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Trail: Learning the Java Language
Lesson: Classes and Inheritance

Enumerated Types

An enumerated type is a type whose legal values consist of a fixed set of constants. Common examples include compass directions, which take the values North, South, East and West and days of the week, which take the values Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

In the Java programming language, you define an enumerated type by using the enum keyword. For example, you would specify a days of the week enumerated type as:

            FRIDAY, SATURDAY };
Notice that by convention the names of an enumerated type's values are spelled in uppercase letters.

You should use enumerated types any time you need to represent a fixed set of constants. That includes natural enumerated types such as the planets in our solar system, the days of the week, and the suits in a deck of cards as well as sets where you know all possible values at compile time, for example the choices on a menu, rounding modes, command line flags, and so on.

Java programming language enumerated types are much more powerful than their counterparts in other languages, which are just glorified integers. The enum declaration defines a class (called an enum type). These are the most important properties of enum types:

In the following example, Planet is an enumerated type that represents the planets in the solar system. A Planet has constant mass and radius properties. Each enum constant is declared with values for the mass and radius parameters that are passed to the constructor when it is created. Note that the constructor for an enum type is implicitly private. If you attempt to create a public constructor for an enum type, the compiler displays an error message.
public enum Planet {
    MERCURY (3.303e+23, 2.4397e6),
    VENUS   (4.869e+24, 6.0518e6),
    EARTH   (5.976e+24, 6.37814e6),
    MARS    (6.421e+23, 3.3972e6),
    JUPITER (1.9e+27,   7.1492e7),
    SATURN  (5.688e+26, 6.0268e7),
    URANUS  (8.686e+25, 2.5559e7),
    NEPTUNE (1.024e+26, 2.4746e7),
    PLUTO   (1.27e+22,  1.137e6);

    private final double mass;   //in kilograms
    private final double radius; //in meters
    Planet(double mass, double radius) {
        this.mass = mass;
        this.radius = radius;
    public double mass()   { return mass; }
    public double radius() { return radius; }

    //universal gravitational constant  (m3 kg-1 s-2)
    public static final double G = 6.67300E-11;

    public double surfaceGravity() {
        return G * mass / (radius * radius);
    public double surfaceWeight(double otherMass) {
        return otherMass * surfaceGravity();
In addition to its properties, Planet has methods that allow you to retrieve the surface gravity and weight of an object on each planet. Here is a sample program that takes your weight on earth (in any unit) and calculates and prints your weight on all of the planets (in the same unit):
public static void main(String[] args) {
    double earthWeight = Double.parseDouble(args[0]);
    double mass = earthWeight/EARTH.surfaceGravity();
    for (Planet p : Planet.values()) {
        System.out.printf("Your weight on %s is %f%n",
                          p, p.surfaceWeight(mass));
Here's the output:
$ java Planet 175
Your weight on MERCURY is 66.107583
Your weight on VENUS is 158.374842
Your weight on EARTH is 175.000000
Your weight on MARS is 66.279007
Your weight on JUPITER is 442.847567
Your weight on SATURN is 186.552719
Your weight on URANUS is 158.397260
Your weight on NEPTUNE is 199.207413
Your weight on PLUTO is 11.703031
There's one limitation of enum types: although enum types are classes, you cannot define a hierarchy of enums. In other words, it's not possible for one enum type to extend another enum type.

Finally, the java.util package contains two special-purpose Set and Map implementations that support enum types: EnumSet (discussed in Set Implementations (in the Learning the Java Language trail)) and EnumMap (discussed in Map Implementations (in the Learning the Java Language trail)).

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