The singleton pattern is a design pattern that restricts the instantiation of a class to one object. This is useful when exactly one object is needed to coordinate actions across the system. The concept is sometimes generalized to systems that operate more efficiently when only one object exists, or that restrict the instantiation to a certain number of objects. The term comes from the mathematical concept of a singleton.
Intent of Singleton
Define a private static attribute in the “single instance” class.
Define a public static accessor function in the class.
Do “lazy initialization” (creation on first use) in the accessor function.
Define all constructors to be protected or private.
Clients may only use the accessor function to manipulate the Singleton.
- State objects are often Singletons.
- The advantage of Singleton over global variables is that you are absolutely sure of the number of instances when you use Singleton, and, you can change your mind and manage any number of instances.
- The Singleton design pattern is one of the most inappropriately used patterns. Singletons are intended to be used when a class must have exactly one instance, no more, no less. Designers frequently use Singletons in a misguided attempt to replace global variables. A Singleton is, for intents and purposes, a global variable. The Singleton does not do away with the global; it merely renames it.
- When is Singleton unnecessary? Short answer: most of the time. Long answer: when it’s simpler to pass an object resource as a reference to the objects that need it, rather than letting objects access the resource globally. The real problem with Singletons is that they give you such a good excuse not to think carefully about the appropriate visibility of an object. Finding the right balance of exposure and protection for an object is critical for maintaining flexibility.
- Our group had a bad habit of using global data, so I did a study group on Singleton. The next thing I know Singletons appeared everywhere and none of the problems related to global data went away. The answer to the global data question is not, “Make it a Singleton.” The answer is, “Why in the hell are you using global data?” Changing the name doesn’t change the problem. In fact, it may make it worse because it gives you the opportunity to say, “Well I’m not doing that, I’m doing this” – even though this and that are the same thing.
- Abstract Factory, Builder, and Prototype can use Singleton in their implementation.
- Facade objects are often Singletons because only one Facade object is required.
Applicability & Examples
According to the definition the singleton pattern should be used when there must be exactly one instance of a class, and when it must be accessible to clients from a global access point. Here are some real situations where the singleton is used:
Example 1 – Logger Classes
The Singleton pattern is used in the design of logger classes. This classes are ussualy implemented as a singletons, and provides a global logging access point in all the application components without being necessary to create an object each time a logging operations is performed.
Example 2 – Configuration Classes
The Singleton pattern is used to design the classes which provides the configuration settings for an application. By implementing configuration classes as Singleton not only that we provide a global access point, but we also keep the instance we use as a cache object. When the class is instantiated( or when a value is read ) the singleton will keep the values in its internal structure. If the values are read from the database or from files this avoids the reloading the values each time the configuration parameters are used.
Example 3 – Accessing resources in shared mode
It can be used in the design of an application that needs to work with the serial port. Let’s say that there are many classes in the application, working in an multi-threading environment, which needs to operate actions on the serial port. In this case a singleton with synchronized methods could be used to be used to manage all the operations on the serial port.
Example 4 – Factories implemented as Singletons
Let’s assume that we design an application with a factory to generate new objects(Acount, Customer, Site, Address objects) with their ids, in an multithreading environment. If the factory is instantiated twice in 2 different threads then is possible to have 2 overlapping ids for 2 different objects. If we implement the Factory as a singleton we avoid this problem. Combining Abstract Factory or Factory Method and Singleton design patterns is a common practice.