Map Implementations
Trail: Collections
Lesson: Implementations

Map Implementations

Map implementations are grouped into general-purpose, special-purpose, and concurrent implementations.

General-Purpose Map Implementations

The three general-purpose Map implementations are HashMap, TreeMap and LinkedHashMap. If you need SortedMap operations or key-ordered Collection-view iteration, use TreeMap; if you want maximum speed and don't care about iteration order, use HashMap; if you want near-HashMap performance and insertion-order iteration, use LinkedHashMap. In this respect, the situation for Map is analogous to Set. Likewise, everything else in the Set Implementations section also applies to Map implementations.

LinkedHashMap provides two capabilities that are not available with LinkedHashSet. When you create a LinkedHashMap, you can order it based on key access rather than insertion. In other words, merely looking up the value associated with a key brings that key to the end of the map. Also, LinkedHashMap provides the removeEldestEntry method, which may be overridden to impose a policy for removing stale mappings automatically when new mappings are added to the map. This makes it very easy to implement a custom cache.

For example, this override will allow the map to grow up to as many as 100 entries and then it will delete the eldest entry each time a new entry is added, maintaining a steady state of 100 entries.

private static final int MAX_ENTRIES = 100;

protected boolean removeEldestEntry(Map.Entry eldest) {
    return size() > MAX_ENTRIES;

Special-Purpose Map Implementations

There are three special-purpose Map implementations — EnumMap, WeakHashMap and IdentityHashMap. EnumMap, which is internally implemented as an array, is a high-performance Map implementation for use with enum keys. This implementation combines the richness and safety of the Map interface with a speed approaching that of an array. If you want to map an enum to a value, you should always use an EnumMap in preference to an array.

WeakHashMap is an implementation of the Map interface that stores only weak references to its keys. Storing only weak references allows a key-value pair to be garbage-collected when its key is no longer referenced outside of the WeakHashMap. This class provides the easiest way to harness the power of weak references. It is useful for implementing "registry-like" data structures, where the utility of an entry vanishes when its key is no longer reachable by any thread.

IdentityHashMap is an identity-based Map implementation based on a hash table. This class is useful for topology-preserving object graph transformations, such as serialization or deep-copying. To perform such transformations, you need to maintain an identity-based "node table" that keeps track of which objects have already been seen. Identity-based maps are also used to maintain object-to-meta-information mappings in dynamic debuggers and similar systems. Finally, identity-based maps are useful in thwarting "spoof attacks" that are a result of intentionally perverse equals methods because IdentityHashMap never invokes the equals method on its keys. An added benefit of this implementation is that it is fast.

Concurrent Map Implementations

The java.util.concurrent package contains the ConcurrentMap interface, which extends Map with atomic putIfAbsent, remove, and replace methods, and the ConcurrentHashMap implementation of that interface.

ConcurrentHashMap is a highly concurrent, high-performance implementation backed up by a hash table. This implementation never blocks when performing retrievals and allows the client to select the concurrency level for updates. It is intended as a drop-in replacement for Hashtable: in addition to implementing ConcurrentMap, it supports all the legacy methods peculiar to Hashtable. Again, if you don't need the legacy operations, be careful to manipulate it with the ConcurrentMap interface.

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