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coding:csharp:stringbuilder

C# and performance of string building

Introduction

Strings are immutable in C#. That means that a string never gets modified by any operation. This implies that, when you call Replace for example the operation is never done in-place. Instead a new string containing the replaced parts is built and returned. It has a huge impact on performance if you manipulate big strings that are assembled from many small parts.

Example

Let's assume you want to generate a document on the fly built depending on many internal variables. This string is returned by your method.

Unperformant way of solving the problem

If you choose to create an initial string and concatenete the changes at each step, then your solution will be rather unperformant.

string s = string.empty;
s = s + "New data ";         // the resulting s has to be newly allocated!
...
s = s + " some other data."; // new memory allocated here!
...
return s;

On each step a new string will be created (strings are immutable)

Better solution

Prefer in such case using the StringBuilder. It is much faster when it comes to handling a lot of small appends to a string. The StringBuilder pattern is well known in Java. Generally you need such a pattern each time the string is immutable to compensate the missing in-place modification

StringBuilder s = new StringBuilder();
s.Append("New data ");
...
s.Append(" some other data.");
...
return s.ToString();

Rationale

That strings are immutable is not a drawback or design flaw. It is a design choice that provides an easier per-value comparison operator and better thread safety. If a string object is passed around, it is guaranteed to always hold the same value. A thread having a look at it later will still see the same value than a few minutes ago. This saves from heavy locking mechanisms at nearly no additional cost because even if the transformation were in-place, it still would have to check for reallocations of memory if the buffer is not big enough and in that case also allocate a new buffer.

Conclusion

The StringBuilder is a handy class that you definitively should use when you build strings from many parts.

 

coding/csharp/stringbuilder.txt · Last modified: 2015/07/26 08:50 by jaap.dehaan