Consistent Multi-Value Formatting

The Notes/Domino API is, to be polite, nuanced. It produces interesting results when a sane person might expect a more reasoned approach. For example, one of the staples of Notes/Domino API is the ability to have multi-value fields. Approaching Domino/XPages as a novice a couple years ago, I found it odd that performing a (NotesDocument)getItemValue on a field with multiple values checked in the field properties of the Form, from which the given document was computed (making it effectively a programmatic schema), would still yield a java.lang.String (or its respective object type) when a single value. When the field has multiple values, it returns a java.util.Vector containing the respective objects for its values. To account for this sort of situation, a developer then needs to account for the different types of returned values. This makes an otherwise simple call a bit tedious.

Unbeknownst to me, Mark Leusink must have felt the same, as he posted a helper function to convert any value to an Array in his $U.toArray XSnippet from December 2, 2011. Since I didn’t find XSnippets (somehow, I’m not certain how), I created my own version working directly with java.util.Vector s. I believe there is still merit to this, as when it performs the typeof, if it’s already a java.util.Vector, it does no conversion, as opposed to invoking an additional toArray() call. My version also makes use of a switch block, which means that it handles unexpected results, in my opinion, somewhat gracefully. Have a look.

The first case executes and, knowing that it’s in the end format, merely returns it immediately. The second and third case are handled the same, regardless of the differences between a java.util.ArrayList and Array, their values are still accessible via bracket notation, making the operations performed, with the exception of .size() versus .length call, the same.

Lastly, the java.lang.String, or unexpected results, are wrapped into a java.util.Vector and returned. The bottom line is, no matter what happens, you get back exactly what you expect.

To me, this embodies what we strive for as developers; the need to write functional code which, as with the Unix philosophy, does “one thing and does it well”. The building blocks of our applications need to be sound, consistent, and perform well under pressure. This builds out a temporary variable only if necessary and provides the functionality I had expected in the first place. It’s easily built into a helper function library, which is exactly how I use it. Your mileage may vary, but I’m a fan. If anyone has a better way of doing things, I wouldn’t mind hearing it.

Eric McCormick

Software Developer, for the web, full-stack, Node virtuoso, git master, Docker acolyte, DevOps neophyte, IBM Champion.

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