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Tips & Tricks of Learning Ternary Operators

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Tips & Tricks of Learning Ternary Operators

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I started using ternary operator logic about six months ago and notice myself using shorthand if/else logic all the time. It shortens my code, the time to write it, and makes me look smarter to the mustaches.

Thanks to Google Analytics, I've found that I receive many page views from programmers looking for information on "shorthand if/else", "ternary logic", and "shorthand logic php". I've created a few guidelines for "?:" rookies to make learning shorthand if/else as quick and easy as it should be.

Start With If/Else, Then Convert To Ternary

Start with your expressions in simple if/else code, and then carefully convert each if/else into a shorter ternary statement. It may help to take the additional step of creating variables for each expression.

/* start with if / else ... */
if($language == 'php')
$dynamic = true;
$dynamic = false;

/* ... then convert */
$dynamic = ($language == 'php' ? true : false); //or 1 : 0

/* optional code shortening */
$dynamic = $language == 'php';

Use Parenthesis To Group Logic

Keeping your expressions in parentheses is a great way to keep your code organized for later maintenance.

//viva grouping!
$age_code = ($age > 10 ? ($age > 20 ? ($age > 30 ? 'senior' : 'adult') : 'teen') : 'youngster');

//the following isn't as fun to read
$age_code = $age > 10 ? $age > 20 ? $age > 30 ? 'senior' : 'adult' : 'teen' : 'youngster';

Use "Intermediate" Variables For Parts of the Expression

The above 10/20/30 code is rough and can be difficult to maintain. Using variables may help simplify things.

$over_30 = ($age > 30 ? 'senior' : 'adult');
$over_20 = ($age > 20 ? $over_30 : 'teen');
$age_code = ($age > 10 ? $over_20 : 'youngster');

Use True/False Boolean, Not Just The Expression

As you probably know, you can use JUST the expression as the return value. If you believe that will hurt you during the learning process, explicitly return true or false.

/* explicit */
$can_drive = ($age >= 16 ? true : false);

/* implicit, just the expression */
$can_drive = $age >= 16;

Know When Not To Use Ternary Logic

If there are many nested if/else statements in the logic, shorthand expressions may not be the best option. For example, the following snippet of code returns whether a given year is a leap year:

$is_leap_year = ((($year % 4) == 0) && ((($year % 100) != 0) || (($year %400) == 0)));

The above code works well for ternary logic because it wont have to be updated frequently — the leap year "calculation" is always the same. If you have code that needs to be updated often, shorthand if/else may not be the optimal choice.

Test! Test! Test!

As with any type of programming, test early and often!

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Published at DZone with permission of David Walsh. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.


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