+N Consulting, Inc.

Between - Extension method to shorten notation

Sometimes I just write code. And sometimes I clean up my code. Most of the times, I focus on the meat of the methods, hacking away at verbose or lengthy flows, re-factoring out common code, trying to untangle overly complex logic etc.

Recently, I noticed that many of the conditional terms I write span very long lines and are a bit cumbersome to read. The reason for that is that many of the variable names are long, or the properties or both and that often the comparison is on a property of an object or member of a collection etc.

So for instance:

if (summerCatalog.Products[0].ProductCategories[0].ParentCategoryID >= 1 && summerCatalog.Products[0].ProductCategories[0].ParentCategoryID <= 4)
  • Can become quite long.
  • Long is not easy to read.
  • Long is not easy to maintain.
  • Long is not easy to think through.

What I really wanted to say is if [value] is between [a] and [b].

Of course, one could say “lets just make the variable names shorter”. But that flies in the face of self explanatory plain naming. So abbreviating for the sake of short-lineliness (New word! You heard it her first!) is out.

Well, this is just screaming “EXTENSION METHODS” doesn’t it?

Here we go then:

/// <summary>
/// Returns whether the value is between the 2 specified boundaries.
/// </summary>
/// <typeparam name="T"></typeparam>
/// <param name="value">The value to compare</param>
/// <param name="minValueInclusive">The min value (inclusive).</param>
/// <param name="maxValueInclusive">The max value (inclusive).</param>
/// <returns>True if the value is equal to or between the boundaries; False otherwise.</returns>
public static bool Between<T>(this T value, T minValueInclusive, T maxValueInclusive) where T : IComparable<T>
if (minValueInclusive.CompareTo(maxValueInclusive) > 0)
throw new ArgumentException("minimum value must not be greater than maximum value");
return (value.CompareTo(minValueInclusive) >= 0 && value.CompareTo(maxValueInclusive) <= 0);

The Between function takes any object which supports IComparable and performs syntactic sugar comparison with the inclusive min and max values. What’s more, it adds a basic sanity check for the comparison. How many times do I do that sanity check in my normal code (!)?

Now the conditional is

if (summerCatalog.Products[0].ProductCategories[0].ParentCategoryID.Between(1, 4)) 

At least I don’t have to refactor this in my brain while reading.

Sure, you might say, but you could have just de-referenced the deep value and then have a shorter conditional, like so:

Category category = summerCatalog.Products[0].ProductCategories[0];
if (category.ParentCategoryID >= 1 && category.ParentCategoryID <= 4)

Yes - of course - but it adds a line of code, places the burden of reading the very common idiom ( x >= a && x <= b) on me, and I constantly stumble on the lest-than-or-equal vs. less-than and it doesn’t check for my boundaries being inadvertently swapped.

So there you have it. A simple extension cuts down your lines of code, makes long text shorter and saves lives. Which begs the question: is this already part of the language - and should it be?


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