C Enums

Enums in C are something special.  They’re not strongly typed at all.  As it’s pointed out, sometimes enums are used for making bit values, which is rather convenient.  However, it would be very good if enums could be strongly typed.  So, here’s my thought on how to make enums in C better.

Enums should be strongly typed.  The following should throw a compile error about assigning an integer to an enum:

enum MyEnum{ Value1 = 0, Value2 = 1 };
enum MyEnum variable = 0;

However, since this is C, casting should be allowed. So you could do this:

enum MyEnum{ Value1 = 0, Value2 = 1 };
enum MyEnum variable = (enum MyEnum)0;

Now about the bitset. I think that the best way to do this is to create a new enum-like type, called bitfield. It would have a syntax nearly itentical to enum, and the compiler could auto-increment the bitfields as well, so that you can ensure bitfields are always good:

bitfield MyBitfield{ Value1 = 0, Value2 = 1, Value3 = 3, Value4 = Value2 | Value3 };

The compiler would then go through and ensure that all bitfields are valid. You could also put more than one bitfield value into a bitfield, and the compiler would ensure that they’re both of the same type. So, this would be valid:

bitfield MyBitfield{ Value1 = 0, Value2 = 1, Value3 = 3, Value4 = Value2 | Value3 };
bitfield variable = Value1;  /* Works */

/* When passing in a method */
void foo( bitfield parameter ){
  if( parameter & Value2 ){
    /* Do something */
  }
}

This would create a much more type-safe form of enums for C. While not backwards-compatible, it’s not a dramatic shift in how enums are used, so it wouldn’t require huge changes.

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