java - converted - Convert ArrayList<String> to String[] array

toarray java (4)

This question already has an answer here:

I'm working in the android environment and have tried the following code, but it doesn't seem to be working.

String [] stockArr = (String[]) stock_list.toArray();

If I define as follows:

String [] stockArr = {"hello", "world"};

it works. Is there something that I'm missing?

I can see many answers showing how to solve problem, but only Stephen's answer is trying to explain why problem occurs so I will try to add something more on this subject. It is a story about possible reasons why Object[] toArray wasn't changed to T[] toArray where generics ware introduced to Java.

Why String[] stockArr = (String[]) stock_list.toArray(); wont work?

In Java, generic type exists at compile-time only. At runtime information about generic type (like in your case <String>) is removed and replaced with Object type (take a look at type erasure). That is why at runtime toArray() have no idea about what precise type to use to create new array, so it uses Object as safest type, because each class extends Object so it can safely store instance of any class.

Now the problem is that you can't cast instance of Object[] to String[].

Why? Take a look at this example (lets assume that class B extends A):

//B extends A
A a = new A();
B b = (B)a;

Although such code will compile, at runtime we will see thrown ClassCastException because instance held by reference a is not actually of type B (or its subtypes). Why is this problem (why this exception needs to be cast)? One of the reasons is that B could have new methods/fields which A doesn't, so it is possible that someone will try to use these new members via b reference even if held instance doesn't have (doesn't support) them. In other words we could end up trying to use data which doesn't exist, which could lead to many problems. So to prevent such situation JVM throws exception, and stop further potentially dangerous code.

You could ask now "So why aren't we stopped even earlier? Why code involving such casting is even compilable? Shouldn't compiler stop it?". Answer is: no because compiler can't know for sure what is the actual type of instance held by a reference, and there is a chance that it will hold instance of class B which will support interface of b reference. Take a look at this example:

A a = new B(); 
      //  ^------ Here reference "a" holds instance of type B
B b = (B)a;    // so now casting is safe, now JVM is sure that `b` reference can 
               // safely access all members of B class

Now lets go back to your arrays. As you see in question, we can't cast instance of Object[] array to more precise type String[] like

Object[] arr = new Object[] { "ab", "cd" };
String[] arr2 = (String[]) arr;//ClassCastException will be thrown

Here problem is a little different. Now we are sure that String[] array will not have additional fields or methods because every array support only:

  • [] operator,
  • length filed,
  • methods inherited from Object supertype,

So it is not arrays interface which is making it impossible. Problem is that Object[] array beside Strings can store any objects (for instance Integers) so it is possible that one beautiful day we will end up with trying to invoke method like strArray[i].substring(1,3) on instance of Integer which doesn't have such method.

So to make sure that this situation will never happen, in Java array references can hold only

  • instances of array of same type as reference (reference String[] strArr can hold String[])
  • instances of array of subtype (Object[] can hold String[] because String is subtype of Object),

but can't hold

  • array of supertype of type of array from reference (String[] can't hold Object[])
  • array of type which is not related to type from reference (Integer[] can't hold String[])

In other words something like this is OK

Object[] arr = new String[] { "ab", "cd" }; //OK - because
               //  ^^^^^^^^                  `arr` holds array of subtype of Object (String)
String[] arr2 = (String[]) arr; //OK - `arr2` reference will hold same array of same type as 
                                //     reference

You could say that one way to resolve this problem is to find at runtime most common type between all list elements and create array of that type, but this wont work in situations where all elements of list will be of one type derived from generic one. Take a look

//B extends A
List<A> elements = new ArrayList<A>();
elements.add(new B());
elements.add(new B());

now most common type is B, not A so toArray()

A[] arr = elements.toArray();

would return array of B class new B[]. Problem with this array is that while compiler would allow you to edit its content by adding new A() element to it, you would get ArrayStoreException because B[] array can hold only elements of class B or its subclass, to make sure that all elements will support interface of B, but instance of A may not have all methods/fields of B. So this solution is not perfect.

Best solution to this problem is explicitly tell what type of array toArray() should be returned by passing this type as method argument like

String[] arr = list.toArray(new String[list.size()]);


String[] arr = list.toArray(new String[0]); //if size of array is smaller then list it will be automatically adjusted.

An alternative in Java 8:

String[] strings =[]::new);

Try this

String[] arr = list.toArray(new String[list.size()]);

Use like this.

List<String> stockList = new ArrayList<String>();

String[] stockArr = new String[stockList.size()];
stockArr = stockList.toArray(stockArr);

for(String s : stockArr)