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Class RuleBasedCollator

  • All Implemented Interfaces:
    Cloneable, Comparator<Object>

    public class RuleBasedCollator
    extends Collator
    A concrete implementation class for Collation.

    RuleBasedCollator has the following restrictions for efficiency (other subclasses may be used for more complex languages):

    1. If a French secondary ordering is specified it applies to the whole collator object.
    2. All non-mentioned Unicode characters are at the end of the collation order.
    3. If a character is not located in the RuleBasedCollator, the default Unicode Collation Algorithm (UCA) rule-based table is automatically searched as a backup.

    The collation table is composed of a list of collation rules, where each rule is of three forms:

     <relation> <text-argument>
     <reset> <text-argument>

    The rule elements are defined as follows:

    • Modifier: There is a single modifier which is used to specify that all accents (secondary differences) are backwards:
      • '@' : Indicates that accents are sorted backwards, as in French.
    • Relation: The relations are the following:
      • '<' : Greater, as a letter difference (primary)
      • ';' : Greater, as an accent difference (secondary)
      • ',' : Greater, as a case difference (tertiary)
      • '=' : Equal
    • Text-Argument: A text-argument is any sequence of characters, excluding special characters (that is, common whitespace characters [0009-000D, 0020] and rule syntax characters [0021-002F, 003A-0040, 005B-0060, 007B-007E]). If those characters are desired, you can put them in single quotes (for example, use '&' for ampersand). Note that unquoted white space characters are ignored; for example, b c is treated as bc.
    • Reset: There is a single reset which is used primarily for contractions and expansions, but which can also be used to add a modification at the end of a set of rules:
      • '&' : Indicates that the next rule follows the position to where the reset text-argument would be sorted.

    This sounds more complicated than it is in practice. For example, the following are equivalent ways of expressing the same thing:

     a < b < c
     a < b & b < c
     a < c & a < b

    Notice that the order is important, as the subsequent item goes immediately after the text-argument. The following are not equivalent:

     a < b & a < c
     a < c & a < b

    Either the text-argument must already be present in the sequence, or some initial substring of the text-argument must be present. For example "a < b & ae < e" is valid since "a" is present in the sequence before "ae" is reset. In this latter case, "ae" is not entered and treated as a single character; instead, "e" is sorted as if it were expanded to two characters: "a" followed by an "e". This difference appears in natural languages: in traditional Spanish "ch" is treated as if it contracts to a single character (expressed as "c < ch < d"), while in traditional German a-umlaut is treated as if it expands to two characters (expressed as "a,A < b,B ... & ae;� & AE;�", where � and � are the escape sequences for a-umlaut).

    Ignorable Characters

    For ignorable characters, the first rule must start with a relation (the examples we have used above are really fragments; "a < b" really should be "< a < b"). If, however, the first relation is not "<", then all text-arguments up to the first "<" are ignorable. For example, ", - < a < b" makes "-" an ignorable character.

    Normalization and Accents

    RuleBasedCollator automatically processes its rule table to include both pre-composed and combining-character versions of accented characters. Even if the provided rule string contains only base characters and separate combining accent characters, the pre-composed accented characters matching all canonical combinations of characters from the rule string will be entered in the table.

    This allows you to use a RuleBasedCollator to compare accented strings even when the collator is set to NO_DECOMPOSITION. However, if the strings to be collated contain combining sequences that may not be in canonical order, you should set the collator to CANONICAL_DECOMPOSITION to enable sorting of combining sequences. For more information, see The Unicode Standard, Version 3.0.


    The following rules are not valid:

    • A text-argument contains unquoted punctuation symbols, for example "a < b-c < d".
    • A relation or reset character is not followed by a text-argument, for example "a < , b".
    • A reset where the text-argument (or an initial substring of the text-argument) is not already in the sequence or allocated in the default UCA table, for example "a < b & e < f".

    If you produce one of these errors, RuleBasedCollator throws a ParseException.


    Normally, to create a rule-based collator object, you will use Collator's factory method getInstance. However, to create a rule-based collator object with specialized rules tailored to your needs, you construct the RuleBasedCollator with the rules contained in a String object. For example:

     String Simple = "< a < b < c < d";
     rulebasedcollator mysimple = new rulebasedcollator(simple);


     String Norwegian = "< a,a< b,b< c,c< d,d< e,e< f,f< g,g< h,h< i,i"
             + "< j,j< k,k< l,l< m,m< n,n< o,o< p,p< q,q< r,r"
             + "< s,s< t,t< u,u< v,v< w,w< x,x< y,y< z,z"
             + "< �=a?,�=a?"
             + ";aa,aa< �,�< �,�";
     rulebasedcollator mynorwegian = new rulebasedcollator(norwegian);

    Combining Collators is as simple as concatenating strings. Here is an example that combines two Collators from two different locales:

     // Create an en_US Collator object
     RuleBasedCollator en_USCollator = (RuleBasedCollator)Collator
             .getInstance(new Locale("en", "US", ""));
     // Create a da_DK Collator object
     RuleBasedCollator da_DKCollator = (RuleBasedCollator)Collator
             .getInstance(new Locale("da", "DK", ""));
     // Combine the two collators
     // First, get the collation rules from en_USCollator
     String en_USRules = en_USCollator.getRules();
     // Second, get the collation rules from da_DKCollator
     String da_DKRules = da_DKCollator.getRules();
     RuleBasedCollator newCollator = new RuleBasedCollator(en_USRules + da_DKRules);
     // newCollator has the combined rules

    The next example shows to make changes on an existing table to create a new Collator object. For example, add "& C < ch, cH, Ch, CH" to the en_USCollator object to create your own:

     // Create a new Collator object with additional rules
     String addRules = "& C < ch, ch, ch, ch";
     rulebasedcollator mycollator = new rulebasedcollator(en_uscollator + addrules);
     // mycollator contains the new rules

    The following example demonstrates how to change the order of non-spacing accents:

     // old rule
     String oldRules = "= � ; � ; �" + "< a , a ; ae, ae ; � , �"
             + "< b , b < c, c < e, e & c < d, d";
     // change the order of accent characters
     string addon = "& � ; � ; �;";
     rulebasedcollator mycollator = new rulebasedcollator(oldrules + addon);

    The last example shows how to put new primary ordering in before the default setting. For example, in the Japanese Collator, you can either sort English characters before or after Japanese characters:

     // get en_US Collator rules
     RuleBasedCollator en_USCollator = (RuleBasedCollator)
     // add a few Japanese character to sort before English characters
     // suppose the last character before the first base letter 'a' in
     // the English collation rule is ?
     String jaString = "& ? , ? < ?";
     rulebasedcollator myjapanesecollator =
         new rulebasedcollator(en_uscollator.getrules() + jastring);
    • Method Detail

      • getCollationElementIterator

        public CollationElementIterator getCollationElementIterator(CharacterIterator source)
        Obtains a CollationElementIterator for the given CharacterIterator. The source iterator's integrity will be preserved since a new copy will be created for use.
        source - the source character iterator.
        a CollationElementIterator for source.
      • getCollationElementIterator

        public CollationElementIterator getCollationElementIterator(String source)
        Obtains a CollationElementIterator for the given string.
        source - the source string.
        the CollationElementIterator for source.
      • getRules

        public String getRules()
        Returns the collation rules of this collator. These rules can be fed into the RuleBasedCollator(String) constructor.

        Note that the rules are actually interpreted as a delta to the standard Unicode Collation Algorithm (UCA). Hence, an empty rules string results in the default UCA rules being applied. This differs slightly from other implementations which work with full rules specifications and may result in different behavior.

        the collation rules.
      • clone

        public Object clone()
        Returns a new collator with the same collation rules, decomposition mode and strength value as this collator.
        clone in class Collator
        a shallow copy of this collator.
        See Also:
      • compare

        public int compare(String source,
                  String target)
        Compares the source text to the target text according to the collation rules, strength and decomposition mode for this RuleBasedCollator. See the Collator class description for an example of use.

        General recommendation: If comparisons are to be done with the same strings multiple times, it is more efficient to generate CollationKey objects for the strings and use CollationKey.compareTo(CollationKey) for the comparisons. If each string is compared to only once, using, String) has better performance.

        Specified by:
        compare in class Collator
        source - the source text.
        target - the target text.
        an integer which may be a negative value, zero, or else a positive value depending on whether source is less than, equivalent to, or greater than target.
      • getCollationKey

        public CollationKey getCollationKey(String source)
        Returns the CollationKey for the given source text.
        Specified by:
        getCollationKey in class Collator
        source - the specified source text.
        the CollationKey for the given source text.
      • hashCode

        public int hashCode()
        Description copied from class: Object
        Returns an integer hash code for this object. By contract, any two objects for which Object.equals(java.lang.Object) returns true must return the same hash code value. This means that subclasses of Object usually override both methods or neither method.

        Note that hash values must not change over time unless information used in equals comparisons also changes.

        See Writing a correct hashCode method if you intend implementing your own hashCode method.

        Specified by:
        hashCode in class Collator
        this object's hash code.
        See Also:
      • equals

        public boolean equals(Object obj)
        Compares the specified object with this RuleBasedCollator and indicates if they are equal. In order to be equal, object must be an instance of Collator with the same collation rules and the same attributes.
        Specified by:
        equals in interface Comparator<Object>
        equals in class Collator
        obj - the object to compare with this object.
        true if the specified object is equal to this RuleBasedCollator; false otherwise.
        See Also:


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