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@MappedSuperclass vs. @Inheritance

MappedSuperClass must be used to inherit properties, associations, and methods.
Entity inheritance must be used when you have an entity, and several sub-entities.
You can tell if you need one or the other by answering this questions: is there some other entity in the model which could have an association with the base class?
If yes, then the base class is in fact an entity, and you should use entity inheritance. If no, then the base class is in fact a class that contains attributes and methods that are common to several unrelated entities, and you should use a mapped superclass.
For example:
  • You can have several kinds of messages: SMS messages, email messages, or phone messages. And a person has a list of messages. You can also have a reminder linked to a message, regardless of the kind of message. In this case, Message is clearly an entity, and entity inheritance must be used.
  • All your domain objects could have a creation date, modification date and ID, and you could thus make them inherit from a base AbstractDomainObject class. But no entity will ever have an association to an AbstractDomainObject. It will always be an association to a more specific entity: Customer, Company, whatever. In this case, it makes sense to use a MappedSuperClass.
@MappedSupperclass is different than the @Inheritance annotation.
@MappedSuperclass tells the JPA provider to include the base class persistent properties as if they were declared by the child class extending the superclass annotated with @MappedSuperclass.
However, the inheritance is only visible in the OOP world, since, from a database perspective, there's no indication of the base class. Only the child class entity will have an associated mapped table.
The @Inheritance annotation is meant to materialize the OOP inheritance model in the database table structure. More, you can query a base class annotated with @Inheritance but you can't do that for a base class annotated with @MappedSuperclass.
On the other hand, @MappedSuperclass is just a way to reuse both basic properties, associations, and even the entity @Id using a common base class. Nevertheless, you can achieve almost the same goal using an @Embeddable type. The only major difference is that you can't reuse an @Iddefinition with @Embeddable, but you can do it with @MappedSuperclass.

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