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Thinking in C++
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Type checking for enumerations

C’s enumerations are fairly primitive, simply associating integral values with names, but they provide no type checking. In C++, as you may have come to expect by now, the concept of type is fundamental, and this is true with enumerations. When you create a named enumeration, you effectively create a new type just as you do with a class: The name of your enumeration becomes a reserved word for the duration of that translation unit.

In addition, there’s stricter type checking for enumerations in C++ than in C. You’ll notice this in particular if you have an instance of an enumeration color called a. In C you can say a++, but in C++ you can’t. This is because incrementing an enumeration is performing two type conversions, one of them legal in C++ and one of them illegal. First, the value of the enumeration is implicitly cast from a color to an int, then the value is incremented, then the int is cast back into a color. In C++ this isn’t allowed, because color is a distinct type and not equivalent to an int. This makes sense, because how do you know the increment of blue will even be in the list of colors? If you want to increment a color, then it should be a class (with an increment operation) and not an enum, because the class can be made to be much safer. Any time you write code that assumes an implicit conversion to an enum type, the compiler will flag this inherently dangerous activity.

Unions (described next) have similar additional type checking in C++.

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire