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C# List

A C# list is a flexible way to store a series of similar data types in one variable. Whenever we need to store a sequence, of say int or string, or even a more complex data type like a class Movie, we can use a List

List is a generic type

Every time we declare a List we will put the data type for the kinds of data to be stored in the list within a set of <> after the List keyword.

Declaring a List

We can declare a list in several ways:

Without any default values:

var numbers = new List<int>();
// or
List<int> numbers;

With default values:

var numbers = new List<int>() { 42, 100, 50, -12, 98 };
// or
List<int> numbers = new List<int>() { 42, 100, 50, -12, 98 };

Asking a list how many elements it has

We can ask for the Count property of a list as follows:

int howManyNumbers = numbers.Count

Adding an element to the list

Unlike an array, our List can add elements (at the end of the list) with this syntax:

List<string> people = new List<string> { "Fred", "Wilma", "Barney" };
people.Add("The Great Gazoo");

Adding an element to a specific place in the list

If we know the index within the list where we want to add a new element, we can use that index in the call to Add. All the elements in the existing list will be "moved down one" to make space for the new element.

people.Add(2, "Pebbles"); // Add Pebbles at index 2 (moving Barney, Betty, and The Great Gazoo down one spot...)
people.Add(0, "Bamm Bamm"); // Adds Bamm Bamm at the beginning of the list (index 0)

Removing an element from the list

If we know the value of an element in the list we can remove it. The method returns true if it removed the element and false otherwise.

NOTE: This will remove all the values that match. So in the following code if we had muliple "Bamm Bamm" strings, all of them would be removed.

bool wasRemoved = people.Remove("Bamm Bamm");

We can also remove an element at a specific index:

people.RemoveAt(0); // Remove the first element of the list

Getting the element at a specific index

Using the [] syntax we can get an element at a specific index.

var numbers = new List<int>() { 42, 100, 50, -12, 98 };
var firstNumber = numbers[0]; // Will be 42
var lastNumber = numbers[4]; // Will be 98

NOTE: That the index is 0 based, so the LAST element is at index numbers.Count -1, or 5 - 1, or index 4.

Removing all the elements

Calling Clear will remove all the elements

var numbers = new List<int>() { 42, 100, 50, -12, 98 };
var countBefore = numbers.Count; // Will be 5
var countAfter = numbers.Count; // Will be 0

Reversing a List

Sometimes an algorithm works best when we can go through a list in reverse. We can ask for the elements of a list in reverse:

List<string> people = new List<string> { "Fred", "Wilma", "Barney" };
// people will be "Barney", "Wilma", "Fred"

We could combine this with foreach loop (see below) to loop through a list in reverse order:

List<string> people = new List<string> { "Fred", "Wilma", "Barney" };
foreach(string person in people)
// This will print:
// Barney
// Wilma
// Fred

Sorting a List

If the elements in the list have a natural ordering, that is they can be compared in a consistent order, we can use the Sort() method to put them in order. This works very well for types like string, int, decimal, etc. For more complex types like classes (e.g. class Movie) we need to provide a method to Sort or move to LINQ to preform sorting.

var numbers = new List<int>() { 42, 100, 50, -12, 98 };
var sortedNumbers = numbers.Sort(); // sortedNumbers is -12, 42, 50, 98, 100

Looping through a list

There are two easy ways to loop through a list.

If you also need to know the index of each element as you go:

List<string> people = new List<string> { "Fred", "Wilma", "Barney" };
for (int index = 0; index < people.Count; index++)
string currentPerson = numbers[index];
// Do something with currentPerson

If you need to loop through the list but don't need the index

foreach(string person in people)
// Do something with person
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