Monday, August 29, 2016

Reverse Lookup of Java Enum Values

I defined an enum with a structure similar to the following code:

public enum EnumWithIntValue {  

     private final int intValue;

     private EnumWithIntValue(final int intValue) {  
          this.intValue = intValue;  

     public final int getValue() {  
          return this.intValue;  

I then wanted to do a reverse lookup where I pass in a primitive int value and return the corresponding enum value. This was readily accomplished by adding the following static method to EnumWithIntValue:

public static final EnumWithIntValue valueOf(final int intValueParam) {
     for (EnumWithIntValue intValueEnum : values()) {
          if (intValueEnum.intValue == intValueParam) {
               return intValueEnum;

     throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid int value parameter " + intValueParam);

Hold up. What on Earth does values() do? If you look at the java.lang.Enum code from the JDK it does not exist. But according to the Enum Types section of the Java Tutorials:

The compiler automatically adds some special methods when it creates an enum. For example, they have a static values method that returns an array containing all of the values of the enum in the order they are declared. This method is commonly used in combination with the for-each construct to iterate over the values of an enum type.

Ok all of that makes sense (sort of). However, what does values() do every time it is called? Or to put it another way, is values() giving me a reference to the same array each time it is called or is it cloning the encapsulated array and giving me a copy each time? Let's find out:

public static void main(final String[] args) {
     EnumWithIntValue[] array = values();


     array = values();


Well lookie here:


Great, so each call to values() is obviously cloning the encapsulated array which is no good from a performance perspective. Of course the JDK is more worried about giving away the internal array reference which can lead to the possibility of someone altering said array which is also a big no-no. But for the purpose of my valueOf() method, that array is only used within my enum.

Therefore, let's cache the array inside the enum declaration and then update the valueOf() method to use the cached instance instead:

     // Declare the enum cache as a private constant
     private static final EnumWithIntValue[] enumValueArray = EnumWithIntValue.values();

     // Then update the values() call inside valueOf() to reference the enum cache instead
     for (EnumWithIntValue intValueEnum : enumValueArray) {

And voila! A reverse enum lookup that performs as well as it looks!


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