Object-Oriented Programming

Design Pattern Command

Michael L. Collard, Ph.D.

Department of Computer Science, The University of Akron


Encapsulate a request as an object, thereby letting you parameterize clients with different requests, queue or log requests, and support undoable operations

Command: Motivation


Paste Command


Open Command


Macro Command


Macro Command (GOF Diagram)


Command: Applicability

  • Use the command pattern when you want to:
  • Parameterize objects by an action to perform, as Menultem objects did above.
  • Commands are an object-oriented replacement for callbacks.
  • Specify, queue, and execute requests at different times

Command: Applicability

  • Support undo. execute() stores state for reversal, unexecute() reverses the effects of a previous execute(). Executed commands are stored in a history list, with unlimited undo and redo
  • Support logging changes to reapply in case of a system crash
  • Structure a system around high-level operations built on primitives operations, and support transactions

Command: Structure


Command: Participants

  • Command - Declares an interface for executing an operation.
  • ConcreteCommand (e.g., PasteCommand, OpenCommand)
    • Defines a binding between a Receiver object and an action
    • Implements execute() by invoking the corresponding operation(s) on Receiver

Command: Participants

  • Client (e.g., Application) Creates a ConcreteCommand object and sets its receiver
  • Invoker (e.g., Menultem) Asks the command to carry out the request
  • Receiver (e.g., Document, Application) Knows how to perform the operations associated with carrying out a request

Command: Collaborations

  • The client creates a ConcreteCommand object and specifies its receiver
  • An Invoker object stores the ConcreteCommand object.
  • The invoker issues a request by calling execute() on the command. When commands are undoable, ConcreteCommand stores state for undoing the command before invoking Execute.
  • The ConcreteCommand object invokes operations on its receiver to carry out the request.



Command: Consequences


  • Command decouples the object that invokes the operation from the one that knows how to perform it
  • Commands are first-class objects and can be manipulated and extended like any other object.
  • Multiple commands can be assembled into a composite command (e.g., MacroCommand), and are instances of the Composite pattern
  • Easy to add new Commands, because you don’t have to change existing classes.



  • How intelligent should a command be?
  • Supporting undo and redo
  • Avoiding error accumulation in the undo
  • Using C++ templates to avoid creating Command subclasses

Related Patterns

  • Composite
    • Used to implement MacroCommands
  • Memento
    • Keep state the command requires for an undo
  • Prototype
    • Command is copied before being placed on a history list acts as a Prototype