10.7. Dictionary

While Lists are nice, sometimes we could use a different way to organize our data. So far in the gradebook examples we have had to use two separate lists or arrays to store student names and grades. The worst part is that, an index is required for both objects in order to pair the student with their grade correctly. That is two indices you have to track and manipulate between two separate objects. With a dozen students we could handle this, but what if you had one hundred? What if you wanted to search for a specific name, such as Nicole, but your roster has three Nicoles. You are looking for the one who scored an 88. But that 88 is in the other array, and another student scored 88 as well. There are methods for finding the right Nicole and the right 88, but talk about a logic headache.

What if we could pair the name and the grade together in a single collection type? That would be pretty nice, right?

Luckily, the Dictionary class allows us to do just that. The Dictionary works with pairs of keys and values, sometimes referred to as key/value pairs. The key is a reference point that holds values. Using our gradebook analogy, we could use the student names as keys and their grades as values. We could sort through the dictionary using the keys, or we could use the values, and we can also sort for specific key/value pairs. This can simplify our search by using the student key “Nicole” with the grade value of 88 in one collection.

The key/value pair structure does come with a few rules, such as every key must have a pair, and every pair must have a key. Only one value object per key. If you use an int for the value, then only one int allowed. If you use a List<int> as a value, you still only have one value per key, your value is a list containing multiple elements. You typically want only one key object, as keys are a fast way to search a dictionary object.

In the next section we will look at the gradebook again, only this time as a Dictionary and you will get to see the key/value pairs in action.

10.7.1. Dictionary Initialization

As usual, there are a few ways to initalize a dictionary.

Dictionary<TKey, TValue> newDictionary = new Dictionary<TKey, TValue>
{
   {key1, value1},
   {key2, value2},
   {key3, value3}
};

Dictionary<string, int> classSize = new Dictionary<string, int>
{
   {"Biology", 36},
   {"Ecology", 28},
   {"English", 45}
};

We can also use index initialization to create a dictionary.

Dictionary<TKey, TValue> demoDictionary = new Dictionary<KeyT, ValueT>
{
   [key1] = value1,
   [key2] = value2,
   [key3] = value3
};

Dictionary<int, string> roomAssignments = new Dictionary<int, string>
{
   [25] = "Hernandez",
   [35] = "Stein",
   [27] = "Starkey"
};

And finally, you can declare the dictionary and use the Add method to initalize.

Dictionary<TKey, TValue> methodDictionary = new Dictionary<TKeym TValue>();
   methodDictionary.Add(key1, value1);
   methodDictionary.Add(key2, value2);
   methodDictionary.Add(key3, value3);

Dictionary<string, string> teachingAssignments = new Dictionary<string, string>();
   teachingAssignments.Add("Biology", "E. Stein");
   teachingAssignments.Add("English", "J. Starkey");
   teachingAssignments.Add("Ecology", "F. Hernandez");

Note

The easiest way to print each key/value pair is to use the class KeyValuePair<TKey, TValue>.

KeyValuePair<TKey, TValue> will print each key/value pair as an object, which in the console can look like this:

foreach(KeyValuePair kvp in dictionaryName)
{
   Console.WriteLine(kvp)
}

//output
[key1, value1]

This class will also allow you to print either only keys or values when you use the .Key or .Value properties of the dictionary. This is demonstrated in the initialization replit example. Be sure to match your data types when you use this class.

10.7.2. Accessing Dictionary Elements

If you want to access a key/value pair from within your dictionary, you can do so using the indexer or bracket notation.

Example

Dictionary<TKey, TValue> newDictionary = new Dictionary<TKey, TValue>
{
   {key1, value1},
   {key2, value2},
   {key3, value3}
};

if(newDictionary.ContainsKey(key2))
{
    //prints the values of key2 if contained within dictionary using bracket notation.
   Console.WriteLine(newDictionary[key2]);
}

10.7.3. Dictionary Methods

Let’s collect some Dictionary methods as we have for List. As we said about Lists, this is by no means a comprehensive catalog. For full details on all properties and methods available, see the documentation on the Dictionary class.

For the purposes of this table, we’ll create a dictionary to hold our solar system’s planets and the number of moons associated with each.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Dictionary<string, int> moons = new Dictionary<string, int>();
moons.Add("Mercury", 0);
moons.Add("Venus", 0);
moons.Add("Earth", 1);
moons.Add("Mars", 2);
moons.Add("Jupiter", 79);
moons.Add("Saturn", 82);
moons.Add("Uranus", 27);
moons.Add("Neptune", 14);
Dictionary Methods and Properties
C# Syntax Description Example
Count Returns the number of items in the dictionary, as an int. moons.Count returns 8
Key Returns a collection containing all keys in the dictionary. This collection may be used in a foreach loop just as lists are, but the dictionary may not be modified within such a loop. moons.Key returns {"Earth", "Mars", "Neptune", "Jupiter", "Saturn", "Venus", "Uranus", "Mercury"}
Value Returns a collection containing all values in the dictionary. This collection may be used in a foreach loop just as lists are. moons.Value returns {1, 2, 14, 79, 82, 0, 27, 0}
Add() Add a key/value pair to a dictionary. moons.Add("Pluto", 5) adds "Pluto": 5 to the moons
Remove() Removes a key/value pair to a dictionary using key as a reference. moons.Remove("Pluto") removes "Pluto": 5 from the moons
ContainsKey() Returns a boolean indicating whether or not the dictionary contains a given key. moons.ContainsKey("Earth") returns true
ContainsValue() Returns a boolean indicating whether or not the dictionary contains a given value. moons.ContainsValue(79) returns true

10.7.4. Check Your Understanding

Question

Given our Dictionary,

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
moons = {
   "Mercury" = 0,
   "Venus" = 0,
   "Earth" = 1,
   "Mars" = 2,
   "Jupiter" = 79,
   "Saturn" = 82,
   "Uranus" = 27,
   "Neptune" = 14
}

What is the syntax to get the key names?

  1. Dictionary.Keys(moons);
  2. moons.Keys();
  3. moons.Keys;
  4. moons.KeySet();

Question

Given our Dictionary,

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
moons = {
   "Mercury" = 0,
   "Venus" = 0,
   "Earth" = 1,
   "Mars" = 2,
   "Jupiter" = 79,
   "Saturn" = 82,
   "Uranus" = 27,
   "Neptune" = 14
}

What will moons["Mars"]; return?

  1. 2
  2. {Mars: 2}
  3. 2.0
  4. "Mars"