There are various scenarios where certain sections of code
are not necessary depending upon what you are compiling. For example, you may
want to include debugging code during testing but with final application
roll-out. Thankfully, C#, VB.NET, and even J# provide this functionally via a
set of pre-processing directives. These directives allow you to skip sections
of source files for compilation. Let’s take a closer look at using this

Making it work

Conditional compilation is utilized by declaring conditional
compiler constants in the code. This is achieved with the #Const directive in
VB.NET and the #define directive in C#. With the constants declared, blocks of
code are defined with the #If..Then..#Else..#End If directive
in VB.NET and #if..then..#else..#endif in C#.

The following C# code provides the framework for using this
feature (the test method is compiled since the conditional compiler constant
Test is defined):

#define test = true
class TestClass {
void test() {
#if test
// do something
// do something else

Here’s the equivalent code in VB.NET:

#Const test = True
Class TestClass
Sub test()
#If test
'do something
'do something else
#End If
End Sub
End Class

All lines contained by the if
statement are enabled, thus included in the compile, and all lines contained by
the else block are not included since the constant is true.

Conditional compiler constants are always private to the
file in which they appear. There is no way to declare public compiler constants
via the #Const directive. In VB.NET, conditional compiler constants and
literals are the only value types allowed to be assigned. On the other hand, C#, uses only Boolean value—a constant is true if it is
defined. Constants defined with the #Const and #define keywords are only
available for conditional compilation; they may not be used anywhere else in
the code. One interesting caveat is the constants may be undefined if not
explicitly declared before being referenced by an if
statement. In this scenario, a Nothing value is assigned in VB.NET and null in C#.
Listing A contains a simple
Listing B contains the
equivalent code in C# (notice that it uses a Boolean value instead of the

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The result of these sample applications produces the
following output:

Values passed in: x = 12, y = 10
Calculated value = 66
Return value: 66

Resetting the constants to a non-zero value for the VB.NET
sample and false for the C# code results in the following code:

Return value: 66

Resetting the value in VB.NET is as simple as assigning the
necessary value, but C# behaves a bit different. The #undef
directive sets a constant to false, so the following code would accomplish
setting the test constant to false. The constant is false by default (if it is
not defined) so the code would produce the equivalent output if the #define
test line was removed. See
Listing C.

You can create and use your own constants to control what is
included in your compiled code, but there are reserved constants as well.

Reserved constants

Three conditional compilation constants are provided: Config, Debug, and Trace. Debug and Trace are Boolean data types.
If you’re using the Visual Studio .NET IDE, the Project Properties dialogue
allows them to be defined. When Debug is defined, Debug class methods generate
output to the Output window. If it is not defined, Debug class methods are not
compiled and no Debug output is generated. Also, when Trace is used, Trace
class methods generate output to the Output window. If it is not defined, Trace
class methods are not compiled and no Trace output is generated. Finally, the Config constant is a string data type. It corresponds to
the value assigned in the Configuration Manager window in Visual Studio .NET. If
you are not using Visual Studio .NET, you can include the constants in the top
of the code.

Compile only the code you need

The preprocessor conditional compilation constants provided
by the .NET languages VB.NET and C# allow you to easily control what is
contained in the compiled version an application. It makes it easy to include
debugging and other extra code during development and testing yet keeping it
out of the final compiled version. After all, reducing the amount of code and
processing in the final version leads to a leaner and meaner product.

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