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What are the practical benefits, if any, of importing a specific class rather than an entire package (e.g. import java.net.* versus import java.net.Socket)?

It makes no difference in the generated class files since only the classes that are actually used are referenced by the generated class file. There is another practical benefit to importing single classes, and this arises when two (or more) packages have classes with the same name. Take java.util.Timer and javax.swing.Timer, for example. If I import java.util.* and javax.swing.* and then try to use "Timer", I get an error while compiling (the class name is ambiguous between both packages). Let's say what you really wanted was the javax.swing.Timer class, and the only classes you plan on using in java.util are Collection and HashMap. In this case, some people will prefer to import java.util.Collection and import java.util.HashMap instead of importing java.util.*. This will now allow them to use Timer, Collection, HashMap, and other javax.swing classes without using fully qualified class names in.