Basic EnumerationsS2C Home « Basic Enumerations

In this lesson we take a first look at enumerations which are also known as enumerated types or enums. Enumerations were introduced in Java5 and when you create an enum you're actually creating a new class that implicitly extends java.lang.Enum. We will talk more about extending classes in the OO Concepts section of the site in the Inheritance lesson. For now its enough to know that an enum can have constructors, variables and methods just like any other class and can be declared within its own class or as a member of another class. With enums you also get a constant-specific class body which we will investigate in the Advanced Enumerations lesson.

What are Enumerations? Top

In their simplest form enumerations are just a list of constants that define a new data type. Before Java5 the only way to do this would have been using static final variables to define Java constants. The difference between using enumerations and static final variables to define Java constants, is that with static final variables we can't guarantee that another piece of code won't set an invalid value, instead of using one of our static final variables. With enumerations, objects of the enumerated type can only hold values defined in the list of constants such as months of the year and days of the week for example. Lets look at some code to see this in action:


package info.java8;
/*
  Enumeration of soups
*/ 
enum Soup {
    TOMATO, CHICKEN, PRAWN
}

Save and compile the file in directory   c:\_ObjectsAndClasses in the usual way. We create an enumeration using the enum keyword. The identifers TOMATO, CHICKEN and PRAWN are known as enumeration constants and are implicitly declared as public static members of Soup. When we declare enumeration constants it's not obligatory to use all uppercase letters, but it lets others see this is a constant and we will use this convention here. Lets write a new test class for our Soup enum.


package info.java8;
/*
  Test Class for Soup
*/ 
public class SoupTest {

    public static void main (String[] args) {
        Soup soup;  //  Here we create an enum variable of type Soup
        soup = Soup.PRAWN;  // We qualify our assigned enumeration constants
        System.out.println("Our soup is: " + soup);
    }
}

run SoupTest
Screenshot 1. Running the SoupTest class.

The above screenshot shows the output of running our SoupTest class. We created a new Soup type object, notice how we didn't instantiate the object using the new keyword. In this regard declaring an enum is much the same as declaring a primitive type. The difference is that an object is automatically instantiated for each enumeration constant and this is what is used in assignment. We assign the enumeration constant PRAWN, we defined in the Soup enumeration to our enum object and print it to the console. Notice how we qualify our assigned enumeration constants with the name of the enum, in our case Soup. Also what is not apparent is the fact that because our soup object is of type Soup, we can only assign values declared in the Soup enumeration or we get a compilation error.

Using Conditionals With Enums Top

We can also use conditional branching via the if and switch constructs when using enums. Lets look at some code using an if construct by writing a new test class for our Soup enum.


package info.java8;
/*
  Test Class2 for Soup
*/ 
public class SoupTest2 {

    public static void main (String[] args) {
        Soup soup = Soup.TOMATO;
        if (soup == Soup.CHICKEN) {
            System.out.println("Our " + soup + " soup has meat in it!");
        } else {
            System.out.println("Our " + soup + " soup has no meat in it!");
        }
    }
}

run Soup2
Screenshot 2. Running the SoupTest2 class.

The above screenshot shows the output of running our SoupTest2 class. We created a new Soup type object and assigned the enumeration constant TOMATO, we defined in Soup to our enum object. We then use an if construct to check our Soup value and output an appropriate message.

Using a switch construct with an enumeration works slightly differently:


package info.java8;
/*
  Test Class3 for Soup
*/ 
public class SoupTest3 {

    public static void main (String[] args) {
        Soup soup = Soup.PRAWN;
        switch (soup) {
            case CHICKEN:
                System.out.println("Our " + soup + " soup has meat in it!");
                break;
            case PRAWN:
                System.out.println("Our " + soup + " soup has fish in it!");
                break;
            case TOMATO:
                System.out.println("Our " + soup + " soup has vegetables in it!");
                break;
        }
    }
}

run Soup3
Screenshot 3. Running the SoupTest3 class.

The above screenshot shows the output of running our SoupTest3 class. We created a new Soup type object and assigned the enumeration constant PRAWN, we defined in Soup to our enum object. We then use a switch construct to check our Soup value and output an appropriate message. A point to notice here is that the enumeration constants we are using for our case statements are not qualified by their enumeration type Soup. The enumeration type of Soup has already been implicitly applied within the switch Construct itself and therefore is not required. Qualifying the case statements will actually cause a compilation error and so is something of a gotcha when using the switch construct with enumerations.

Enum Methods Top

As mentioned earlier in the lesson enums are class types that extend java.lang.Enum and as such generally act like any other class type. Enumerations come with two predefined methods: values() which returns an array consisting of a list of enumeration constants and valueOf() which returns the enumeration constant corresponding to the passed string. Lets take a look at these methods using our Soup enumeration type:


package info.java8;
/*
  Test Class4 for Soup
*/ 
public class SoupTest4 {

    public static void main (String[] args) {
        /*
          Using enum predefined values() method
        */ 
        Soup allSoups[] = Soup.values();
        for (Soup s : allSoups) {
            System.out.println("We have " + s + " soup in our list.");
        }
        /*
          Using enum predefined valueOf() method
        */ 
        Soup soup = Soup.valueOf("CHICKEN");
        System.out.println("Soup value is: " + soup);
    }
}

run Soup4
Screenshot 4. Running the SoupTest4 class.

The above screenshot shows the output of running our SoupTest4 class. We create an array of the Soup enum constants using the predefined values() method and print then off using an enhanced for loop. We then use the predefined valueOf() method to extract the value of an enum constant.

Related Quiz

Objects & Classes Quiz 15 - Basic Enumerations

Lesson 15 Complete

In this lesson we studied basic enumerations which were introduced in Java5.

What's Next?

We continue our study of enumerations by looking at some advanced concepts.