A fast dependency injector for Android and Java

Introduction

The best classes in any application are the ones that do stuff: the BarcodeDecoder, the KoopaPhysicsEngine, and the AudioStreamer. These classes have dependencies; perhaps a BarcodeCameraFinder, DefaultPhysicsEngine, and an HttpStreamer.

To contrast, the worst classes in any application are the ones that take up space without doing much at all: the BarcodeDecoderFactory, the CameraServiceLoader, and the MutableContextWrapper. These classes are the clumsy duct tape that wires the interesting stuff together.

Dagger is a replacement for these FactoryFactory classes. It allows you to focus on the interesting classes. Declare dependencies, specify how to satisfy them, and ship your app.

By building on standard javax.inject annotations (JSR-330), each class is easy to test. You don't need a bunch of boilerplate just to swap the RpcCreditCardService out for a FakeCreditCardService.

Dependency injection isn't just for testing. It also makes it easy to create reusable, interchangeable modules. You can share the same AuthenticationModule across all of your apps. And you can run DevLoggingModule during development and ProdLoggingModule in production to get the right behavior in each situation.

For more information, watch an introductory talk by Jesse Wilson at QCon 2012.

Using Dagger

We'll demonstrate dependency injection and Dagger by building a coffee maker. For complete sample code that you can compile and run, see Dagger's coffee example.

Declaring Dependencies

Dagger constructs instances of your application classes and satisfies their dependencies. It uses the javax.inject.Inject annotation to identify which constructors and fields it is interested in.

Use @Inject to annotate the constructor that Dagger should use to create instances of a class. When a new instance is requested, Dagger will obtain the required parameters values and invoke this constructor.

class Thermosiphon implements Pump {
  private final Heater heater;

  @Inject
  Thermosiphon(Heater heater) {
    this.heater = heater;
  }

  ...
}

Dagger can inject fields directly. In this example it obtains a Heater instance for the heater field and a Pump instance for the pump field.

class CoffeeMaker {
  @Inject Heater heater;
  @Inject Pump pump;

  ...
}

If your class has @Inject-annotated fields but no @Inject-annotated constructor, Dagger will use a no-argument constructor if it exists. Classes that lack @Inject annotations cannot be constructed by Dagger.

Dagger does not support method injection.

Satisfying Dependencies

By default, Dagger satisfies each dependency by constructing an instance of the requested type as described above. When you request a CoffeeMaker, it'll obtain one by calling new CoffeeMaker() and setting its injectable fields.

But @Inject doesn't work everywhere:

  • Interfaces can't be constructed.
  • Third-party classes can't be annotated.
  • Configurable objects must be configured!

For these cases where @Inject is insufficient or awkward, use an @Provides-annotated method to satisfy a dependency. The method's return type defines which dependency it satisfies.

For example, provideHeater() is invoked whenever a Heater is required:

@Provides Heater provideHeater() {
  return new ElectricHeater();
}

It's possible for @Provides methods to have dependencies of their own. This one returns a Thermosiphon whenever a Pump is required:

@Provides Pump providePump(Thermosiphon pump) {
  return pump;
}

All @Provides methods must belong to a module. These are just classes that have an @Module annotation.

@Module
class DripCoffeeModule {
  @Provides Heater provideHeater() {
    return new ElectricHeater();
  }

  @Provides Pump providePump(Thermosiphon pump) {
    return pump;
  }
}

By convention, @Provides methods are named with a provide prefix and module classes are named with a Module suffix.

Building the Graph

The @Inject and @Provides-annotated classes form a graph of objects, linked by their dependencies. Obtain this graph by calling ObjectGraph.create(), which accepts one or more modules:

ObjectGraph objectGraph = ObjectGraph.create(new DripCoffeeModule());

In order to put the graph to use we need to bootstrap injection. This usually requires injecting the main class of a command line app, or the activity classes of an Android app. In our coffee example, the CoffeeApp class is used to start dependency injection. We ask the graph to provide an injected instance of the class:

class CoffeeApp implements Runnable {
  @Inject CoffeeMaker coffeeMaker;

  @Override public void run() {
    coffeeMaker.brew();
  }

  public static void main(String[] args) {
    ObjectGraph objectGraph = ObjectGraph.create(new DripCoffeeModule());
    CoffeeApp coffeeApp = objectGraph.get(CoffeeApp.class);
    ...
  }
}

The only thing that's missing is that the injectable class CoffeeApp isn't known by the graph. We need to explicitly register it as an injected type in the @Module annotation.

@Module(
    injects = CoffeeApp.class
)
class DripCoffeeModule {
  ...
}

The injects option enables the complete graph to be validated at compile time. Detecting problems early speeds up development and takes some of the danger out of refactoring.

Now that the graph is constructed and the root object is injected, we run our coffee maker app. Fun.

$ java -cp ... coffee.CoffeeApp
~ ~ ~ heating ~ ~ ~
=> => pumping => =>
 [_]P coffee! [_]P

Singletons

Annotate an @Provides method or injectable class with @Singleton. The graph will use a single instance of the value for all of its clients.

@Provides @Singleton Heater provideHeater() {
  return new ElectricHeater();
}

The @Singleton annotation on an injectable class also serves as documentation. It reminds potential maintainers that this class may be shared by multiple threads.

@Singleton
class CoffeeMaker {
  ...
}

Lazy injections

Sometimes you need an object to be instantiated lazily. For any binding T, you can create a Lazy<T> which defers instantiation until the first call to Lazy<T>'s get() method. If T is a singleton, then Lazy<T> will be the same instance for all injections within the ObjectGraph. Otherwise, each injection site will get its own Lazy<T> instance. Regardless, subsequent calls to any given instance of Lazy<T> will return the same underlying instance of T.

class GridingCoffeeMaker {
  @Inject Lazy<Grinder> lazyGrinder;

  public void brew() {
    while (needsGrinding()) {
      // Grinder created once on first call to .get() and cached.
      lazyGrinder.get().grind();
    }
  }
}

Provider injections

Sometimes you need multiple instances to be returned instead of just injecting a single value. While you have several options (Factories, Builders, etc.) one option is to inject a Provider<T> instead of just T. A Provider<T> creates a new instance of T each time .get() is called.

class BigCoffeeMaker {
  @Inject Provider<Filter> filterProvider;

  public void brew(int numberOfPots) {
    ...
    for (int p = 0; p < numberOfPots; p++) {
      maker.addFilter(filterProvider.get()); //new filter every time.
      maker.addCoffee(...);
      maker.percolate();
      ...
    }
  }
}

Note: Injecting Provider<T> has the possibility of creating confusing code, and may be a design smell of mis-scoped or mis-structured objects in your graph. Often you will want to use a Factory<T> or a Lazy<T> or re-organize the lifetimes and structure of your code to be able to just inject a T. Injecting Provider<T> can, however, be a life saver in some cases. A common use is when you must use a legacy architecture that doesn't line up with your object's natural lifetimes (e.g. servlets are singletons by design, but only are valid in the context of request-specfic data).

Qualifiers

Sometimes the type alone is insufficient to identify a dependency. For example, a sophisticated coffee maker app may want separate heaters for the water and the hot plate.

In this case, we add a qualifier annotation. This is any annotation that itself has a @Qualifier annotation. Here's the declaration of @Named, a qualifier annotation included in javax.inject:

@Qualifier
@Documented
@Retention(RUNTIME)
public @interface Named {
  String value() default "";
}

You can create your own qualifier annotations, or just use @Named. Apply qualifiers by annotating the field or parameter of interest. The type and qualifier annotation will both be used to identify the dependency.

class ExpensiveCoffeeMaker {
  @Inject @Named("water") Heater waterHeater;
  @Inject @Named("hot plate") Heater hotPlateHeater;
  ...
}

Supply qualified values by annotating the corresponding @Provides method.

@Provides @Named("hot plate") Heater provideHotPlateHeater() {
  return new ElectricHeater(70);
}

@Provides @Named("water") Heater provideWaterHeater() {
  return new ElectricHeater(93);
}

Dependencies may not have multiple qualifier annotations.

Static Injection

Warning: This feature should be used sparingly because static dependencies are difficult to test and reuse.

Dagger can inject static fields. Classes that declare static fields with @Inject annotations must be listed as staticInjections in a module annotation.

@Module(
    staticInjections = LegacyCoffeeUtils.class
)
class LegacyModule {
}

Use ObjectGraph.injectStatics() to populate these static fields with their injected values:

ObjectGraph objectGraph = ObjectGraph.create(new LegacyModule());
objectGraph.injectStatics();

Note: Static injection only operates for modules in the immediate graph. If you call injectStatics() on a graph created from a call to plus(), static injections on modules in the extended graph will not be performed.

Compile-time Validation

Dagger includes an annotation processor that validates modules and injections. This processor is strict and will cause a compiler error if any bindings are invalid or incomplete. For example, this module is missing a binding for Executor:

@Module
class DripCoffeeModule {
  @Provides Heater provideHeater(Executor executor) {
    return new CpuHeater(executor);
  }
}

When compiling it, javac rejects the missing binding:

[ERROR] COMPILATION ERROR :
[ERROR] error: No binding for java.util.concurrent.Executor
               required by provideHeater(java.util.concurrent.Executor)

Fix the problem either by adding an @Provides-annotated method for Executor, or by marking the module as incomplete. Incomplete modules are permitted to have missing dependencies.

@Module(complete = false)
class DripCoffeeModule {
  @Provides Heater provideHeater(Executor executor) {
    return new CpuHeater(executor);
  }
}

Modules which provide types that are unused by the listed injects classes will also trigger an error.

@Module(injects = Example.class)
class DripCoffeeModule {
  @Provides Heater provideHeater() {
    return new ElectricHeater();
  }
  @Provides Chiller provideChiller() {
    return new ElectricChiller();
  }
}

Because the Example inject in the module only uses the Heater, javac rejects the unused binding:

[ERROR] COMPILATION ERROR:
[ERROR]: Graph validation failed: You have these unused @Provider methods:
      1. coffee.DripCoffeeModule.provideChiller()
      Set library=true in your module to disable this check.

If your module's bindings will be used outside of the listed injects then mark the module as a library.

@Module(
  injects = Example.class,
  library = true
)
class DripCoffeeModule {
  @Provides Heater provideHeater() {
    return new ElectricHeater();
  }
  @Provides Chiller provideChiller() {
    return new ElectricChiller();
  }
}

To get the most out of compile-time validation, create a module that includes all of your application's modules. The annotation processor will detect problems across the modules and report them.

@Module(
    includes = {
        DripCoffeeModule.class,
        ExecutorModule.class
    }
)
public class CoffeeAppModule {
}

The annotation processor is enabled automatically when you include Dagger's jar file on your compile classpath.

Compile-time Code Generation

Dagger's annotation processor may also generate source files with names like CoffeeMaker$InjectAdapter.java or DripCoffeeModule$ModuleAdapter. These files are Dagger implementation details. You shouldn't need to use them directly, though they can be handy when step-debugging through an injection.

Module overrides

Dagger will fail with an error if there are multiple competing @Provides methods for the same dependency. But sometimes it's necessary to replace production code with a substitute for development or testing. Using overrides = true in a module annotation lets you take precedence over the bindings of other modules.

This JUnit test overrides DripCoffeeModule's binding for Heater with a mock object from Mockito. The mock gets injected into the CoffeeMaker and also into the test.

public class CoffeeMakerTest {
  @Inject CoffeeMaker coffeeMaker;
  @Inject Heater heater;

  @Before public void setUp() {
    ObjectGraph.create(new TestModule()).inject(this);
  }

  @Module(
      includes = DripCoffeeModule.class,
      injects = CoffeeMakerTest.class,
      overrides = true
  )
  static class TestModule {
    @Provides @Singleton Heater provideHeater() {
      return Mockito.mock(Heater.class);
    }
  }

  @Test public void testHeaterIsTurnedOnAndThenOff() {
    Mockito.when(heater.isHot()).thenReturn(true);
    coffeeMaker.brew();
    Mockito.verify(heater, Mockito.times(1)).on();
    Mockito.verify(heater, Mockito.times(1)).off();
  }
}

Overrides are best suited for small variations on the application:

  • Replacing the real implementation with a mock for unit tests.
  • Replacing LDAP authentication with fake authentication for development.

For more substantial variations it's often simpler to use a different combination of modules.

Download

Latest JAR Latest Compiler JAR

You will need to include the Dagger JAR in your application's runtime. In order to activate code generation you will need to include the compiler JAR in your build at compile time.

The source code to the Dagger, its samples, and this website is available on GitHub.

Maven

<dependency>
  <groupId>com.squareup.dagger</groupId>
  <artifactId>dagger</artifactId>
  <version>(insert latest version)</version>
</dependency>
<dependency>
  <groupId>com.squareup.dagger</groupId>
  <artifactId>dagger-compiler</artifactId>
  <version>(insert latest version)</version>
  <optional>true</optional>
</dependency>

Upgrading from Guice

Some notable Guice features that Dagger doesn't support:

  • Injecting final fields and private members. For best performance Dagger generates code. Work around this by using constructor injection.
  • Eager singletons. Work around this by creating an EagerSingletons class that declares static fields for each eager singleton.
  • Method injection.
  • Classes that lack @Inject annotations cannot be constructed by Dagger, even if they have a no-argument constructor.

Contributing

If you would like to contribute code you can do so through GitHub by forking the repository and sending a pull request.

When submitting code, please make every effort to follow existing conventions and style in order to keep the code as readable as possible. Please also make sure your code compiles by running mvn clean verify.

Before your code can be accepted into the project you must also sign the Individual Contributor License Agreement (CLA).

License

Copyright 2013 Square, Inc.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at

   http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied.
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.