The prototype pattern is a creational design pattern in software development. It is used when the type of objects to create is determined by a prototypical instance, which is cloned to produce new objects. This pattern is used to:
- avoid subclasses of an object creator in the client application, like the factory method pattern does.
- avoid the inherent cost of creating a new object in the standard way (e.g., using the 'new' keyword) when it is prohibitively expensive for a given application.
To implement the pattern, declare an abstract base class that specifies a pure virtual clone() method. Any class that needs a "polymorphic constructor" capability derives itself from the abstract base class, and implements the clone() operation.
The client, instead of writing code that invokes the "new" operator on a hard-coded class name, calls the clone() method on the prototype, calls a factory method with a parameter designating the particular concrete derived class desired, or invokes the clone() method through some mechanism provided by another design pattern.