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Java in a Nutshell

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Object Serialization

9.5 Advanced Serialization

The Object Serialization API also has some advanced features beyond those demonstrated above. One such feature is the Externalizable interface. If a class implements this interface, the ObjectInputStream and ObjectOutputStream classes use an object's readExternal() and writeExternal() methods to read and write its state from a stream. Most classes that want custom serialization behavior simply implement readObject() and writeObject() methods to do pre- and post-processing. Externalizable objects, on the other hand, take complete control over reading and writing their state. This interface is intended for objects that do not even want to use the basic serialized object data format used for all Serializable objects. A word processor object, for example, might "externalize" itself using its own native file format.

Another advanced serialization feature is the ability to register an ObjectInputValidation object that can verify that an object graph has been deserialized in a consistent, valid state. Typically, the root of an object graph registers such a validation object by calling the registerValidation() method of the ObjectInputStream from its own custom readObject() method. Then, when the graph has been read completely, the validateObject() method of the ObjectInputValidation object is called to perform whatever validity checks are necessary.

Finally, you may notice that ObjectOutputStream and ObjectInputStream have methods like annotateClass(), replaceObject(), resolveClass(), and resolveObject(). These are intended for use by subclasses of the object streams that implement special kinds of object serialization behavior.

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