Java String: A Guide to String Basics, Methods, Immutability, Performance, and Best Practices

In this blog post, we will learn what is String, how to use it, its important methods with an example, why String is immutable, and the best practices to use Strings in Java.

1. What is a String?

In Java, a string is a sequence of characters. The String class provides methods to manipulate these characters, like concatenating two strings, converting characters to uppercase, and so on.

Key Features of String

Immutability: Strings are immutable in Java, meaning once created, they cannot be changed. Any modification to a string results in a new object, leaving the original string unaltered. 

String Pool: Java uses a special memory area known as the String Pool to store string literals. This helps in saving memory, as multiple references to the same string literally point to the same object in the pool.

String Creation: Strings can be created using either string literals or the new keyword. Creating strings with literals promotes reusing existing objects from the String Pool, whereas the new keyword forces a new object's creation. 

Concatenation: Strings can be concatenated using the + operator or the concat() method. Concatenation creates a new string object since strings are immutable. 

Comparison: Strings can be compared using the equals() method for content comparison or == for reference comparison. The equalsIgnoreCase() method can be used for case-insensitive content comparisons. 

Case Handling: Methods like toLowerCase() and toUpperCase() allow conversion between different cases. 

Substring & Character Access: Methods like substring(), charAt(), and indexOf() help in accessing specific parts or characters of a string. 

Trimming & Replacing: trim() is used to remove leading and trailing whitespace. replace() and replaceAll() help in replacing specific characters or sequences within a string. 

Converting to Other Types: Strings can be converted to arrays of characters using toCharArray(). Various parsing methods like Integer.parseInt() can convert a string to numerical types. 

Performance Consideration: Since strings are immutable, frequent modifications can lead to performance issues. In scenarios with intense string manipulation, consider using StringBuilder or StringBuffer.

2. Creating String Objects

There are two ways to create a String object:
  1. By string literal
  2. By new keyword

1. Using String Literal

Java String literal is created by using double quotes.
For Example:
String s="javaguides";
Each time you create a string literal, the JVM checks the string constant pool first. If the string already exists in the pool, a reference to the pooled instance is returned. If a string doesn't exist in the pool, a new string instance is created and placed in the pool.
For example:
String s1="javaguides";
String s2="javaguides";
 //will not create new instance
To know more detail about how the String Pool works on Guide to Java String Constant Pool

Now the question is why Java uses a concept of a string literal?
It's simple, to make Java more memory efficient because no new objects are created if it exists already in the string constant pool.

2. Using a new Keyword

Let's create a simple example to demonstrate by creating String objects using the new keyword.
public static void main(String[] args) {
    String str = new String("Java Guides");
     // create String object using new Keyword
    int length = str.length();
    System.out.println(" length of the string '" + str + "' is :: " + length);

 length of the string 'Java Guides' is:: 11 
From the above example, JVM will create a new string object in normal(non-pool) heap memory, and the literal "Java Guides" will be placed in the string constant pool. The variable str will refer to the object in the heap(non-pool).
To create a String initialized by an array of characters, Here is an example:
char chars[] = {

String s = new String(chars);

3. Important String Class Methods

Java's String class, part of the java.lang package provides various methods to perform different operations on strings, such as trimming, replacing, converting, comparing, and more. Let's explore the important methods of the String class in Java and illustrates how they can be used.

1. length(): Finding the Length 

This method returns the length of the string, i.e., the number of characters in it.
String name = "JavaGuides";
int len = name.length();
System.out.println("Length: " + len); // Output: Length: 10

2. concat(): Concatenating Strings 

The concat() method appends one string to the end of another.
String first = "Java";
String second = "Guides";
String full = first.concat(second);
System.out.println(full); // Output: JavaGuides

3. charAt(): Accessing Specific Characters 

The charAt() method returns the character at a specific index in the string.
String word = "JavaGuides";
char letter = word.charAt(4);
System.out.println(letter); // Output: G

4. substring(): Extracting Substrings 

This method returns a part of the string.

String word = "JavaGuides";
String part = word.substring(4, 9);
System.out.println(part); // Output: Guide

5. toLowerCase() and toUpperCase(): Changing Case

These methods convert the string to lowercase and uppercase, respectively.
String mixed = "JavaGuides";
System.out.println(mixed.toLowerCase()); // Output: javaguides
System.out.println(mixed.toUpperCase()); // Output: JAVAGUIDES

6. trim(): Removing Whitespace 

The trim() method eliminates leading and trailing spaces.
String spaced = " JavaGuides ";
System.out.println(spaced.trim()); // Output: JavaGuides

7. replace(): Replacing Characters 

This method replaces occurrences of a specific character or character sequence.
String original = "JavaGuides";
String replaced = original.replace("Java", "Spring");
System.out.println(replaced); // Output: SpringGuides

8. equals(): Comparing Strings 

The equals() method checks if two strings are the same.
String one = "JavaGuides";
String two = "javaguides";
boolean isEqual = one.equals(two); // false

9. indexOf() and lastIndexOf(): Finding Occurrences 

These methods return the index of the first and last occurrence of a character or substring.
String example = "JavaGuides";
int firstIndex = example.indexOf('a'); // 1
int lastIndex = example.lastIndexOf('a'); // 3

4. Why String is Immutable in Java

In Java, strings are immutable, meaning that once a string object is created, its content cannot be altered. Instead, any operation that seems to change the content of a string actually results in a new string object. The original string remains unchanged. 

Here's why string immutability is a design feature in Java: 
1. Security: Immutable objects are inherently thread-safe since they cannot be modified after creation. This property eliminates synchronization issues in multithreaded applications, making string handling more secure. 

2. Performance Optimization through String Pooling: Since strings are immutable, Java can cache them in a special memory region called the String Pool. If the same string literal is used elsewhere in the program, both references will point to the same object in the pool. This saves memory and boosts performance. 

3. Hashcode Caching: Strings in Java often act as keys in collections like HashMap and HashSet. The hashcode of an object, once calculated, can be cached as long as the object is not modified. Since strings are immutable, their hashcode remains constant, allowing for efficient retrieval from collections.

4. Integrity and Reliability: Immutability ensures that once a string object is created, it will not be changed by any part of the code, intentionally or unintentionally. This behavior makes the code more predictable and maintains the integrity of the data. 

5. Simplifies Complex Systems: In a large and complex application, tracking and controlling object modification can be cumbersome. Immutability alleviates this problem, simplifying code understanding and maintenance. 

6. Class Loading and Security Concerns: Strings are used in various parts of Java's Class Loading mechanism, including specifying the classpath. Mutable strings could pose security risks and create unpredictable behaviors within the JVM's security model.

5. Java String Best Practices

1. Use String Literals Where Possible: 

String literals are managed in the String Pool, allowing for efficient memory usage. Compare using equals instead of ==:
String str1 = "JavaGuides";
String str2 = "JavaGuides";
// Use equals for content comparison
if (str1.equals(str2)) { /*...*/ }

2. Avoid Concatenation in Loops: 

String concatenation inside a loop can lead to performance issues due to the creation of multiple objects. Use StringBuilder instead:
StringBuilder builder = new StringBuilder();
for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
String result = builder.toString();

3. Use String Formatting: 

For complex string creation, the String.format provides a more readable approach:

String formatted = String.format("Order %d: %s", orderId, orderName);

4. Avoid Using == for String Comparison: 

The == operator compares object references, not content. Use equals():

if (str1.equals(str2)) { /*...*/ }

5. Use equalsIgnoreCase for Case-Insensitive Comparison:

if (str1.equalsIgnoreCase(str2)) { /*...*/ }

6. Prefer isEmpty Over length() Check for Emptiness:

if (str.isEmpty()) { /*...*/ }

7. Use StringBuilder Over StringBuffer for Single-Threaded Operations: 

StringBuilder provides better performance as it doesn't synchronize every operation like StringBuffer. 

8. Handle null Strings Carefully: 

Consider using Objects.equals(str1, str2) to avoid NullPointerException

9. Utilize String Methods for Cleaning and Parsing: 

Make use of methods like trim(), split(), toLowerCase(), toUpperCase(), etc., to manipulate strings without reinventing the wheel. 

10. Be Careful with Character Encoding: 

If working with different character encodings, be conscious of the encoding used, especially when reading or writing strings to files or over a network.

6. Java String Best Practices - Cheat Sheet


In this blog post, we have learned what is String, key points about String, different ways to create String objects, important String class methods with examples, we discussed why String is immutable in Java, and finally, we learned String best practices.

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