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Select Case. In branches,
in selection statements,
programs change course. Select Case rapidly matches values. In it, we specify a set of constants (Integers, Chars, Strings).

Select method call

Matching. Select Case evaluates an expression and goes to the matching clause. Cases do not fall through, and no "exit" statement is required. But we can stack cases that share statements.


First example. To create a Select Case statement,
type Select
and press tab. Then, edit the variable name. We read a line from the Console, call Integer.Parse on it, and then use Select.

Else:Case Else is the default case. When no other values match, this case is reached.

Based on:

.NET 4.5

VB.NET program that uses Select Case

Module Module1
    Sub Main()
	Dim value As Integer = Integer.Parse(Console.ReadLine())
	Select Case value
	    Case 1
		Console.WriteLine("You typed one")
	    Case 2
		Console.WriteLine("You typed two")
	    Case 5
		Console.WriteLine("You typed five")
	    Case Else
		Console.WriteLine("You typed something else")
	End Select
    End Sub
End Module


You typed two

Nested. Sometimes a nested Select Case statement is useful. For example, we can test characters in a String, one after another, with nested Selects.

And:We can use this style of logic to optimize StartsWith or EndsWith calls. This is only needed on performance-critical code.


Chars:The example uses chars within a String as the Select Case expression. This is a common construct.

VB.NET program that uses nested Select Case

Module Module1

    Sub Main()
	Dim value As String = "cat"

	' Handle first letter.
	Select Case value(0)
	    Case "c"
		' Handle second letter.
		Select Case value(1)
		    Case "a"
			Console.WriteLine("String starts with c, a")
		    Case "o"
			' Not reached:
			Console.WriteLine("String starts with c, o")
		End Select
	End Select
    End Sub

End Module


String starts with c, a
String face

Strings. Select Case may be used on a String. With this statement we match a variable against a set of values such as String literals.

But:On Strings, Select Case offers no performance advantage as with Integers (or other values).


To start:Let's evaluate a program that reads an input from the Console. Then it uses the Select Case statement on that value.

Values:It matches against four possible values: "dot", "net", and "perls", and also all other values (Else).

VB.NET program that uses Select Case on String

Module Module1
    Sub Main()
	While True
	    Dim value As String = Console.ReadLine()
	    Select Case value
		Case "dot"
		    Console.WriteLine("Word 1")
		Case "net"
		    Console.WriteLine("Word 2")
		Case "perls"
		    Console.WriteLine("Word 3")
		Case Else
		    Console.WriteLine("Something else")
	    End Select
	End While
    End Sub
End Module


Word 1
Word 3
Something else

Internals. On Strings, does Select Case ever compile into anything other than a series of comparisons? I changed the above program to have nine String literals.

Result:No Dictionary was used by the compiler. VB.NET lacks the String Dictionary optimization for C# String Switch constructs.

Therefore:If you have to match a lot of string literals, building a Dictionary might be faster.


Variables. VB.NET allows variable cases. But we may lose optimizations with this syntax. Each case must be evaluated and cannot be stored in a lookup table.

Note:The "value" Integer is set to 10. And we match it against the variable y, which also equals 10, in a Select Case statement.


Note 2:An advanced compiler could analyze this program before execution so that no branches are evaluated at runtime.

VB.NET program that uses variable Cases

Module Module1

    Sub Main()
	Dim value As Integer = 10
	Dim x As Integer = 5
	Dim y As Integer = 10

	' Select with cases that are variables.
	Select Case value
	    Case x
		' Not reached.
		Console.WriteLine("Value equals x")
	    Case y
		Console.WriteLine("Value equals y")
	End Select
    End Sub

End Module


Value equals y

Stacked cases. Multiple cases can be combined by specifying them one after another. In this example, both 99 and 100 will reach the same Console.WriteLine statement.

VB.NET program that uses stacked cases

Module Module1

    Sub Main()
	Dim value As Integer = Integer.Parse("100")
	Select Case value
	    Case 99
	    Case 100
		' Both 99 and 100 will end up here.
		Console.WriteLine("99 or 100")
	    Case 101
		Console.WriteLine("Not reached")
	End Select
    End Sub

End Module


99 or 100

Performance. With Integers, Select Case often is faster than an If-Statement. Consider this benchmark. It tests an If-ElseIf construct and an equivalent Select Case. The value equals 2.

If Then

Result:The Select Case statement is faster. The results are the same for the constructs.

Thus:In many programs, Select Case is an optimization. But if we have one case that occurs most often, If may be faster—see the next test.

VB.NET program that times If Then, Select Case

Module Module1

    Sub Main()
	Dim m As Integer = 300000000
	Dim value As Integer = 2

	' Version 1: Use If-Statement.
	Dim total As Integer = 0
	Dim s1 As Stopwatch = Stopwatch.StartNew
	For i As Integer = 0 To m - 1
	    If value = 0 Then
		total -= 1
	    ElseIf value = 1 Then
		total -= 100
	    ElseIf value = 2 Then
		total += 1
	    End If

	' Version 2: Use Select Case.
	total = 0
	Dim s2 As Stopwatch = Stopwatch.StartNew
	For i As Integer = 0 To m - 1
	    Select Case value
		Case 0
		    total -= 1
		Case 1
		    total -= 100
		Case 2
		    total += 1
	    End Select

	Console.WriteLine((s1.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds /
			   1000).ToString("0.00 s"))
	Console.WriteLine((s2.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds /
			   1000).ToString("0.00 s"))
    End Sub

End Module


1.47 s:   If Then,     value = 2
0.86 s:   Select Case, value = 2

An experiment. I changed the benchmark to set the "value" Integer to 0, not 2. Now the first If-expression evaluates to true every time. Fewer branches are needed, and the If is faster.

Results 2

0.89 s:   If Then,     value = 0
1.14 s:   Select Case, value = 0

A discussion. On values, Select Case is implemented with the switch opcode in the intermediate language. This is the same implementation as the switch keyword from the C# language.

Note:With this opcode, Select Case is faster (on certain programs and data) than an If-statement.

However:Performance of Select Case is highly dependent on both the cases, and the data, in your program.

And:If we have 1,000 cases, but one is most common, testing for the common one with an If-statement is fastest.

Percentage symbol

Frequencies. If the frequency of cases is equally distributed, and the values are close together, a Select Case is better. The performance difference in most situations is small.

Tip:It is often the best approach to just use whatever syntax form is clearest.

The VB.NET programming language

A summary. The Select Case statement optimizes selection from several constant cases. This special syntax form can be used to test a variable against several constant values.