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Java 5 and above supports the use of annotations to include metadata within programs. Groovy 1.1 and above also supports such annotations.

Annotations are used to provide information to tools and libraries. They allow a declarative style of providing metadata information and allow it to be stored directly in the source code. Such information would need to otherwise be provided using non-declarative means or using external files. We won't discuss guidelines here for when it is appropriate to use annotations, just give you a quick run down of annotations in Groovy.

Annotations are defined much like Java class files but use the @interface keyword. As an example, here is how you could define a FeatureRequest Annotation in Java:

This annotation represents the kind of information you may have in an issue tracking tool. You could use this annotation in a Groovy file as follows:

Now if you had tools or libraries which understood this annotation, you could process this source file (or the resulting compiled class file) and perform operations based on this metadata.

As well as defining your own annotations, there are many existing tools, libraries and frameworks that make use of annotations. See some of the examples referred to at the end of this page. As just one example, here is how you could use annotations with Hibernate or JPA:


As another example, consider this XStream example. XStream is a library for serializing Java (and Groovy) objects to XML (and back again if you want). Here is an example of how you could use it without annotations:

This results in the following output:

Just as an aside, not related to annotations, here is how you could write the XML to a file:

And how you would read it back in:

Now, on to the annotations ...

XStream also allows you to have more control over the produced XML (in case you don't like its defaults). This can be done through API calls or with annotations. Here is how we can annotate our Groovy class with XStream annotations to alter the resulting XML:

When run, this produces the following output:

Differences to Java

Annotations may contain lists. When using such annotations with Groovy, remember to use the square bracket list notation supported by Groovy rather than the braces used by Java, i.e.:

Would become:

Future Directions

Current work on Groovy annotations has focused on enabling Java annotations to be used with Groovy. Future work may include allowing you to write the annotation definitions themselves in Groovy and also potentially may use annotations within the Groovy language itself or within accompanying tools.

More Examples

Annotations are also used in examples contained within the following pages:

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