Abstract factory pattern




The essence of the Abstract Factory Pattern is to "Provide an interface for creating families of related or dependent objects without specifying their concrete classes.


A factory is the location of a concrete class in the code at which objects are constructed. The intent in employing the pattern is to insulate the creation of objects from their usage and to create families of related objects without having to depend on their concrete classes. This allows for new derived types to be introduced with no change to the code that uses the base class.


Use of this pattern makes it possible to interchange concrete implementations without changing the code that uses them, even at runtime. However, employment of this pattern, as with similar design patterns, may result in unnecessary complexity and extra work in the initial writing of code. Additionally, higher levels of separation and abstraction can result in systems which are more difficult to debug and maintain.




The factory determines the actual concrete type of object to be created, and it is here that the object is actually created. However, the factory only returns an abstract pointer to the created concrete object. This insulates client code from object creation by having clients ask a factory object to create an object of the desired abstract type and to return an abstract pointer to the object.


As the factory only returns an abstract pointer, the client code (that requested the object from the factory) does not know — and is not burdened by — the actual concrete type of the object that was just created. However, the type of a concrete object (and hence a concrete factory) is known by the abstract factory; for instance, the factory may read it from a configuration file. The client has no need to specify the type, since it has already been specified in the configuration file. In particular, this means:

• The client code has no knowledge whatsoever of the concrete type, not needing to include any header files or class declarations related to it. The client code deals only with the abstract type. Objects of a concrete type are indeed created by the factory, but the client code accesses such objects only through their abstract interface.

• Adding new concrete types is done by modifying the client code to use a different factory, a modification that is typically one line in one file. The different factory then creates objects of a different concrete type, but still returns a pointer of the same abstract type as before — thus insulating the client code from change. This is significantly easier than modifying the client code to instantiate a new type, which would require changing every location in the code where a new object is created (as well as making sure that all such code locations also have knowledge of the new concrete type, by including for instance a concrete class header file). If all factory objects are stored globally in a singleton object, and all client code goes through the singleton to access the proper factory for object creation, then changing factories is as easy as changing the singleton object