Swift Switchstatement Readme

Adventure Time

Bad biscuits make the baker broke, bro. -Jake


We'll cover switch statements and how they consider a value and compare that value to several matching patterns, and then will execute the appropriate block of code based on the pattern that matches successfully.

Learning Objectives

  • Compare switch statements to if/else statements
  • Describe the syntax and structure of switch statements
  • Adapt an if/else conditional block to a switch statement

Switch Goodness

At this point you should feel comfortable with boolean expressions and if/else conditional clauses.

You may have noticed that when you're chaining multiple if/else conditions together your code can start to feel a little... hairy; that's because while it's possible to chain as many if/else conditions together as you want the construct wasn't really designed for that.

The switch statement has one purpose which it is exceedingly good at: helping you write clear and correct code when you need to take more than two courses of action based upon the value of a constant, variable, or the returned value of a function.

Let's look at the following chained if/else:

if sallyDressColor == "yellow" {
} else if sallyDressColor == "blue" {
} else if sallyDressColor == "red" {
} else if sallyDressColor == "green" {
} else ...
// that's a lot of decision-making!

There are two problems with code like this. The first problem is that the repetitions of if sallyDressColor == create a trance-like state when you're reading the code and obfuscate what you're really trying to understand or communicate, which is what color the dress is. The Switch statement solves this problem by eliminating that code altogether and letting you just focus on what matters; it does this by taking a single value (which is what you're "switching" over) and then taking a series of possible values and related actions.

Let's see how the above Conditional chain would look if re-written as a Switch:

switch sallyDressColor  {
    case "yellow":

    case "blue":

    case "red":

    case "green":


Take a moment to compare and contrast the if/else chain with the switch; you should start seeing how the switch statement is much cleaner and clearer.

You should also see another important difference, namely the presence of default in the switch. This solves the second problem with the chained if/else, namely forgetting to handle one or more conditions that need to be handled.

Using the if/else example above, we woudn't know what to wear if Sally was wearing a color other than yellow, blue, red or green (and let's face it: if you know Sally at all then you know she's liable to wear any color!). In fact, depending on how the rest of our code was written we'd either wind up wearing a bad color or even not getting dressed at all!

The Swift compiler very helpfully makes sure that every possible value of whatever we're "switching" over is handled. So, we could use a switch for a boolean value:

switch 5 <= 3 {
    case true:
    case false:

which is equivalent to:

switch 5 <= 3 {
    case true:

        print("it ain't true")

and if we only wrote:

switch 5 <3 {
    case true:

then the compiler would helpfully tell us that we weren't handling all possible values.

non-exhaustive switch error

The final trick we'll cover is using ranges with switch. For example, if you want to check if a value is between 1 and 5 or 6 and 10, you could write:

let x = 9

if x >= 1 && x <= 5 {
    print("x is in the range of 1-5")
} else if x >= 6 && x <= 10 {
    print("x is in the range of 6-10")

// prints "x is in the range of 6-10"

Or, you could write it like this:

let x = 9

switch x {
case 1...5:
    print("x is within the range of 1-5")
case 6...10:
    print("x is within the range of 6-10")
    print("x is greater than 10")

// prints "x is within the range of 6-10"

Which do YOU think is easier to read, write and debug?

But wait, there's still more!

The switch statement actually has many more features which are useful as your programs grow more complex. While we won't cover them here (because you haven't yet had a chance to fully digest what we've just covered and also don't yet have enough context to fully appreciate the use-cases), you can look forward to learning about how the switch statement can also handle pattern matching and value binding, and especially how it really comes into its own in making stable, clear software when used in conjunction with Enums.

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