As any Java programmer knows, you can’t put an int (or other primitive value) into a collection. Collections can only hold object references, so you have to box primitive values into the appropriate wrapper class (which is Integer in the case of int). When you take the object out of the collection, you get the Integer that you put in; if you need an int, you must unbox the Integer using the intValue method. All of this boxing and unboxing is a pain, and clutters up your code. The autoboxing and unboxing feature automates the process, eliminating the pain and the clutter.

The following example illustrates autoboxing and unboxing, along with generics and the for-each loop. In a mere ten lines of code, it computes and prints an alphabetized frequency table of the words appearing on the command line.

import java.util.*;

// Prints a frequency table of the words on the command line
public class Frequency {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      Map<String, Integer> m = new TreeMap<String, Integer>();
      for (String word : args) {
          Integer freq = m.get(word);
          m.put(word, (freq == null ? 1 : freq + 1));

java Frequency if it is to be it is up to me to do the watusi
{be=1, do=1, if=1, is=2, it=2, me=1, the=1, to=3, up=1, watusi=1}

The program first declares a map from String to Integer, associating the number of times a word occurs on the command line with the word. Then it iterates over each word on the command line. For each word, it looks up the word in the map. Then it puts a revised entry for the word into the map. The line that does this (highlighted in green) contains both autoboxing and unboxing.


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