object reference not set to an instance of an object

object reference not set to an instance of an object :

ariables in .NET are either reference types or value types. Value types are primitives such as integers and booleans or structures (and can be identified because they inherit from System.ValueType). Boolean variables, when declared, have a default value:

bool mybool;
//mybool == false

Reference types, when declared, do not have a default value:

class ExampleClass
{
}

ExampleClass exampleClass; //== null

If you try to access a member of a class instance using a null reference then you get a System.NullReferenceException. Which is the same as Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

The following code is a simple way of reproducing this:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var exampleClass = new ExampleClass();
    var returnedClass = exampleClass.ExampleMethod();
    returnedClass.AnotherExampleMethod(); //NullReferenceException here.
}

class ExampleClass
{
    public ReturnedClass ExampleMethod()
    {
        return null;
    }
}

class ReturnedClass
{
    public void AnotherExampleMethod()
    {
    }
}

This is a very common error and can occur because of all kinds of reasons. The root cause really depends on the specific scenario that you’ve encountered.

If you are using an API or invoking methods that may return null then it’s important to handle this gracefully. The main method above can be modified in such a way that the NullReferenceException should never be seen by a user:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var exampleClass = new ExampleClass();
    var returnedClass = exampleClass.ExampleMethod();

    if (returnedClass == null)
    {
        //throw a meaningful exception or give some useful feedback to the user!
        return;
    }

    returnedClass.AnotherExampleMethod();
}

All of the above really just hints of .NET Type Fundamentals, for further information I’d recommend either picking up CLR via C# or reading this MSDN article by the same author – Jeffrey Richter. Also check out, much more complex, example of when you can encounter a NullReferenceException.

Some teams using Resharper make use of JetBrains attributes to annotate code to highlight where nulls are (not) expected.

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