Benefits of Pattern Matching
As someone who dabbles in F#, I was excited when I heard that C# was getting Pattern Matching. In this post I want to look at why it is so beneficial.
The three basic control flow mechanism available in all programming languages are selection, iteration, and calling subroutines. In same way that a foreach loop is an evolutionary step for iteration, pattern matching is an evolutionary step for selection. It isn’t a ground breaking new paradigm like async/await or Linq, but it is something that will be useful at a fundamental level. The foreach loop doesn’t allow you to do things that you couldn’t do with a for loop or a while loop, it allows you to do them faster and with cleaner code. In the same way, pattern matching won’t allow you to do things you could do with if statements, it just enables you to write them better.
Here is an example from the Roslyn repository. As of this writing, you could find the source file on GitHub.
It is code that looks for possible refactorings where digit separators could be used. So it would recommend digit separators for decimal constants with more than 3 digits and digit separators for binary and hexadecimal constants with more than 4 digits.
The code switches on an enum that describes the type of numeric constant. Each case statement has a when clause that only allows selection of the current case when a length requirement is met. The combination of the enum type and the when clause make up the pattern.
This could all be done with if statements, but it would be more code. The benefit of using pattern matching in this is that it case makes the code cleaner and more readable.
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My name is Eric Potter. I have an amazing wife and 5 wonderful children. I am a Microsoft MVP for Developer Tools and Technologies, a Principal Architect for Core BTS in Ft. Wayne Indiana, and an adjunct professor for Indiana Tech. I am a humble toolsmith.