Overthinking CSV With Cesil: C# 8 Specifics

Way back in the first post of this series I mentioned that part of the motivation for Cesil was to get familiar with new C# 8 features, and to use modern patterns. This post will cover how, and why, Cesil has adopted these features.

The feature with the biggest impact is probably IAsyncEnumerable<T>, and it’s associated await foreach syntax. This shows up in Cesil’s public interface, as the returned value of IAsyncReader<TRow>.EnumerateAllAsync(), a parameter of IAsyncWriter<TRow>.WriteAllAsync(…), and as a returned value or parameter on various CesilUtils methods. IAsyncEnumerable<T> enables a nice way to yield elements that are obtained asynchronously, a perfect match for serialization libraries that consume streams. Pre-C# 8 you could kind of accomplish this with an IEnumerable<Task<T>>, but that’s both more cumbersome for clients to consume and slightly weird since MoveNext() shouldn’t block so you’d have to smuggle if the stream is complete into the yielded T. IAsyncEnumerable<T> is also disposed asynchronously, using another new-to-C#-8 feature…

IAsyncDisposable, which is the async equivalent to IDisposable, also sees substantial used in Cesil – although mostly internally. It is implemented on IAsyncReader<TRow> and IAsyncWriter<TRow> and, importantly, IDisposable is not implemented. Using IAsyncDisposable lets you require that disposal happen asynchronously, which Cesil uses to require that all operations on an XXXAsync interface are themselves async. C# 8 also introduces the await using syntax, which makes consuming IAsyncDisposables as simple for clients as consuming IDisposables. Pre-C# 8 if a library wanted to allow clients to write idiomatic code with usings it would have to support synchronous disposal on interfaces with asynchronous operations, essentially mandating sync-over-async and all the problems that it introduces.

The rest of the features introduced in C# 8 mostly see use internally, resulting in a code base that’s a little easier to work on but not having much impact on consumers. From roughly most to least impact-ful, the features adopted in Cesil’s code are:

  • Static local functions
    • These were extensively used to implement the “actually go async”-parts of reading and writing, while keeping the fast path await-free.
    • The big benefit is having the compiler enforce that local functions aren’t closing over any variables not explicitly passed into them, which means you can be confident invoking the function involves no implicit allocations.
  • Switch expressions
    • These were mostly adopted in a tail position, where previously I’d have a switch where each case returned some calculated value.
    • Using switching expressions instead of switch statements results in more compact code, which is a welcome quality-of-life improvement.
  • Default interface methods
    • These let you attach a method with an implementation to an interface. The primary use case is to allow libraries to make additions to an already published interface without that breaking consumers.
    • There’s another use case though, the one Cesil adopts, which is to attach an implemented method that all implementers of an interface will need. An example of this is ITestableDisposable, where the AssertNotDisposed method is the same everywhere but IsDisposed logic needs to be implemented on each implementing type.
    • In older versions of C#, I’d use an extension method or some other static method to share this implementation but default interface methods let me keep the declarations and implementations closer together. Just another small quality-of-life improvement, but there’s potential for this to be a much bigger help in post-1.0 releases of Cesil.
  • Indices and Ranges
    • These simplify taking elements or slices of strings, Spans, and so on. Cesil also supported reading and writing the new Index and Range types.
    • Another small quality-of-life improvement, though I have seen this one catch some bugs when changing foo[something.Length – 1] to foo[^1].
  • Readonly Members
    • You use these when you can’t make an entire struct readonly, but want the compiler to guarantee certain members don’t mutate the struct.
    • I only did this in a few places, there aren’t that many mutable structs in Cesil, but having the compiler guarantee invariants is always a useful safety net.

Readers who closely follow C# are probably thinking “wait, what about nullable reference types?”. Those were the big new feature in C# 8, and Cesil has adopted them. However, unlike the other new C# 8 features, I intentionally deferred adopting them until Cesil was fairly mature as I wanted to explore converting an existing code base. My next post will go into that process in detail.

There aren’t really any Open Questions around the C# 8 features in this post. There were so many in the previous post on flexibility, that I think it’s probably best to just go and leave your thoughts on them instead.

As a reminder, they were…

  1. Are there any missing Format-specific options Cesil should have?
  2. Is the amount of control given over Cesil’s allocations sufficient?
  3. Are there any interesting .NET types that Cesil’s type mapping scheme doesn’t support?

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