Chapter: Java The Complete Reference - The Java Language - Data Types, Variables, and Arrays

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A Closer Look at Literals

Now that the built-in types have been formally described, let’s take a closer look at them.

A Closer Look at Literals

 

Literals were mentioned briefly in Chapter 2. Now that the built-in types have been formally described, let’s take a closer look at them.

 

Integer Literals

 

Integers are probably the most commonly used type in the typical program. Any whole number value is an integer literal. Examples are 1, 2, 3, and 42. These are all decimal values, meaning they are describing a base 10 number. Two other bases that can be used in integer literals are octal (base eight) and hexadecimal (base 16). Octal values are denoted in Java by a leading zero. Normal decimal numbers cannot have a leading zero. Thus, the seemingly valid value 09 will produce an error from the compiler, since 9 is outside of octal’s 0 to 7 range. A more common base for numbers used by programmers is hexadecimal, which matches cleanly with modulo 8 word sizes, such as 8, 16, 32, and 64 bits. You signify a hexadecimal constant with a leading zero-x, (0x or 0X). The range of a hexadecimal digit is 0 to 15, so A through F (or a through f  ) are substituted for 10 through 15.

 

Integer literals create an int value, which in Java is a 32-bit integer value. Since Java is strongly typed, you might be wondering how it is possible to assign an integer literal to one of Java’s other integer types, such as byte or long, without causing a type mismatch error. Fortunately, such situations are easily handled. When a literal value is assigned to a byte or short variable, no error is generated if the literal value is within the range of the target type. An integer literal can always be assigned to a long variable. However, to specify a long literal, you will need to explicitly tell the compiler that the literal value is of type long. You do this by appending an upper- or lowercase L to the literal. For example, 0x7ffffffffffffffL

or 9223372036854775807L is the largest long. An integer can also be assigned to a char as long as it is within range.

Beginning with JDK 7, you can also specify integer literals using binary. To do so, prefix the value with 0b or 0B. For example, this specifies the decimal value 10 using a binary literal:

 

 

int x = 0b1010;

 

Among other uses, the addition of binary literals makes it easier to enter values used as bitmasks. In such a case, the decimal (or hexadecimal) representation of the value does not visually convey its meaning relative to its use. The binary literal does.

Also beginning with JDK 7, you can embed one or more underscores in an integer literal. Doing so makes it easier to read large integer literals. When the literal is compiled, the underscores are discarded. For example, given

 

int x = 123_456_789;

 

the value given to x will be 123,456,789. The underscores will be ignored. Underscores can only be used to separate digits. They cannot come at the beginning or the end of a literal. It is, however, permissible for more than one underscore to be used between two digits. For example, this is valid:

 

 

int x = 123___456___789;

 

The use of underscores in an integer literal is especially useful when encoding such things as telephone numbers, customer ID numbers, part numbers, and so on. They are also useful for providing visual groupings when specifying binary literals. For example, binary values are often visually grouped in four-digits units, as shown here:

 

int x = 0b1101_0101_0001_1010;

 

Floating-Point Literals

 

Floating-point numbers represent decimal values with a fractional component. They can be expressed in either standard or scientific notation. Standard notation consists of a whole number component followed by a decimal point followed by a fractional component. For example, 2.0, 3.14159, and 0.6667 represent valid standard-notation floating-point numbers. Scientific notation uses a standard-notation, floating-point number plus a suffix that specifies a power of 10 by which the number is to be multiplied. The exponent is indicated by an E or e followed by a decimal number, which can be positive or negative. Examples include 6.022E23, 314159E–05, and 2e+100.

 

Floating-point literals in Java default to double precision. To specify a float literal, you must append an F or f to the constant. You can also explicitly specify a double literal by appending a D or d. Doing so is, of course, redundant. The default double type consumes 64 bits of storage, while the smaller float type requires only 32 bits.

 

Hexadecimal floating-point literals are also supported, but they are rarely used. They must be in a form similar to scientific notation, but a P or p, rather than an E or e, is used. For example, 0x12.2P2 is a valid floating-point literal. The value following the P, called the binary exponent, indicates the power-of-two by which the number is multiplied. Therefore, 0x12.2P2 represents 72.5.

Beginning with JDK 7, you can embed one or more underscores in a floating-point literal. This feature works the same as it does for integer literals, which were just described. Its purpose is to make it easier to read large floating-point literals. When the literal is compiled, the underscores are discarded. For example, given

 

double num = 9_423_497_862.0;

 

the value given to num will be 9,423,497,862.0. The underscores will be ignored. As is the case with integer literals, underscores can only be used to separate digits. They cannot come at the beginning or the end of a literal. It is, however, permissible for more than one underscore to be used between two digits. It is also permissible to use underscores in the fractional portion of the number. For example,

 

double num = 9_423_497.1_0_9;

 

is legal. In this case, the fractional part is .109.

 

Boolean Literals

 

Boolean literals are simple. There are only two logical values that a boolean value can have, true and false. The values of true and false do not convert into any numerical representation. The true literal in Java does not equal 1, nor does the false literal equal 0. In Java, the Boolean literals can only be assigned to variables declared as boolean or used in expressions with Boolean operators.

 

Character Literals

 

Characters in Java are indices into the Unicode character set. They are 16-bit values that can be converted into integers and manipulated with the integer operators, such as the addition and subtraction operators. A literal character is represented inside a pair of single quotes. All of the visible ASCII characters can be directly entered inside the quotes, such as 'a', 'z', and '@'. For characters that are impossible to enter directly, there are several escape sequences that allow you to enter the character you need, such as ' \' ' for the single-quote character itself and ' \n' for the newline character. There is also a mechanism for directly entering the value of a character in octal or hexadecimal. For octal notation, use the backslash followed by the three-digit number. For example, ' \141' is the letter 'a'. For hexadecimal, you enter a backslash-u ( \u), then exactly four hexadecimal digits. For example, ' \u0061' is the ISO-Latin-1 'a' because the top byte is zero. ' \ua432 ' is a Japanese Katakana character. Table 3-1 shows the character escape sequences.

 

String Literals

String literals in Java are specified like they are in most other languages—by enclosing a sequence of characters between a pair of double quotes. Examples of string literals are


Table 3-1   Character Escape Sequences

 

"Hello World" 

"two\nlines"

" \"This is in quotes\""

 

The escape sequences and octal/hexadecimal notations that were defined for character literals work the same way inside of string literals. One important thing to note about Java strings is that they must begin and end on the same line. There is no line-continuation escape sequence as there is in some other languages.

NOTE  As you may know, in some other languages, including C/C++, strings are implemented as arrays of characters. However, this is not the case in Java. Strings are actually object types. As you will see later in this book, because Java implements strings as objects, Java includes extensive string-handling capabilities that are both powerful and easy to use.


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