In today’s Java tutorial, we will cover the topic of imports. What are Java imports? How are imports used in Java code? Why do I need imports? Is there any easy way to manage imports? These are the questions I hope to answer in order to give you a full understanding of why these imports used.

What are Java Imports?

Well, since you are already familiar with Java packages, Java imports flow naturally from packages. In Java, there are TONS of useful built in classes and methods that allow us to do things like:

  • Read the contents of a file / Create a file and populate it with contents
  • Compare dates with each other (i.e. see if one date is before or after another)
  • Send emails to anyone

Okay, that’s great, so what does that have to do with imports? Well, all of these classes are nicely organized in packages, and if you want to USE these classes, you’ll need to import them into your project. So, this means that before you can play around with Dates, you’ll need to import the Date object first!

What do Java imports look like in Code?

Well, if we continue on our example of Dates, then it would look like this:

import java.util.Calendar;
import java.util.Date;

public class MyProgram
{
  public static void main(String[] args)
  {
    Calendar calendar = Calendar.getInstance();
    calendar.set(2012, 8, 19);
    Date firstDate = calendar.getTime();

    calendar.set(2012, 8, 1);
    Date secondDate = calendar.getTime();

    System.out.println("Is firstDate before secondDate? " + firstDate.before(secondDate));
    System.out.println("Is firstDate after secondDate? " + firstDate.after(secondDate));
  }
}

If you have a keen eye, you’ll spot in the imports at the very beginning of this code segment. All this code means, is that in the package “java.util”, there are Classes called “Date” and “Calendar”, and we want to use them in our program! The reason that we need to tell Java that we are going to use these Classes is for the sake of brevity and specificity. A great example of this is the Date class. You may or may not know this, but there are more than one Date classes in Java. There is a java.util.Date class and a java.sql.Date class.

So, you can imagine how it would be impossible for Java to decide which Date class you’re actually referring to right? So you just need to specify which one you’d like to use.

Why do I need Java Imports

Well, the truth is that you don’t actually NEED to use imports. You could get away with referring to the full package name of the Class you with to use. So the code above could be re-written like so:

public class MyProgram
{
  public static void main(String[] args)
  {
    java.util.Calendar calendar = java.util.Calendar.getInstance();
    calendar.set(2012, 8, 19);
    java.util.Date firstDate = calendar.getTime();

    calendar.set(2012, 8, 1);
    java.util.Date secondDate = calendar.getTime();

    System.out.println("Is firstDate before secondDate? " + firstDate.before(secondDate));
    System.out.println("Is firstDate after secondDate? " + firstDate.after(secondDate));
  }
}

Notice that the import statements at the top are gone, and we’ve now prefixed every Date and Calendar reference with java.util. This is correct code and will compile just fine. But it’s a bit annoying to have to write out the java.util every time you reference Date or Calendar. So this is why we have import statements in Java. It just makes life easier!

Is there an easy way to use Java Imports?

There is! In your Spring STS IDE, you can use a shortcut key that will automatically detect any Classes that haven’t yet been imported and attempt to automatically determine what package that Class exists in and put in the import statement in code. The shortcut keys are Ctrl-Shift-O (that’s Control-Shift-“Oh”, not zero), try it out yourself, copy/paste the following code, you’ll see that there are errors with all the Date and Calendar classes. Hit Ctrl-Shift-O, Spring STS will ask you if you want java.util.Date or java.sql.Date, choose java.util.Date and voila! The import code is automatically added to the top of your Class file!

public class MyProgram
{
  public static void main(String[] args)
  {
    Calendar calendar = Calendar.getInstance();
    calendar.set(2012, 8, 19);
    Date firstDate = calendar.getTime();

    calendar.set(2012, 8, 1);
    Date secondDate = calendar.getTime();

    System.out.println("Is firstDate before secondDate? " + firstDate.before(secondDate));
    System.out.println("Is firstDate after secondDate? " + firstDate.after(secondDate));
  }
}

Importing ALL Classes in a Package

There is one other “shortcut” method of importing classes in Java, and that’s by using a wildcard (*). Say for instance you just want to import ALL of the classes that belong in the java.util package, you could just use the code import java.util.*. This will import everything in java.util, but it’s important to note that it won’t import any sub-packages within java.util. However, this “importing method” is not really used much anymore due to the fact that IDEs (like Spring STS) are able to import classes automatically by organizing your import (i.e. via Ctrl-Shift-O shortcut key). But for the sake of completion, I figured I would talk about the wildcard imports. Use them if you like!

One final note

For those of you who may be asking the question, “Why can I use things like String or Integer without having to do imports?”. Excellent question and very astute observation! This is because the most commonly used Classes reside in the java.lang package, and this package is essentially auto-imported for us for convenience. How nice of Java to do that for us 🙂

I hope that little Java tutorial helped clear the air on what Java imports are and how they are used. If something is still not clear, please ask your questions in the comments section and I’ll respond ASAP, I promise! So for now, keep coding and keep learning! And if you want to accelerate your progress to starting your career as a full stack developer, be sure to learn more about our Java Developer Bootcamp here.

Free Java Beginners Course

Start learning how to code today with our free beginners course. Learn more.

Thank you for your message. It has been sent.
There was an error trying to send your message. Please try again later.