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Posted 6 Jun 2003

Mapping Text to Enum entries

, 6 Jun 2003
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Attaching a description to each entry in an enum.

Sample Image - EnumWithDescription.png


While porting old C code to C#, I stumbled across lots of huge arrays which mapped constants to strings. While looking for the C# way of doing this, I discovered custom attributes and reflection.

How is it done?

Append a Description attribute to each enum entry:

private enum MyColors
   [Description("yuk!")]       LightGreen    = 0x012020,
   [Description("nice :-)")]   VeryDeepPink  = 0x123456,
   [Description("so what")]    InvisibleGray = 0x456730,
   [Description("no comment")] DeepestRed    = 0xfafafa,
   [Description("I give up")]  PitchBlack    = 0xffffff,

To access the description from code, the following function is called:

public static string GetDescription(Enum value)
   FieldInfo fi= value.GetType().GetField(value.ToString()); 
   DescriptionAttribute[] attributes = 
         typeof(DescriptionAttribute), false);
   return (attributes.Length>0)?attributes[0].Description:value.ToString();

Without the following using declaration, the code will not compile.

using System.ComponentModel;        
using System.Reflection;


Instead of having constants and huge arrays all over the code, the above solution keeps declarations and descriptions nicely together.


I've only found out by accident that the framework already provides a DescriptionAttribute class.

I built the first version with my own custom attribute and got conflicts when I started using the ComponentModel namespace.


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About the Author

Reto Ravasio
Switzerland Switzerland
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
lendres3-Apr-12 7:14
memberlendres3-Apr-12 7:14 
I've used this solution for some time now and I find it is simple, flexible, and overall a very nice technique! Well done and thanks!
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Dorofejev19-Dec-11 23:44
memberDorofejev19-Dec-11 23:44 
QuestionHow to use with dataset / tableadapter Pin
Saelen Kenny8-Nov-09 0:01
memberSaelen Kenny8-Nov-09 0:01 
QuestionQuery regarding description Tag in Enum Pin
NITINKADAM24-Nov-08 5:14
memberNITINKADAM24-Nov-08 5:14 
GeneralAwesome - thanks! Pin
93522-Jun-07 5:48
member93522-Jun-07 5:48 
GeneralDifferent versions for speed improvements Pin
clementgatin12-Mar-07 11:37
memberclementgatin12-Mar-07 11:37 
GeneralThanks again Pin
Marc Clifton15-Oct-06 3:39
protectorMarc Clifton15-Oct-06 3:39 
GeneralSolution for C / C++ Pin
JimmyO5-May-05 9:56
memberJimmyO5-May-05 9:56 
GeneralRe: Solution for C / C++ Pin
Uwe Keim10-Apr-06 19:53
sitebuilderUwe Keim10-Apr-06 19:53 
Questionwhy??? Pin
koo918-Jan-05 10:53
memberkoo918-Jan-05 10:53 
AnswerRe: why??? Pin
Reto Ravasio19-Jan-05 8:36
memberReto Ravasio19-Jan-05 8:36 
QuestionWhat about Flags? Pin
Spliffy7322-Mar-04 4:22
memberSpliffy7322-Mar-04 4:22 
AnswerRe: What about Flags? Pin
JSpens14-Aug-07 7:50
memberJSpens14-Aug-07 7:50 
AnswerRe: What about Flags? Pin
frinkfree11-Nov-08 12:55
memberfrinkfree11-Nov-08 12:55 
GeneralAutoDoc Pin
Dave Miller4-Feb-04 17:50
sussDave Miller4-Feb-04 17:50 
GeneralI liked this Pin
Palladino26-Aug-03 2:39
memberPalladino26-Aug-03 2:39 
QuestionWhat About using the System Enum Pin
vbnetuk25-Jun-03 22:10
membervbnetuk25-Jun-03 22:10 
AnswerRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
Reto Ravasio4-Jul-03 1:04
memberReto Ravasio4-Jul-03 1:04 
GeneralRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
vbnetuk6-Jul-03 21:05
membervbnetuk6-Jul-03 21:05 
GeneralRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
Reto Ravasio7-Jul-03 4:47
memberReto Ravasio7-Jul-03 4:47 
GeneralRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
devaulr6-Nov-03 2:40
memberdevaulr6-Nov-03 2:40 
GeneralRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
datavalue19-Oct-05 3:06
memberdatavalue19-Oct-05 3:06 
AnswerRe: What About using the System Enum Pin
ConradC1-Feb-05 8:22
memberConradC1-Feb-05 8:22 
GeneralMultilingual Pin
Uwe Keim7-Jun-03 21:36
sitebuilderUwe Keim7-Jun-03 21:36 
GeneralRe: Multilingual Pin
Heath Stewart27-Oct-03 5:07
editorHeath Stewart27-Oct-03 5:07 

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