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Dependency Inversion Principle

DIP or Dependency Inversion Principle is yet another guideline for the software designers that work in object-oriented environment. It’s the D in SOLID and it has one huge advantage over the other principles: in case it doesn’t work for you, you can always get some tortilla chips to help (they work wonderfully with dip ;-)).

This principle was introduced by Robert C. Martin in his article in 1996. He points out that the usual way of dependency design among software project is to make general high-level modules dependent on the low-level utilities and mechanism that do the hard (and in most cases also not very interesting) work. This way of dependency makes the high level modules very hard to reuse without many modifications (and people often thing “why the hell didn’t I wrote it again”). And this is wrong.

The high-level modules are key part of the application. That’s where the heart of the application actually is. The algorithm that knows how to use the lower-level modules to achieve the desired functionality of our application. And we want to reuse that without having to modify every third line, so what do we do?

Mr. Martin proposes the Dependency Inversion Principle, which says >

A. High level modules should not depend upon low level modules. Both should depend upon abstractions. B. Abstractions should not depend upon details. Details should depend upon abstractions.

It’s a little tough one to understand at first, so let me explain. The principle states, that there should be some additional layer between high and low level modules – the layer of abstractions. The author says, that there should be an interface (or abstraction) defined between those two modules on whom should both depend. That way high level modules don’t work directly with the low level classes. Low level classes implement the interfaces. In case you’d like to take some module out and use it elsewhere, you don’t need to touch anything inside that module. You simply take it out and implement the interfaces upon which the module depends. Isn’t that awesome?

The second part (part B.) makes clear that the abstractions (or interfaces) should not be designed according to the low level modules (the details). That’s something that might come naturally to a lazy coder “yeah, I’ll just duplicate the header file, make all methods pure virtual and I’m good to go”, no. The interfaces have to be implemented on the same level of abstraction as the high level module otherwise they’re more than useless.

Example of Dependency Inversion

That would be the principle in theory. Let’s see some examples from user interfaces. We’ll have a Window class with two buttons.

class Button
{
    public:
        void makeVisible();
};

class Window
{
    Button* okButton;
    Button* cancelButton;

    Window()
    {
        okButton = new Button;
        okButton->makeVisible();

        cancelButton = new Button;
        cancelButton->makeVisible();
    }

};

The problem here is, that if the Button implementation changes, we’ll have to go here and change the constructor as well. We don’t want that, because the Window class were a subject of a lot of tests, it passed and any additional messing around in it might introduce errors into the class. Using the abstraction layer the situation would look like this

class IButton
{
    public:
        static virtual IButton* getInstance() = 0; // factory method
        virtual void show() = 0;
};

class Window
{
    IButton* okButton;
    IButton* cancelButton;

    public:
        Window()
        {
            okButton = IButton::getInstance();
            okButton->show();

            cancelButton = IButton::getInstance();
            cancelButton->show();
        }
};

class Button : public IButton
{
    public:
        void show();
};

Now, as you can see, there’s an interface IButton and both Button and Window depend on this interface. And that’s the dream. You can take the window and the interface place into an another application, implement the interface and you’re good to go! Note the factory method I used to be able to get the correct instance of buttons.

Sources