C# 6.0 - Null-conditional Operators

Last month I introduced you to the new string interpolation features of C# 6.0, so in keeping with that theme I wanted to show you another of my favourite new features of C# 6.0 - Null-conditional Operators.

Null-conditional Operators are, according to the MSDN documentation, a way to check for null values before accessing a member or performing an operation on an index. Simplified it means you don't have to litter your code with if-null checks before accessing a property of an object.

Member access

You know the code, it always goes something like this:

public decimal CalculateItemPrice(ShoppingCartItem item)
{
    if (item == null)
    {
        return 0M;
    }

    if (item.Pricing == null)
    {
        return 0M;
    }

    return item.Pricing.Price * item.Quantity;
}

We've all written something like that and if you look at whatever project you are currently working on you will probably find dozens of those null checks scattered throughout your code-base.

Now let's see how this could look if we use Null-conditional Operators:

public decimal CalculateItemPrice(ShoppingCartItem item)
{
    var price = item?.Pricing?.Price ?? 0;
    var quantity = item?.Quantity ?? 0;
    return price * quantity;
}

Cleaner right?

When accessing item?.Pricing?.Price, if item is null a null value is returned from the expression and the rest of the chain isn't executed.

Assuming item is not null, it then checks the Pricing property. If it is null, a null value is returned and execution of the chain stops.

Finally if neither item or Pricing are null, then Price is returned. If at any point in this chain is null returned, the good old null-coalescing operator ensures that price is set to zero.

The same applies when obtaining the quantity. If item is null, quantity defaults to zero.

Index access

When accessing the index of a collection (array/list etc) the following code will check that articles[0] isn't null first. This is the index access part. Following on we are then using member access to check if CreatedOn is null. And to finish it off, if either are null we return DateTime.MinValue.

public DateTime GetDateOfFirstArticle(Article[] articles)
{
    return articles?[0]?.CreatedOn ?? DateTime.MinValue;
}

Delegate invocation

This is something you're probably less likely to do on a day-to-day basis, but the Null-conditional Operator can also simplify invoking delegates. Consider this regular piece of code:

var eventHandler = this.ValueChanged;
if (eventHandler != null)
{
    eventHandler(this, new EventArgs());
}

This can now be simplified like so:

this.ValueChanged?.Invoke(this, new EventArgs());

I'm not sure how it could be cleaner or simpler but I'm sure the .NET Team will have a go in a future version of C#.

I hope this quick run-through proves useful to you and helps you write shorter, cleaner code.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view in any way.