Making Choices

So far in this book, all the programs have run straight through from start to finish, without making any decisions along the way. In this chapter, you discover two Java statements that let you create some variety in your programs. The if statement lets you execute a statement or a block of statements only if some conditional test turns out to be true. And the switch statement lets you execute one of several blocks of statements depending on the value of an integer variable.

The if statement relies heavily on the use of boolean expressions, which are expressions that yield a simple true or false result. Because you can't do even the simplest if statement without a boolean expression, this chapter begins by showing you how to code simple boolean expressions that test the value of a variable. Later, after looking at the details of how the if statement works, I revisit boolean expressions to see how to combine them to make complicated logical decisions. Then, I get to the switch statement.

  Warning 

You're going to have to put your thinking cap on for much of this chapter, as most of it plays with logic puzzles. Find yourself a comfortable chair in a quiet part of the house, turn off the TV, and pour yourself a cup of coffee.

Using Simple Boolean Expressions

All if statements, as well as several of the other control statements that I describe in Book II, Chapter 5 (while, do, and for), use boolean expressions to determine whether to execute or skip a statement (or a block of statements). A boolean expression is a Java expression that, when evaluated, returns a boolean value-either true or false.

As you discover later in this chapter, boolean expressions can be very complicated. However, most of the time, you use simple expressions that compare the value of a variable with the value of some other variable, a literal, or perhaps a simple arithmetic expression. This comparison uses one of the relational operators listed in Table 4-1. All these operators are binary operators, which means they work on two operands.

Table 4-1: Relational Operators
Open table as spreadsheet

Operator

Description

==

Returns true if the expression on the left evaluates to the same value as the expression on the right.

!=

Returns true if the expression on the left does not evaluate to the same value as the expression on the right.

<

Returns true if the expression on the left evaluates to a value that is less than the value of the expression on the right.

<=

Returns true if the expression on the left evaluates to a value that is less than or equal to the expression on the right.

>

Returns true if the expression on the left evaluates to a value that is greater than the value of the expression on the right.

>=

Returns true if the expression on the left evaluates to a value that is greater than or equal to the expression on the right.

A basic boolean expression has this form:

expression relational - operator expression

Java evaluates a boolean expression by first evaluating the expression on the left, then evaluating the expression on the right, and finally applying the relational operator to determine if the entire expression evaluates to true or false.

Here are some simple examples of relational expressions. For each example, assume that the following statements were used to declare and initialize the variables:

int i = 5;
int j = 10;
int k = 15;
double x = 5.0;
double y = 7.5;
double z = 12.3;

Here are the sample expressions, along with their results (based on the values supplied):

Open table as spreadsheet

Expression

Value

Explanation

i == 5

true

The value of i is 5.

i == 10

false

The value of i is not 10.

i == j

false

i is 5, and j is 10, so they are not equal.

i == j − 5

true

i is 5, and j − 5 is 5.

i > 1

true

i is 5, which is greater than 1.

j == i * 2

true

j is 10, and i is 5, so i * 2 is also 10.

x = i

true

Casting allows the comparison, and 5.0 is equal to 5.

k < z

false

Casting allows the comparison, and 15 is greater than 12.3.

i * 2 < y

false

i * 2 is 10, which is not less than 7.5.

  Warning 

Note that the relational operator that tests for equality is two equal signs in a row (==). A single equal sign is the assignment operator. When you're first learning Java, you may find yourself typing the assignment operator when you mean the equals operator, like this:

if (i = 5)

Oops. But Java won't let you get away with this, so you have to correct your mistake and recompile the program. At first, doing so seems like a nuisance. The more you work with Java, the more you realize that it really is a nuisance, but one you can get used to.

  Warning 

Another important warning: Do not test strings using any of the relational operators listed in Table 4-1, including the equals operator. You're probably going to feel tempted to test strings like this:

inputString == "Yes"

Note, however, that this is not the correct way to compare strings in Java. You find out the correct way in the section "Comparing Strings" later in this chapter.


Using if Statements

The if statement is one of the most important statements in any programming language, and Java is no exception. The following sections describe the ins and outs of using the various forms of Java's powerful if statement.

Simple if statements

In its most basic form, an if statement lets you execute a single statement or a block of statements only if a boolean expression evaluates to true. The basic form of the if statement looks like this:

if (boolean-expression)
 statement

Note that the boolean expression must be enclosed in parentheses. Also, if you use only a single statement, it must end with a semicolon. But the statement can also be a statement block enclosed by braces. In that case, each statement within the block needs a semicolon, but the block itself doesn't.

Here's an example of a typical if statement:

double commissionRate = 0.0;
if (salesTotal > 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.05;

In this example, a variable named commissionRate is initialized to 0.0, and then set to 0.05 if salesTotal is greater than 10,000.

Some programmers find it helpful to visualize the operation of an if statement as a flowchart, as shown in Figure 4-1. In this flowchart, the diamond symbol represents the condition test: If the sales total is greater than 10,000, the statement in the rectangle is executed. If not, that statement is bypassed.

image from book
Figure 4-1: The flowchart for an if statement.

  Tip 

Indenting the statement under the if statement is customary because it makes the structure of your code more obvious. It isn't necessary, but it's always a good idea.

Here's an example that uses a block rather than a single statement:

double commissionRate = 0.0;
if (salesTotal > 10000.0)
{
 commissionRate = 0.05;
 commission = salesTotal * commissionRate;
}

In this example, the two statements within the braces are executed if salesTotal is greater than 10000.0. Otherwise, neither statement is executed.

Here are a few additional points about simple if statements:

  • Some programmers prefer to code the opening brace for the statement block on the same line as the if statement itself, like this:

     if (salesTotal > 10000.0) {
     commissionRate = 0.05;
     commission = salesTotal * commissionRate;
     }
    

    This method is simply a matter of style, so either technique is acceptable.

  •   Warning 

    Indentation by itself doesn't create a block. For example, consider this code:

     if (salesTotal > 10000.0)
     commissionRate = 0.05;
     commission = salesTotal * commissionRate;
    

    Here I didn't use the braces to mark a block, but indented the last statement as if it were part of the if statement. Don't be fooled; the last statement is executed regardless of whether the expression in the if statement evaluates to true.

  • Some programmers like to code a statement block even for if statements that conditionally execute just one statement. Here's an example:

     if (salesTotal > 10000.0)
     {
     commissionRate = 0.05;
     }
    

    That's not a bad idea, because it makes the structure of your code a little more obvious by adding extra white space around the statement. And if you decide later on that you need to add a few statements to the block, the braces are already there.

  • If only one statement needs to be conditionally executed, some programmers put it on the same line as the if statement, like this:

    if (salesTotal > 10000.0) commissionRate = 0.05;
    

    This method works, but I'd avoid it. Your classes are easier to follow if you use line breaks and indentation to highlight their structure.

if else statements

An if-else statement adds an additional element to a basic if statement: a statement or block that's executed if the boolean expression is not true. Its basic format is

if (boolean-expression)
 statement
else
 statement

Here's an example:

double commissionRate;
if (salesTotal <= 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
else
 commissionRate = 0.05;

In this example, the commission rate is set to 2% if the sales total is less than or equal to 10,000. If the sales total is greater than 10,000, the commission rate is set to 5%.

Figure 4-2 shows a flowchart for this if-else statement.

image from book
Figure 4-2: The flowchart for an if-else statement.

  Tip 

In some cases, you can avoid the need for the else part of an if-else statement by cleverly rearranging your code. For example, this code has the same effect as the previous if-else statement:

double commissionRate = 0.05;
if (salesTotal <= 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;

You can use blocks for either or both of the statements in an if-else. For example, here's an if-else statement in which both statements are blocks:

double commissionRate;
if (salesTotal <= 10000.0)
{
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 level1Count++;

}
else
{
 commissionRate = 0.05;
 level2Count++;
}

Nested if statements

The statement that goes in the if or else part of an if-else statement can be any kind of Java statement, including another if or if-else statement. This is called nesting, and an if or if-else statement that includes another if or if-else statement is called a nested if statement.

The general form of a nested if statement is this:

if (expression-1)
 if (expression-2)
 statement-1
 else
 statement-2
else
 if (expression-3)
 statement-3
 else
 statement-4

In this example, expression-1 is first to be evaluated. If it evaluates to true, then expression-2 is evaluated. If that expression is true, then statement-1 is executed; otherwise statement-2 is executed. But if expression-1 is false, then expression-3 is evaluated. If expression-3 is true, then statement-3 is executed; otherwise statement-4 is executed.

An if statement that's contained within another if statement is called an inner if statement, and an if statement that contains another if statement is called an outer if statement. Thus, in the previous example, the if statement that tests expression-1 is an outer if statement, and the if statements that test expression-2 and expression- 3 are inner if statements.

  Tip 

Nesting can be as complex as you want, but try to keep it as simple as possible. And be sure to use indentation to indicate the structure of the nested statements.

As an example, suppose your company has two classes of sales representatives (Class 1 and Class 2), and they get a different sales commission for sales below $10,000 and sales above $10,000 according to this table:

Open table as spreadsheet

Sales

Class 1

Class 2

$0 to $9,999

2%

2.5%

$10,000 and over

4%

5%

You could implement this commission structure with a nested if statement:

if (salesClass == 1)
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.04;
else
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.025;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.05;

This example assumes that if the salesClass variable isn't 1, it must be 2. If that's not the case, you have to use an additional if statement for Class 2 sales reps:

if (salesClass == 1)
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 else

 commissionRate = 0.04;
else if (salesClass == 2)
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.025;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.05;

Notice that I place this extra if statement on the same line as the else keyword. That's a common practice for a special form of nested if statements called else-if statements. You find more about this type of nesting in the next section.

Of course, you could just use a pair of separate if statements, like this:

if (salesClass == 1)
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.04;
if (salesClass == 2)
 if (salesTotal < 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.025;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.05;

The result is the same. However, this particular technique works only if the if statement itself doesn't change the variable being tested. If the first if statement does change the value of the salesClass variable, this statement doesn't work.

Note that you could also have implemented the sales commission structure by testing the sales level in the outer if statement and the sales representative's class in the inner statements:

if (salesTotal < 10000)
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.04;
else
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.025;
 else
 commissionRate = 0.05;
  Warning 

The trick, when using nested if statements, is knowing how Java pairs else keywords with if statements. The rule is actually very simple: Each if keyword is matched with the most previous if statement that hasn't already been paired with an else keyword. Sorry, you can't coax Java into pairing the if and else keywords differently by using indentation. For example, suppose that Class 2 sales reps don't get any commission, so the inner if statements in the previous example don't need else statements. You might be tempted to calculate the commission rate using this code:

if (salesTotal < 10000)
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
else
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.025;

Sorry, that won't work. The indentation creates the impression that the else keyword is paired with the first if statement, but in reality it's paired with the second if statement. As a result, no sales commission rate is set for sales of $10,000 or more.

This problem has two solutions. One is to use braces to clarify the structure:

if (salesTotal < 10000)
{
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
}
else
{
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.025;
}

The other is to add an else statement that specifies an empty statement (a semicolon by itself) to the first inner if statement:

if (salesTotal < 10000)
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
 else ;
else
 if (salesClass == 1)
 commissionRate = 0.025;

The empty else statement is paired with the inner if statement, so the second else keyword is properly paired with the outer if statement.

else if statements

A common pattern for nested if statements is to have a series of if-else statements with another if-else statement in each else part:


if (expression-1)
 statement-1
else if (expression-2)
 statement-2
else if (expression-3)
 statement-3

These are sometimes called else-if statements, although that's an unofficial term. Officially, all that's going on is that the statement in the else part happens to be another if statement-so this statement is just a type of a nested if statement. However, it's an especially useful form of nesting.

For example, suppose you want to assign four different commission rates based on the sales total, according to this table:

Open table as spreadsheet

Sales

Commission

Over $10,000

5%

$5,000 to $9,999

3.5%

$1,000 to $4,999

2%

Under $1,000

0%

You can easily implement a series of else-if statements:

if (salesTotal >= 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.05;
else if (salesTotal >= 5000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.035;
else if (salesTotal >= 1000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
else
 commissionRate = 0.0;

Figure 4-3 shows a flowchart for this sequence of else-if statements.

image from book
Figure 4-3: The flowchart for a sequence of else-if statements.

  Warning 

You have to carefully think through how you set up these else-if statements. For example, at first glance, this sequence looks like it might also work:

if (salesTotal > 0.0)
 commissionRate = 0.0;
else if (salesTotal >= 1000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.02;
else if (salesTotal >= 5000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.035;
else if (salesTotal >= 10000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.05;

Nice try, but this scenario won't work. These if statements always set the commission rate to 0% because the boolean expression in the first if statement always tests true (assuming the salesTotal isn't zero or negative-and if it is, none of the other if statements matter). As a result, none of the other if statements are ever evaluated.


Mr Spock s Favorite Operators (the Logical Ones, of Course)

A logical operator (sometimes called a boolean operator) is an operator that returns a boolean result that's based on the boolean result of one or two other expressions. Expressions that use logical operators are sometimes called compound expressions because the effect of the logical operators is to let you combine two or more condition tests into a single expression. Table 4-2 lists the logical operators.

Table 4-2: Logical Operators
Open table as spreadsheet

Operator

Name

Type

Description

!

Not

Unary

Returns true if the operand to the right evaluates to false. Returns false If the operand to the right is true.

&

And

Binary

Returns true if both of the operands evaluate to true. Both operands are evaluated before the And operator is applied.

|

Or

Binary

Returns true if at least one of the operands evaluates to true. Both operands are evaluated before the Or operator is applied.

Xor

Binary

Returns true if one and only one of the operands evaluates to true. If both operands evaluate to true or if both operands evaluate to false, returns false.

&&

Conditional And

Binary

Same as &, but if the operand on the left returns false, returns false without evaluating the operand on the right.

||

Conditional Or

Binary

Same as |, but if the operand on the left returns true, returns true without evaluating the operand on the right.

The following sections describe these operators in excruciating detail.

Using the! operator

The simplest of the logical operators is Not (!). Technically, it's a unary prefix operator, which means that you use it with one operand, and you code it immediately in front of that operand. (Also, this operator is technically called the complement operator, not the Not operator. But in real life, everyone calls it Not.)

The Not operator reverses the value of a boolean expression. Thus, if the expression is true, then Not changes it to false. If the expression is false, then Not changes it to true.

Here's an example:

i(! = 4)

This expression evaluates to true if i is any value other than 4. If i is 4, it evaluates to false. It works by first evaluating the expression (i = 4). Then, it reverses the result of that evaluation.

  Tip 

Don't confuse the Not logical operator (!) with the Not Equals relational operator (!=). Although they are sometimes used in similar ways, the Not operator is more general. For example, I could have written the previous example like this:

i != 4

The result is the same. However, the Not operator can be applied to any expression that returns a true-false result, not just an equality test.

  Note 

You must almost always enclose the expression that the ! operator is applied to in parentheses. For example, consider this expression:

! i == 4

Assuming that i is an integer variable, the compiler doesn't allow this expression because it looks like you're trying to apply the ! operator to the variable, not to the result of the comparison. A quick set of parentheses solves the problem:

!(i == 4)

Using the and operators

The & and && operators combine two boolean expressions and return true only if both expressions are true. This is called an And operation, because the first expression and the second expression must be true for the And operator to return a true.

For example, suppose the sales commission rate should be 2.5% if the sales class is 1 and the sales total is $10,000 or more. You could perform this test with two separate if statements (as I did earlier in this chapter), or you could combine the tests into one if statement:

if ((salesClass == 1) & (salesTotal >= 10000.0))
 commissionRate = 0.025;

Here the expressions (salesClass == 1) and (salesTotal >= 10000.0) are evaluated separately. Then, the & operator compares the results. If they're both true, the & operator returns true. If one or both are false, the & operator returns false.

  Tip 

Notice that I used parentheses liberally to clarify where one expression ends and another begins. Using parentheses isn't always necessary, but when you use logical operators, I suggest you always use parentheses to clearly identify the expressions being compared.

The && operator is similar to the & operator but it leverages our knowledge of logic a bit more. Because both expressions compared by the & operator must be true for the entire expression to be true, there's no reason to evaluate the second expression if the first one returns false. The & operator isn't aware of this, so it blindly evaluates both expressions before determining the results. The && operator is smart enough to stop when it knows what the outcome is.

As a result, almost always use && instead of &. Here's the previous example, this time coded smartly with &&:

if ((salesClass == 1) && (salesTotal >= 10000.0))
 commissionRate = 0.025;
  Tip 

Why do I say you should almost always use &&? Because sometimes the expressions themselves have side effects that are important. For example, the second expression might involve a method call that updates a database, and you want the database updated whether or not the first expression evaluates to true or false. In that case, you want to use & instead of && to ensure that both expressions get evaluated.

  Warning 

Relying on the side effects of expressions can be risky-and you can almost always find a better way to write your code so that the side effects are avoided. In other words, placing an important call to a database update method inside a compound expression that's buried in an if statement probably isn't a good idea.

Using the | and || operators

The | and || operators are called Or operators because they return true if the first expression is true or if the second expression is true. They also return true if both expressions are true. (You find the | symbol on your keyboard just above the Enter key.)

Suppose that sales representatives get no commission if the total sales are less than $1,000 or if the sales class is 3. You could do that with two separate if statements:

if (salesTotal < 1000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.0;
if (salesClass == 3)
 commissionRate = 0.0;

But with an Or operator, you can do the same thing with a compound condition:

if ((salesTotal < 1000.0) | (salesClass == 3))
 commissionRate = 0.0;

To evaluate the expression for this if statement, Java first evaluates the expressions on either side of the | operator. Then, if at least one of them is true, the whole expression is true. Otherwise the expression is false.

  Tip 

In most cases, you should use the Conditional Or operator (||) instead of the regular Or operator (|), like this:

if ((salesTotal < 1000.0) || (salesClass == 3))
 commissionRate = 0.0;

Like the Conditional And operator (&&), the Conditional Or operator stops evaluating as soon as it knows what the outcome is. For example, suppose the sales total is $500. Then, there's no need to evaluate the second expression. Because the first expression evaluates to true and only one of the expressions needs to be true, Java can skip the second expression altogether. Of course, if the sales total is $5,000, the second expression must still be evaluated.

As with the And operators, you should use the regular Or operator only if your program depends on some side effect of the second expression, such as work done by a method call.

Using the ⁁ operator

The operator performs what in the world of logic is known as an Exclusive Or, commonly abbreviated as Xor. It returns true if one and only one of the two subexpressions is true. If both expressions are true or if both expressions are false, the operator returns false.

  TECHNICAL STAUFF 

Most programmers don't bother with the operator because it's pretty confusing. My feelings won't be hurt if you skip this section.

Put another way, the operator returns true if the two subexpressions have different results. If they both have the same result, it returns false.

As an example, suppose you're writing software that controls your model railroad set and you want to find out if two switches are set in a dangerous position that might allow a collision. If the switches were represented by simple integer variables named switch1 and switch2 and 1 meant the track was switched to the left and 2 meant the track was switched to the right, you could easily test them like this:

if (switch08 == switch08)
 System.out.println("Trouble! The switches are the same");
else
 System.out.println("OK, the switches are different.");

But what if, for some reason, one of the switches is represented by an int variable where 1 means the switch goes to the left and any other value means the switch goes to the right-but the other is an int variable where −1 means the switch goes to the left and any other value means the switch goes to the right. (Who knows, maybe the switches were made by different manufacturers.) You could use a compound condition like this:

if (((switch1==1)&&(switch2==-1)) ||
 ((switch1!=1)&&(switch2!=-1)))
 System.out.println("Trouble! The switches are the same");
else
 System.out.println("OK, the switches are different.");

But an Xor operator could do the job with a simpler expression:

if ((switch1==1)^(switch2==-1))
 System.out.println("OK, the switches are different.");
else
 System.out.println("Trouble! The switches are the same");
  Warning 

Frankly, the operator is probably one you should avoid using. In fact, most of the Java books on my bookshelf (and believe me, I have a lot of them) don't even mention this operator except in its other, more useful application as a bitwise operator (see Bonus Chapter 2 on this book's Web site for information about bitwise operators). That's probably because many applications don't use it as a logical operator, and the applications that it is suitable for can also be solved with the more traditional And and Or operators.

Combining logical operators

You can combine simple boolean expressions to create more complicated expressions. For example:

if ((salesTotal<1000.0)||((salesTotal<5000.0)&&
 (salesClass==1))||((salestotal < 10000.0)&&
 (salesClass == 2)))
 CommissionRate = 0.0;

Can you tell what the expression in this if statement does? It sets the commission to zero if any one of the following three conditions is true:

  • The sales total is less than $1,000.
  • The sales total is less than $5,000, and the sales class is 1.
  • The sales total is less than $10,000, and the sales class is 2.

In many cases, you can clarify how an expression works just by indenting its pieces differently and spacing out its subexpressions. For example, this version of the previous if statement is a little easier to follow:

if ( (salesTotal < 1000.0)
 || ((salesTotal < 5000.0) && (salesClass == 1))
 || ((salestotal < 10000.0) && (salesClass == 2))
 )
 commissionRate = 0.0;

However, figuring out exactly what this if statement does is still tough. In many cases the better thing to do is to skip the complicated expression and code separate if statements:

if (salesTotal < 1000.0)
 commissionRate = 0.0;
if ((salesTotal < 5000.0) && (salesClass == 1))
 commissionRate = 0.0;
if ((salestotal < 10000.0) && (salesClass == 2))
 commissionRate = 0.0;
  Warning 

Boolean expressions can get a little complicated when you use more than one logical operator, especially if you mix And and Or operators. For example, consider this expression:

if (a==1 && b==2 || c==3)
 System.out.println("It's true!");
else
 System.out.println("No it isn't!");

What do you suppose this if statement does if a is 5, b is 7, and c = 3? The answer is that the expression evaluates to true and “It's true!” is printed. That's because Java applies the operators from left to right. So the && operator is applied to a==1 (which is false) and b==2 (which is also false). Thus the && operator returns false. Then the || operator is applied to that false result and the result of c==3, which is true. Thus the entire expression returns true.

  Tip 

Wouldn't this expression have been clearer if you had used a set of parentheses to clarify what the expression does? Consider this example:

if ((a==1 && b==2) || c==3)
 System.out.println("It's true!");
else
 System.out.println("No it isn't!");

Here you can clearly see that the && operator is evaluated first.


Using the Conditional Operator

Java has a special operator called the conditional operator that's designed to eliminate the need for if statements altogether in certain situations. It's a ternary operator, which means that it works with three operands. The general form for using the conditional operator is this:

boolean-expression? expression-1: expression-2

The boolean expression is evaluated first. If it evaluates to true, then expression-1 is evaluated, and the result of this expression becomes the result of the whole expression. If the expression is false, expression-2 is evaluated, and its results are used instead.

For example, suppose you want to assign a value of 0 to an integer variable named salesTier if total sales are less than $10,000 and a value of 1 if the sales are $10,000 or more. You could do that with this statement:

int tier = (salesTotal > 10000.0) ? 1 : 0;

Although not required, a set of parentheses helps make this statement easier to follow:

int tier = (salesTotal > 10000.0) ? 1 : 0;
  Tip 

One common use for the conditional operator is when you're using concatenation to build a text string and you have a word that might need to be plural, based on the value of an integer variable. For example, suppose you want to create a string that says “You have x apples”, with the value of a variable named appleCount substituted for x. But if apples is 1, the string should be “You have 1 apple”, not “You have 1 apples”.

The following statement does the trick:

String msg = "You have " + appleCount + " apple"
 + ((appleCount>1) ? "s." : ".");

When Java encounters the ? operator, it evaluates the expression (appleCount>1). If true, it uses the first string (s.). If false, it uses the second string (“.”).


Comparing Strings

Comparing strings in Java takes a little extra care because the == operator doesn't really work the way it should. For example, suppose you want to know if a string variable named answer contains the value “Yes”. You might be tempted to code an if statement like this:

if (answer == "Yes")
 System.out.println("The answer is Yes.");
  Warning 

Unfortunately, that's not correct. The problem is that in Java, strings are reference types, not primitive types; when you use the == operator with reference types, Java compares the references to the objects, not the objects themselves. As a result, the expression answer == “Yes” doesn't test whether the value of the string referenced by the answer variable is “Yes”. Instead, it tests whether the answer string and the literal string “Yes” point to the same string object in memory. In many cases, they do. But sometimes they don't, and the results are difficult to predict.

The correct way to test a string for a given value is to use the equals method of the String class:

if (answer.equals("Yes"))
 System.out.println("The answer is Yes.");

This method actually compares the value of the string object referenced by the variable with the string you pass as a parameter and returns a boolean result to indicate whether the strings have the same value.

The String class has another method, equalsIgnoreCase, that's also useful for comparing strings. It compares strings but ignores case, which is especially useful when you're testing string values entered by users. For example, suppose you're writing a program that ends only when the user enters the word End. You could use the equals method to test the string:

if (input.equals("end"))
 // end the program

But then, the user would have to enter end exactly. If the user enters End or END, the program won't end. It's better to code the if statement like this:

if (input.equalsIgnoreCase("end"))
 // end the program

Then, the user could end the program by entering end, End, END, or even eNd.

You can find much more about working with strings in Book IV, Chapter 1. For now, just remember that to test for string equality in an if statement (or in one of the other control statements that's presented in the next chapter), you must use the equals or equalsIgnoreCase method instead of the == operator.


Book I - Java Basics

Book II - Programming Basics

Book III - Object-Oriented Programming

Book IV - Strings, Arrays, and Collections

Book V - Programming Techniques

Book VI - Swing

Book VII - Web Programming

Book VIII - Files and Databases

Book IX - Fun and Games

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Java All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
Java All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies
ISBN: 0470124512
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 332
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