C enums

In this tutorial, you will learn about enum (enumeration) in C programming with the help of examples.

In C programming, an enumeration type (also called enum) is a data type that consists of integral constants. To define enums, the enum keyword is used.

enum flag {const1, const2, ..., constN};

By default, const1 is 0, const2 is 1 and so on. You can change default values of enum elements during declaration (if necessary).

// Changing default values of enum constants
enum suit {
    club = 0,
    diamonds = 10,
    hearts = 20,
    spades = 3,
};

Enumerated Type Declaration

When you define an enum type, the blueprint for the variable is created. Here's how you can create variables of enum types.

enum boolean {false, true};
enum boolean check; // declaring an enum variable

Here, a variable check of the type enum boolean is created.

You can also declare enum variables like this.

enum boolean {false, true} check;

Here, the value of false is equal to 0 and the value of true is equal to 1.


Example: Enumeration Type

#include <stdio.h>

enum week {Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday};

int main()
{
    // creating today variable of enum week type
    enum week today;
    today = Wednesday;
    printf("Day %d",today+1);
    return 0;
}

Output

Day 4

Why enums are used?

An enum variable can take only one value. Here is an example to demonstrate it,

#include <stdio.h>

enum suit {
    club = 0,
    diamonds = 10,
    hearts = 20,
    spades = 3
} card;

int main() 
{
    card = club;
	printf("Size of enum variable = %d bytes", sizeof(card));	
	return 0;
}

Output

Size of enum variable = 4 bytes

Here, we are getting 4 because the size of int is 4 bytes.

This makes enum a good choice to work with flags.


How to use enums for flags?

Let us take an example,

enum designFlags {
	ITALICS = 1,
	BOLD = 2,
	UNDERLINE = 4
} button;

Suppose you are designing a button for Windows application. You can set flags ITALICS, BOLD and UNDERLINE to work with text.

There is a reason why all the integral constants are a power of 2 in the above pseudocode.

// In binary

ITALICS = 00000001
BOLD = 00000010
UNDERLINE = 00000100 

Since the integral constants are a power of 2, you can combine two or more flags at once without overlapping using bitwise OR | operator. This allows you to choose two or more flags at once. For example,

#include <stdio.h>

enum designFlags {
	BOLD = 1,
	ITALICS = 2,
	UNDERLINE = 4
};

int main() {
	int myDesign = BOLD | UNDERLINE; 

        //    00000001
        //  | 00000100
        //  ___________
        //    00000101

	printf("%d", myDesign);

	return 0;
}

Output

5

When the output is 5, you always know that bold and underline is used.

Also, you can add flags according to your requirements.

if (myDesign & ITALICS) {
    // code for italics
}

Here, we have added italics to our design. Note, only code for italics is written inside the if statement.

You can accomplish almost anything in C programming without using enumerations. However, they can be pretty handy in certain situations.