As the preceding sections have shown, Java’s byte streams are both powerful and flexible. However, they are not the ideal way to handle character-based I/O. For this purpose, Java defines the character stream classes. At the top of the character stream hierarchy are the abstract classes Reader and Writer. Table 10-7 shows the methods in Reader, and Table 10-8 shows the methods in Writer. Most of the methods can throw an IOException on error. The methods defined by these two abstract classes are available to all of their subclasses. Thus, they form a minimal set of I/O functions that all character streams will have.