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C# String FormatInsert values into a string with string.Format. Specify percentages, decimals and padding.
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String.Format. With formatting, we change how data appears. The string.Format method helps. We use it to change how numbers are printed with format codes.
Format notes. We can place other text inside the formatting string to compose the entire result string. We can even change numbers to percentages.
Percentage
First example. We use string.Format to combine 3 strings with formatting options. The first argument is the format string—it is a string literal.
Part 1 The program formats 3 variables. These are a string, an int and a DateTime struct.
Part 2 The 0, 1 and 2 are where the first, second and third arguments are inserted. A format specification comes after the ":" char.
Part 3 The string has formatting applied. The int is displayed with a decimal place. The year is displayed with 4 digits.
C# program that uses string.Format
using System; class Program { static void Main() { // Part 1: variables. string value1 = "cat"; int value2 = 10000; DateTime value3 = new DateTime(2015, 11, 1); // Part 2: use string.Format method with markers. string result = string.Format("{0}: {1:0.0} - {2:yyyy}", value1, value2, value3); // Part 3: write the result. Console.WriteLine(result); } }
cat: 10000.0 - 2015
Number formats. We can specify that a value (like a double) can be formatted inside string.Format. A format string is the first argument to string.Format.
Note The format string uses the "0:0.0%" syntax. This means that the second argument is formatted with the pattern "0.0%."
Digits The "0.0%" part specifies the number of digits. We can have many digits before the decimal place, but only one after it.
C# program that uses string.Format with number
using System; class Program { static void Main() { // Format a ratio as a percentage string. // ... You must specify the percentage symbol. // ... It will multiply the value by 100. double ratio = 0.73; string result = string.Format("string = {0:0.0%}", ratio); Console.WriteLine(result); } }
string = 73.0%
Padding. This can be expressed declaratively in format strings. Padding inserts characters at the left or right of the string to reach a specified length.
Tip Instead of the PadLeft and PadRight methods, you can use the string.Format method with special substitutions.
PadRight, PadLeft
Sizes Use the comma char followed by the padding size. A negative number will add padding to the right (left-align).
Also You can use a positive padding size to add padding to the left. This will right-align the string.
C# program that uses string.Format for padding
using System; class Program { static void Main() { // The constant formatting string. // ... It specifies the padding. // ... A negative number means to left-align. // ... A positive number means to right-align. const string format = "{0,-10} {1,10}"; // Construct the strings. string line1 = string.Format(format, 100, 5); string line2 = string.Format(format, "Carrot", "Giraffe"); // Write the formatted strings. Console.WriteLine(line1); Console.WriteLine(line2); } }
100 5 Carrot Giraffe
ToString. Sometimes, you need to just format a single number, like an integer or long. In this case, you don't need to use string.Format. You can just use the ToString virtual method.
ToString
C# program that uses string.Format and ToString
using System; class Program { static void Main() { int value = 123; string a = string.Format("{0:0000}", value); // Too complex. string b = value.ToString("0000"); // Simpler. Console.WriteLine(a); Console.WriteLine(b); } }
0123 0123
Hex is a number representation. We use format strings and the ToString method to convert ints to hex format. The int.Parse method can then be used to convert them back.
Code X formats as hexadecimal. You can specify X and then a number (such as X8) to pad the output on the left side with zeros.
Tip You can use the NumberStyles.AllowHexSpecifier argument to make int.Parse handle hex numbers.
C# program that handles hex number conversions
using System; using System.Globalization; class Program { static void Main() { int value1 = 10995; // Write number in hex format. Console.WriteLine("{0:x}", value1); Console.WriteLine("{0:x8}", value1); Console.WriteLine("{0:X}", value1); Console.WriteLine("{0:X8}", value1); // Convert to hex. string hex = value1.ToString("X8"); // Convert from hex to integer. int value2 = int.Parse(hex, NumberStyles.AllowHexSpecifier); Console.WriteLine(value1 == value2); } }
2af3 00002af3 2AF3 00002AF3 True
FormatException. How can we solve this problem? System.FormatException is thrown by methods that receive format strings and substitutions.
Substitution markers:
{0} {1} {2}
FormatException, continued. Format strings use substitution markers. The arguments after the format string are placed in those markers in the same order.
Here The System.FormatException is thrown because the {2} substitution marker was not found in the argument list.
Tip To fix the program, we could remove the substitution marker {2} or add 2 more arguments.
Tip 2 Whenever we encounter a FormatException, it is worthwhile to check substitution markers and argument lists for formatting methods.
C# program that throws an exception
using System; class Program { static void Main() { Console.WriteLine("{0} {2}", "x"); } }
Unhandled Exception: System.FormatException: Index (zero based) must be greater than or equal to zero and less than the size of the argument list.
String interpolation. For simple format strings, we can use string interpolation instead of the string.Format method. This has clearer syntax that is validated by the compiler.
C# program that uses string interpolation
using System; class Program { static void Main() { int value = 100; // String interpolation can be used instead of a format string. Console.WriteLine($"The size is {value}."); } }
The size is 100.
Performance notes. Previously an optimization for format strings was present, but in 2021 and .NET 5, it no longer had an effect. Format strings are becoming faster.
Dates. DateTime, a struct, represents any possible date and time. The string.Format method can be used with DateTime arguments. These will be inserted into the substitution markers.
DateTime Format
File names. Many programs need to create files dynamically. The files often need to have file names that are based on some characteristic, like dates. Format strings can be used.
Filename, DateTime
StringBuilder. This class has a method called AppendFormat. The AppendFormat method receives a formatting string and the arguments to the formatting string.
AppendFormat
Console. Programs can use format strings directly inside the Console.Write and Console.WriteLine methods. We can call Console.WriteLine with the same arguments as string.Format.
Console
Internals. The string.Format method is implemented with a params argument—this is a variable parameter list. This results in an array allocation on each invocation of the method.
Params
Internals, substitution processing. String.Format uses StringBuilder, which contains a mutable character buffer. It estimates a capacity based on a heuristic.
Internals, AppendFormat. We find the AppendFormat method is called to process the substitutions themselves. The ToString method is called. It does not normally require a copy to be made.
StringBuilder ToString
A summary. With Format, we insert argument strings and separators together. We can specify display options for each argument. We combined strings and dates and numbers.
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