There are a number of approaches to repeat a fragment of the code while a certain condition is true. In this lesson, we will learn how to do it by using two kinds of loops. They differ in the order of the repeated fragment execution and condition evaluation.

The while loop

The while loop consists of a block of code and a condition (a Boolean expression). If the condition is true, the code within the block is executed. This code repeats until the condition becomes false. Since this loop checks the condition before the block is executed, the control structure is also known as a pre-test loop. You can think of the while loop as a repetitive conditional statement.

The basic syntax of the while loop is the following:

while (condition) {
    // body: do something repetitive
}

A loop’s body can contain any correct Java statements including conditional statements and even other loops, the latter being called nested loops.

It is also possible to write an infinite loop if the condition is invariably true:

while (true) {
    // body: do something indefinitely
}

The application of infinite loops will be considered in the following topics.

Example 1. The following loop prints integer numbers while a variable is less than 5.

int i = 0;
while (i < 5) {
    System.out.println(i);
    i++;
}
// next statement

Let’s explain how this loop works. First, the value 0 is assigned to the variable i. Before the first execution of the loop’s body, the program checks if the condition i < 5 is true. In our case, i is 0, so the condition is true and the body of the loop starts executing. The body has two statements: displaying the current value of i and incrementing it by 1. After this is done, the expression i < 5 is evaluated again. Now i equals 1, so the condition is still true, and the loop’s body is repeated again. This is repeated until i has taken the value 5, after which the expression i < 5 ceases to be true, and the execution of this loop terminates. The program proceeds to the next statement after the loop.

The output:

0
1
2
3
4

Note, that the last value of i, that is 5, is not printed.

Example 2. The following program displays English letters in a single line.

public class WhileDemo {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        char letter = 'A';
        while (letter <= 'Z') {
            System.out.print(letter);
            letter++;
        }
    }
}

The program takes the first letter 'A' and then goes on like this:

  • if the letter is less than or equal to 'Z' the program goes to the loop’s body;
  • inside the body, it prints the current character and letter takes the next alphabet letter.

The program prints:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Remember that it is possible to get the next character according to the Unicode table by using the increment operator. After the code execution, the letter will equal [.

The do-while loop

In the do-while loop, the body is executed first, while the condition is tested afterward. If the condition is true, statements within the block are executed again. This repeats until the condition becomes false. Because do-while loops check the condition after the block is executed, the control structure is often also known as a post-test loop. In contrast to the while loop, which tests the condition before the code within the block is executed, the do-while loop is an exit-condition loop. So, the code within the block is always executed at least once.

This loop contains three parts: the do keyword, a body, and while(condition):

do {
    // body: do something
} while (condition);

A good example of using it is a program that reads data from the standard input until a user enters a certain number or string. The following program reads integer numbers from the standard input and displays them. If the number 0 is entered, the program prints it and then stops. The following example demonstrates the do-while loop:

public class DoWhileDemo {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Scanner scanner = new Scanner(System.in);

        int value;
        do {
            value = scanner.nextInt();
            System.out.println(value);
        } while (value != 0);
    }
}

Input numbers:

1 2 4 0 3

The program prints:

1
2
4
0

Note, that as well as the while loop, the do-while loop can be infinite.

In practice, the do-while loop is used less than the while loop. It is used when code inside the loop must be executed at least once.

Reading a sequence with an unknown length

The while loop can also be used to read a sequence of characters of an arbitrary length. For that, we can invoke the hasNextInt() method of Scanner inside the condition. The method returns true if the next element is an integer number and false otherwise.

Here is a code that calculates the sum of all elements from the provided sequence:

Scanner scanner = new Scanner(System.in);

int sum = 0;
while (scanner.hasNextInt()) {
    int elem = scanner.nextInt();
    sum += elem;
}

System.out.println(sum);

If the input sequence is 1 2 3, the code prints 6, if it is 5 18 9 23 4, the code prints 59.

As you see, the while loop can be used to solve different interesting tasks in your programs.

Conclusion

There are different ways to perform some fragment of your code several times. In this topic, we’ve discussed two alternative ways to use loops that are based on conditional statement evaluation. If you want to check the condition first, and based on the result perform the operations or ignore them at all, the while loop is your choice. If you want to do one iteration of the loop in any case and then evaluate the condition for repetition, then choose do-while. Both types of loops can be used to read a sequence from the standard input: for do-while, you may use some stop value to terminate the loop, for while, use the hasNext() method to check that the input is over.

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