.NET Tips and Tricks

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Accepting Nullable Data

Sometimes you get null or Nothing passed to parameters for methods in your application. Sometimes that's not OK, but sometimes it is -- especially if you're accepting data from a database. If you're accepting a value parameter (like an integer), you may have been declaring your parameters as object so that you accept nulls. There is a better solution: you can add a question mark to your type declaration to indicate that it's OK to pass a null/Nothing value to that parameter:

Sub AcceptingParms(parmNullsOK As Integer?)

  If parmNullsOK IsNot Nothing Then

  Else

  End If

End Sub

You're not limited to using the question mark in parameters or with the Integer/int datatype. You can use it on any value type where you're willing to accept a null/Nothing value. Do be aware, though, that these nullable types are a different datatype from their non-nullable cousins (i.e. int? is not int and Integer? is not Integer). So if you want to use a nullable value with a non-nullable value, you'll have to do a conversion:

Dim res As Integer
Dim num? As Integer = 2
res = Integer.Parse(num) + Integer.Parse(num)

What you're actually doing when you add the question mark to the end of your datatype is creating an instance of a reference class called System.Nullable<T>. To put it another way, int? is the same as System.Nullable<int>). The question mark is just shorthand for the longer declaration.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 06/07/2011


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