shsteimer shsteimer - 2 months ago 20
Java Question

String concatenation: concat() vs + operator

I'm curious and wasn't sure, so I thought I'd ask:

Assuming String a and b.

a+=b
a.concat(b)


Under the hood, are they the same thing?

Edit:

Here is concat decompiled as reference. I'd like to be able to decompile the
+
operator as well to see what that does, not sure how to do that yet.

public String concat(String s) {

int i = s.length();
if (i == 0) {
return this;
} else {
char ac[] = new char[count + i];
getChars(0, count, ac, 0);
s.getChars(0, i, ac, count);
return new String(0, count + i, ac);
}
}

Answer

No, not quite.

Firstly, there's a slight difference in semantics. If a is null, then a.concat(b) throws a NullPointerException but a+=b will treat the original value of a as if it were null. Furthermore, the concat() method only accepts String values while the + operator will silently convert the argument to a String (using the toString() method for objects). So the concat() method is more strict in what it accepts.

To look under the hood, write a simple class with a += b;

public class Concat {
    String cat(String a, String b) {
        a += b;
        return a;
    }
}

Now disassemble with javap -c (included in the Sun JDK). You should see a listing including:

java.lang.String cat(java.lang.String, java.lang.String);
  Code:
   0:   new     #2; //class java/lang/StringBuilder
   3:   dup
   4:   invokespecial   #3; //Method java/lang/StringBuilder."<init>":()V
   7:   aload_1
   8:   invokevirtual   #4; //Method java/lang/StringBuilder.append:(Ljava/lang/String;)Ljava/lang/StringBuilder;
   11:  aload_2
   12:  invokevirtual   #4; //Method java/lang/StringBuilder.append:(Ljava/lang/String;)Ljava/lang/StringBuilder;
   15:  invokevirtual   #5; //Method java/lang/StringBuilder.toString:()Ljava/lang/    String;
   18:  astore_1
   19:  aload_1
   20:  areturn

So, a += b is the equivalent of

a = new StringBuilder()
    .append(a)
    .append(b)
    .toString();

The concat method should be faster. However, with more strings the StringBuilder method wins, at least in terms of performance.

The source code of String and StringBuilder (and its package-private base class) is available in src.zip of the Sun JDK. You can see that you are building up a char array (resizing as necessary) and then throwing it away when you create the final String. In practice memory allocation is surprisingly fast.