Java : different ways to filter a Collection

Imagine we have a simple Java class:

  public class Person {
    private int age;
    private Gender sex;

    // constructor, getters & setters

  enum Gender { MALE, FEMALE };

And that you have a Collection of Person objects, such as the following one:

  Person p1 = new Person(35, Gender.MALE);
  Person p2 = new Person(30, Gender.MALE);
  Person p3 = new Person(25, Gender.FEMALE);
  Person p4 = new Person(15, Gender.FEMALE);        

  List<Person> people = Arrays.asList(p1,p2,p3,p4);

How would you create a new Collection containing only men over 21?

Use plain Java, like real men do

  List<Person> result = new ArrayList<Person>();
  for (Person person : people) {
    if (person.getAge() > 21 && person.getGender() == Gender.MALE) {

  // now result contains the filtered collection

Filtering by predicate

The second option is what Commons Collections and Guava propose, and that I think should have been part of the Java core at least since Java 5.

  public interface Predicate<T> { boolean apply(T type); }

  public static <T> Collection<T> filter(Collection<T> col, Predicate<T> predicate) {
    Collection<T> result = new ArrayList<T>();
    for (T element: col) {
      if (predicate.apply(element)) {
    return result;

It remembers me the visitor pattern. With this approach in mind, you can define a set of predicates:

  Predicate<Person> validPersonPredicate = new Predicate<Person>() {
    public boolean apply(Person person) {
      return person.getAge() > 21 && person.getGender() == Gender.MALE;

  Collection<Person> result = filter(people, validPersonPredicate);

I find it very similar to Python’s filter() function, but more verbose due to Java’s nature.

This way your code becomes cleaner, and you can combine fine-grained reusable predicates. As a future line of work, it would be interesting to define a fluent interface that allows chaining of several predicates in a more natural way.

JSR 335, Project Lambda and lambdaj

JSR 335 (Lambda Expressions for the Java Programming Language) is part of JSR 337 (Java SE 8), which is scheduled for release in late 2012.

Lambda syntax is already decided (it is similar to C# and Scala) and what I hope is to see something similar to this kind of filtering, method chaining included:

Collection<Person> result = people
    .filter(p => { return p.age > 21 })
    .filter(p => { return p.gender == Gender.MALE });

If you can not wait and need to start using that kind of syntax today, I recommend the lambdaj library, it is not the same but it is handy in some cases:

Collection<Person> result = with(people).clone()
    .retain(having(on(Person.class).getAge(), greaterThan(21)))
    .retain(having(on(Person.class).getGender(), equals(Gender.MALE)));

I have not tried the last snippet but you get the idea. Notice you have to call clone() if you want to leave the original collection unchanged.

A small benchmark

As a second line of work, a comparison between the three alternatives is still to be done. I suppose the use of predicates is cleaner at the cost of a lower performance.

Comments are open.

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