Design Patterns - Singleton

TL;DR: Ensure a class has only one instance and provide a global access point to it with the Singleton pattern, which is useful for coordinating actions across a system.


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


Real-world example

There can only be one ivory tower where the wizards study their magic. The same enchanted ivory tower is always used by the wizards. The ivory tower here is a singleton.

In plain words

Ensures that only one object of a particular class is ever created.

Wikipedia says

In software engineering, the singleton pattern is a software design pattern that restricts the instantiation of a class to one object. This is useful when exactly one object is needed to coordinate actions across the system.

Programmatic Example

Kotlin makes it externally easy to create singletons by introducing the language keyword object. By using this keyword, we will get an implementation of the Singleton pattern from the compiler that contains all of our requirements.

data object IvoryTower

One of the key differences between a class and a object is that the latter does not allow constructor arguments. If your implementation needs initialization for your Singleton (e.g. to load data) you can use an init block.

data object IvoryTower {
  init {"Initializing Ivory Tower...")

Note that if the Singleton object is never invoked, it won't run its initialization block at all. This is called lazy initialization.

Then in order to use:

val ivoryTower1 = IvoryTower
val ivoryTower2 = IvoryTower"ivoryTower1={}", ivoryTower1)"ivoryTower2={}", ivoryTower2)

The output on the console:

09:21:31.107 [main] INFO Singlton -- Initializing Ivory Tower...
09:21:31.109 [main] INFO Singlton -- ivoryTower1=com.yonatankarp.singleton.IvoryTower@1207938418
09:21:31.111 [main] INFO Singlton -- ivoryTower2=com.yonatankarp.singleton.IvoryTower@1207938418

Class diagram


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

Some typical use cases for the Singleton

  • The logging class

  • Managing a connection to a database

  • File manager


  • Violates the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP) by controlling their creation and lifecycle.

  • Encourages using a globally shared instance which prevents an object and resources used by this object from being deallocated.

  • Creates tightly coupled code. The clients of the Singleton become difficult to test.

  • It makes it almost impossible to subclass a Singleton.

Code Examples

All code examples and tests can be found in the Kotlin Design Patterns repository


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