Solutions to common Java enum problems

More readable solutions to using enums with attributes for categorization or representation.

Say, you have an enum representing a state:

enum State {
  A, B, C, D;

And you want to know if a state is a final state. In our example C and D should be final.
An initial attempt might be to use a simple method:

public boolean isFinal() {
	return State.C == this || State.D == this;

When there are two states this might seem reasonable but adding more states to this condition makes it unreadable pretty fast.
So why not use the enum hierarchy?

A(false), B(false), C(true), D(true);

private boolean isFinal;

private State(boolean isFinal) {
  this.isFinal = isFinal;

public boolean isFinal() {
  return isFinal;

This was and is in some cases a good approach but also gets cumbersome if you have more than one attribute in your constructor.
Another attempt I’ve seen:

public boolean isFinal() {
        for (State finalState : State.getFinalStates()) {
            if (this == finalState) {
                return true;
        return false;

    public static List<State> getFinalStates() {
        List<State> finalStates = new ArrayList<State>();
        return finalStates;

This code gets one thing right: the separation of the final attribute from the states. But it can be written in a clearer way:

List<State> FINAL_STATES = Arrays.asList(C, D)

public boolean isFinal() {
	return FINAL_STATES.contains(this);

Another common problem with enums is constructing them via an external representation, e.g. a text.
The classic dispatch looks like this:

    public static State createFrom(String text) {
        if ("A".equals(text) || "FIRST".equals(text)) {
            return State.A;
        } else if ("B".equals(text)) {
            return State.B;
        } else if ("C".equals(text)) {
            return State.C;
        } else if ("D".equals(text) || "LAST".equals(text)) {
            return State.D;
        } else {
            throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid state: " + text);

Readers of refactoring sense a code smell here and promptly want to refactor to a dispatch using the hierarchy.

A("A", "FIRST"),
D("D", "LAST");

private List<String> representations;

private State(String... representations) {
  this.representations = Arrays.asList(representations);

public static State createFrom(String text) {
  for (State state : values()) {
    if (state.representations.contains(text)) {
      return state;
  throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid state: " + text);

Much better.

== or equals with Java enum

When you compare objects in Java you should prefer the equals()-method to == in general. The reason is that you get reference equality (like with ==) by default but you are able to change that behaviour. You can override equals() (DO NOT FORGET TO OVERRIDE hashCode() too because otherwise you will break the general class contract) to reflect logical equality which is often what you want, e.g when comparing some string constant with user input.

With primitive types like double and int you are more or less limited to == which is fine for those immutable value types.

But what is the right thing to to with the enum type introduced in Java 5?
Since enums look like a class with methods, fields and the like you might want to use equals() instead of ==. Now this is a special case where using reference equality is actually safer and thus better than logical equality.

Above (please mind the stupid example) we can see that comparing the EState enum with an ILamp using equals() is accepted perfectly by the compiler even though the condition never can be true in practice. Using == the compiler screams and tells us that we are comparing apples with oranges.