What Is Encapsulation?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what encapsulation is, how you can use it in programming, and why it’s important for digital security.

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Encapsulation is a concept used in object-oriented programming to bundle data and methods into easy-to-use units. To better understand encapsulation, view it as a medicine capsule that can’t viewed from the outside. Similarly, in the realm of programming, encapsulation involves bundling data variables and the methods that manipulate the data into a single private unit, like a capsule. It conceals the inner workings and exposes only what is necessary. 

Why encapsulation is important

Encapsulation is important because it provides a powerful way to store, hide, and manipulate data while giving you increased control over it. Encapsulation can used when dealing with secure data or methods because it can restrict which functions or users have access to certain information. 

Encapsulation is a key concept in object-oriented programming (OOP), where everything revolves around objects. In OOP programming, a class is a blueprint for creating objects. It defines the properties and behaviors that objects of a certain class can have. Classes specify what data an object can have (attributes) and what it can do (methods). A class bundles its attributes and methods through encapsulation, protecting the data.

Encapsulation is also used to protect information from being modified or having new errors introduced. When you store and lock the information in a bundle, it is much more difficult for users to accidentally modify the information. You achieve this by making the data private, meaning you can only access and modify it through methods within the same class. This principle ensures data integrity and reduces the risk of accidental data corruption.

Read more: Should You Learn Object-Oriented Programming Languages?

Benefits of encapsulation

Encapsulation provides several benefits, such as:

  • Enhancing security: Hiding the internal state of objects prevents unauthorized access and manipulation

  • Easy adaptation: Encapsulation makes it easier for designers to make changes to the code without risking compatibility. This facilitates successful code evolution over time. 

  • Easier maintenance: You can develop, test, and debug encapsulated objects independently. Encapsulation can be especially useful in maintaining large data sets.

How do you implement encapsulation?

To implement encapsulation, you can use tools known as access modifiers: public, private, and protected. These determine who can access the data and methods in a class. “Public” means they're accessible everywhere, “private” restricts access within the class, and “protected” allows access within the same class and its subclasses. You should carefully choose your access levels, which control how people and algorithms access or use data and methods.

  • Class

  • Abstraction

  • Data hiding

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