Static Import in Java

Static import in Java was introduced in the Java SE 5.0 version, which is used to directly access the static members of a class without using its class name.

Upto Java 1.4, we must access static members of one class from another class only by using class-name.

Without using static import

package p1;
public class Example {
   public static int x = 10;
   public static void display(){
      System.out.println("Hello");
   }
}

Accessing static members x variable, and display() method in another class.

package p2;
import p1.Example;
public class Test{
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(Example.x);
      Example.display();
   }
}

Output:-
10
Hello

Example of predefined classes,

import java.lang.Math;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      System.out.println(Math.PI);
      System.out.println(Math.abs(1.9));
      System.out.println(Math.pow(5,2));
   }
}

Output:-
3.141592653589793
1.9
25.0

In Java 5.0 we got a shortcut, which is called static import. Using the static import feature we can access static members of one class from another class directly by their name, without using class-name.

PrepBytes
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The syntax for static import is:-
import static packageName.className.*;

This statement will provide access to all static members of the given class. Note that the name of the concept is "static import" but the syntax is having "import static". Example:- import static p1.Example.*;

Example using static import

package p2;
import static p1.Example.*; // static import
public class Test{
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(x);
      display();
   }
}

Output:-
10
Hello

import static java.lang.Math.*;
public class MathTest {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      System.out.println(PI);
      System.out.println(abs(1.9));
      System.out.println(pow(5,2));
   }
}

If we want to import only a particular static member using static import concept then we have to use the following syntax:-
import static package.className.staticMember;

It will import only a particular static member. Example:- import static p1.Example.x; to import only x variable, import static p1.Example.display; to import only display method.

import static java.lang.System.out;
public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      out.println("Hello");
   }
}

Output:-
Hello


Execution Flow of Java Static Import

Compiler searching preference while using static import,
1) Current method
2) Current class
3) Superclass/Parent class
4) Static imported class

While compiling Test.java compiler found System.out.println(x); so it searches in current method i.e. main method of Test class, but it is not available in the main method. Now compiler searches for x variable in Test class as a static variable, but here also it is not available. Then the compiler searches for x variable in superclass "java.lang.Object", which doesn’t have any x variable. Finally compiler checks in static imported classes. From there it will fetch the value of the x variable. If there also it is not available then the compiler will give an error.

Some important points while working with static import statement,

  • The accessibility modifier also plays a key role. If the static member is invisible outside of the class then the static import statement can’t access them.
  • We can’t use static import for non-packaged class. The syntax for static import is import static package.className.staticMember; For static import, the class must be packaged.
  • The syntax is "import static", not "static import". If we use "static import" then the compiler will give an error.
  • Like normal import statement, we can’t write "import static" before the package name or inside the class declaration. The package statement must be the first statement of the Java file.
public class Example {
   public static int a = 1;
}

Since, Example class is not inside a package so, we can’t use static import concept for Example class.

import static Example.*;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      System.out.println(x);
   }
}

error: cannot find symbol:- import static Example.*;


Java Static Import with a Name Conflict

package p1;
public class Example {
   public static int x = 10;
}

Find the output of the Test class.

package p2;
import static p1.Example.*;
public class Test{
   static int x = 11;
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      int x = 9;
      System.out.println(x); 
   }
}

The first priority is always given to the local variables, so the correct answer is (b) i.e. 9.

package p2;
import p1.Example;
public class Test {
   static int x = 11;
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      int x = 9;
      System.out.println(x); 
      System.out.println(Example.x); 
      System.out.println(Test.x); 
   }
}

Now, the output is 9, 10, 11. The local variable and class-level variables are differentiated by using the class name. And in this case, to get the value of x variable from the Example class we have to use a normal import statement.

Static import name conflict in inheritance.

package p3;
public class Sample {
   public static int x = 18;
}

package p2;
import static p1.Example.*;
import p3.Sample;
public class Test extends Sample {
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(x); 
   }
}

The output of Sample.java is 18, because compiler give first preference to super class than static import.

Note that access level modifier is also play the key role in these types of situations. If the aceesibility modifier of x variable in Sample class is “private” or “default” then compiler can’t access it.


Ambiguity in Java Static Import

If two different classes having static members with the same name, then we can’t use static import with * to access them directly because the compiler won’t be able to determine which member to use.

package p1;
public class Example {
   public static int x = 9;
}

package p1;
public class Sample {
   public static int x = 18;
}

package p2;
import static p1.Example.*;
import static p1.Sample.*;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(x);
   }
}

error: reference to x is ambiguous

The Example and Sample are two different classes, having a static variable x. When the Test class tries to access the x variable then the compiler can’t determine to choose x variable from which class because it’s available in both classes. The Example and Sample class may be in the same package or in a different package then also compiler gives error: reference to x is ambiguous

In java.lang package Wrapper classes Character, Byte, Short, Integer, Long, Float, and Double having some static variables with the same name and different values like- BYTES, MAX_VALUE, MIN_VALUE, SIZE. Similarly, Float and Double classes have many static variables with the same name as MAX_EXPONENT, MIN_EXPONENT, MIN_NORMAL, NaN and e.t.c. While using static import with these class we can get an ambiguous error.

import static java.lang.Integer.*;
import static java.lang.Character.*;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      System.out.println(SIZE);
   }
}

error: reference to SIZE is ambiguous

While using the normal import statement it is a very rare case that two packages contain the same class/interface name. Therefore, while working with a normal import statement there is a rare chance to get an ambiguous error.

But while using a static import statement it can be a common case where two different classes either in the same package or in the different package containing the same static members. Therefore, many times we can get an ambiguous error.

Solution for this ambiguity:-

If we import the static member with name then compiler won’t get confusion. Example:- import static java.lang.Character.SIZE;

import static java.lang.Integer.*;
import static java.lang.Character.*;
import static java.lang.Character.SIZE;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      System.out.println(SIZE);
   }
}

Output:- 8

With our previous example,

package p2;
import static p1.Example.x;
import static p1.Sample.*;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(x);
   }
}

Output:-
9


Normal Import vs Static Import in Java

Normal Import StatementStatic Import Statement
Static members can be accessed only by using the class name.Static member can be accessed without using classname.
We can create object, and access non-static members.We can’t create an object of the class.
We can create subclassWe can’t create a subclass.
Rare chance to get an ambiguous error, because in rare case two packages contain same class/interface name.Many times we can get an ambiguous error because two classes can contain static members with the same name.
It can be used with the unpackaged classes.It can’t be used with unpackaged class.

If we use a normal import statement then we can use the class name directly, using class name static members of the class can be accessed, and we can create an object the class or subclass.

But using static import we can’t access the class-name so, we can’t use that class-name inside our Java program. We can’t create an object of the class or create a subclass of that class. We are only allowed to use the static members of that class without the class-name. If we try to use static members with class-name then the compiler will give an error until the class is imported normally.

package p1;
public class Example {
	public static int x = 9;
}
package p2;
import static p1.Example.*;
public class Test {
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(Example.x); // error
      Example.display(); // error
      Example e1 = new Example(); // error
   }
}
import static p1.Example.*;
public class Sample extends Example {
   //  error: cannot access Example
}

Using static import we can’t access class-name directly in another Java file. If we use class-name then the compiler give error: cannot find the symbol. If we want to use class-name or create an object then we must use normal import statement.

package p2;
import p1.Example; // normal import
public class Test{
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(Example.x);
      Example.display();
      Example e1 = new Example();

      System.out.println(x); // error
      display(); // error
   }
}

Using normal import we can’t use static members of that class directly. If we want to use static members of that class directly, and also with class-name then we must use both normal import and static import.

package p2;
import p1.Example; // normal import
import static p1.Example.*; // static import
public class Test{
   public static void main(String args[]) {
      System.out.println(Example.x);
      Example.display();
      Example e1 = new Example();

      System.out.println(x); // error
      display(); // error
   }
}
import p1.Example;
public class Sample extends Example {
   // to create sub class we must
   // use normal import
}

Different Syntax

Different examples with normal import,

Import statementValid?Description
import java.lang.System;validimport System class of java.lang package
import java.lang.System.*;validimport all inner classes of System class
import java.lang.System.out;errorError because out is not a class
import Example;validImport unpackaged class Example

Different examples with static import,

Static Import statementValid?Description
import static java.lang.System;errorStatic member or * symbol should be at the end.
import static java.lang.System.*;validimport all static member of the System class
import static java.lang.System.out;validimport only static member “out” of the System class
import static Example.*;errorStatic import can’t be used for unpackaged class

Final Thoughts

The static import was introduced in Java 5.0 to improve the code readability and enhance coding. But many times it leads to confusion and not good for programming. For multiple static imports, we can’t easily find which class a static member comes from. We have to look at the source code of each class. That’s why If there is a specific requirement then only we should use static import.

But if we import a static member with its name like import static java.lang.System.out; then it won’t create too much confusion.

Also See:- Java naming conventions

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