switch...case both programming constructs has ability to take decision based on conditions. Both are almost similar in nature. However, there is always a debate among beginners which to use and when to use what?
In this post, I will compare both on various grounds. So let us begin.
Before you being have a quick look on –
if...else...if checks all conditions sequentially until condition matched. It skips all subsequent condition check once condition got matched.
On the other hand, working mechanism of
switch...case is completely different. During the compilation process, C compiler generate a lookup table based on the
case values. On execution, instead of matching
switch(expression) for each
case, it query the lookup table generated during compilation. If the
case exists in lookup table, then it transfers control to the matching
case otherwise to
default case (if mentioned).
Talking about the performance,
switch...case wins the race. During the compilation process,
switch...case generate a lookup table. Using lookup table, it directly transfers program control to the matching
default case. Hence, condition checking overhead during
switch...case execution is relaxed. Whereas,
if statement checks all condition sequentially. Which slightly degrades the performance of
if statements compared to
However, its not true for every program. Compared to
if...else...if statement generate a better performance and code readability with fewer conditions.
if...else...if statement with 1-5 conditions will generate a better performance, than
switch...case with 1-5 cases. This is because, checking fewer conditions is worthy than querying a separate lookup table.
Let me explain this with an example – Let us suppose a telephone directory with 5 names printed on 5 separate pages. What is more efficient way to search name in the directory?
- Searching directly in each page of directory one after another.
- Create an index page, search the name in index page, if name exists in index page then go to that particular page.
I guarantee for this case you will select first approach.
So, I can conclude that
if...else...if statements generate better performance with fewer conditions. Whereas
switch...case is worthy to use for more number of fixed choices.
Depending on situation
if...else...if as well as
switch...case can be simple or complex. Complexity of
if...else...if statement increases with increase in conditions. At one stage
if statements become confusing with increase in level of ladder if conditions. Nesting of if…else…if also increases the level of complexity.
switch...case is easy to read, code and maintain. However,
switch can get confusing if nested.
In real life
switch...case has some limitation which cannot be unseen. Let us give a quick look over limitations of
switch...casework only with integer, character and enumeration constant.
caselabel must follow a constant. It does not work with variables and expressions.
Remember programs written using
switch...case can be transformed to
if...else...if. But not all
if...else...if programs can be converted to
if...else...if statement when –
- There are conditions instead of list of choices.
- There are few number of conditions.
switch...case when –
- There is a list of choices, from which you need to take decision.
- Choices are in the form of integer, character or enumeration constant.