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Chain of responsibility

Difficulty-Intermediate Gang Of Four Java Behavioral

Intent

Avoid coupling the sender of a request to its receiver by giving more than one object a chance to handle the request. Chain the receiving objects and pass the request along the chain until an object handles it.

Explanation

Real world example

The Orc King gives loud orders to his army. The closest one to react is the commander, then officer and then soldier. The commander, officer and soldier here form a chain of responsibility.

In plain words

It helps building a chain of objects. Request enters from one end and keeps going from object to object till it finds the suitable handler.

Wikipedia says

In object-oriented design, the chain-of-responsibility pattern is a design pattern consisting of a source of command objects and a series of processing objects. Each processing object contains logic that defines the types of command objects that it can handle; the rest are passed to the next processing object in the chain.

Programmatic Example

Translating our example with orcs from above. First we have the request class

public class Request {

  private final RequestType requestType;
  private final String requestDescription;
  private boolean handled;

  public Request(final RequestType requestType, final String requestDescription) {
    this.requestType = Objects.requireNonNull(requestType);
    this.requestDescription = Objects.requireNonNull(requestDescription);
  }

  public String getRequestDescription() { return requestDescription; }

  public RequestType getRequestType() { return requestType; }

  public void markHandled() { this.handled = true; }

  public boolean isHandled() { return this.handled; }

  @Override
  public String toString() { return getRequestDescription(); }
}

public enum RequestType {
  DEFEND_CASTLE, TORTURE_PRISONER, COLLECT_TAX
}

Then the request handler hierarchy

public abstract class RequestHandler {
  private static final Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(RequestHandler.class);
  private RequestHandler next;

  public RequestHandler(RequestHandler next) {
    this.next = next;
  }

  public void handleRequest(Request req) {
    if (next != null) {
      next.handleRequest(req);
    }
  }

  protected void printHandling(Request req) {
    LOGGER.info("{} handling request \"{}\"", this, req);
  }

  @Override
  public abstract String toString();
}

public class OrcCommander extends RequestHandler {
  public OrcCommander(RequestHandler handler) {
    super(handler);
  }

  @Override
  public void handleRequest(Request req) {
    if (req.getRequestType().equals(RequestType.DEFEND_CASTLE)) {
      printHandling(req);
      req.markHandled();
    } else {
      super.handleRequest(req);
    }
  }

  @Override
  public String toString() {
    return "Orc commander";
  }
}

// OrcOfficer and OrcSoldier are defined similarly as OrcCommander

Then we have the Orc King who gives the orders and forms the chain

public class OrcKing {
  RequestHandler chain;

  public OrcKing() {
    buildChain();
  }

  private void buildChain() {
    chain = new OrcCommander(new OrcOfficer(new OrcSoldier(null)));
  }

  public void makeRequest(Request req) {
    chain.handleRequest(req);
  }
}

Then it is used as follows

OrcKing king = new OrcKing();
king.makeRequest(new Request(RequestType.DEFEND_CASTLE, "defend castle")); // Orc commander handling request "defend castle"
king.makeRequest(new Request(RequestType.TORTURE_PRISONER, "torture prisoner")); // Orc officer handling request "torture prisoner"
king.makeRequest(new Request(RequestType.COLLECT_TAX, "collect tax")); // Orc soldier handling request "collect tax"

Applicability

Use Chain of Responsibility when

  • more than one object may handle a request, and the handler isn't known a priori. The handler should be ascertained automatically
  • you want to issue a request to one of several objects without specifying the receiver explicitly
  • the set of objects that can handle a request should be specified dynamically

Real world examples

Credits