Observer Pattern

Observer Pattern is one of the behavioural design patterns.

It defines a one-to-many dependency between objects so that when one object changes its state, all of its dependents are notified and updated automatically.

In this pattern, it is very important to understand below terms

Subject : The object which is being watched is called the subject.

Observer (or) Listener : The objects which are watching the state changes are called observers or listeners

Example :

The best example for Observer pattern is the Event listener in Java

Event is the subject and listener is the observer

There can be many listeners for one event.

Subject :

It contains a list of all observers to whom notification has to be made for any change in the state of Subject.

Subject should provide a method using which observers can register/unregister themselves for the notification of subject’s state change.

Subject should also provide a method to notify all the observers if any change in its state.

Observer :

Observer should provide a method to set the object to watch the Subject’s state change

Observer should also provide another method that will be used by Subject to notify Observer for any change in its state.

Java provides inbuilt mechanism for implementing Observer pattern through java.util.Observable class and java.util.Observer interface.

However it’s not best option as most of the times we don’t want to end up extending a class just for implementing Observer pattern as java doesn’t provide multiple inheritance in classes.

Let’s see how to implement Observer pattern

Step 1

Create an interface to represent Subject

  1. package;
  3. public interface Subject {
  5.      public void registerObserver(Observer observer);
  7.      public void removeObserver(Observer observer);
  9.      public void notifyObservers();
  11. }

public interface Subject {
	 public void registerObserver(Observer observer);

     public void removeObserver(Observer observer);

     public void notifyObservers();


Step 2

Create an interface to represent Observer

  1. package;
  3. public interface Observer {
  4.     public void update(float temperature,float humudity);
  6. }

public interface Observer {
	public void update(float temperature,float humudity);


Step 3

Create a class implementing the Subject

  1. package;
  3. import java.util.ArrayList;
  4. import java.util.List;
  6. public class WeatherData implements Subject{
  7.     private float temperature;
  8.     private float humidity;
  10.     private List<Observer> observers;
  12.     public WeatherData() {
  13.     observers=new ArrayList<>();
  14.     }
  16.     @Override
  17.     public void registerObserver(Observer observer) {
  18.         observers.add(observer);
  19.     }
  21.     @Override
  22.     public void removeObserver(Observer observer) {
  23.         observers.remove(observer);
  25.     }
  27.     @Override
  28.     public void notifyObservers() {
  29.         for (Observer observer : observers) {
  30.             observer.update( temperature, humidity);
  31.         }
  33.     }
  35.     public void weatherChanged(float temperature,float humidity){
  36.         this.temperature=temperature;
  37.         this.humidity=humidity;
  38.         notifyObservers();
  39.     }
  40. }

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public class WeatherData implements Subject{
	private float temperature;
	private float humidity;
	private List<Observer> observers;
	public WeatherData() {
	observers=new ArrayList<>();

	public void registerObserver(Observer observer) {

	public void removeObserver(Observer observer) {

	public void notifyObservers() {
		for (Observer observer : observers) {
			observer.update( temperature, humidity);
	public void weatherChanged(float temperature,float humidity){

Step 4

Create a class implementing Observer

  1. package;
  3. public class WeatherDataConsumer implements Observer{
  5.     @Override
  6.     public void update(float temperature,float humidity) {
  7.         System.out.println("Changed weather data ");
  8.         System.out.println("temperature -> "+temperature);
  9.         System.out.println("humidity -> "+humidity);
  11.     }
  13. }

public class WeatherDataConsumer implements Observer{

	public void update(float temperature,float humidity) {
		System.out.println("Changed weather data ");
		System.out.println("temperature -> "+temperature);
		System.out.println("humidity -> "+humidity);


Step 5

Create a client class to test the pattern

  1. package;
  3. public class ObserverPatternClient {
  5.     public static void main(String[] args) {
  6.         WeatherData weatherData = new WeatherData();
  8.                 //create observers
  9.                 Observer observer1 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
  10.                 Observer observer2 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
  11.                 Observer observer3 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
  13.                 //register observers to the subject
  14.                 weatherData.registerObserver(observer1);
  15.                 weatherData.registerObserver(observer2);
  16.                 weatherData.registerObserver(observer3);
  18.                 weatherData.weatherChanged(40, 35);
  20.                 weatherData.removeObserver(observer3);
  22.                 weatherData.weatherChanged(40, 35);
  23.     }
  25. }

public class ObserverPatternClient {

	public static void main(String[] args) {
		WeatherData weatherData = new WeatherData();
				//create observers
				Observer observer1 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
				Observer observer2 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
				Observer observer3 = new WeatherDataConsumer();
				//register observers to the subject
				weatherData.weatherChanged(40, 35);
				weatherData.weatherChanged(40, 35);


In the output, we can see that initially there are 3 observers are registered and hence Subject state change is notifying all 3 observers and So it prints weather data 3 times

After that we removed one observer from Notification list and hence next time we can see its notifying 2 observers.

Important points about Observer pattern

Using the observer pattern a subject can register an unlimited number of observers.

If a new listener wants to register with the subject, no code change in the subject is necessary.

Using the listener pattern decouples the subject from its observers. Only the observers have direct knowledge about the subject.

Observer design pattern is also called as “publish-subscribe pattern”.

Some of its implementations are

java.util.EventListener in Swing

Advantage of Observer Design Pattern in Java

Loose coupling between observer and “Subject”.

The “Subject” only know the list of observers, it don’t care about how they have their implementation.

All the observers are notified by “Subject” in a single event call

Disadvantage of Observer Design Pattern in Java

• Debugging becomes very difficult because flow of control is implicitly between observers and Subject.

• Another issue is Memory management because subject contains the reference of all the observers, If we do not unregister the observer object, it can create the memory issue.

About the Author

Karibasappa G C (KB)
Founder of
I love Java and open source technologies and very much passionate about software development.
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