Saturday, 7 July 2012

Item 45: Minimize the scope of local variables

This item is similar in nature to Item 13, “Minimize the accessibility of classes and members.” By minimizing the scope of local variables, you increase the readability and maintainability of your code and reduce the likelihood of error.

The most powerful technique for minimizing the scope of a local variable is to declare it where it is first used.

Nearly every local variable declaration should contain an initializer. If you don’t yet have enough information to initialize a variable sensibly, you should postpone the declaration until you do. One exception to this rule concerns trycatch statements.

Loops present a special opportunity to minimize the scope of variables. The for loop, in both its traditional and for-each forms, allows you to declare loop variables, limiting their scope to the exact region where they’re needed. Therefore, prefer for loops to while loops, assuming the contents of the loop variable aren’t needed after the loop terminates.

The for loop has one more advantage over the while loop: it is shorter, which enhances readability.

A final technique to minimize the scope of local variables is to keep methods small and focused. If you combine two activities in the same method, local variables relevant to one activity may be in the scope of the code performing the other activity. To prevent this from happening, simply separate the method into two: one for each activity.

Reference: Effective Java 2nd Edition by Joshua Bloch