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Mapping with Dictionary instead Switch

Recently I read the book “Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (2nd Edition)” by Martin Fowler (here…). A great book I highly recommend. Besides a lot of other useful informations and tips I started adapting to not use switch statements for mapping-logic.

Why not using Switch?

The point is that a switch statement can do a lot more things then just mapping value. From my own experience I can confirm that regularly a switch’s case branch does more then one thing. More then just map value A to B. This leads in side-effects of the mapping logic. Further more the code does not clearly show its intent anymore, is harder to read, refactor and extend.

So we look for a better solution for mapping values. A solution that does only map values from A to B and no other logic can be placed into. It should show clearly that it only does a simple value-mapping.

That’s where dictionaries come into the play.

Dictionaries

Dictionary is a collection data-stucture that host key-value items. One can access values very fast by its indexer; the key. They have an optimized and short syntax to do exactly this. If you don’t use delegates as the value you can not add logic. Its a simple value translation table. So the intent should be very clear.

Example

Let’s map an enum value to a string (can be anything else). Here is the enum:

public enum Gender
{
    Female,
    Male,
    Other
}

Map value using a switch statement:

string MapGenderToString(Gender gender)
{
    swtich (gender)
    {
        case Gender.Female:
            return "Woman";
        case Gender.Male:
            return "Man";
        case Gender.Other:
            return "Other";
        default:
            throw new ArggumentRangeException();
    }
}

The problem here is that you can easily add any kind of logic (code) within one or more case blocks. This would be a code-smell as written before.

Map value using a dictionary:

string MapGenderToString(Gender gender)
{
    var mapping = new Dictionary<Gender, string>
    {
        { Gender.Female, "Woman" },
        { Gender.Male, "Man" },
        { Gender.Other, "Other" }
    }

    return mapping[gender];
}

It’s way harder – but not impossible – to missuse this mapping code.

Bonus value: Because the mapping is so simple one whould not even need an extra method for this. The mapping could be defined as a readonly-field and used directly in the parent code.

class PersonMapper
{
     private readonly genderMapping = new Dictionary<Gender, string>
    {
        { Gender.Female, "Woman" },
        { Gender.Male, "Man" },
        { Gender.Other, "Other" }
    }

    public PersonDto MapPerson(Person person) =>
        new PersonDto
        {
            ...
            Gender: genderMapping[person.Gender],
            ...
        }

}

Hope this gives some inspiration. Let me know what you think about this.

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