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Try. Finally. If. Not. Null.

java OOPoop

There is a very typical mistake in pre-Java7 "try/finally" scenario, which I keep seeing in so many code reviews. I just have to write about it. Java7 introduced a solution, but it doesn't cover all situations. Sometimes we need to deal with non-AutoCloseable resources. Let's open and close them correctly, please.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) by Guy Ritchie
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) by Guy Ritchie

This is how it looks (assuming we are in Java 6):

InputStream input = null;
try {
  input = url.openStream();
  // reads the stream, throws IOException
} catch (IOException ex) {
  throw new RuntimeException(ex);
} finally {
  if (input != null) {
    input.close();
  }
}

I already wrote about null and its evil nature. Here it comes again. If you just follow the rule of "not using NULL anywhere ever," this code would need an immediate refactoring. Its correct version will look like this:

final InputStream input = url.openStream();
try {
  // reads the stream, throws IOException
} catch (IOException ex) {
  throw new RuntimeException(ex);
} finally {
  input.close();
}

There is no null anymore and it's very clean. Isn't it?

There are situations when opening the resource itself throws IOException and we can't put it outside of try/catch. In that case, we have to have two try/catch blocks:

final InputStream input;
try {
  input = url.openStream();
} catch (IOException ex) {
  throw new RuntimeException(ex);
}
try {
  // reads the stream, throws IOException
} catch (IOException ex) {
  throw new RuntimeException(ex);
} finally {
  input.close();
}

But there should be no null, never!

The presence of null in Java code is a clear indicator of code smell. Something is not right if you have to use null. The only place where the presence of null is justified is where we're using third-party APIs or JDK. They may return null sometimes because... well, their design is bad. We have no other option but to do if(x==null). But that's it. No other places are good for null.

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