@Override and interface

Jim Leary, my colleague at CloudBees, got me into digging into this.

The question is around putting the @Override annoation on a method that implements an interface method, like this:

public class Foo implements Runnable {
    public void run() {}

As you can see in the javadoc, when @Override was originally introduced, such use was not allowed. javac 1.5 rejects this, too (I verified this in 1.5.0_22.)

Sun intended to change this in 1.6. Javac 1.6 indeed changed the behaviour to allow it (verified this in 1.6.0_26), but someone forgot to update the documentation, as you can see in the Java 6 API reference.

The interesting thing is, if you use Javac 1.6 with “-source 1.5″ and/or “-target 1.5″. In all the possible 3 combinations, the above code compiles. Is this a bug, or is this correct? The interesting thing is that the semantics of @Override is defined in the library, not in the Java language spec. So an argument can be made that this is as it should be — JLS, which governs the -source/-target switches, have nothing to do with this annotation. It’s akin to your code relying on newly introduced types in Java 6. If you compile them with Javac 1.6 with -source 1.5, it won’t raise an error.

But IDEs do seem to tie this with the language level. Jim said Eclipse, when set to language level 1.5, it will flag the above code as an error. I verified that IntelliJ does the same (but only in the editor, as the actual compilation happens via javac so the build will succeed.)

So the end result is ugly. If you open the project in your IDE, you see all these errors, but your build (nor test nor any actual execution, for that matter) will not catch this problem. Even if this was a bug in javac, I don’t see it getting “fixed” — the last thing you want is your security update relese to Java6 break all your builds.

I guess the right thing to do for projects (like Jenkins) is to try to avoid putting @Override on interfaces and as we discover them, remove them. So that people who open the source tree in IDE won’t see those false positive errors. This is a bummer because it’s actually useful to have @Override on interfaces (that’s why the behaviour was changed in 1.6 in the first place!) Does anyone know of a FindBugs rule or some refactoring tool to check this? Or should these be filed as bugs against IDEs? For enforcing something that’s not in JLS?