Design Patterns #9: Composite

Design patterns episode 9 – Composite

With unexpected delay but patterns are back! In this episode – composite.

The composite is generally used to model tree-like structures in a way that classes that are using the composite can handle its elements in one particular way without having to distinguish whether an element has children – a composite, or hasn’t – a leaf (in other words, whether we can go further down the tree or element is a dead-end).

The first thing that comes up when thinking about that kind of structure would be a directory tree where folders are composites and files are leafs. Or any other structure alike: corporate structure (managers and subordinates), online shops (categories and concrete items) and many many more.

Let’s see how the Head First book defines this pattern:

The Composite Pattern allows you to compose objects into tree structures to represent part-whole hierarchies. Composite lets client treat individual objects and composition of objects uniformly.
(Freeman, Eric, et al. Head First Design Patterns. O’Reilly Media, Inc. 2004) 

So, in other words we have tree structure of objects and collection of objects and the client doesn’t need to care about if it’s a leaf or a composite. This is the key feature of this pattern. For instance, let’s think about file system where we have files and directories. Both of them are elements of file system and should be treated the same: the client can perform the same operations on both – rename, delete, get size etc. But obviously we can do more things with directories (as this is a collection of files and directories), therefore composite pattern isn’t applicable here (of course you could use typecasting to make it work but that’s a different thing).
The diagram shows what discussed above – both concretions are treated the same, nothing different can client do with one or the other type. The diagram presented here is different than what’s in the book. The book adds further methods: add()remove(),  getChild(). But isn’t that inconsistent with the definition? How can you add a further child to a leaf? You could throw an exception but wouldn’t that violate the Interface Segregation Principle? That kind of issues have been greatly discussed here by the guy who I quoted on multiple occasions.
So, to conclude this aspect of the pattern – my opinion is that we should stick to ISP and not force any class to implement something that the class doesn’t use. Period. Let’s move on to code example.


In our code example we’re going to build a store’s menu. Let’s start with the abstraction:

Our IStoreElement consist of name property and a method to list self in the menu: there will be different implementations of this method for leaves and composites. This method can take optional argument as we want to nicely format the menu by indentation of sub-components.
Now the leaf class:

Leaf’s implementation of ListOut() method works that it returns a string with given number of dashes and its name.
And finally composite class:

This class is equipped with private list of objects that implement our base interface. This list can be set in constructor.
The ListOut() method starts with the same thing that counterparting method in leaves but before returning the value recursively invokes the same method for all IStoreElements that the composite holds in its private list. This invocation takes indent parameter increased by 1. This way we achieve that nice formatting of the list once requested in the topmost component.
Now, let’s see how it work all together:

We generate the list and then print to the console the string returned by ListOut().

To sum things up: he Composite Pattern is used to represent tree-like structures where all their elements can be treated uniformly, where single components are called leaves and collections of components are called composites. The pattern can be equipped with methods to modify the content but this lead to violation of Interface Segregation Principle.

Next week: the State Pattern. I hope that this time without any delay. Check the links and source code below. Thank you!

Composite pattern by Christopher Okhravi: link [YouTube]
Composite vs. Decorator by Christopher Okhravi: link [YouTube]
Composite pattern by Michael: link [YouTube]
Source code: TXT file

Design Patterns #2: Observer

Dzień dobry!
Continuing on design patterns – it’s time for the Observer. This pattern allows linkage between one observable and many observers that when the observable changes its states the observers are automatically notified and updated. So, the observable has a collection of observers, it performs its actions and when certain defined event happens it notifies its own observers. Let’s take a look at the diagram:

Let’s start with the observers: their interface defines only one method: Update(). That method returns void and can take parameters. In fact parameters are used to notify the actual change and not only the fact that the value has changed. It will be later shown in the example.
Now the observable: it must have possibility to add and remove observers (Register() and Unregister() methods respectively, as an argument they take  object that implements IObserver interface) and to notify its observers about the change. Concrete implementation of the observable also has some sort of observers collection. (This collection is not part of the interface because a) it doesn’t have to be public, b) methods to register and unregister the observers are exposed publicly and that’s enough for the client, it doesn’t have to know how references to the observers are stored. Of course it doesn’t have to be like that. What we’re discussing here is just the pattern and its actual implementation may vary depending on every particular need.) Usual implementation of Notify() is iteration through the observers collection and invoking Update() method on each of them. And that’s it. Let’s go with the example.

Example given in the book (previous post explains what book) is a weather station (measures temperature, pressure etc.)  and several types of display (current conditions, stats etc.) I think that’s a really good example but our example will be simpler but similar to some extent. We’re going to build number generator and two types of display.

Have a quick look at the code below:

Hey, where’s Notify() method?! We don’t want that method to be exposed publicly therefore it won’t be here in the interface. As said earlier, the design patterns are not exact implementation nor have strict code structure, they are more of a general ways to achieve some result. But if you hear from another developer that he has used the observer pattern (or any other pattern) you will instantaneously know what to expect.
IObserver interface defines only one method which is Update() that takes one integer parameter which will be passed to our observers.

Concretions – Number Generator

Our number generator will – surprise, surprise – generate random numbers within given range (which is specified by constructor’s parameters). It has list of objects of type IObserver and two methods that allow adding and removing from that list. Method notify() is private as we don’t want to make it possible from the outside of the class to force the observable to notify its observers. This method (as you can read above in this post) simply iterates through observers collection and invoke Update() method on each of them. This method is invoked inside Next() method which generates next random number. Parameter of the Update() method is last generated number.

Concretions – Observers

These two implementations of IObserver using their Display() method print their current readings to console. One of them displays aggregated value of all random number passed from the observable, and the other displays average value. Their Update() are consistent with the interface they implement.

Wiring all together
All the above classes will work together in this small console app.

As you can see once we have an instance of NumberGenerator we can register some observers. Our console app will iterate 10 times and draw 10 random numbers and display readings of our observers.

The example above shows basic implementation of the observer pattern. It may be improved by allowing object to self-register/unregister. This can be simply done by storing reference to observable in the observer. In this case observer will need appropriate methods: to register that takes observable as an argument, and to unregister with no arguments. Let’s take a look at its interface:

It extends existing IObserver interface and adds two methods as described earlier. Now, the concretion:

So, it now has a reference to the observer which initially is null. When we want to self-register it to a particular observer we simply invoke SelfRegister() method and pass the observer as an argument. The method will save the reference to the observer and invoke observer’s Register() method with this passed as an argument. SelfUnregister() method performs opposite actions. The code says it all 🙂
Below you will find to txt file with the source code. Thanks for today, and hopefully see you next week. Cheers!

Source code: download txt file

Design Patterns #1: Strategy

Nau mai!
Time for design patterns. Whenever I tried to find out anything about them I encountered this pretty good explanation what are they and why we need them:

Someone has already solved your problems.

‘Head First Design Patterns’ (page 1)

And after Wikipedia:

In software engineering, a software design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context in software design. It is not a finished design that can be transformed directly into source or machine code. It is a description or template for how to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations. Design patterns are formalized best practices that the programmer can use to solve common problems when designing an application or system.


In a nutshell: common solutions to common problems. And that should be sufficient to start with first design pattern: Strategy. But, before that quick introduction to this series. It is inspired by Christopher Okhravi and his playlist. I will do basically the same: go through all design patterns in Head First Design Patterns book by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Freeman, Bert Bates and Kathy Sierra. I have Polish edition but that does not make any difference for you, I will not give any quote in Polish (probably I won’t give any quote at all). To make this series somehow different and not to copy either the book or videos linked above I will use different examples. So, with that being sad we can cut to the chase.

Strategy defines common abstraction of set of algorithms, encapsulates them and make them reusable and interchangeable in run-time.

How is that achieved:

  1. Define abstract class or interface that has one common method which invocation will perform some action
  2. Define concretions for the above
  3. Add variable of type strategy abstraction to your client class
  4. Add method in your client class which will execute strategy
  5. Add method in your client class that will allow to change strategy

    And that’s basically it. Now, let’s move to example.

    Example given in book is a duck simulator. It uses different types of duck where actions such as quack or fly are abstracted and encapsulated into strategies. Good example in my opinion. Our example is magic box that consist of an array of 10 integers which can be displayed in console. But the way the numbers are displayed varies depending on enumeration strategy. Let’s start with abstracting the enumeration strategy:

    So, our strategy is used to return string that enumerates all numbers in given array.
    Now, let’s implement different strategies: enumerate as is (without changing the order), bubble sorted and shuffled.

    What could be done better in those three implementations is that part of the code that build output string is common so natural reaction would be to encapsulate it somehow, but please, turn a blind eye for that 🙂
    Next step – writing our MagicBox class which has an array of 10 integer, randomly generated in the constructor, private field of type IEnumerateStrategy accompanied by a method for changing the strategy, and Display() method that writes numbers to the console using the strategy.

    To test the example in application’s Main() method, we will create new MagicBox object and assign new AsIsEnumeratorStrategy, then invoke Display() method, and then assign some other available strategies and again invoke Display() method.

    So, as a result we get number listed using three different strategies. Advantages of using Strategy Pattern is that you can write as many strategies as you want without changing the class that uses them and interchange them during run-time (the definition, right?).So that’s it when it comes to Strategy Pattern. If you’re interested in next pattern (which is going to be the Observer) please come back (probably) next week. Thanks!

    Source code: download zip file