After many years programming in .NET, you may have already realized that the framework allows us, in a very simple way, to make conversions between different types of data.
Conversions can be of 2 types 👇
- Implicit Conversions
- Explicit Conversions
Differences between Explicit vs Implicit C# conversions
Implicit conversions are for which it is not necessary to indicate the conversion in parentheses (…).
In the code we assign a variable of type double a value of type int:
But the compiler doesn’t tell us anything and lets us continue working as if nothing had happened. This is known as an implicit conversion.
Instead, if we do the following 👇
The compiler will give us an error indicating that an implicit conversion from double to int cannot be done, and tells us to use an explicit conversion.
There is no mystery about it, simply this problem can be fixed by putting (int) in front of 10.0 👇
Placing the type of data to which we want to convert it in parentheses is called explicit conversion. What this means is that with this syntax we are explicitly indicating to the compiler that we want to convert one type of data into a different one.
At this point you could perfectly tell me that this would also work 👇
Apparently it does the same as if we don’t put (double) in front of it.
So… where is the difference? 🤔
The only difference between implicit and explicit conversions has to do with whether or not there is a risk of that information being lost.
If we go to the first case (without parentheses), it is an implicit conversion. The value of the litetal int does not matter as if we write double since there will be no risk of losing the information as it is a type of greater capacity.
On the contrary, if we go to the second case, we are forced to do an explicit conversion. This works because a double object can contain values that a smaller capacity int type cannot represent.
Let’s take an example 👇
Creating Implicit and Explicit C# conversions
Usually the conversions of the Framework are more than enough for the needs that arise. However, there may be many cases where it would be more useful to define our own implicit and explicit conversions. The .NET platform provides us with an easy way to do it.
To create a conversion between two types, we simply have to write the corresponding operator, either implicit or explicit.
We are going to create an imaginary scenario in which we have to manage the temperatures so that the degrees can change between Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Let’s create the code 👇
Now with this code we have the possibility of writing methods so that we do the conversion between them, and which we call each time.
This works, but we will have to call the corresponding method each time and this makes the code very messy.
If we want to do an implicit conversion, we simply have to define a static operator with the static implicit operator.
We go back to our example 👇
We can see that to each class we add an implicit conversion operator for the other related class, and after that, we just implicitly perform the conversions.
What we gain from this is a much cleaner code that meets the conditions for implicit conversions.
Example Implicit vs Explicit C#
- Let’s imagine that we have an application that has to manage the teachers and students of a school.
Let’s see it better 👇
If at some point a student becomes a teacher or vice versa, we will need to use a conversion to reuse the data. As in this case, we are going to lose information since the different classes do not handle the same information.
Therefore the conversion will have to be explicit 👇
Marking a conversion as implicit or explicit must strictly meet the criteria of whether there is a risk of information loss. It may be the case that today you consider the loss of information that occurs to be negligible, but that at some point it is not.
If you have marked the conversion as implicit, anyone who uses it directly assumes that there is no information loss.
If there is later and the failure is in that conversion, it can be a big headache, even more so if the code is part of a library and the person who uses it cannot see the code. From Dotnetsafer we recommned you always think about it before defining the conversion. 🤗