Obtaining Field Types
Trail: The Reflection API
Lesson: Members
Section: Fields

Obtaining Field Types

A field may be either of primitive or reference type. There are eight primitive types: boolean, byte, short, int, long, char, float, and double. A reference type is anything that is a direct or indirect subclass of java.lang.Object including interfaces, arrays, and enumerated types.

The FieldSpy example prints the field's type and generic type given a fully-qualified binary class name and field name.

import java.lang.reflect.Field;
import java.util.List;

public class FieldSpy<T> {
    public boolean[][] b = {{ false, false }, { true, true } };
    public String name  = "Alice";
    public List<Integer> list;
    public T val;

    public static void main(String... args) {
	try {
	    Class<?> c = Class.forName(args[0]);
	    Field f = c.getField(args[1]);
	    System.out.format("Type: %s%n", f.getType());
	    System.out.format("GenericType: %s%n", f.getGenericType());

        // production code should handle these exceptions more gracefully
	} catch (ClassNotFoundException x) {
	} catch (NoSuchFieldException x) {

Sample output to retrieve the type of the three public fields in this class (b, name, and the parameterized type list), follows. User input is in italics.

$ java FieldSpy FieldSpy b
Type: class [[Z
GenericType: class [[Z
$ java FieldSpy FieldSpy name
Type: class java.lang.String
GenericType: class java.lang.String
$ java FieldSpy FieldSpy list
Type: interface java.util.List
GenericType: java.util.List<java.lang.Integer>
$ java FieldSpy FieldSpy val
Type: class java.lang.Object
GenericType: T

The type for the field b is two-dimensional array of boolean. The syntax for the type name is described in Class.getName().

The type for the field val is reported as java.lang.Object because generics are implemented via type erasure which removes all information regarding generic types during compilation. Thus T is replaced by the upper bound of the type variable, in this case, java.lang.Object.

Field.getGenericType() will consult the Signature Attribute in the class file if it's present. If the attribute isn't available, it falls back on Field.getType() which was not changed by the introduction of generics. The other methods in reflection with name getGenericFoo for some value of Foo are implemented similarly.

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