FlagsAttribute Class

Indicates that an enumeration can be treated as a bit field; that is, a set of flags.

Namespace:  System
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

[SerializableAttribute]
[ComVisibleAttribute(true)]
[AttributeUsageAttribute(AttributeTargets.Enum, Inherited = false)]
public class FlagsAttribute : Attribute

The FlagsAttribute type exposes the following members.

  NameDescription
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsFlagsAttributeInitializes a new instance of the FlagsAttribute class.
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  NameDescription
Public propertyTypeIdWhen implemented in a derived class, gets a unique identifier for this Attribute. (Inherited from Attribute.)
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  NameDescription
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsEqualsInfrastructure. Returns a value that indicates whether this instance is equal to a specified object. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Protected methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsFinalizeAllows an object to try to free resources and perform other cleanup operations before it is reclaimed by garbage collection. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsGetHashCodeReturns the hash code for this instance. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsGetTypeGets the Type of the current instance. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodIsDefaultAttributeWhen overridden in a derived class, indicates whether the value of this instance is the default value for the derived class. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkMatchWhen overridden in a derived class, returns a value that indicates whether this instance equals a specified object. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Protected methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsMemberwiseCloneCreates a shallow copy of the current Object. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodSupported by the XNA FrameworkSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsToStringReturns a string that represents the current object. (Inherited from Object.)
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  NameDescription
Explicit interface implemetationPrivate method_Attribute.GetIDsOfNamesMaps a set of names to a corresponding set of dispatch identifiers. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Explicit interface implemetationPrivate method_Attribute.GetTypeInfoRetrieves the type information for an object, which can be used to get the type information for an interface. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Explicit interface implemetationPrivate method_Attribute.GetTypeInfoCountRetrieves the number of type information interfaces that an object provides (either 0 or 1). (Inherited from Attribute.)
Explicit interface implemetationPrivate method_Attribute.InvokeProvides access to properties and methods exposed by an object. (Inherited from Attribute.)
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Bit fields are generally used for lists of elements that might occur in combination, whereas enumeration constants are generally used for lists of mutually exclusive elements. Therefore, bit fields are designed to be combined with a bitwise OR operation to generate unnamed values, whereas enumerated constants are not. Languages vary in their use of bit fields compared to enumeration constants.

Attributes of the FlagsAttribute

AttributeUsageAttribute is applied to this class, and its Inherited property specifies false. This attribute can only be applied to enumerations.

Guidelines for FlagsAttribute and Enum

  • Use the FlagsAttribute custom attribute for an enumeration only if a bitwise operation (AND, OR, EXCLUSIVE OR) is to be performed on a numeric value.

  • Define enumeration constants in powers of two, that is, 1, 2, 4, 8, and so on. This means the individual flags in combined enumeration constants do not overlap.

  • Consider creating an enumerated constant for commonly used flag combinations. For example, if you have an enumeration used for file I/O operations that contains the enumerated constants Read = 1 and Write = 2, consider creating the enumerated constant ReadWrite = Read OR Write, which combines the Read and Write flags. In addition, the bitwise OR operation used to combine the flags might be considered an advanced concept in some circumstances that should not be required for simple tasks.

  • Use caution if you define a negative number as a flag enumerated constant because many flag positions might be set to 1, which might make your code confusing and encourage coding errors.

  • A convenient way to test whether a flag is set in a numeric value is to perform a bitwise AND operation between the numeric value and the flag enumerated constant, which sets all bits in the numeric value to zero that do not correspond to the flag, then test whether the result of that operation is equal to the flag enumerated constant.

  • Use None as the name of the flag enumerated constant whose value is zero. You cannot use the None enumerated constant in a bitwise AND operation to test for a flag because the result is always zero. However, you can perform a logical, not a bitwise, comparison between the numeric value and the None enumerated constant to determine whether any bits in the numeric value are set.

    If you create a value enumeration instead of a flags enumeration, it is still worthwhile to create a None enumerated constant. The reason is that by default the memory used for the enumeration is initialized to zero by the common language runtime. Consequently, if you do not define a constant whose value is zero, the enumeration will contain an illegal value when it is created.

    If there is an obvious default case your application needs to represent, consider using an enumerated constant whose value is zero to represent the default. If there is no default case, consider using an enumerated constant whose value is zero that means the case that is not represented by any of the other enumerated constants.

  • Do not define an enumeration value solely to mirror the state of the enumeration itself. For example, do not define an enumerated constant that merely marks the end of the enumeration. If you need to determine the last value of the enumeration, check for that value explicitly. In addition, you can perform a range check for the first and last enumerated constant if all values within the range are valid.

  • Do not specify enumerated constants that are reserved for future use.

  • When you define a method or property that takes an enumerated constant as a value, consider validating the value. The reason is that you can cast a numeric value to the enumeration type even if that numeric value is not defined in the enumeration.

The following code example illustrates the use of the FlagsAttribute attribute and shows the effect on the ToString method of using FlagsAttribute on an Enum declaration.

using System;

class Example
{
   // Define an Enum without FlagsAttribute. 
   enum SingleHue : short
   {
      None = 0,
      Black = 1,
      Red = 2,
      Green = 4,
      Blue = 8
   };

   // Define an Enum with FlagsAttribute.
   [FlagsAttribute] 
   enum MultiHue : short
   {
      None = 0,
      Black = 1,
      Red = 2,
      Green = 4,
      Blue = 8
   };

   static void Main( )
   {
      // Display all possible combinations of values.
      Console.WriteLine( 
           "All possible combinations of values without FlagsAttribute:");
      for(int val = 0; val <= 16; val++ )
         Console.WriteLine( "{0,3} - {1:G}", val, (SingleHue)val);

      // Display all combinations of values, and invalid values.
      Console.WriteLine( 
           "\nAll possible combinations of values with FlagsAttribute:");
      for( int val = 0; val <= 16; val++ )
         Console.WriteLine( "{0,3} - {1:G}", val, (MultiHue)val);
   } 
} 
// The example displays the following output: 
//       All possible combinations of values without FlagsAttribute: 
//         0 - None 
//         1 - Black 
//         2 - Red 
//         3 - 3 
//         4 - Green 
//         5 - 5 
//         6 - 6 
//         7 - 7 
//         8 - Blue 
//         9 - 9 
//        10 - 10 
//        11 - 11 
//        12 - 12 
//        13 - 13 
//        14 - 14 
//        15 - 15 
//        16 - 16 
//        
//       All possible combinations of values with FlagsAttribute: 
//         0 - None 
//         1 - Black 
//         2 - Red 
//         3 - Black, Red 
//         4 - Green 
//         5 - Black, Green 
//         6 - Red, Green 
//         7 - Black, Red, Green 
//         8 - Blue 
//         9 - Black, Blue 
//        10 - Red, Blue 
//        11 - Black, Red, Blue 
//        12 - Green, Blue 
//        13 - Black, Green, Blue 
//        14 - Red, Green, Blue 
//        15 - Black, Red, Green, Blue 
//        16 - 16

.NET Framework

Supported in: 4.6, 4.5, 4, 3.5, 3.0, 2.0, 1.1, 1.0

.NET Framework Client Profile

Supported in: 4, 3.5 SP1

Portable Class Library

Supported in: Portable Class Library

.NET for Windows Store apps

Supported in: Windows 8

Supported in: Windows Phone 8.1

Supported in: Windows Phone Silverlight 8.1

Supported in: Windows Phone Silverlight 8

Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 (Server Core Role not supported), Windows Server 2008 R2 (Server Core Role supported with SP1 or later; Itanium not supported)

The .NET Framework does not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see .NET Framework System Requirements.

Any public static (Shared in Visual Basic) members of this type are thread safe. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.
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