C# Char Array

Use char arrays to store character and string data. Char arrays can replace StringBuilder usage.

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Char array. A char array stores string data. Each character can be accessed (and changed) without copying the rest of the characters. It enables optimizations.

Notes, StringBuilder. A char array is an alternative to using StringBuilder for quickly creating string data. We evaluate StringBuilder and compare it to character arrays.StringBuilder

Example. First we create new char arrays. When you use the new operator, the execution engine in the Common Language Runtime allocates memory on the managed heap.New
Note: Array elements are stored together in one block of memory. This reduces the overhead with storing separate objects.
And: Char is a value type so the value itself, not a reference, is stored in the storage location.
C# program that declares char arrays using System; class Program { static void Main() { char[] array1 = { 'a', 'b', 'c' }; char[] array2 = new char[] { 'a', 'b', 'c' }; char[] array3 = new char[3]; array3[0] = 'a'; array3[1] = 'b'; array3[2] = 'c'; // Write total length. Console.WriteLine("LENGTH: {0}", array1.Length + array2.Length + array3.Length); } } Output LENGTH: 9

Benchmark, char array. Character arrays can be used to store character data such as letters or numbers. Here we append characters one-by-one to an array using the char data type.
Note: Remember that chars in the C# language are 2 bytes. So for each char, 2 bytes are copied on the stack.
Version 1: This version uses a char array. We assign each index to the char we want to append. We use the string constructor.
String Constructor
Version 2: We use StringBuilder here. With StringBuilder, you could keep appending items to the buffer after the 100th char.
Result: Using a char array is much faster than the StringBuilder. Internally, the StringBuilder has more branches so is slower.
C# program that times char array using System; using System.Diagnostics; using System.Text; class Program { const int _max = 1000000; static void Main() { var s1 = Stopwatch.StartNew(); // Version 1: use a new char array. for (int i = 0; i < _max; i++) { char[] buffer = new char[100]; for (int v = 0; v < 100; v++) { buffer[v] = 'a'; } string result = new string(buffer); } s1.Stop(); var s2 = Stopwatch.StartNew(); // Version 2: use a StringBuilder. for (int i = 0; i < _max; i++) { StringBuilder builder = new StringBuilder(100); for (int v = 0; v < 100; v++) { builder.Append('a'); } string result = builder.ToString(); } s2.Stop(); Console.WriteLine(((double)(s1.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds * 1000000) / _max).ToString("0.00 ns")); Console.WriteLine(((double)(s2.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds * 1000000) / _max).ToString("0.00 ns")); } } Output 113.09 ns char array 298.61 ns StringBuilder

Notes, performance. Char arrays are faster because they don't have as many features. StringBuilder handles many cases and has many methods.
StringBuilder: This is easy to use and a great optimization, but it is far slower in simple cases. It can help in real programs.
Note: We used char arrays as an improvement in the alphanumeric sorting algorithm. This improved performance.
Alphanumeric Sort
Result: Char arrays can be around 7 times faster on certain tasks. Char buffers have a big performance advantage.

A discussion. Using char arrays allows us to use more lower-level algorithms with greater performance. The char array code forces us to have more "coding discipline."
And: It is more exact if you can enforce the constraints of char arrays (like the fixed length).
Array Length
Note: StringBuilder could have extra chars appended, but the char array wouldn't allow that.
Therefore: The IndexOutOfRangeException that would be thrown is useful for debugging the algorithm.

A summary. Using char arrays is better when you know in advance the number of characters. StringBuilder is fast and useful, but using char arrays is sometimes more appropriate.

Summary, continued. An array may also encourage higher-quality code over a StringBuilder. But sometimes the excess work to use a char array is not worth the trouble.Array


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