Composite Design Pattern: What It Is and How To Use It

We just wrapped up a section going over various design patterns used in software, so I wanted to do a bit more research on a different design pattern to get more of an idea about how they work. One pattern that looked interesting was the composite design pattern (, which appeared to combine a couple of concepts that I had seen from taking data structures: inheritance and trees. This structure of the composite design pattern essentially takes on the form of a hierarchy, with 4 types of items: a component, a leaf, a composite, and a client.

The component is the abstract entity in which common behaviors and operations are defined so that repeated code can be prevented. In the example provided in this post, a program to simulate the retrieval of banking information, the “component” expressed a list of other Component objects, methods to add and remove from such list, as well as other abstract and non-abstract methods that can be utilized by other classes extending from the component.

The composite and the leaf (or leaves) both inherit from the component. For this example, the CompositeAccount class served as the composite. This class implements the methods defined as abstract in the Component class. Because the composite and the leaves all inherit from Component, all of these objects from the different classes can be defined as Component objects. Thus, in the CompositeAccount class methods, all of the leaf objects are taken into account by traversing through the list of Component objects. For this example, the DepositAccount and SavingsAccount were leaves, with their own behaviors that were exclusive to the leaves.

Finally, the client puts it all together as the driver for this design pattern. New objects are created in this class, and each individual object is treated appropriately with the correct behaviors (i.e. the DepositAccount and SavingsAccount), while also being part of the bigger system, in this case the CompositeAccount, all of which are underneath the Component umbrella.

This was a great read for me! It was simple enough to understand coming from an extended introduction to design patterns and other programming courses using this kind of structure. I’m currently reading more about the Decorator design pattern for an assignment, so I hope to post more about that soon!

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