Joe Joe - 4 months ago 41
C# Question

LINQ identity function?

Just a little niggle about LINQ syntax. I'm flattening an

IEnumerable<IEnumerable<T>>
with
SelectMany(x => x)
.

My problem is with the lambda expression
x => x
. It looks a bit ugly. Is there some static 'identity function' object that I can use instead of
x => x
? Something like
SelectMany(IdentityFunction)
?

Answer

Note: this answer was correct for C# 3, but at some point (C# 4? C# 5?) type inference improved so that the IdentityFunction method shown below can be used easily.


No, there isn't. It would have to be generic, to start with:

public static Func<T, T> IdentityFunction<T>()
{
    return x => x;
}

But then type inference wouldn't work, so you'd have to do:

SelectMany(Helpers.IdentityFunction<Foo>())

which is a lot uglier than x => x.

Another possibility is that you wrap this in an extension method:

public static IEnumerable<T> Flatten<T>
    (this IEnumerable<IEnumerable<T>> source)
{
    return source.SelectMany(x => x);
}

Unfortunately with generic variance the way it is, that may well fall foul of various cases in C# 3... it wouldn't be applicable to List<List<string>> for example. You could make it more generic:

public static IEnumerable<TElement> Flatten<TElement, TWrapper>
    (this IEnumerable<TWrapper> source) where TWrapper : IEnumerable<TElement>
{
    return source.SelectMany(x => x);
}

But again, you've then got type inference problems, I suspect...

EDIT: To respond to the comments... yes, C# 4 makes this easier. Or rather, it makes the first Flatten method more useful than it is in C# 3. Here's an example which works in C# 4, but doesn't work in C# 3 because the compiler can't convert from List<List<string>> to IEnumerable<IEnumerable<string>>:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;

public static class Extensions
{
    public static IEnumerable<T> Flatten<T>
        (this IEnumerable<IEnumerable<T>> source)
    {
        return source.SelectMany(x => x);
    }
}

class Test
{
    static void Main()
    {
        List<List<string>> strings = new List<List<string>>
        {
            new List<string> { "x", "y", "z" },
            new List<string> { "0", "1", "2" }
        };

        foreach (string x in strings.Flatten())
        {
            Console.WriteLine(x);
        }
    }
}
Comments