Visitor Design Pattern in Java

The Visitor design pattern is a pattern that behavioral allows us to separate the algorithm from the objects on which it operates. It is used when we have a set of elements with varying structures, and we want to perform different operations on them without modifying their own implementation.

In this article, we will explore the Visitor design pattern in Java. We will understand the intent of the pattern, its structure, and step-by-step implementation. We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using this pattern and explore real-world use cases where it can be applied.

The Problem

Imagine you have a data structure that consists of various types of elements. Each element has its own internal structure and behavior. Now, there is a new requirement to perform different operations on these elements without modifying their existing implementation. How would you solve this problem?

The Solution

The Visitor design pattern addresses this problem by introducing a separate visitor object that defines new operations to be performed on the elements. The visitor object visits each elements and performs the necessary operation.

With this pattern, the algorithm is decoupled from the object structure, allowing you to add new operations without modifying the elements themselves.

Key Participants

The Visitor design pattern involves the following key participants:

Now that we have understood the basics of the Visitor design pattern, let's dive deeper into its structure and implementation in Java.

Structure of Visitor Design Pattern

The Visitor design pattern consists of two main components - the visitor and the elements.

In this structure, the visitor defines the new operations that need to be performed on the elements. The elements, on the other hand, define an accept method that accepts the visitor object and allows it to perform the operation.

Implementation of Visitor Design Pattern in Java

To better understand the Visitor design pattern, let's take an example scenario of a document structure where we have different types of objects - TextElement, ImageElement andTableElement. We will define a visitor objectDocumentVisitor` that performs different operations on these elements.

Step 1: Define the Visitor Interface

public interface DocumentVisitor {
    void visit(TextElement textElement);
    void visit(ImageElement imageElement);
    void visit(TableElement tableElement);

The DocumentVisitor interface defines the visit method for each different type of element. Each element will call the corresponding visit method when accepting the visitor.

Step 2: Implement the Visitor Interface

public class DocumentPrinterVisitor implements DocumentVisitor {
    public void visit(TextElement textElement) {
        System.out.println("Printing text: " + textElement.getText());

    public void visit(ImageElement imageElement) {
        System.out.println("Printing image: " + imageElement.getPath());

    public void visit(TableElement tableElement) {
        System.out.println("Printing table: " + tableElement.getRows() + " rows and " + tableElement.getColumns() + " columns");

The DocumentPrinterVisitor is an implementation of the DocumentVisitor interface. It provides the actual implementation of the visit method for each element type.

Step 3: Define the Element Interface

public interface DocumentElement {
    void accept(DocumentVisitor visitor);

The DocumentElement interface defines the accept method which accepts the visitor object.

Step 4: Implement the Element Interface

public class TextElement implements DocumentElement {
    private String text;

    public TextElement(String text) {
        this.text = text;

    public String getText() {
        return text;

    public void accept(DocumentVisitor visitor) {

public class ImageElement implements DocumentElement {
    private String path;

    public ImageElement(String path) {
        this.path = path;

    public String getPath() {
        return path;

    public void accept(DocumentVisitor visitor) {

public class TableElement implements DocumentElement {
    private int rows;
    private int columns;

    public TableElement(int rows, int columns) {
        this.rows = rows;
        this.columns = columns;

    public int getRows() {
        return rows;

    public int getColumns() {
        return columns;

    public void accept(DocumentVisitor visitor) {

The TextElement, ImageElement, and TableElement classes are implementations of the DocumentElement interface. They provide the implementation of the accept method that calls the corresponding visitor's visit method.

Step 5: Test the Implementation

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        List<DocumentElement> documentElements = new ArrayList<>();
        documentElements.add(new TextElement("Hello, Visitor Pattern!"));
        documentElements.add(new Image("/path/to/image.png"));
        documentElements.add(new TableElement(3, 4));
        DocumentVisitor printerVisitor = new DocumentPrinterVisitor();
        for (DocumentElement documentElement : documentElements) {

In the Main class, we create a list of different document elements - TextElement, ImageElement, and TableElement. We create an instance of DocumentPrinterVisitor and iterate over the document elements, accepting the visitor and performing the necessary operations.

When we run the Main class, it will output the following:

Printing text: Hello, Visitor Pattern!
Printing image: /path/to/image.png
Printing table: 3 rows and 4 columns



Real-World Use Cases

The Visitor design pattern can be applied to various real-world scenarios, including:

Code Analysis: The Visitor pattern can be used to analyze and manipulate source code. Each code element (class, method, variable) can be visited, allowing different analysis or manipulation operations to be performed. XML Document Processing: XML documents often have a complex structure with multiple types of elements. The Visitor pattern can be used to traverse the XML document tree and perform different operations on each element. GUI Framework:s In user interface frameworks, the Visitor pattern can be used to perform rendering operations on UI elements. Compiler Design: In compiler design, the Visitor pattern can be used to perform syntax analysis, semantic analysis, and code generation on the abstract syntax tree of the source code.


The Visitor pattern is powerful, especially when applied to scenarios where extending class hierarchies with new operations without modifying existing code is necessary. It’s ideal for use cases like parsing, rendering or traversing complex structures.


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