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Tip of the Day
Language: Java
Expertise: Advanced
Sep 21, 2005

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View the Bytecode Contained in a Java Class

If you look in the bin directory of a regular Java2 SDK installation, you'll find a 'javap' application (javap.exe), which you can use as a disassembler by adding the -c command-line option. This allows you to view the bytecode inside a Java class. A Java class consists of assembly-code-like instructions to the Java virtual machine. For example, consider the following code:

class HelloWorldClass
{
	public static void main (String args[])
	{
		System.out.println ("Hello, world!!!");
	}
}
Executing javap -c HelloWorldClass gives the following output:

Compiled from "HelloWorldClass.java"
class HelloWorldClass extends java.lang.Object{
HelloWorldClass();
  Code:
   0:   aload_0
   1:   invokespecial   #1; //Method java/lang/Object."<init>":()V
   4:   return

public static void main(java.lang.String[]);
  Code:
   0:   getstatic       #2; //Field java/lang/System.out:Ljava/io/PrintStream;
   3:   ldc     #3; //String Hello, world!!!
   5:   invokevirtual   #4; //Method java/io/PrintStream.println:(Ljava/lang/String;)V
   8:   return
}
Viewing the bytecode of a particular class can give you a lot of info about its core internals. For example, consider the following common string concatenation method:

public String strCat (String one, String two)
{
	return (one + two);
}
Disassembling this results in the following bytecode:

public java.lang.String strCat(java.lang.String,java.lang.String);
  Code:
   0:   new     #7; //class StringBuffer
   3:   dup
   4:   invokespecial   #8; //Method java/lang/StringBuffer."<init>":()V
   7:   aload_1
   8:   invokevirtual   #9; //Method java/lang/StringBuffer.append:(Ljava/lang/String;)
Ljava/lang/StringBuffer;
   11:  aload_2
   12:  invokevirtual   #9; //Method java/lang/StringBuffer.append:(Ljava/lang/String;)
Ljava/lang/StringBuffer;
   15:  invokevirtual   #10; //Method java/lang/StringBuffer.toString:()Ljava/lang/String;
   18:  areturn
The preceding code proves that strings are immutable; therefore you should always perform string concatenation using a StringBuffer rather than simply concatenating strings.
Jospeh Fernandez and Steve Simon
 
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