C# vs Java Enum (for those new to C#)

5 Answers

In C# you can define extension methods on enums, and this makes up for some of the missing functionality.

You can define Planet as an enum and also have extension methods equivalent to surfaceGravity() and surfaceWeight().

I have used custom attributes as suggested by Mikhail, but the same could be achieved using a Dictionary.

using System;
using System.Reflection;

class PlanetAttr: Attribute
    internal PlanetAttr(double mass, double radius)
        this.Mass = mass;
        this.Radius = radius;
    public double Mass { get; private set; }
    public double Radius { get; private set; }

public static class Planets
    public static double GetSurfaceGravity(this Planet p)
        PlanetAttr attr = GetAttr(p);
        return G * attr.Mass / (attr.Radius * attr.Radius);

    public static double GetSurfaceWeight(this Planet p, double otherMass)
        return otherMass * p.GetSurfaceGravity();

    public const double G = 6.67300E-11;

    private static PlanetAttr GetAttr(Planet p)
        return (PlanetAttr)Attribute.GetCustomAttribute(ForValue(p), typeof(PlanetAttr));

    private static MemberInfo ForValue(Planet p)
        return typeof(Planet).GetField(Enum.GetName(typeof(Planet), p));


public enum Planet
    [PlanetAttr(3.303e+23, 2.4397e6)]  MERCURY,
    [PlanetAttr(4.869e+24, 6.0518e6)]  VENUS,
    [PlanetAttr(5.976e+24, 6.37814e6)] EARTH,
    [PlanetAttr(6.421e+23, 3.3972e6)]  MARS,
    [PlanetAttr(1.9e+27,   7.1492e7)]  JUPITER,
    [PlanetAttr(5.688e+26, 6.0268e7)]  SATURN,
    [PlanetAttr(8.686e+25, 2.5559e7)]  URANUS,
    [PlanetAttr(1.024e+26, 2.4746e7)]  NEPTUNE,
    [PlanetAttr(1.27e+22,  1.137e6)]   PLUTO

I've been programming in Java for a while and just got thrown onto a project that's written entirely in C#. I'm trying to come up to speed in C#, and noticed enums used in several places in my new project, but at first glance, C#'s enums seem to be more simplistic than the Java 1.5+ implementation. Can anyone enumerate the differences between C# and Java enums, and how to overcome the differences? (I don't want to start a language flame war, I just want to know how to do some things in C# that I used to do in Java). For example, could someone post a C# counterpart to Sun's famous Planet enum example?

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();

// Example usage (slight modification of Sun's example):
public static void main(String[] args) {
    Planet pEarth = Planet.EARTH;
    double earthRadius = pEarth.radius(); // Just threw it in to show usage

    // Argument passed in is earth Weight.  Calculate weight on each planet:
    double earthWeight = Double.parseDouble(args[0]);
    double mass = earthWeight/pEarth.surfaceGravity();
    for (Planet p : Planet.values())
       System.out.printf("Your weight on %s is %f%n",
                         p, p.surfaceWeight(mass));

// Example output:
$ java Planet 175
Your weight on MERCURY is 66.107583
Your weight on VENUS is 158.374842
[etc ...]

You could also use a utility class for each enum type which holds a instance with advanced data for each enum value.

public enum Planet

public class PlanetUtil
    private static readonly IDictionary<Planet, PlanetUtil> PLANETS = new Dictionary<Planet, PlanetUtil();

    static PlanetUtil()
        PlanetUtil.PLANETS.Add(Planet.MERCURY, new PlanetUtil(3.303e+23, 2.4397e6));
        PlanetUtil.PLANETS.Add(Planet.VENUS, new PlanetUtil(4.869e+24, 6.0518e6));

    public static PlanetUtil GetUtil(Planet planet)
        return PlanetUtil.PLANETS[planet];

    private readonly double radius;
    private readonly double mass;

    public PlanetUtil(double radius, double mass)
        this.radius = radius;
        this.mass = mass;

    // getter

The enum in Java is much more complex than C# enum and hence more powerful. Since it is just another compile time syntactical sugar I'm wondering if it was really worth having included the language given its limited usage in real life applications. Sometimes it's harder keeping stuff out of the language than giving up to the pressure to include a minor feature.

I suspect enums in C# are just constants internal to the CLR, but not that familiar with them. I have decompiled some classes in Java and I can tell you want Enums are once you convert.

Java does something sneaky. It treats the enum class as a a normal class with, as close as I can figure, using lots of macros when referencing the enum values. If you have a case statement in a Java class that uses enums, it replaces the enum references to integers. If you need to go to string, it creates an array of strings indexed by an ordinal that it uses in each class. I suspect to save on boxing.

If you download this decompiler you will get to see how it creates its class an integrates it. Rather fascinating to be honest. I used to not use the enum class because I thought it was to bloated for just an array of constants. I like it better than the limited way you can use them in C#.

http://members.fortunecity.com/neshkov/dj.html -- Java decompiler

A Java enum is syntactic sugar to present enumerations in an OO manner. They're abstract classes extending the Enum class in Java, and each enum value is like a static final public instance implementation of the enum class. Look at the generated classes, and for an enum "Foo" with 10 values, you'll see "Foo$1" through "Foo$10" classes generated.

I don't know C# though, I can only speculate that an enum in that language is more like a traditional enum in C style languages. I see from a quick Google search that they can hold multiple values however, so they are probably implemented in a similar manner, but with far more restrictions than what the Java compiler allows.