What are the differences between the == operator and the equals() method?

John Mitchell

Well, first off, == is a fundamental operator in the language. The result type of the expression is a boolean. For comparing boolean types, it compares the operands for the same truth value. For comparing reference types, it compares the operands for the same reference value (i.e., refer to the same object or are both null). For numeric types, it compares the operands for the same integer value or equivalent floating point values. See the Java Language Specification, section 15.20 for more information.

In contrast, equals() is an instance method which is fundamentally defined by the java.lang.Object class. This method, by convention, indicates whether the receiver object is "equal to" the passed in object. The base implementation of this method in the Object class checks for reference equality. Other classes, including those you write, may override this method to perform more specialized equivalence testing. See the Java Language Specification, section 20.1.3 for more information.

The typical "gotcha" for most people is in using == to compare two strings when they really should be using the String class's equals() method. From above, you know that the operator will only return "true" when both of the references refer to the same actual object. But, with strings, most uses want to know whether or not the value of the two strings are the same -- since two different String objects may both have the same (or different) values.

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