1. Introduction

In the context of programming and object-oriented languages, such as Java, C++, or Python, the terms type and class refer to related concepts but have distinct meanings. We’ll regard type(s) and data type to have the same meanings.

In this tutorial, we’ll differentiate between a type and a class.

2. Type

Types are categories that show the kind of data a variable can take and a function can return or take as its arguments. Additionally, a data type specifies the range of possible values and actions that may be performed on them.

Programming languages can offer many data types, but they usually have the following built-in types:

  • integer represents integer numbers
  • float represents a decimal number
  • Boolean represents logical values of true and false
  • strings denote a sequence of characters and is usually quoted

Programming languages can be classified as statically or dynamically typed. Statically typed languages, such as Java or C++, require explicit declaration of data types and perform data type checking at compile-time. Dynamically typed languages such as Python infer types at runtime and perform type-checking during execution.

3. Class

A class is a blueprint or template to create objects. It describes the structure and behavior that objects of the class should have. The structural part consists of attributes: features that all the objects of the class will have. Behavior refers to the methods we can invoke on the objects.

Here’s an example in Java:

public class House {
    private String owner;
    private int year;
    private String color;
    private String address;

    public House(String owner, int year, String color, String address) {
        this.owner = owner;
        this.year = year;
        this.color = color;
        this.address = address;

    public void printIntroduction() {
        System.out.println("Owner: " + owner);

    public void printYear() {
        System.out.println("Construction year: " + year);

    public void printColor() {
        System.out.println("Color: " + color);

    public void printAddress() {
        System.out.println("Address: " + address);

In this example, the House class acts as a blueprint for house objects. We can create instances by specifying the attributes :

House house = new House("Mike Johnson", 2010, "white", "Heisenbergstr. 5");

We can call its methods too:


In general, we can use a class as any built-in type.

3.1. Object-Oriented Programming

Classes are fundamental to OOP (object-oriented programming), a programming paradigm that emphasizes the organization of code around objects and their interactions. OOP provides a way to model real-world entities, their attributes, and their behaviors in software code.

Object-oriented programming principles include encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, and abstraction. These principles facilitate code modularity, reusability, and maintainability.

4. Difference Between Type and Class

While these two concepts are similar, there are differences. We’ll differentiate them based on their usage, relationships, hierarchy, and when they are determined in the software life cycle.

4.1. Usage

Types are used to declare variables, arguments, and return types. For example, programming languages such as Python and Java provide built-in types for integers, floats, boolean values, and strings.

A class is a special kind of type. Programmers create a class as a custom type that encapsulates data and behavior related to a specific entity. However, classes exist only in the OOP paradigm.

4.2. Static vs. Dynamic

Types are often determined at compile-time in statically typed languages. In contrast, classes are typically determined and instantiated at runtime.

4.3. Hierarchy and Inheritance

Types may have hierarchical relationships, such as integer types inheriting from numeric types. However, inheritance is incidental to types. In contrast, it’s the key concept when it comes to classes. They can inherit properties and behavior from other classes, which enables code reuse and establishes hierarchical relationships between them.

4.4. Storage

There’s a difference between storing built-in values such as integers and objects instantiated from our classes. For example, built-in types are stored on the stack (in Java) or directly in memory (in Python), whereas user-defined objects created from classes are stored on the heap in both Java and Python.

In Python, a class definition is stored as a Python code object, which is created when we define a class. The code object contains the bytecode instructions and other metadata associated with the class.

5. Benefits and Usage

Types enforce constraints on the values that variables can hold, which ensures data integrity. Furthermore, statically-typed languages can use compile-time checking to detect type errors and inconsistencies before the code is executed. Additionally, types enable efficient memory allocation and data representation, as well as enhance code readability.

Since a class is a type, it has all the benefits but offers some additional ones:

  • Classes enable code reuse through inheritance
  • They facilitate the implementation of object-oriented design principles, such as encapsulation, abstraction, and polymorphism
  • Classes facilitate code organization by encapsulating related data and behavior into cohesive units

6. Conclusion

In this article, we describe the types and classes in programming. Types (or data types) ensure data integrity and provide compile-time checking, while classes facilitate code organization, code reuse, and modularization through object-oriented principles.

Comments are open for 30 days after publishing a post. For any issues past this date, use the Contact form on the site.