ICYMI C# 8 New Features: Simplify Array Access and Range Code

This is part 5 in a series of articles.

One of the new features that C# 8 introduced was the ability to work more simply with arrays and items within arrays.

Take the following code that uses various ways to manipulate an array of strings:

string[] letters = { "A", "B", "C", "D", "E", "F" };

string firstLetter = letters[0];
string secondLetter = letters[1];
string lastLetter = letters[letters.Length - 1];
string penultimateLetter = letters[letters.Length - 2];

string[] middleTwoLetters = letters.Skip(2)
                                   .Take(2)
                                   .ToArray();

string[] everythingExceptFirstAndLast = letters.Skip(1)
                                               .Take(letters.Length - 2)
                                               .ToArray();

It’s pretty easy to get the first element in an array [0] and the last item [letters.Length - 1] but when we get to getting ranges (like the middle 2 letters) or 2 from the end things get a little more complicated.

C# 8 introduced a new shorter syntax for dealing with indices and ranges. The preceding code could be re-rewritten in C# 8 as follows:

string[] letters = { "A", "B", "C", "D", "E", "F" };

string firstLetter = letters[0];
string secondLetter = letters[1];
string lastLetter = letters[^1];
string penultimateLetter = letters[^2];

string[] middleTwoLetters = letters[2..4];

string[] everythingExceptFirstAndLast = letters[1..^1];

There’s a few different things going on in the C#8 version.

First of all, C# 8 gives us the new index from end operator ^. This essentially gives us an element by starting at the end and counting back. One thing to note here is that the index ^0 is not the last element, rather the length of the array (remember in C# arrays are zero-based). The last element is actually at ^1. If you try and access an element using [^0] you’ll get an IndexOutOfRangeException just as you would if you wrote [letters.length].

In additional to the index from end operator, C# 8 also introduced the range operator .. – this allows you to specify a range of elements. For example in the code, the range [2..4] gives us the middle 2 letters C & D – or more specifically, it gives us the range of elements starting at 2 and ending at 4. Why 4 though? When using the range operator, the first index is inclusive but the last index is exclusive. So [2..4] really means “2 to 3 inclusive”.

To make the new indexing feature work, there is a new struct called Index. And to make ranges work there is a new struct called Range.

For example, you can create and pass Range instances around:

Range middleTwo = new Range(2, 4);
string[] middleTwoLetters = letters[middleTwo];

You can also use the index from end operator in a range, for example to get the last 3 letters:

string[] lastThreeLetters = letters[^3..^0]; // D E F

Notice in this code we are using ^0 (and get no exception) to specify the end because the end of a range is exclusive.

As well as arrays you can also use these techniques with other types which you can read more about  in the Microsoft documentation e.g. the MS docs state: “For example, the following .NET types support both indices and ranges: String, Span<T>, and ReadOnlySpan<T>. The List<T> supports indices but doesn't support ranges.” And also from the docs: “Any type that provides an indexer with an Index or Range parameter explicitly supports indices or ranges respectively. An indexer that takes a single Range parameter may return a different sequence type, such as System.Span<T>.”…and… “A type is countable if it has a property named Length or Count with an accessible getter and a return type of int. A countable type that doesn't explicitly support indices or ranges may provide an implicit support for them. For more information, see the Implicit Index support and Implicit Range support sections of the feature proposal note. Ranges using implicit range support return the same sequence type as the source sequence.”

If you want to fill in the gaps in your C# knowledge be sure to check out my C# Tips and Traps training course from Pluralsight – get started with a free trial.

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ICYMI C# 8 New Features: Nested Switch Expressions

This is part 4 in a series of articles.

In this series we’ve already covered switch expressions and one little-known feature is the ability to nest switch expressions.

Suppose we have the following 3 classes:

class SavingsAccount
{
    public decimal Balance { get; set; }
}

class HomeLoanAccount
{
    public int MonthsRemaining { get; set; }
}

class ChequingAccount
{
    public decimal NumberOfTimesOverdrawn { get; set; }
    public int NumberOfAccountHolders { get; set; }
}

(Notice that none of the preceding classes are linked by inheritance.)

Suppose we wanted to run a gift card promotional mailing depending on what accounts customers had. We can use pattern matching on the type of object in a switch expression:

decimal CalculatePromotionalGiftCardValue(object account) => account switch
{
    SavingsAccount sa when (sa.Balance > 10_000) => 100,
    SavingsAccount _ => 0, // all other savings accounts

    HomeLoanAccount hla when (hla.MonthsRemaining < 12) => 20,
    HomeLoanAccount _ => 0, // all other home loan accounts

    ChequingAccount ca when (ca.NumberOfTimesOverdrawn == 0 && ca.NumberOfAccountHolders == 1) => 20,
    ChequingAccount ca when (ca.NumberOfTimesOverdrawn == 0 && ca.NumberOfAccountHolders == 2) => 40,
    ChequingAccount ca when (ca.NumberOfTimesOverdrawn == 0 && ca.NumberOfAccountHolders == 3) => 50,
    ChequingAccount _ => 0, // all other chequing accounts

    { } => throw new ArgumentException("Unknown account type", paramName: nameof(account)), // all other non-null object types
    null => throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(account))
};

Notice in the preceding expression-bodied method containing a switch expression (that’s a mouthful!), that there is a bit of repetition in the ChequingAccount section with the ca.NumberOfTimesOverdrawn == 0 code being repeated. We can replace this section with a nested switch expression:

decimal CalculatePromotionalGiftCardValueNested(object account) => account switch
{
    SavingsAccount sa when (sa.Balance > 10_000) => 100,
    SavingsAccount _ => 0,

    HomeLoanAccount hla when (hla.MonthsRemaining < 12) => 20,
    HomeLoanAccount _ => 0,

    ChequingAccount ca when (ca.NumberOfTimesOverdrawn == 0) => ca.NumberOfAccountHolders switch
    {
        1 => 20,
        2 => 40,
        3 => 50,
        _ => 0
    },
    ChequingAccount _ => 0,

    { } => throw new ArgumentException("Unknown account type", paramName: nameof(account)),
    null => throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(account))
};

If you want to fill in the gaps in your C# knowledge be sure to check out my C# Tips and Traps training course from Pluralsight – get started with a free trial.

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ICYMI C# 8 New Features: Simplify If Statements with Property Pattern Matching

This is part 3 in a series of articles.

In the first part of this series we looked at switch expressions.

When making use of switch expressions, C# 8 also introduced the concept of property pattern matching. This enables you to match on one or more items of an object and helps to simplify multiple if..else if statements into a more concise form.

For example, suppose we had a CustomerOrder:

class CustomerOrder
{
    public string State { get; set; }
    public bool IsVipMember { get; set; }
    // etc.
}

And we created an instance of this:

var order1 = new CustomerOrder
{
    State = "WA",
    IsVipMember = false
};

Now say we wanted to calculate a delivery cost based on what State the order is being delivered to. If the customer is a VIP member then the delivery fee may be waived depending on what the State is. We could write this using if…else if:

if (order1.State == "WA" && order1.IsVipMember)
{
    deliveryCost = 0M;
}
else if (order1.State == "WA" && !order1.IsVipMember)
{
    deliveryCost = 2.3M;
}
else if (order1.State == "NT" && !order1.IsVipMember)
{
    deliveryCost = 4.1M;
}
else
{
    deliveryCost = 5M;
}

The preceding code will get bigger and harder to read the more states we add.

An alternative could be to use a switch statement to try and simplify this:

decimal deliveryCost;

switch (order1.State, order1.IsVipMember)
{
    case ("WA", true):
        deliveryCost = 0M;
            break;
    case ("WA", false):
        deliveryCost = 2.3M;
        break;
    case ("NT", false):
        deliveryCost = 4.1M;
        break;
    default:
        deliveryCost = 5M;
        break;
}

In the preceding code there is still a bit of “ceremony” with all the case blocks.

We could instead use a switch expression that makes use of property pattern matching:

deliveryCost = order1 switch
{
    { State: "WA", IsVipMember: true } => 0M,
    { State: "WA", IsVipMember: false } => 2.3M,
    { State: "NT", IsVipMember: false } => 4.1M,
    _ => 5M
};

Notice how the preceding code is a lot more succinct, and it’s easy to see all the cases and combinations.

What if for some States, the VIP status was not relevant for calculating delivery cost?

Suppose that the state “QE” always had a high delivery cost that never got reduced even for VIPs:

deliveryCost = order1 switch
{
    { State: "WA", IsVipMember: true } => 0M,
    { State: "WA", IsVipMember: false } => 2.3M,
    { State: "NT", IsVipMember: false } => 4.1M,
    { State: "QE"} => 99.99M,
    _ => 5M
};

In the preceding code, if the State is “QE” then the delivery cost will be 99.99. Also notice the use of the discard _ that says “for all other combinations not listed above set the delivery cost to 5”.

If you want to fill in the gaps in your C# knowledge be sure to check out my C# Tips and Traps training course from Pluralsight – get started with a free trial.

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ICYMI C# 8 New Features: Write Less Code with Using Declarations

This is part 2 in a series of articles.

One nice little enhancement introduced in C# 8 helps to simplify code that uses disposable objects.

For example consider the following:

class MyDisposableClass : IDisposable
{
    public void Dispose()
    {            
        Console.WriteLine("Disposing");
    }

    public void Run() 
    {
        Console.WriteLine("Running");
    }
}

Prior to C# 8, if you wanted to use a disposable object (something that implements IDisposable) then you would usually use a using block as follows:

private static void Process()
{
    using (var x = new MyDisposableClass())
    {
        x.Run();
    }
}

At the end of the using block, the Dispose() method is called automatically.

With C# 8, instead of the using block, you can instead use a using declaration:

private static void Process()
{
    using var x = new MyDisposableClass();

    x.Run();
}

Notice in the preceding code, with a using declaration there is no need for the additional {}. When using a using declaration, the Dispose() method is called automatically at the end of the Process() method. Just as with the using block approach, if an exception occurs within the Process() method then Dispose() will still be called.

Using declarations help to keep code less cluttered because you have fewer braces {} and one level less of indenting.

If you have multiple usings, for example:

private static void Process()
{
    using (var x = new MyDisposableClass())
    using (var y = new MyDisposableClass())
    using (var z = new MyDisposableClass())
    {
        x.Run();
        y.Run();
        z.Run();
    }
}

You can rewrite this in C# 8 as follows:

private static void Process()
{
    using var x = new MyDisposableClass();
    using var y = new MyDisposableClass();
    using var z = new MyDisposableClass();

    x.Run();
    y.Run();
    z.Run();
}

If you want to fill in the gaps in your C# knowledge be sure to check out my C# Tips and Traps training course from Pluralsight – get started with a free trial.

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ICYMI C# 8 New Features: Switch Expressions

In the first part of this series on what was introduced in C# 8, we’re going to take a look at switch expressions.

Switch expressions allow you to write fewer lines of code when making use of switch statements. This is useful if you have a switch statement that sets/returns a value based on the input.

Prior to C# 8, the following code could be used to convert an int to its string equivalent:

string word;
switch (number)
{
    case 1:
        word = "one";
        break;
    case 2:
        word = "two";
        break;
    case 3:
        word = "three";
        break;
    default:
        throw new ArgumentOutOfRangeException(nameof(number));                    
}

In the preceding code if the input int number is not 1,2, or 3 an exception is thrown, otherwise the variable word is set to the string representation “one”, “two”, or “three”.

From C# 8 we could instead use a switch expression. A switch expression returns a value, this means we can return the string into the word variable as follows:

string word = number switch
{
    1 => "one",
    2 => "two",
    3 => "three",
    _ => throw new ArgumentOutOfRangeException(nameof(number))
};

Compare this version with first version and you can see we have a lot less code, we don’t have all the repetitive case and breaks.

Also notice that the default block has been replaced with an expression that throws the exception. Also notice that the code makes use of a discard _ as we don’t care about the value. (Discards are “placeholder variables that are intentionally unused in application code” (MS)).

If you want to fill in the gaps in your C# knowledge be sure to check out my C# Tips and Traps training course from Pluralsight – get started with a free trial.

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