So I have been looking through some code I wrote a few years ago for an economic simulation program. Each simulation has a large number of settings that can be saved to a file and later loaded back into the program to re-run the same/similar simulation. Some of the settings are optional or depend on what is being simulated.

The code to read back the parameters is basically one very large switch statement (with a few nested switch statements). I was wondering if there is a better way to handle this situation.

One line of the settings file might look like this:

#RA:1,MT:DiscriminatoryPriceKDoubleAuction,OF:Demo Output.csv,QM:100,NT:5000,KP:0.5 //continues...

And some of the code that would read that line:

switch( Character.toUpperCase( s.charAt(0) ) )
    case 'R':
         randSeed = Integer.valueOf( s.substring(3).trim() );
    case 'M':
          marketType = s.substring(3).trim();
          System.err.println("MarketType: " + marketType);
    case 'O':
          outputFileName = s.substring(3).trim() ;
    case 'Q':
          quantityOfMarkets = Integer.valueOf( s.substring(3).trim() );
    case 'N':
          maxTradesPerRound = Integer.valueOf( s.substring(3).trim() );
    case 'K':
          kParameter = Float.valueOf( s.substring(3).trim() );
 // continues...
  • Have you thought about serializing the object to disk, and deserializing it later? Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 20:36
  • 3
    Reinvent the wheel much? I suggest you use one of many existing formats for storing settings and then use a library. If you still decide against it, why not just parse a line into a dictionary first and then process it later? These lines are not very different from a complex combination of command line switches, if you remove commas, colons, and prefix options with a'-'. Ideally your program can take args on command line or read them from a settings file and work the same way. *nix tools do this. Check out stackoverflow.com/questions/491595/…
    – Job
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 3:42

3 Answers 3


From a code perspective, the cleanest method would be to switch to the Properties class. It's made for handling this, although you would either need to define all of your settings (even the unused ones) in the file it reads from or have predefined constants in a source file that you can use if the properties file returns null for a particular named property.

If you can't change the scheme, you could follow the general strategy of having a Hashtable, which is really what the Properties class does - it reads a file into a Hashtable conveniently. It would pretty much be rolling your own properties. Again, you would have to have preset values defined somehow to handle cases where a setting that you need might not exist in the file.

The way you would use either is to simply query the data structure any time you needed a value. You can either enforce that it exists in the data structure (throw an Exception and terminate it it doesn't) or define default values somehow (probably in a source file).


An excellent library for this sort of work is Apache Commons Configuration

provides a generic configuration interface which enables a Java application to read configuration data from a variety of sources. Commons Configuration provides typed access to single, and multi-valued configuration parameters as demonstrated by the following code:

    Double double = config.getDouble("number");
    Integer integer = config.getInteger("number");

Configuration parameters may be loaded from the following sources:

  • Properties files
  • XML documents
  • Windows INI files
  • Property list files (plist)
  • JNDI
  • JDBC Datasource
  • System properties
  • Applet parameters
  • Servlet parameters

Different configuration sources can be mixed using a ConfigurationFactory and a CompositeConfiguration. Additional sources of configuration parameters can be created by using custom configuration objects. This customization can be achieved by extending AbstractConfiguration or AbstractFileConfiguration.

The full Javadoc API documentation is available here...

  • yes properties is only string but this is numbers, dates and from different formats. neat
    – tgkprog
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 18:40

Almost every decent application and framework I know uses XML to store configurations.

I would suggest that you create a configuration class if you use java. Then you can use JAXB to annotate and serialize this class. After that, reading and writing the XML file via model is a simple thing to do.

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