# Booleans

I have come to consider boolean function arguments as a bit of an anti-pattern.

Consider the following function:

package hex

// ConvertFileToHEX write the hex representation of the src file
// to the dst file. If uppercase is true then write the HEX
// values in uppercase, otherwise write then in lowercase.
func ConvertFileToHEX(src, dst string, uppercase boolean) error {
...
}


This seems like a completely simple function that’s easy to understand, but that’s when you are looking at the function definition, but most of the time you won’t be look at the function definition, instead you will be looking at that function being called from code, i.e. when we go to use it. At this point we can see the weakness of boolean arguments, the values of ‘true’ and ‘false’ don’t really have any useful meaning:

main() {
...
//                       What does 'true' mean here? |
//                                                   V
err := hex.ConvertFileToHex("/foo", "/bar", true)
if err != nil {
...
}
...
}


To fix the problem I like to create a type and some constant values of that type to replace the boolean. Let’s rewrite our function to do that and replace the boolean upper/lower case flag.

package hex

type HexCase int

const UppercaseHex HexCase = 1
const LowercaseHex HexCase = 2

// ConvertFileToHEX write the hex representation of the src
// file to the dst file. The hexCase value controls the case
// of the written HEX values.
func ConvertFileToHEX(src, dst string, hexCase HexCase) error {
...
}


The function definition isn’t that different, but now the callsites of the function are much easier to read:

main() {
...
// I have a good idea what this parameter does: |
//                                              V
err := hex.ConvertFileToHex("/foo", "/bar", hex.UppercaseHex)
if err != nil {
...
}
...
}


I could even have made the type of HexCase to be a boolean, with UppercaseHex defined as true and LowercaseHex defined as false, if you actually care about the size of the underlying type. But really, the thing to take away is when writing code you need to think of the ergonomics of that code, and that includes what it will look like when it’s called.