C# NameValueCollection

Data

NameValueCollection allows many values for one key. It is found in System.Collections.Specialized. It does not provide excellent performance. Other collections are likely to be faster for your program.

Example

First, we create a new NameValueCollection. We then adds four string key-value pairs to it. The keys can occur more than once, but map to the same array of values. You can have one key pointing to two values.

String Literal
Program that uses NameValueCollection: C#

using System;
using System.Collections.Specialized;

class Program
{
    static NameValueCollection GetCollection()
    {
	NameValueCollection collection = new NameValueCollection();
	collection.Add("Sam", "Dot Net Perls");
	collection.Add("Bill", "Microsoft");
	collection.Add("Bill", "White House");
	collection.Add("Sam", "IBM");
	return collection;
    }

    static void Main()
    {
	NameValueCollection collection = GetCollection();
	foreach (string key in collection.AllKeys) // <-- No duplicates returned.
	{
	    Console.WriteLine(key);
	}
    }
}

Output

Sam
Bill
String type

In this example, GetCollection returns a new NameValueCollection. The collection maps two names (Sam, Bill) to four values. In other words, two keys are mapped to two string arrays. The NameValueCollection always acts on strings.

String Array

Also:The NameValueCollection defines an AllKeys property. We use it in a foreach-loop to see all the keys in the collection.

PropertyForeach

Get value

Programming tip

Here we get a value in the collection using a string key. This is how you can use AppSettings in ASP.NET, or the QueryString collection. The collection returns null as a value if the key is not found.

And:If more than one value is found, the string returned contains the values joined by commas.

Program that uses NameValueCollection indexer: C#

using System;
using System.Collections.Specialized;

class Program
{
    static void Main()
    {
	NameValueCollection collection = GetCollection();
	Console.WriteLine(collection["Sam"]); // <-- Same as GetValues
	Console.WriteLine(collection["X"] == null); // <-- Not found
    }
}

Output

Dot Net Perls,IBM
True

Get methods

Method call

Here we see that the NameValueCollection also allows you to test whether there are keys, with HasKeys. It also lets you use GetKey with an index to get the key at that index. You can use Get to get the value at that index.

Note:My research has shown that the fastest way of accessing values in small NameValueCollections is with these methods.

Program that uses Get: C#

using System;
using System.Collections.Specialized;

class Program
{
    static void Main()
    {
	NameValueCollection collection = GetCollection(); // <-- See first example

	// Write whether the collection has keys.
	Console.WriteLine(collection.HasKeys());

	// Write the first key.
	Console.WriteLine(collection.GetKey(0));

	// Get the first value.
	string value = collection.Get(0);
	Console.WriteLine(value);
    }
}

Output

True
Sam
Dot Net Perls,IBM

Remove value

You can also remove a key-value pair using the Remove method on NameValueCollection. This method requires that you pass it a string key for the pair. I found that you can remove a nonexistent value without throwing an exception.

Also:If you remove a key of NameValueCollection, all its values are also removed.

Count pairs

Property

You can count all the key-value pairs in the NameValueCollection. With the Count property, all the duplicate keys are considered separated. Each pair, even if it has the same key as another, is counted separately.

Note:To test this, add multiple identical keys, and then check the Count. Duplicates add to the result of Count.

ASP.NET

ASPNET web programming framework

The NameValueCollection is prevalent in ASP.NET, and it is used in appSettings, QueryString, and Headers collections. First, it is used in appSettings, which allows you to retrieve settings from your Web.config file.

appSettings

QueryString usage. The NameValueCollection is also used in the query string collection in ASP.NET. You can access the query values very quickly simply by specifying the string key. This may not be optimal.

QueryString

Benchmark

Performance optimization

Here we see sample code that was benchmarked. To reproduce the benchmark, you will need to paste the code blocks into a test harness and compile in Release mode outside of the debugger.

NameValueCollection tested

var collection = new NameValueCollection();
collection.Add("Sam", "Dot Net Perls");
collection.Add("Bill", "Microsoft");
collection.Add("Steve", "Apple");
collection.Add("Rupert", "News Corporation");

Dictionary tested

var dictionary = new Dictionary<string, string>();
dictionary.Add("Sam", "Dot Net Perls");
dictionary.Add("Bill", "Microsoft");
dictionary.Add("Steve", "Apple");
dictionary.Add("Rupert", "News Corporation");

NameValueCollection statement tested

string value = collection["Steve"];

Dictionary statement tested

string value = dictionary["Steve"];

Results: 10 million iterations

NameValueCollection lookup: 2768 ms
Dictionary lookup:           407 ms [faster]

The NameValueCollection's lookup speed on even a small collection was poor. Its performance is likely much worse in many situations. Therefore, the collection must be tested before being used in performance-critical code.

Summary

The C# programming language

We used NameValueCollection in the C# language. The collection is located in the System.Collections.Specialized namespace. It allows you to associate one string key with multiple string values.

Note:The collection concatenates values with commas, and returns string arrays.

Warning:It has serious performance drawbacks, and should be avoided unless it is tested thoroughly in your application.


C#: Collections