Object-Oriented Programming

Design Pattern Singleton

Michael L. Collard, Ph.D.

Department of Computer Science, The University of Akron


Ensure a class only has one instance and provide a global point of access to it



Singleton: Motivation

  • Sometimes, a class must have exactly one instance, e.g., a class that maps to a physical resource
  • How do we ensure that a class has only one instance and that the instance is easily accessible? A global variable makes an object accessible, but it doesn’t keep you from instantiating multiple objects.
  • A better solution is to make the class itself responsible for keeping track of its sole instance, i.e., a Singleton

Singleton: Applicability

  • Use the Singleton pattern when
    • There must be exactly one instance of a class, and it must be accessible to clients from a well-known access point
    • When the sole instance should be extensible by subclassing, and clients should be able to use an extended instance without modifying their code

Singleton: Structure


Singleton: Participants

  • Singleton
    • Defines an instance operation that lets clients access a unique instance
    • The instance (in C++) is a static member function
    • Class may be responsible for creating a unique instance (typical)

Singleton: Consequences

  • Controls access to the sole instance
  • In place of global variables, and avoids polluting the global namespace
  • The Singleton class can be subclassed
  • Once in place, can change your mind and allow more than one instance
  • More flexible than static member functions, which are not polymorphic (i.e., cannot make them virtual)


Thread-Safe Implementation

DCL (Double-Checked Locking) Pattern

Related Patterns

  • Abstract Factory, Builder, Prototype
    • Can be implemented using the Singleton pattern


  • Some strong opinions against the necessity of using the Singleton pattern
  • Singleton may be used to get around a poor design
  • Note that the implementations of many standard data structures are not entirely thread safe