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Literals In Java: Types of Literals in Java [With Examples]

Summary:

In this article, you will learn about Literals in Java.

  • Literals in Java
  • Integral Literals
  • Floating-Point Literals
  • Char Literals
  • String Literals
  • Boolean Literals
  • Null Literals

Read more to know each in detail.

Programming needs to be optimized for efficiency, faster outputs, and memory. Variables are key in programming that stores data at a particular memory location. While executing a Java program, it stores values in containers called variables, a basic storage unit. To enhance the program’s readability, one needs to follow particular conventions while naming variables and assigning values. A source code representing a fixed value is called ‘literal’. 

Literals in Java are defined directly in the code without any kind of computation. Any primitive type variables are assigned using literals. Java has a generic, class-based, reflective, imperative, multi-paradigm, and is an object-oriented programming language.

There is no way of how the literals in java are represented. The literals in java are represented in various ways. They could be represented in boolean, string, character, or numeric data. The literals in java are a form of data type covering the fixed values temporarily assigned fixed values as well.

The literals in java are source code representing a fixed value. These literals could be assigned to any primitive variable type.

One of the popular programming languages has different data types, viz. primitive data types, and non-primitive data types. Primitive data types include int, byte, short, float, boolean, double, and char, whereas non-primitive data types include arrays, string, and classes. 

The primitive literals in java int, byte, short, float, boolean, double, and char represent certain signed integer values. Such as byte data type is an 8-bit signed, the short data type is a 16-bit signed, the int data type is 32-bit signed, the long data type is a 64-bit type, the float is 32-bit signed, double is 64-bit, boolean has only two possible values i.e. either true or false and lastly, char is 16-bit unicode character.

This article is focused on the ‘Literal in Java’. It covers the concept and types of literals used in Java and their application in programming. After reading this article, readers will have a clear understanding of the literal, how and where to use specific literal while coding in Java. 

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Literals in Java

Literal in Java is a synthetic representation of boolean, numeric, character, or string data. It is a means of expressing particular values in the program, such as an integer variable named ‘’/count is assigned an integer value in the following statement.

int count = 0;

A literal ‘0’ represents the value zero.

Thus, a constant value assigned to the variable can be called literal. But before everything, one must know how to define literals in Java and get a brief idea of what is literal in Java programming.

The question of what are literals has been answered; now let’s understand the use of literals briefly and types of literals in Java. The literals are represented directly in the code without any need or use of computation. Also, they facilitate the process and can be assigned to any primitive variable type, allowing the task to run smoothly.

Literals In Java: Why Use Them?

Now that you know what is literal in Java, learn why Java programmers should use them in their codes. 

The various types of literals in Java are particularly helpful for implementation in the code since it eliminates the need to add labels and declare constants on the same line. 

1. Clarity and Readability

Literals in Java serve as concise and direct representations of constant values, contributing significantly to code clarity and readability. When you encounter a numeric, string, or boolean literal in the code, it’s an instant and clear indication of the specific value without the need for deciphering complex expressions. This not only simplifies comprehension for developers but also facilitates collaborative coding efforts.

2. Efficient Data Representation

The use of literals is instrumental in efficiently representing data, especially numeric values. By explicitly specifying the type of numeric literal (int, float, double), developers avoid ambiguity and potential precision issues. This precision ensures that the code behaves predictably, minimizing the risk of unintended consequences due to implicit conversions or data type mismatches.

3. Enhanced Debugging and Maintenance

Literals play a crucial role in debugging and maintaining code. When you encounter a literal value during debugging, it provides a straightforward reference point for understanding the state of variables or constants. Additionally, the consistent use of literals across the codebase aids in the swift identification of potential errors or inconsistencies during maintenance, streamlining the debugging process.

4. Facilitating Code Modifications

Java literals contribute to code flexibility by allowing for easy modifications. When a constant value is expressed as a literal, making changes to that value is a seamless process. This adaptability proves invaluable in scenarios where tweaking parameters or constants is necessary, ensuring that code adjustments are swift and error-free.

5. Promoting Best Practices

Embracing literals aligns with Java best practices, promoting standardized coding conventions. This adherence to conventions not only ensures consistency within the codebase but also facilitates collaboration among developers. It becomes a shared language that fosters a cohesive coding environment, ultimately leading to the creation of robust and maintainable software.

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Literals In Java: How To Use Them?

While learning what is literal in Java programming, you may have read that a literal is declared along with a data type, a variable name. A literal is preceded by a = sign, which gives the variable its literal value. 

Types of Literals In Java

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To understand what is literal in Java, let’s take a look at their classification:

  1. Integral Literals
  2. Floating-point Literals
  3. Char Literals
  4. String Literals
  5. Boolean Literals
  6. Null Literals

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These literals are again specified in different sub-types, let us see them one by one in the article.

1. Integral Literals

In computer programming, integral literals are constant values that represent integers in various number systems, such as decimal, binary, octal, and hexadecimal. These literals assign fixed integer values directly to variables or expressions in code. The syntax for integral literals may vary depending on the programming language used. Integral literals are specified in four different ways, as follows:

Decimal: It has a base of ten, and digits from 0 to 9. 

For example, 

Int x = 108;

Octal: It has base eight and allows digits from 0 to 7. While assigning an octal literal in the Java code, a number must have a prefix 0. 

For example,

int x = 0745;

Hexadecimal:

It has a base of 16. Hexadecimal allows digits from 0 to 9, and characters from A to F. Even though Java is case sensitive, it also provides an exception for using either uppercase or lowercase characters in the code for hexadecimal literals.

For example,

int x = 0X123Fadd;

Binary: 

It can be specified in binary literals, that is 0 and 1 with a prefix 0b or 0B.

For example,

int x = 0b1011;

One thing to keep in knowledge is that the prefix is used before adding any integer literal. This prefix gives a direction by specifying the base. Also, the integer literal can also have a suffix namely U and L representing unsigned or long. And as mentioned above, the U and L could be either in uppercase or lowercase.

Integral Literals Coding Example

Here is a Java program example that will help you better understand the Integral Literals in Java:

public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args)
{
// decimal-form literal
int a = 101;
// octal-form literal
int b = 0100;
// Hexa-decimal form literal
int c = 0xFace;
// Binary literal
int d = 0b1111;
System.out.println(a);
System.out.println(b);
System.out.println(c);
System.out.println(d);
}
}

Output:

101
64
64206
15

 

Note:

Java literals an int by default, but we may signal explicitly that we want a long literal by adding the suffix l or L. Byte and short literals cannot be explicitly specified but can be inferred. The compiler automatically interprets integral literals assigned to byte variables as byte literals if the value is within the range of byte. 

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2. Floating-Point Literals

Floating-point literals are literal in programming that represent real numbers (numbers with a decimal point) using the floating-point notation. These literals are commonly used to represent numbers that can have fractional parts. In simple words, floating-point literals can be expressed using only decimal fractions or exponential notation. 

For example,

decimal Number = 89d;

decimal Number = 3.14159e0;

decimal Number = 1.0e-6D;

Floating-point literals can indicate a positive or negative value, leading + or – sign respectively. If not specified, the value is always considered positive. It can be represented in the following formats:

-Integer digits (representing digits 0 through 9) followed by either a suffix or an exponent to distinguish it from an integral literal.

-Integer digit.

-integer digit. integer digit

integer digit

An optional exponent of the form might be as below:

-an optional exponent sign + or

-the exponent indicator e or E

integer digit representing the integer exponent value

An optional floating-point suffix might be as below:

Single precision (4 bytes) floating-point number indicating either for F

Double precision (8 bytes) floating-point number indicating d or D 

The floating-point literals facilitate providing values basis the instance requirement. For example, it provides the values that could be used either in the float or double instances. The integer and floating-point literals should not be confused, as the integer literals have fixed integer values whereas the floating literals do not have fixed integers but rather has either fraction or decimal values.

Floating-Point Literal Coding Example

Here is a Java program example to help you understand the application of floating-point literal in Java

public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args)
{
// decimal-form literal
float a = 101.230f;
// It also serves the purpose of a decimal literal
float b = 0123.222f;
// Hexa-decimal form (error)
float c = 0x123.222;
System.out.println(a);
System.out.println(b);
System.out.println(c);
}
}

Output:

101.230
123.222
Error: malformed floating point literal

 

Note

Since every floating-point literal by default is of the double type, we are unable to assign directly to the float variable. However, by prefixing a floating-point literal with f or F, we can declare it as a float type. By prefixing with d or D, we can explicitly define a floating-point literal as being of the double type. This particular procedure isn’t necessary. 

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3. Char Literals

Character (Char) literals have the type char and are an unsigned integer primitive type. They are constant value character expressions in the Java program. These are sixteen-bit Unicode characters that range from 0 to 65535. Char literals are expressed as a single quote, a single closing quote, and the character in Java.    

Char literals are specified in four different ways, as given below:

Single quote: Java literal is specified to a char data type as a single character enclosed in a single quote. 

For example,

char ch = ‘a’;

Char Literal: Java literal is specified as an integer literal representing the Unicode value of a char. This integer can be specified in octal, decimal, and hexadecimal, ranging from 0 to 65535.

For example,

char ch = 062;

Escape Sequence: Every escape char can be specified as char literal.

For example,

char ch = ‘\n’;

Unicode Representation: Java literal is specified in Unicode representation ‘\uzzz’, where zzzz are four hexadecimal numbers.

For example,

char ch = ‘\u0061’;

The char literals in Java contain characters arranged sequentially enclosed in single quotation marks i.e. ‘a’. The character is another type of literal representing the character’s value enclosed within the code.

Char Literals In Java Coding Example

public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args)
{
// single character literal within a single quote
char ch = 'a';
// It is an Integer literal with an octal form
char b = 0789;
// Unicode representation
char c = '\u0061';
System.out.println(ch);
System.out.println(b);
System.out.println(c);
// Escape character literal
System.out.println("\" is a symbol");
}
}

Output:

a
error: Integer number too large
a
"  is a symbol

4. String Literals

A sequence of (zero or more including Unicode characters) characters within double quotes is referred to as string literals. 

For example,

String s = “Hello”;

String literals may not have unescaped line feed or newline characters, but the Java compiler always evaluates compile-time expressions. Unicode escape sequences or special characters can be used within the string and character literal as backlash characters to escape special characters, as shown in the table below: 

Name  Character ASCII Hex
Single quote \’ 39 0x27
Double quotes \” 34 0x22
Carriage control \r 13 0xd
Backlash  \\ 92 0x5c
Newline  \n 10 0x0a
NUL character \0 0 0x00
Backspace \b 8 0x08
TAB \t 9 0x09

These string literals in java is used to populate the string objects. These string literals are a sequence of characters from the source characters enclosed within double quotation marks eg: “a”. The string literals are easier to read and can be easily compilable giving a better chance to optimise the code.

5. Boolean Literals

Boolean literals allow only two values and thus are divided into two literals:

True: it represents a real boolean value

False: it represents a false boolean value 

For example, 

boolean b = true;

boolean d = false;

The boolean literals represent the logical value either true or false. These values are not case-sensitive they could be either in uppercase or lowercase and can be valid.

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6. Null Literals

Null literal is a particular literal in Java representing a null value. This value refers to no object. Java throws NullPointerException. Null often describe the uninitialized state in the program. It is an error to attempt to dereference the null value.

Literals in Java help build basics in programming. Every Java programmer must be aware of this fundamental and essential concept that assigns values to the program’s variables. As null literal is not much used, commonly only the first five literal types are applied. It is necessary to follow the rules and maintain the correct syntax while using any literal in Java.

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It is important to keep in mind that null is case sensitive and it’s important to write it in lowercase. The null literal type cannot be cast to the primitive types such as float, integer, etc but can only be cast to the reference type. Also, contradictory to the general perspective the null is neither a type nor an object. It is only a literal special constant used to point out the absence of value.

Finishing up with certain added information- there are valid long literal in java, are represented by the character L at the end of the expression. The letter L could be either in lowercase or uppercase. This valid long literal represented by the letter L allows the literal to be recognised as a long literal in Java.

Benefits of Literals

Literals are constants in programming that represent fixed values directly in the code. They are used to initialize variables or provide values directly within expressions. Here are the benefits of using literals in programming:

1. Readability and Clarity

Literals clearly and concisely represent fixed values in code. This enhances the readability of the codebase, making it easier for other developers (and even yourself in the future) to understand the purpose and meaning of the values.

2. Ease of Maintenance

Since literals make the code more readable, maintaining and debugging the code becomes easier. When values are represented explicitly as literals, it’s simpler to identify errors or inconsistencies.

3. Reduced Dependency

Using literals reduces the need for creating and managing additional variables solely to hold constant values. This can lead to a cleaner and more streamlined codebase, as there are fewer variables to keep track of.

4. Compile-time Optimizations

Some compilers and interpreters can optimize when literals are used. For instance, they might replace constant expressions with their computed values during compilation, leading to potentially faster execution.

5. Performance Improvement

Using literals can improve performance in certain scenarios. When the compiler knows a value won’t change, it can optimize the code accordingly, avoiding unnecessary memory allocations or operations.

6. Immediate Initialization

Literals allow you to immediately initialize variables with a specific value at the point of declaration. This can lead to more concise and expressive code.

7. Consistency and Standardization

Using literals ensures consistent values are used throughout the codebase, reducing the likelihood of errors due to typos or inconsistencies in values.

8. Avoiding Unintended Changes

If a constant value needs to be used multiple times across the codebase, using literals instead of duplicating the value reduces the risk of introducing errors when making updates or modifications.

9. Enhanced Documentation

Code readability and maintainability are crucial in programming. Using descriptive literal values alongside well-thought-out variable names can help convey the purpose and meaning of a value directly within the code. This eliminates the need for excessive comments and improves the overall readability of the codebase.

10. Language Flexibility

Different programming languages may support different literals, such as numeric, string, boolean, and even more complex types like arrays and objects. This flexibility allows developers to choose the most appropriate literal for the data they need to represent.

This diverse range of literals enhances the programmer’s ability to model real-world concepts accurately. It promotes code efficiency by providing direct data representations, reducing the need for convoluted workarounds. Developers can leverage language-specific literal conventions to achieve concise and expressive code, fostering better communication of intent within the codebase and improving collaboration among team members. Using literals in programming provides benefits ranging from improved readability and maintainability to potential performance optimizations. It’s a best practice to leverage literals when representing fixed values in your code.

Rules to Use Underscore in Java Literals

Let’s delve into the rules governing the deployment of underscores in Java literals.

  • When dealing with numeric literals, particularly long integers, the inclusion of underscores between digit groups enhances readability. This practice avoids the visual clutter associated with large numbers, making it easier for developers to discern the magnitude of the values.
  • In the context of floating-point literals, the use of underscores aids in precision, especially in double or float representations. By separating the integral and fractional parts, developers can quickly identify the structure of the numeric value without risking misinterpretation.
  • Underscores play a crucial role when working with binary and hexadecimal literals. They can be strategically placed to delineate groups of bits or nibbles, facilitating a clearer understanding of the binary or hexadecimal patterns.
  • In Java, underscores are also handy when concatenating strings. They can be used to break down lengthy string concatenations into more manageable segments, enhancing code readability and maintenance.

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What are the Applications of Literals in Java Development?

In Java programming, the understanding of literals extends beyond theoretical concepts, playing a pivotal role in various facets of development. Let’s delve into the real-world scenarios where these literals find applications, seamlessly integrating into different aspects of Java development.

  • Data Representation and Manipulation

Java’s Integer and Floating-Point literals serve as foundational elements for data representation and manipulation. Whether orchestrating a straightforward arithmetic operation, tackling intricate financial calculations, or intricately controlling loop iterations, these literals are omnipresent. Their role is not merely confined to numerical values; they are the bedrock upon which dynamic data manipulation rests.

  • Text Handling

When grappling with text data, Character and String literals emerge as invaluable tools. These literals form the backbone of operations ranging from basic text display and user input to more sophisticated endeavors like string manipulation, pattern matching, and parsing. They empower developers to seamlessly navigate the linguistic nuances of Java programming, facilitating the creation and transformation of textual information.

  • Decision Making

When Java’s decision-making constructs, Boolean literals wield significant influence. In constructs like if-else statements and loop controls, these literals guide the program in making informed decisions and directing the flow of execution. Their binary nature facilitates the creation of logical pathways within the code, enabling developers to create responsive and adaptive applications.

  • Object Reference Management

In object-oriented programming, the Null literal assumes a critical role in managing object references. This becomes particularly evident when dealing with object instantiation or de-referencing. The Null literal serves as a sentinel, signaling the absence of a valid object reference, and its reasonable use ensures the integrity of object-oriented design principles.

  • Error and Exception Handling

Even in the realm of error and exception handling, literals find their purpose. String literals often stand as beacons, illuminating the path to error resolution with meaningful messages. Simultaneously, the Null literal becomes a guardian, meticulously checked to prevent unwarranted exceptions.  These literals become the guardians of code stability, fortifying the software against unforeseen challenges.

Navigating Common Mistakes and Best Practices in Java Literals

In the dynamic realm of Java programming, the usage of literals is omnipresent, and while they are powerful tools, they can also be a source of common mistakes. Understanding these pitfalls and embracing best practices is paramount for crafting robust and efficient code.

  • Numeric Literals

One common mistake in handling numeric literals is relying solely on the default representation. Best practice dictates explicitly indicating whether a numeric value is a float or double, avoiding potential precision issues. Additionally, overlooking the need for underscores in large numeric literals can lead to readability challenges, making it essential to follow the convention of separating digits for clarity.

  • String Literals

In the realm of String literals, overlooking the proper use of escape characters and quotes can lead to syntax errors. Best practice emphasizes using escape characters for special characters within strings and ensuring proper pairing of quotation marks. This not only prevents compilation errors but also enhances code readability.

  • Character Literals

Handling character literals involves a nuanced understanding of Unicode. A common mistake is assuming characters can be represented by a single byte, potentially leading to data loss. Best practice involves acknowledging the use of Unicode and using escape sequences or Unicode escapes for characters outside the ASCII range, ensuring accurate representation.

  • Boolean Literals

While dealing with Boolean literals, a frequent mistake is using unnecessary comparisons, like comparing a Boolean variable to ‘true’ or ‘false.’ The best practice encourages a direct utilization of boolean values in conditional statements, enhancing code clarity and reducing redundancy.

  • Null Literal

One of the critical best practices regarding the Null literal is avoiding excessive use. Over-reliance on null can lead to null pointer exceptions and hinder code maintainability. Best practice involves judicious use of null and robust null-checking mechanisms to prevent unintended consequences, along with  valueerror invalid literal for int with base 10

Conclusion 

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What are literals in Java?

A literal is a constant value written in the source code. They appear literally in the code and may not change within a particular program run. Literal is the word used to describe the value that appears in the source code as opposed to a variable. A literal is a source code representation of a specific data value. For example, the literals in Java include the integer literal 3, the floating-point literal 1.1f, and the character literal 'a'. A Java literal is a representation of a fixed value, similar to a constant, but a literal is a part of a Java language statement and does not need to be declared as a constant. Literals are integral to every Java program because literals are used to represent the values of variables and expressions.

What are the different data types in Java?

Some of the basic data types in Java are: Integer (int), Floating Point (double), Character (char), and Boolean. There are also wrapper classes that are used to support primitive data types. These wrapper classes are Byte, Short, Integer, Long, Float, and Double. The Integer class has a sub-class called Long. The Long class has a subclass called BigInteger. The Character class has six subclasses. Each character is represented in Java by an integer. For example, the character 'a' is represented by 97. The characters 0 to 31 are called the ASCII characters.

Why are strings immutable in Java?

Strings are immutable in Java because immutability is a very good property to have. Immutable objects are easier to reason about than mutable ones. Copying them is simple and fast. Also, it does not waste memory as the memory isn't modified when the strings are passed around. When you pass around mutable objects, the data inside them can be modified by any other object in their path. This is why you should prefer immutable objects over mutable ones whenever you can.

So why should I use literals in Java?

Using literals in Java is crucial for clarity and readability. When you encounter numeric, string, or boolean literals, it's an instant, clear indication of values, simplifying code comprehension. Explicitly specifying numeric types avoids ambiguity and enhances precision. During debugging, literals serve as reference points, facilitating swift issue identification. Their consistent use across the codebase promotes standardized conventions, fostering collaboration. Additionally, literals make code modifications seamless, ensuring adaptability in dynamic environments. In essence, leveraging Java literals is not just a practice; it's a strategic choice that elevates code quality and promotes efficient, maintainable software development.

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