Annotations, a form of metadata, provide data about a program that is not part of the program itself. Annotations have no direct effect on the operation of the code they annotate.

Annotations have a number of uses, among them:

  • Information for the compiler — Annotations can be used by the compiler to detect errors or suppress warnings.
  • Compile-time and deployment-time processing — Software tools can process annotation information to generate code, XML files, and so forth.
  • Runtime processing — Some annotations are available to be examined at runtime.

Annotations Basics

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 { ... }