Object-Oriented Programming

Design Pattern: Template Method

Michael L. Collard, Ph.D.

Department of Computer Science, The University of Akron

Template Method

A class pattern that defines the skeleton of an algorithm as an abstract class, allowing its subclasses to provide concrete behavior

  • Behavioral Pattern

Template Method

  • A fundamental technique for code reuse

  • Particularly important in class libraries to factor out common behavior

  • Template methods lead to Inversion of Control (IoC) that’s sometimes referred to as “the Hollywood principle,” that is, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” [Swe85]

  • The Template Design Pattern is not related to C++ templates, and, in fact, uses inheritance not C++ templates

Template Method: Applicability

  • Implement invariant parts of an algorithm and leave it up to subclasses to implement behavior that can vary

  • Factor and localize common behavior in subclasses to avoid code duplication

  • Control subclass extensions with “hook” operations

Template Method: Structure

Template Method: Structure

Template Method: Structure

Template Method: Participants

  • AbstractClass (e.g., Application)
    • Defines primitive operations that concrete subclasses define to implement steps of an algorithm
    • Implements a template method defining the skeleton of an algorithm, which calls primitive operations (in ConcreteClass), operations in AbstractClass, or anything else
  • ConcreteClass (e.g., MyApplication)
    • Implements the primitive operations to carry out subclass-specific steps of the algorithm

Template Method: Collaborations

  • ConcreteClass relies on AbstractClass to implement invariant steps of the algorithm

Template Method: Consequences - Kinds of Operations

  • primitive operations (i.e., abstract operations) must override

  • hook operations - default behavior that subclasses can extend if necessary. may override and often does nothing

  • concrete operations (ConcreteClass or on client classes)

  • concrete AbstractClass operations (i.e., operations that are generally useful to subclasses)

  • factory methods (later)

Extension via Direct Overriding

  • Useful when no common parent (class) behavior

Extension via Hook Operation

Useful when extension may not be needed

Useful when extension is a side-effect of normal processing






  • The template method is the only method that calls the primitive operations; therefore the primitive operations do not have to be public

  • A template method can be a private, non-virtual member function

  • Primitive operations that require overriding are declared pure virtual

  • Minimize the number of primitive operations a subclass is required to implement

Known Uses

  • Found in almost every abstract class

Related Patterns

  • Factory Methods

    • Are often called by template methods
  • Strategy Pattern

    • Template Method pattern uses inheritance to vary parts of an algorithm. Strategy patterns use delegation to vary the entire algorithm.