How to use Enums in Golang

Exploring ways of creating Enums using itoa identifier and struct tags
Mar 22 2024 · 5 min read

Background

Imagine you’re building a Todo application using Go. Each task in your application has a status associated with it, indicating whether it’s “completed”, “archived” or “deleted”

As a developer, you want to ensure that only valid status values are accepted when creating or updating tasks via your API endpoints. Additionally, you want to provide clear error messages to users if they attempt to set an invalid status apart from the valid ones. 

Of course, you will say enums, right?

But the bad news is Go doesn’t provide enums and the good news is we can still implement it.

In this blog, we’ll explore how to effectively manage enums in Golang, including validation techniques to ensure data integrity and reliability. 

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced developer, this guide aims to demystify enums and empower you to leverage their power in your Go projects.


Sponsored

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Try out Justly and start building your habits today!


What is Enum?

Enum is a short form of enumeration, which represents a distinct set of named constants. While languages like Java and C++ offer native support for enums, Go takes a different approach.

Instead of a dedicated enum type, Go developers use constants or custom types with iota to emulate enum-like behavior. Let’s begin!

Why Enums?

  • Enums make code more readable by providing descriptive names for values, rather than using raw integer or string constants. This enhances code clarity and makes it easier for other developers to understand and maintain the codebase.
  • Enums provide compile-time checking, which helps catch errors early in the development process. This prevents invalid or unexpected values from being assigned to variables, reducing the likelihood of runtime errors.
  • By restricting the possible values a variable can hold to a predefined set, enums help prevent logic errors caused by incorrect or unexpected values.

Defining Enums with Constants

Constants are a straightforward way to define enums in Go. Let’s consider a basic example where we define enum constants representing different days of the week.

package main

import "fmt"

const (
    SUNDAY    = "Sunday"
    MONDAY    = "Monday"
    TUESDAY   = "Tuesday"
    WEDNESDAY = "Wednesday"
    THURSDAY  = "Thursday"
    FRIDAY    = "Friday"
    SATURDAY  = "Saturday"
)

func main() {
    day := MONDAY
    fmt.Println("Today is ", day) // "Today is Monday"
}

Simulating Enums with Custom Types and iota

While constants work well for simple enums, custom types with iota provide a more idiomatic approach in Go. 

What is iota?

iota is a special identifier in Go that is used with const declarations to generate a sequence of related values automatically. 

It simplifies the process of defining sequential values, particularly when defining enums or declaring sets of constants with incrementing values.

When iota is used in a const declaration, it starts with the value 0 and increments by 1 for each subsequent occurrence within the same const block. If iota appears in multiple const declarations within the same block, its value is reset to 0 for each new const block. 

package main

import "fmt"

const (
    SUNDAY = iota // SUNDAY is assigned 0
    MONDAY        // MONDAY is assigned 1 (incremented from SUNDAY)
    TUESDAY       // TUESDAY is assigned 2 (incremented from MONDAY)
    WEDNESDAY     // WEDNESDAY is assigned 3 (incremented from TUESDAY) 
    THURSDAY      // THURSDAY is assigned 4 (incremented from WEDNESDAY)
    FRIDAY        // FRIDAY is assigned 5 (incremented from THURSDAY)
    SATURDAY      // SATURDAY is assigned 6 (incremented from FRIDAY)
)

func main() {
    fmt.Println(MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY) // Output: 1 3 5
}

Let’s rewrite the previous example using a custom type(int). 

package main

import "fmt"

type Day int

const (
    Sunday Day = iota
    Monday
    Tuesday
    Wednesday
    Thursday
    Friday
    Saturday
)

func main() {
    day := Monday
    fmt.Println("Today is ", day) // Output: Today is 1
}

In this example, we define a custom-type Day and use iota to auto-increment the values of the constants. This approach is more concise and offers better type safety.

Optionally, we can also use like iota + 1 , if we want our constants to start from 1.

Enum validation using struct tags

For this use case, we won’t need to define any variable or constant, we can simply inherit enum functionality using struct tags.

Here, I go with the Gin framework but the same can be done in any of the Go frameworks.

package main

import (
 "fmt"
 "net/http"

 "github.com/gin-gonic/gin"
)

// Task represents a task with a status
type Task struct {
 Status string `json:"status" binding:"oneof=active completed archived"`
}

func main() {
 // Initialize Gin router
 router := gin.Default()

 // Define a route to create a task
 router.POST("/tasks", createTask)

 // Run the server
 router.Run(":8080")
}

// Handler for creating a new task
func createTask(c *gin.Context) {
 var task Task

 // Bind the JSON request body to the Task struct
 if err := c.BindJSON(&task); err != nil {
  c.JSON(http.StatusBadRequest, gin.H{"error": err.Error()})
  return
 }

 // Process the task (for demonstration purposes, just print the status)
 fmt.Println("New task created with status:", task.Status)

 // Respond with success message
 c.JSON(http.StatusCreated, gin.H{"message": "Task created successfully"})
}

In the above snippet, We define a Task struct with a Status field. We use Gin's binding feature to specify that the Status field must be one of the values active, completed, or archived.

In case we invoke the API with any other values than of active , completed or archived the API will return an error as we have told the Status field to accept specific values only.

Try the below two test cases, and you will get it working.

  1. { "status" : "deleted"} 
  2. { "status" : "active"}

Enum validation using custom validator functions

package main

import (
 "errors"
 "fmt"
 "net/http"

 "github.com/gin-gonic/gin"
)

// Status represents the status of a task
type Status string

const (
 Active    Status = "active"
 Completed Status = "completed"
 Archived  Status = "archived"
)

// Task represents a task with a status
type Task struct {
 Status Status `json:"status"`
}

// ValidateStatus validates the given task status
func ValidateStatus(status Status) error {
 switch status {
 case Active, Completed, Archived:
  return nil
 default:
  return errors.New("invalid status")
 }
}

// CreateTask handles the creation of a new task
func CreateTask(c *gin.Context) {
 var task Task

 // Bind the JSON request body to the Task struct
 if err := c.BindJSON(&task); err != nil {
  c.JSON(http.StatusBadRequest, gin.H{"error": err.Error()})
  return
 }

 // Validate the task status
 if err := ValidateStatus(task.Status); err != nil {
  c.JSON(http.StatusBadRequest, gin.H{"error": err.Error()})
  return
 }

 // Process the task (for demonstration purposes, just print the status)
 fmt.Println("New task created with status:", task.Status)

 // Respond with success message
 c.JSON(http.StatusCreated, gin.H{"message": "Task created successfully"})
}

func main() {
 // Initialize Gin router
 router := gin.Default()

 // Define a route to create a task
 router.POST("/tasks", CreateTask)

 // Run the server
 router.Run(":8080")
}
  • In this code, the ValidateStatus function validates the given task status and returns an error if it's invalid. 
  • Inside the CreateTask function, we call ValidateStatus to check if the task status is valid before processing the task. If the status is invalid, the API will return a bad request response with an error message. Otherwise, we proceed to process the task as usual.

Try the above two cases to test the behavior.

Conclusion

As a developer, we always want to make our system robust which doesn’t break even with unexpected inputs.

Enums enhance the robustness, flexibility, and usability of our Go applications. It ensures it will only allow the input values we have defined.

As you continue your journey with Go, adapt these techniques to suit your specific use cases and requirements. 

Happy coding!

Related Useful Articles


nidhi.d image
Nidhi Davra
Web developer@canopas | Gravitated towards Web | Eager to assist


nidhi.d image
Nidhi Davra
Web developer@canopas | Gravitated towards Web | Eager to assist

background-image

Get started today

Let's build the next
big thing!

Let's improve your business's digital strategy and implement robust mobile apps to achieve your business objectives. Schedule Your Free Consultation Now.

Get Free Consultation
footer
Subscribe Here!
Follow us on
2024 Canopas Software LLP. All rights reserved.