Cool VB.NET Features – Extensions

Extensions are a great way to call often used methods to tweak a value while shortening code length and improving readability.

If you’ve done much .NET programming, you’ve already used built-in extensions, for example ToLower:

Dim tmpString1 As String = "BLAH"

Dim FinalValue As String = tmpString1.ToLower

But another cool feature of VB.NET is that you can define your own extensions.  You must define your extensions in side a module (not a class).  Here are the example extensions I’ll use for the rest of this article:

Imports System.Runtime.CompilerServices

Module StringExtensions

   <Extension()> _
   Function SafeConvertToLong(ByVal TheString As String, Optional ByVal DefaultValueWhenBlankOrInvalid As Long = 0) As Long

      If TheString = "" Then Return DefaultValueWhenBlankOrInvalid

      Dim ReturnLong As Long

      If Long.TryParse(TheString, ReturnLong) Then
         Return ReturnLong
      End If

      Return DefaultValueWhenBlankOrInvalid

   End Function

   <Extension()> _
   Public Function FirstWord(ByVal TheString As String) As String

      Dim SpacePosition As Integer = InStr(TheString, " ")

      If SpacePosition = 0 Then Return TheString

      Return Left(TheString, SpacePosition).Trim

   End Function

End Module

Extensions can be used via the DOT notation after a variable of the same type as the first parameter to the extension.  For example, since the two example extensions above both have a String value as their first parameter, then they “extend” the String type.

The code below shows some examples of using the “SafeConvertToLong” example String extension:

Dim tmpLong1 As Long
Dim tmpLong2 As Long
Dim tmpLong3 As Long

tmpLong1 = "3832".SafeConvertToLong
tmpLong2 = "blah".SafeConvertToLong
tmpLong3 = "blah".SafeConvertToLong(-1L)

Console.WriteLine("tmpLong1 = " & tmpLong1.ToString)
Console.WriteLine("tmpLong2 = " & tmpLong2.ToString)
Console.WriteLine("tmpLong3 = " & tmpLong3.ToString)

and this code produces the following output:

tmpLong1 = 3832
tmpLong2 = 0
tmpLong3 = -1

Even though you’ve declared a function as an extension, you can use it just like a normal function as well:

Dim tmpLong4 As Long

tmpLong4 = StringExtensions.SafeConvertToLong("75")
Console.WriteLine("tmpLong4 = " & tmpLong4.ToString)

Will produce this output:

tmpLong4 = 75

Extensions get even cooler when you stack multiples together and even use your own extensions along with the built-in ones:

Dim tmpString2 As String

tmpString2 = "THIS IS A TEST".FirstWord.ToLower
Console.WriteLine("tmpString1 = " & tmpString2)

Which produces this output:

tmpString1 = this

Conclusion

Extensions are a great way to implement highly reusable code that slightly transforms a value.  Used correctly, they can reduce the size of your code and make it much more readable.

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About Sam (12 Articles)
IT professional and entrepreneur with over 30 years of computer experience. He is a Founder and the Chief Engineer for Tech Savvy Leads, the makers of TSL Ping Tree. In addition to his role at Tech Savvy Leads, he provides senior level technology consulting services.

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