The Abstract Factory Pattern

Learn about the Abstract Factory pattern and its working using a coding example.


The Abstract Factory pattern is appropriate when we have multiple possible implementations of a system that depend on some configuration or platform detail. The calling code requests an object from the Abstract Factory, not knowing exactly what class of object will be returned. The underlying implementation returned may depend on a variety of factors, such as the current locale, operating system, or local configuration.

General examples

Common examples of the Abstract Factory pattern include code for operating-system-independent toolkits, database backends, and country-specific formatters or calculators. An operating-system-independent GUI toolkit might use an Abstract Factory pattern that returns a set of WinForm widgets under Windows, Cocoa widgets under Mac, GTK widgets under Gnome, and QT widgets under KDE. Django provides an abstract factory that returns a set of object-relational classes for interacting with a specific database backend (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and others) depending on a configuration setting for the current site. If the application needs to be deployed in multiple places, each one can use a different database backend by changing only one configuration variable. Different countries have different systems for calculating taxes, subtotals, and totals on retail merchandise; an Abstract Factory can return a particular tax calculation object.


There are two central features of an Abstract Factory:

  • We need to have multiple implementation choices. Each implementation has a factory class to create objects. A single Abstract Factory defines the interface to the implementation factories.
  • We have a number of closely related objects, and the relationships are implemented via multiple methods of each factory.

The following UML class diagram seems like a clutter of relationships:

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