
List returned by of() can not be modified, meaning that you can not add or remove elements from it.
Trying to do so would result in UnsupportedOperationException as explained in this article.

Java List vs Set
Following are the similarities between a java list and set interfaces.

  • Both store elements in a linear(or one dimensional) format.
  • Both extend java.util.Collection interface.

Following are the differences

  • List allows duplicate elements while set does not.
  • List is ordered while set is unordered.
    This means that list elements are arranged in the order of insertion while set does not maintain any such order.
  • List allows element insertion, removal and retrieval using its index.
    In set, elements can not be added, removed or retrieved using index.
  • List provides a java iterator and a special iterator, ListIterator to loop through list elements.
    Set only provides java iterator, there is no additional iterators.

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