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Chapter 1 of API Design
The Object
by Bill Venners

Part 1 of 21

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Object-oriented APIs are toolboxes for programmers. An API contains types and their members: classes to instantiate, classes to subclass, interfaces to implement, constants to use, and static methods to invoke. When you design an API, you design types. But the main utility of those types is providing client programmers with useful objects they can employ in their programs. The primary tool an API toolbox offers is objects.

To be a good API designer, therefore, you need a sense of what makes a good object design. In this chapter, I discuss a handful of object designs that I feel are fundamental. With this chapter's guidelines, I hope to help you recognize situations in which these object designs are appropriate.

Guideline 1. Design objects for people, not for computers

The basic conceptual unit of object-oriented design is, not surprisingly, the object. It is therefore vital that designers of object-oriented APIs grasp the significance of the object. To me, the most important thing to keep in mind when designing objects is that objects are for people, not for computers.

The point of objects is not to help computers run software, but to help people develop software. Computers are just as happy running assembly language programs as object-oriented programs. But people are more productive (and with luck, happier) writing object-oriented programs. The main aim of software technology advances, from machine language to assembly to procedural to object-oriented languages, has been to help programmers do their jobs. In particular, objects help programmers manage the challenges of software complexity and change.

Part 1 of 21

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Last Updated: Friday, April 26, 2002
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