How to check if an object reference is not null?

Usually, if not always, we use the if statement combined with == or != operators to check if an object reference is null or not. We do this to validate arguments passed to constructors or methods doesn’t contain a null value. These null check can be seen as clutter in our code.

The solution is to use the java.util.Objects class. This static utility class provides methods like requireNonNull(T) and requireNonNull(T, String) to check if the specified object reference is not null. If null these method will throw a NullPointerException. Using the second method variant we can customize the exception message.

The example below shows how we use these methods.

package org.kodejava.example.util;

import java.util.Objects;

public class ObjectsNullCheckDemo {
    private String firstName;
    private String lastName;

    /**
     * Validate constructor arguments. The firstName and lastName 
     * arguments can't be null. A NullPointerException with the 
     * specified message will be thrown.
     */
    public ObjectsNullCheckDemo(String firstName, String lastName) {
        this.firstName = Objects.requireNonNull(firstName, 
                "First name can't be null.");
        this.lastName = Objects.requireNonNull(lastName, 
                "Last name can't be null.");
    }

    public void setFirstName(String firstName) {
        // First name can't be null.
        this.firstName = Objects.requireNonNull(firstName,
                "First name can't be null.");
    }

    public void setLastName(String lastName) {
        // Last name can't be null.
        this.lastName = Objects.requireNonNull(lastName,
                "Last name can't be null.");
    }

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // This line is fine.
        ObjectsNullCheckDemo demo = new ObjectsNullCheckDemo("John", "Doe");
        System.out.println("demo = " + demo);

        try {
            // This line produce a NullPointerException
            ObjectsNullCheckDemo demo1 = new ObjectsNullCheckDemo("Alice", null);
        } catch (Exception e) {
            e.printStackTrace();
        }

        String name = null;
        try {
            // The line below will throw java.lang.NullPointerException.
            Objects.requireNonNull(name);
        } catch (Exception e) {
            e.printStackTrace();
        }
    }

    @Override
    public String toString() {
        return "ObjectsNullCheckDemo{" +
                "firstName='" + firstName + '\'' +
                ", lastName='" + lastName + '\'' +
                '}';
    }
}

Running the code above will print the following result:

demo = ObjectsNullCheckDemo{firstName='John', lastName='Doe'}
java.lang.NullPointerException: Last name can't be null.
    at java.util.Objects.requireNonNull(Objects.java:228)
    at org.kodejava.example.util.ObjectsNullCheckDemo.(ObjectsNullCheckDemo.java:14)
    at org.kodejava.example.util.ObjectsNullCheckDemo.main(ObjectsNullCheckDemo.java:34)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(NativeMethodAccessorImpl.java:62)
    at sun.reflect.DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.java:43)
    at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Method.java:483)
    at com.intellij.rt.execution.application.AppMain.main(AppMain.java:144)
java.lang.NullPointerException
    at java.util.Objects.requireNonNull(Objects.java:203)
    at org.kodejava.example.util.ObjectsNullCheckDemo.main(ObjectsNullCheckDemo.java:42)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(NativeMethodAccessorImpl.java:62)
    at sun.reflect.DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.java:43)
    at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Method.java:483)
    at com.intellij.rt.execution.application.AppMain.main(AppMain.java:144)
Wayan Saryada

Wayan Saryada

A programmer, runner, recreational diver, currently living in the island of Bali, Indonesia. Mostly programming in Java, creating web based application with Spring Framework, JPA, etc. If you need help on Java programming you can hire me on Fiverr.
Wayan Saryada

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