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Design Patterns

Adapter Design Pattern: Don’t replace an old item, use an adapter instead

Eduard Ghergu
Eduard Ghergu
Software Architect

Adapter is a Structural Design Pattern that allows incompatible interfaces between classes to work together without modifying their source code. It acts as a bridge between two interfaces, making them compatible so that they can collaborate and interact seamlessly. This pattern is useful when integrating existing or third-party code into an application without modifying the existing codebase. Additionally, it promotes code reusability by allowing objects to work together even if they were not designed to do so initially. Of course, the interfaces should refer to similar concepts; otherwise, it is almost impossible to “adapt” them.

Adapter pattern

How does the Adapter Design Pattern work?

The implementation of an Adapter class uses the object composition principle: the adapter implements the interface of one object and wraps the other one.


The UML diagram for the Adapter Structural Design Pattern

Adapter design pattern

The Client is a class that contains some existing business logic for the application. The Target interface describes a protocol that the Client code expects to work with. The Adaptee is some useful class (usually 3rd-party or legacy) that has the functionality the Client wants to use but is incompatible with the Client‘s interface. In other words, the Adaptee is the class that needs to be adapted. The Adapter class implements the Target interface but internally uses an instance of the Adaptee to make its functionality available to the Client.


Advantages of the Adapter Design Pattern

  1. Single Responsibility Principle (SRP): The interface or data conversion code can be separated from the application’s primary business logic.
  2. Open/Closed Principle (OCP): New types of adapters can be introduced into the program without breaking the existing client code, as long as they work with the adapters through the Target interface.
  3. Compatibility and Integration: One of the main advantages of the Adapter pattern is that it enables the integration of existing classes or legacy systems with incompatible interfaces with the rest of the codebase. It allows these classes to interact with other components without requiring significant changes to their implementation.
  4. Code Reuse: Existing classes that have valuable functionality but are not directly compatible with the system’s desired interfaces can be reused by using adapters. This promotes code reuse and avoids duplication of code or functionalities.
  5. Flexibility and Maintainability: The Adapter pattern enhances the flexibility and maintainability of the code by decoupling the client code from the specific implementations of the Adaptees. New adapters can be introduced or existing ones modified without affecting the client code or Adaptee implementation.
  6. Unit Testing and Mocking: Adapters can be beneficial for unit testing and mocking. Mock implementations of interfaces that allow client code testing independent of the actual Adaptee‘s implementation can be created by introducing adapters.


Disadvantages of the Adapter Design Pattern

While the Adapter Design Pattern offers many benefits, it also comes with some potential disadvantages that should be considered when deciding whether to use it:

  1. Complexity: Introducing adapters can add an extra layer of complexity to the codebase. Adapters translate between interfaces, which may require additional code, leading to increased complexity and potential performance overhead.
  2. Overuse: Using adapters excessively can lead to an overly complex and convoluted architecture. If used for every class that has a different interface, it can clutter the codebase and make it harder to understand.
  3. Performance Overhead: Adapters introduce an additional layer of indirection, which can lead to a slight performance overhead. While this overhead is usually negligible, it can become a concern in performance-critical applications.
  4. Maintenance Overhead: When the Adaptee‘s interface changes, you may need to update the adapter accordingly. This introduces some maintenance overhead, especially if there are multiple adapters in the codebase.
  5. Increased Indirection: The Adapter pattern adds an extra level of indirection between the Client code and the Adaptee. This indirection can make the code harder to follow and debug, especially if there are multiple layers of adapters.
  6. Code Duplication: In some cases, adapters might duplicate code or functionality already present in the Adaptee. This duplication can lead to maintainability issues, as any changes to the duplicated code must be made in multiple places.
  7. Misuse of Legacy Code: The Adapter pattern can be used to adapt legacy code that may not be well-designed or follows best practices. Adapting such code might make it seem integrated and compatible, but it doesn’t necessarily address underlying design issues.
  8. Design Clarity: Depending on how adapters are used, it might make the codebase less intuitive and obscure the true interactions between components, especially if the adapters are not named and structured well.
  9. Not Suitable for All Cases: While the Adapter pattern is useful for integrating incompatible interfaces, it might not be the best choice for every situation. In some cases, refactoring or redesigning the codebase to achieve compatibility might be a more appropriate solution.
  10. Testing Complexities: When using adapters, testing might become more challenging, especially if the Adapter logic is complex. Proper unit testing of adapters becomes essential to ensure that they behave as expected.

It is important to carefully consider these disadvantages in relation to your specific use case before deciding to employ the Adapter Design Pattern.


When should we use the Adapter Design Pattern?

Let’s dive into some practical scenarios where the Adapter Design Pattern proves its worth:

  1. Legacy System Integration: In many cases, software systems have components that have been around for a long time, often referred to as legacy systems. These systems might have outdated interfaces that do not conform to modern standards. By using an adapter, we can make these legacy components work seamlessly with new systems, without having to modify the existing codebase.
  2. Library Compatibility: Imagine you are using a third-party library in your project, but its interface doesn’t align with your existing codebase. Rather than rewriting or forking the entire library, you can build an adapter that translates the library’s interface into a more convenient and familiar format for your application.
  3. Polymorphism and Code Reusability: The Adapter Design Pattern also promotes code reusability and makes it easier to incorporate new components into an existing codebase. By creating adapters, you can quickly adapt different classes or components to share a common interface, allowing them to be used interchangeably and promoting polymorphism.


Real-world examples of Adapter Design Pattern

The Adapter Design Pattern is widely used in various real-world scenarios where existing components, libraries, or systems need to be integrated with new codebases or interfaces. Here are few real-world examples of the Adapter Design Pattern:

  • File Format Adapters: An application that can read data from different file formats (e.g., CSV, XML, JSON). Each file format may have its own parsing interface. To maintain a consistent interface for reading data, adapters can be used to wrap the different parsing classes and provide a unified interface for this application.
  • Database Adapters: When working with databases, different database vendors might provide their own specific APIs and interfaces. An adapter can be used to wrap these vendor-specific APIs and provide a standard database interface that an application can use regardless of the underlying database technology.
  • Third-Party API Integration: When integrating with external services or APIs that have different interfaces, adapters can be used to convert the external API calls into a format that matches an application’s interface. This allows seamless integration without changing the application’s code.
  • Language Translation Services: Language translation functionality is required for an application, and a third-party translation service that has its own API can be used. Adapters can be used to wrap this third-party service API and expose a common translation interface that the application can interact with.



The Adapter Design Pattern is a powerful tool for connecting incompatible interfaces and building flexible, maintainable systems. Adapters enable seamless integration of legacy systems, enhance library compatibility, and increase code reusability.

Next time you find yourself in need of bridging two incompatible interfaces, remember the Adapter Design Pattern and leverage its potential to create elegant and robust solutions.

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