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Author's profile photo Jerry Wang

Try to access static private attribute via ABAP RTTI and Java Reflection

In ABAP we can define a static attribute for a class via keyword CLASS-DATA, whose validity is not associated with instances of a class but with the class itself. In order to prove this fact I use the following simple Pointer class for demonstration:
class ZCL_POINT definition
  create public .
public section.
  data X type I .
      !IV_X type I
      !IV_Y type I .
private section.
  data Y type I .
  class-data COUNT type I .
    me->x = iv_x.
    me->y = iv_y.
    count = count + 1.
In this class, static attribute count is responsible to maintain the number of created Point instances.
Then create four point instances:
data(a) = new zcl_point( iv_x = 1 iv_y = 1 ).
data(b) = new zcl_point( iv_x = 1 iv_y = 2 ).
data(c) = new zcl_point( iv_x = 1 iv_y = 3 ).
data(d) = new zcl_point( iv_x = 1 iv_y = 4 ).
Via any variable of a, b, c or d, we can monitor the value of count in debugger.

Can we access the static attribute of a class without object instance in debugger?

Since in theory the static attribute belongs to class instead of any dedicated object instance, so question comes: is there approach to monitor the static attribute value in ABAP debugger directly from class instead? Yes it is possible.
1. type text “{C:ZCL_POINT} in debugger and press enter key
2. double click, and you can see the attribute value is directly maintained in class ZCL_POINT, without any object instance created on top of it.
And I try to change its visibility dynamically via class descriptor via the following code and actually it is not possible:
data(lo) = CAST cl_abap_objectdescr( cl_abap_classdescr=>describe_by_name( 'ZCL_POINT' ) ).

read TABLE lo->attributes ASSIGNING FIELD-SYMBOL(<count>) WITH KEY name = 'COUNT'.
<count>-visibility = 'U'.
Since the structure is read-only and not editable outside cl_abap_objectdescr.
This makes sense otherwise the encapsulation will be violated. Just check many other attribute marked as read-only in Class/Object descriptor class.

Reflection in Java

Check the following code which demonstrates how to access private static attribute value in code via Reflection.
import java.lang.reflect.Field;

public class Point {
	private int x;
	private int y;
	static private int count = 0;
	public Point(int x, int y){
		this.x = x;
		this.y = y;
	private static void accessStaticPrivate(Point point){
		Class classObject = point.getClass();
		try {
			Field countField = classObject.getDeclaredField("count");
			System.out.println("count: " + countField.get(point));
		} catch (NoSuchFieldException | SecurityException | IllegalArgumentException
				| IllegalAccessException e1 ) {
	public static void main(String[] arg){
		Point a = new Point(1,2);
		Point b = new Point(1,3);
		Point c = new Point(1,4);
		Point d = new Point(1,5);
For ABAPer it is easy to understand the usage of Class object in Java by just comparing it with CL_ABAP_CLASSDESCR in ABAP.
When running this small program locally, you will get output in console:
count: 1
count: 2
count: 3
count: 4
Unlike RTTI in ABAP, Java reflection can sometimes lead to security issues, see one example how Java Singleton would be bypassed in blog Singleton bypass – ABAP and Java.

Further reading

I have written a series of blogs which compare the language feature among ABAP, JavaScript and Java. You can find a list of them below:

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      Author's profile photo Bjoern Jueliger
      Bjoern Jueliger

      Hi Jerry,

      the ABAP part where you attempt to change the visibility of the private field is a bit confusing: You seem to expect that changing the visibility of an attribute in the class descriptor would have the effect of making the attribute public, but the class descriptors returned by the RTTI services have no such relation to the actual classes.

      What you're running into is simply that CL_ABAP_OBJECTDESCR declares its attibute ATTRIBUTES as READ-ONLY. Almost all the public attributes of the RTTI classes are read-only, simply because changing them does not make sense: They are descriptions of certain types as they exist in the system, and changing these descriptions would only mean that you have messed up the description, not that you have actually changed anything about the object.