About Data Types
  • 23 Oct 2020
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About Data Types

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Overview

A data type, or just "type," is a classification of data that tells the platform how the data is intended to be used. The data type may be simple, such as Int32 (a 32-bit integer value) or Boolean (true or false value), or it may be a composite type such as a User Account or Database Structure. Simple types have only one value whereas composite types are structures that may have many values.

The following examples represent information that may be stored in a data type:

  • The storage space that a variable of the type requires
  • The maximum and minimum values that it can represent
  • The members (methods, fields, events, and so on) that it contains
  • The base type it inherits from
  • The location where the memory for variables will be allocated at run time
  • The kinds of operations that are permitted

Data Types in Decisions

In Decisions, every variable (and every process that evaluates to a value) has a data type. Each step in the Flow Designer specifies a type for the input and output values. By default, Decisions defines a set of built-in alphanumeric types as well as composite types that represent a wide variety of logical constructs. Decisions also has the ability to create custom data types, or "user-defined types", with a Data Structure Designer in the platform. A typical Flow may use some built-in types as well as one or more user-defined types.

When working with data in the Flow Designer, always consider the data type. For example, a String (text) data type would not work for a math function, as this function would expect an integer value. Since String data types can contain letters or other non-numerical characters, the mapping editor would return an exception. Even if the value of the String data type is numerical it would still not work; the math function requires a numerical data type like Int32 or Decimal.

Most Common Data Types in Decisions

For math calculations, use Integral and Floating-Point Types as follows:

Integral Types

TypeRangeSize
SByte-128 to 127Signed 8-bit integer
Byte0 to 255Unsigned 8-bit integer
CharU+0000 to U+ffffUnicode 16-bit character
Int16-32,768 to 32,767Signed 16-bit integer
Int32-2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647Signed 32-bit integer
Int64-9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807Signed 64-bit integer
UInt640 to 18,446,744,073,709,551,615Unsigned 64-bit integer

Floating Point Types

TypeApproximate RangePrecision
Single±1.5e−45 to ±3.4e387 digits
Double±5.0e−324 to ±1.7e30815-16 digits
Decimal(-7.9 x 1028to 7.9 x 1028) / (100 to 28)28-29 digits

Single and Double are floating binary point types to represent a number like this, 10001.10010110011

The binary number and the location of the binary point are both encoded within the value.

Decimal is a floating decimal point type to represent a number like this, 12345.65789

The number and the location of the decimal point are both encoded within the value – which keeps the Decimal as a floating-point type instead of a fixed point type. For non-repeating decimal fractions and whole numbers, the most common data type is Decimal. This is usually suitable for any concepts invented by humans, such as financial values or product ratings.

For values that are either imprecise or immense (such as is found in artifacts of nature or which cannot be precisely measured), float/double data types are more appropriate. Scientific data is often represented in this form. With these data types, the original values are not "decimally accurate" to start with, so it is not important for the expected results to maintain decimal accuracy. Floating binary point types are much faster to work with than decimals.

Data TypePurpose
String
represents alphanumeric text as a series of Unicode characters. String Type is used for all text data manipulations.
TimeSpan
represents a time interval.
DateTime
represents an instant in time, typically expressed as a date and time of day.
Boolean
represents a Boolean (true or false) value. Used in logical evaluations like ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
FileDatarepresents File in Decisions. Contains following members: Content (Byte Array), FileName (String), FileType (String), Length (Int32), Tag (Object).

Creating a Composite Type

To create a user-defined (composite) data type, begin in the Decisions Studio. Open a Designer Folder and select the Create data types/Integrations button from the bottom action bar. In the window that appears, the User Defined Types section shows the available options to define the structure of the type.

1_UserDefinedTypes.png

Use the reference links below to find more information on these structure types.

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