Can someone explain Letter/Envelope?
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Posted By:   Jackie_Noorden
Posted On:   Monday, May 7, 2001 10:18 AM

My C++ is too weak to understand any of the examples I can find for the Letter/Envelope idiom. If anyone can briefly supply me a Java based explanation I would be sooooo happy :)

Ms Jackie

Re: Can someone explain Letter/Envelope?

Posted By:   writer  
Posted On:   Wednesday, July 29, 2015 11:52 PM



 if to be honest I've never heard baout such an idiom.
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Re: Can someone explain Letter/Envelope?

Posted By:   David_Liu  
Posted On:   Monday, August 5, 2002 06:39 AM

There is a book call Patterns in Java by Mark Grand. I think it is a good complement to the original GOF book. I like the way the GOF explain the patterns; however, using Grand's book for it's UML and Java examples is very helpful.

Re: Can someone explain Letter/Envelope

Posted By:   Michael_Wax  
Posted On:   Tuesday, May 8, 2001 09:40 PM

I believe that it would be the bridge pattern.

The rationale behind the letter/envelope idiom is to allow multiple implementations of an abstract datatype (either over time or in different application domains), but with no change in the client code. This is achieved in C++ by using an abstract base class from which are derived the both the interface (envelope) class, and the implementation (letter) classes. Calls to envelope methods are delegated to the corresponding letter methods.

An example: Suppose you were doing experiments which produced noisy data, and that you wanted to smooth this data to make long-range trends more apparent. However, you might not be sure which smoothing algorithm would work best, and further you would probably want to refine your chosen algorithm over time for greater efficiency. Using the bridge pattern:

public interface Smoothable {
public double[] smooth (double[] data);

public class Envelope {
private Smoothable impl;
public Envelope (Smoothable impl) {
public double[] smooth(double[] data) {
return impl.smooth(data);

public class Letter implements Smoothable {
public double[] smooth(double[] data) {
//do something
return smoothedData;

Actually, the Smoothable interface does not need to be visible to the client, and the signature of the smooth method can be very different in the envelope and letter classes. The bridge pattern allows the client to use the smoothing classes without worrying about changes in the underlying implementation.

Finally, a disclaimer: I don't have Coplien's C++ book, which appears to be the definitive source on the letter/envelope idiom, so my answer may somewhat off the mark.

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