factory-pattern - simple - when to use factory method vs abstract factory




Differences between Abstract Factory Pattern and Factory Method (10)

  1. My first question is about the abstract factory. Is its role to allow you to create families of concrete objects in (that can depend on what specific factory you use) rather than just a single concrete object?

Yes. The intent of Abstract Factory is:

Provide an interface for creating families of related or dependent objects without specifying their concrete classes.


  1. Does the abstract factory only return one very large object or many objects depending on what methods you call?

Ideally it should return one object per the method client is invoking.

  1. My understanding is that the factory method pattern has a Creator interface that will make the ConcreteCreator be in charge of knowing which ConcreteProduct to instantiate. Is this what it means by using inheritance to handle object instantiation?

Yes. Factory method uses inheritance.

  1. Abstract Factory pattern delegate the responsibility of object instantiation to another object via composition? What does this mean?

AbstractFactory defines a FactoryMethod and ConcreteFactory is responsible for building a ConcreteProduct. Just follow through the code example in this article.

You can find more details in related SE posts:

What is the basic difference between the Factory and Abstract Factory Patterns?

Design Patterns: Factory vs Factory method vs Abstract Factory

I know there are many posts out there about the differences between these two patterns, but there are a few things that I cannot find.

From what I have been reading, I see that the factory method pattern allows you to define how to create a single concrete product but hiding the implementation from the client as they will see a generic product. My first question is about the abstract factory. Is its role to allow you to create families of concrete objects in (that can depend on what specific factory you use) rather than just a single concrete object? Does the abstract factory only return one very large object or many objects depending on what methods you call?

My final two questions are about a single quote that I cannot fully understand that I have seen in numerous places:

One difference between the two is that with the Abstract Factory pattern, a class delegates the responsibility of object instantiation to another object via composition whereas the Factory Method pattern uses inheritance and relies on a subclass to handle the desired object instantiation.

My understanding is that the factory method pattern has a Creator interface that will make the ConcreteCreator be in charge of knowing which ConcreteProduct to instantiate. Is this what it means by using inheritance to handle object instantiation?

Now with regards to that quote, how exactly does the Abstract Factory pattern delegate the responsibility of object instantiation to another object via composition? What does this mean? It looks like the Abstract Factory pattern also uses inheritance to do the construction process as well in my eyes, but then again I am still learning about these patterns.

Any help especially with the last question, would be greatly appreciated.


The Difference Between The Two

The main difference between a "factory method" and an "abstract factory" is that the factory method is a single method, and an abstract factory is an object. I think a lot of people get these two terms confused, and start using them interchangeably. I remember that I had a hard time finding exactly what the difference was when I learnt them.

Because the factory method is just a method, it can be overridden in a subclass, hence the second half of your quote:

... the Factory Method pattern uses inheritance and relies on a subclass to handle the desired object instantiation.

The quote assumes that an object is calling its own factory method here. Therefore the only thing that could change the return value would be a subclass.

The abstract factory is an object that has multiple factory methods on it. Looking at the first half of your quote:

... with the Abstract Factory pattern, a class delegates the responsibility of object instantiation to another object via composition ...

What they're saying is that there is an object A, who wants to make a Foo object. Instead of making the Foo object itself (e.g., with a factory method), it's going to get a different object (the abstract factory) to create the Foo object.

Code Examples

To show you the difference, here is a factory method in use:

class A {
    public void doSomething() {
        Foo f = makeFoo();
        f.whatever();   
    }

    protected Foo makeFoo() {
        return new RegularFoo();
    }
}

class B extends A {
    protected Foo makeFoo() {
        //subclass is overriding the factory method 
        //to return something different
        return new SpecialFoo();
    }
}

And here is an abstract factory in use:

class A {
    private Factory factory;

    public A(Factory factory) {
        this.factory = factory;
    }

    public void doSomething() {
        //The concrete class of "f" depends on the concrete class
        //of the factory passed into the constructor. If you provide a
        //different factory, you get a different Foo object.
        Foo f = factory.makeFoo();
        f.whatever();
    }
}

interface Factory {
    Foo makeFoo();
    Bar makeBar();
    Aycufcn makeAmbiguousYetCommonlyUsedFakeClassName();
}

//need to make concrete factories that implement the "Factory" interface here

Consider this example for easy understanding.

What does telecommunication companines provide? Broadband, phone line and mobile for instance and you're asked to create an application to offer their products to their customers.

Generally what you'd do here is, creating the products i.e broadband, phone line and mobile is through your Factory Method where you know what properties you have for those products and its pretty straigh forward.

Now, the company wants to offer their customer a bundle of their products i.e broadband, phone line and mobile all together, and here comes the Abstract Factory to play.

Abstract Factory is in other words are composition of other factories who are responsible for creating their own products and Abstract Factory knows how to place these products in more meaningful in respect of its own responsibilities.

In this case, the BundleFactory is the Abstract Factory, BroadbandFactory, PhonelineFactory and MobileFactory are the Factory. To simply more, these Factories will have Factory Method to initialise the individual products.

Se the code sample below:

public class BroadbandFactory : IFactory {
    public static Broadband CreateStandardInstance() {
        // broadband product creation logic goes here
    }
}

public class PhonelineFactory : IFactory {
    public static Phoneline CreateStandardInstance() {
        // phoneline product creation logic goes here
    }
}

public class MobileFactory : IFactory {
    public static Mobile CreateStandardInstance() {
        // mobile product creation logic goes here
    }
}

public class BundleFactory : IAbstractFactory {

    public static Bundle CreateBundle() {
        broadband = BroadbandFactory.CreateStandardInstance();
        phoneline = PhonelineFactory.CreateStandardInstance();
        mobile = MobileFactory.CreateStandardInstance();

        applySomeDiscountOrWhatever(broadband, phoneline, mobile);
    }

    private static void applySomeDiscountOrWhatever(Broadband bb, Phoneline pl, Mobile m) {
        // some logic here
    }
}

Difference between AbstractFactory and Factory design patters are as follows:

  • Factory Method is used to create one product only but Abstract Factory is about creating families of related or dependent products.
  • Factory Method pattern exposes a method to the client for creating the object whereas in case of Abstract Factory they expose a family of related objects which may consist of these Factory methods.
  • Factory Method pattern hides the construction of single object where as Abstract factory method hides the construction of a family of related objects. Abstract factories are usually implemented using (a set of) factory methods.
  • AbstractFactory pattern uses composition to delegate responsibility of creating object to another class while Factory design pattern uses inheritance and relies on derived class or sub class to create object.
  • The idea behind the Factory Method pattern is that it allows for the case where a client doesn't know what concrete classes it will be required to create at runtime, but just wants to get a class that will do the job while AbstractFactory pattern is best utilised when your system has to create multiple families of products or you want to provide a library of products without exposing the implementation details.!

Factory Method Pattern Implementation:

AbstractFactory Pattern Implementation:


A lot of the above answers do not provide code comparisons between Abstract Factory and Factory Method pattern. Following is my attempt at explaining it via Java. Hope it helps someone in need of a simple explanation.

As GoF aptly says : Abstract Factory provides an interface for creating families of related or dependent objects without specifying their concrete classes.

        public class Client {
            public static void main(String[] args) {
               ZooFactory zooFactory = new HerbivoreZooFactory();       
               Animal animal1 = zooFactory.animal1();
               Animal animal2 = zooFactory.animal2();
               animal1.sound();
               animal2.sound();

               System.out.println();

               AnimalFactory animalFactory = new CowAnimalFactory();
               Animal animal = animalFactory.createAnimal();
               animal.sound();
            }
        }

        public interface Animal {
            public void sound();
        }

        public class Cow implements Animal {

            @Override
            public void sound() {
                System.out.println("Cow moos");
            }

        }

        public class Deer implements Animal {

            @Override
            public void sound() {
                System.out.println("Deer grunts");
            }

        }

        public class Hyena implements Animal {

            @Override
            public void sound() {
                System.out.println("Hyena.java");
            }

        }

        public class Lion implements Animal {

            @Override
            public void sound() {
                System.out.println("Lion roars");
            }

        }

        public interface ZooFactory {
            Animal animal1();

            Animal animal2();
        }

        public class CarnivoreZooFactory implements ZooFactory {

            @Override
            public Animal animal1() {
                return new Lion();
            }

            @Override
            public Animal animal2() {
                return new Hyena();
            }

        }

        public class HerbivoreZooFactory implements ZooFactory{

            @Override
            public Animal animal1() {
                return new Cow();
            }

            @Override
            public Animal animal2() {
                return new Deer();
            }

        }

        public interface AnimalFactory {
            public Animal createAnimal();
        }

        public class CowAnimalFactory implements AnimalFactory{

            @Override
            public Animal createAnimal() {
                return new Cow();
            }

        }

        public class DeerAnimalFactory implements AnimalFactory{

            @Override
            public Animal createAnimal() {
                return new Deer();
            }

        }

        public class HyenaAnimalFactory implements AnimalFactory{

            @Override
            public Animal createAnimal() {
                return new Hyena();
            }

        }

        public class LionAnimalFactory implements AnimalFactory{

            @Override
            public Animal createAnimal() {
                return new Lion();
            }

        }

Abstract Factory is an interface for creating related products, but Factory Method is only one method. Abstract Factory can be implemented by multiple Factory Methods.


Let us put it clear that most of the time in production code, we use abstract factory pattern because class A is programmed with interface B. And A needs to create instances of B. So A has to have a factory object to produce instances of B. So A is not dependent on any concrete instance of B. Hope it helps.


Real Life Example. (Easy to remember)

Factory

Imagine you are constructing a house and you approach a carpenter for a door. You give the measurement for the door and your requirements, and he will construct a door for you. In this case, the carpenter is a factory of doors. Your specifications are inputs for the factory, and the door is the output or product from the factory.

Abstract Factory

Now, consider the same example of the door. You can go to a carpenter, or you can go to a plastic door shop or a PVC shop. All of them are door factories. Based on the situation, you decide what kind of factory you need to approach. This is like an Abstract Factory.

I have explained here both Factory method pattern and abstract factory pattern beginning with not using them explaining issues and then solving issues by using the above patterns https://github.com/vikramnagineni/Design-Patterns/tree/master


To make it very simple with minimum interface & please focus "//1":

class FactoryProgram
    {
        static void Main()
        {
            object myType = Program.MyFactory("byte");
            Console.WriteLine(myType.GetType().Name);

            myType = Program.MyFactory("float"); //3
            Console.WriteLine(myType.GetType().Name);

            Console.ReadKey();
        }

        static object MyFactory(string typeName)
        {
            object desiredType = null; //1
            switch (typeName)
            {
                case "byte": desiredType = new System.Byte(); break; //2
                case "long": desiredType = new System.Int64(); break;
                case "float": desiredType = new System.Single(); break;
                default: throw new System.NotImplementedException();
            }
            return desiredType;
        }
    }

Here important points: 1. Factory & AbstractFactory mechanisms must use inheritance (System.Object-> byte, float ...); so if you have inheritance in program then Factory(Abstract Factory would not be there most probably) is already there by design 2. Creator (MyFactory) knows about concrete type so returns concrete type object to caller(Main); In abstract factory return type would be an Interface.

interface IVehicle { string VehicleName { get; set; } }
interface IVehicleFactory
    {
        IVehicle CreateSingleVehicle(string vehicleType);
    }
class HondaFactory : IVehicleFactory
    {
        public IVehicle CreateSingleVehicle(string vehicleType)
        {
            switch (vehicleType)
            {
                case "Sports": return new SportsBike();
                case "Regular":return new RegularBike();
                default: throw new ApplicationException(string.Format("Vehicle '{0}' cannot be created", vehicleType));
            }
        }
    }
class HeroFactory : IVehicleFactory
    {
        public IVehicle CreateSingleVehicle(string vehicleType)
        {
            switch (vehicleType)
            {
                case "Sports":  return new SportsBike();
                case "Scooty": return new Scooty();
                case "DarkHorse":return new DarkHorseBike();
                default: throw new ApplicationException(string.Format("Vehicle '{0}' cannot be created", vehicleType));
            }
        }
    }

class RegularBike : IVehicle { public string VehicleName { get { return "Regular Bike- Name"; } set { VehicleName = value; } } }
class SportsBike : IVehicle { public string VehicleName { get { return "Sports Bike- Name"; } set { VehicleName = value; } } }
class RegularScooter : IVehicle { public string VehicleName { get { return "Regular Scooter- Name"; } set { VehicleName = value; } } }
class Scooty : IVehicle { public string VehicleName { get { return "Scooty- Name"; } set { VehicleName = value; } } }
class DarkHorseBike : IVehicle { public string VehicleName { get { return "DarkHorse Bike- Name"; } set { VehicleName = value; } } }

class Program
{
    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        IVehicleFactory honda = new HondaFactory(); //1
        RegularBike hondaRegularBike = (RegularBike)honda.CreateSingleVehicle("Regular"); //2
        SportsBike hondaSportsBike = (SportsBike)honda.CreateSingleVehicle("Sports");
        Console.WriteLine("******* Honda **********"+hondaRegularBike.VehicleName+ hondaSportsBike.VehicleName);

        IVehicleFactory hero = new HeroFactory();
        DarkHorseBike heroDarkHorseBike = (DarkHorseBike)hero.CreateSingleVehicle("DarkHorse");
        SportsBike heroSportsBike = (SportsBike)hero.CreateSingleVehicle("Sports");
        Scooty heroScooty = (Scooty)hero.CreateSingleVehicle("Scooty");
        Console.WriteLine("******* Hero **********"+heroDarkHorseBike.VehicleName + heroScooty.VehicleName+ heroSportsBike.VehicleName);

        Console.ReadKey();
    }
}

Important points: 1. Requirement: Honda would create "Regular", "Sports" but Hero would create "DarkHorse", "Sports" and "Scooty". 2. why two interfaces? One for manufacturer type(IVehicleFactory) and another for product factory(IVehicle); other way to understand 2 interfaces is abstract factory is all about creating related objects 2. The catch is the IVehicleFactory's children returning and IVehicle(instead of concrete in factory); so I get parent variable(IVehicle); then I create actual concrete type by calling CreateSingleVehicle and then casting parent object to actual child object. What would happen if I do RegularBike heroRegularBike = (RegularBike)hero.CreateSingleVehicle("Regular");; you will get ApplicationException and that's why we need generic abstract factory which I would explain if required. Hope it helps from beginner to intermediate audience.


allow me to put it precisely. most of the answers have already explained, provided diagrams and examples as well. so my anwer would just be one liner. my own words: - “abstract factory pattern adds on the abstract layer over multiple factory method implementations. means abstract factory contains or composite one or more than one factory method patterns”