Declaring an Annotation Type
Trail: Learning the Java Language
Lesson: Annotations

Declaring an Annotation Type

Many annotations replace comments in code.

Suppose that a software group traditionally starts the body of every class with comments providing important information:

public class Generation3List extends Generation2List {

   // Author: John Doe
   // Date: 3/17/2002
   // Current revision: 6
   // Last modified: 4/12/2004
   // By: Jane Doe
   // Reviewers: Alice, Bill, Cindy

   // class code goes here


To add this same metadata with an annotation, you must first define the annotation type. The syntax for doing this is:

@interface ClassPreamble {
   String author();
   String date();
   int currentRevision() default 1;
   String lastModified() default "N/A";
   String lastModifiedBy() default "N/A";
   // Note use of array
   String[] reviewers();

The annotation type definition looks similar to an interface definition where the keyword interface is preceded by the at sign (@) (@ = AT, as in annotation type). Annotation types are a form of interface, which will be covered in a later lesson. For the moment, you do not need to understand interfaces.

The body of the previous annotation definition contains annotation type element declarations, which look a lot like methods. Note that they can define optional default values.

After the annotation type is defined, you can use annotations of that type, with the values filled in, like this:

@ClassPreamble (
   author = "John Doe",
   date = "3/17/2002",
   currentRevision = 6,
   lastModified = "4/12/2004",
   lastModifiedBy = "Jane Doe",
   // Note array notation
   reviewers = {"Alice", "Bob", "Cindy"}
public class Generation3List extends Generation2List {

// class code goes here


Note: To make the information in @ClassPreamble appear in Javadoc-generated documentation, you must annotate the @ClassPreamble definition with the @Documented annotation:
// import this to use @Documented
import java.lang.annotation.*;

@interface ClassPreamble {

   // Annotation element definitions

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