Null Annotations

Null annotations are used from the Eclipse JDT project. The intention of these annotations is to transfer a method’s contract written in its JavaDoc into the code to be processed by tools. These annotations can be used for static checks, but not at runtime.

Thus for publicly exposed methods that belong to the API and are (potentially) called by external callers, a null check cannot be omitted, although a method parameter is marked to be not null via an annotation. There will be a warning in the IDE for this check, but that is fine. For private methods or methods in an internal package the annotations are respected and additional null checks are omitted.

To use the annotations, every bundle must have an optional Import-Package dependency to org.eclipse.jdt.annotation. Classes should be annotated with @NonNullByDefault:

public class MyClass(){}

Return types, parameter types, generic types etc. are annotated with @Nullable only. The annotation should be written in front of the type.

Fields should be annotated like this:

private @Nullable MyType myField;

Methods should be annotated as follows:

private @Nullable MyReturnType myMethod(){};

Fields that get a static and mandatory reference injected through OSGi Declarative Services can be annotated with

private @NonNullByDefault({}) MyService injectedService;

to skip the nullevaluation for these fields. Fields within ThingHandler classes that are initialized within the initialize() method may also be annotated like this, because the framework ensures that initialize() will be called before any other method. However, please watch the scenario where the initialization of the handler fails, because fields might not have been initialized and using them should be prepended by a null check.

There is no need for a @NonNull annotation because it is set as default. Test classes do not have to be annotated (the usage of SuppressWarnings("null") is allowed, too).

The transition of existing classes can be a longer process, but using nullness annotations in a class / interface requires to set the default for the whole class and annotations on all types that differ from the default.