Annotations Basics

The Format of an Annotation

In its simplest form, an annotation looks like the following:

@Entity

The at sign character (@) indicates to the compiler that what follows is an annotation. In the following example, the annotation's name is Override:

@Override
void mySuperMethod() { ... }

The annotation can include elements, which can be named or unnamed, and there are values for those elements:

@Author(
   name = "Benjamin Franklin",
   date = "3/27/2003"
)
class MyClass() { ... }

or

@SuppressWarnings(value = "unchecked")
void myMethod() { ... }

If there is just one element named value, then the name can be omitted, as in:

@SuppressWarnings("unchecked")
void myMethod() { ... }

If the annotation has no elements, then the parentheses can be omitted, as shown in the previous @Override example.

It is also possible to use multiple annotations on the same declaration:

@Author(name = "Jane Doe")
@EBook
class MyClass { ... }

If the annotations have the same type, then this is called a repeating annotation:

@Author(name = "Jane Doe")
@Author(name = "John Smith")
class MyClass { ... }

Repeating annotations are supported as of the Java SE 8 release. For more information, see Repeating Annotations.

The annotation type can be one of the types that are defined in the java.lang or java.lang.annotation packages of the Java SE API. In the previous examples, Override and SuppressWarnings are predefined Java annotations. It is also possible to define your own annotation type. The Author and Ebook annotations in the previous example are custom annotation types.

Where Annotations Can Be Used

Annotations can be applied to declarations: declarations of classes, fields, methods, and other program elements. When used on a declaration, each annotation often appears, by convention, on its own line.

As of the Java SE 8 release, annotations can also be applied to the use of types. Here are some examples:

  • Class instance creation expression:
        new @Interned MyObject();
    
  • Type cast:
        myString = (@NonNull String) str;
    
  • implements clause:
        class UnmodifiableList<T> implements
            @Readonly List<@Readonly T> { ... }
    
  • Thrown exception declaration:
        void monitorTemperature() throws
            @Critical TemperatureException { ... }
    

This form of annotation is called a type annotation. For more information, see Type Annotations and Pluggable Type Systems.