5 Minute Snack: Reading floats with StrToFloat and TFormatSettings independent of system region settings

This is one of the topics that sadly shows up mostly at run-time when you already deployed the app to your customers.

We all have our development machine. Our application works just fine. And then we deploy to the customer and the customer says that he gets an error that “12,5 is not a valid float value”.

Why is it 12,5  you wonder… on your system it is always 12.5  and works just fine.

Well, different regions different ways to write a number. In Europe most countries use “,” (comma) as a decimal separator and “.” as a thousand separator. In the United States of America it is exactly vice versa. 

It gets even more complicated if you have to read a number from a string that is produced by a device that always formats numbers a certain way no matter what and you have to make sure that your application is able to interpret these numbers.

There is always lots of information on the web when it comes to Delphi and its functions. In order to convert a string to a float value you use StrToFloat . Sadly, most of the information is outdated. Recent versions of Delphi use an approach that has been established by Java and .NET and has found its way into the Delphi RTL.

Here’s how Delphi tries to parse a string into a float: Delphi uses the local regional settings of the user profile the application runs in. This means if your application runs on a US-based system without any individual changes the decimal separator most likely will be “.”. If your application is run on a system in Germany, Delphi will use “,” as a decimal separator.

How you say what Delphi shall use: Let me just start with this. I have seen so many strange things to solvet his issue, it made me dizzy sometimes. There’s people rewriting registry settings to get it done and trying to load different regional configurations using the Win API… the sky seems to be the limit.

However, the solution is so easy if you have a look at the different fingerprints of the StrToFloat  method:

There is the option to specify a setting of type TFormatSettings  as the second parameter for the parse operation. And that is already the solution. TFormatSettings  is a record that is designed to hold regional settings of all sorts. Date and Time formats, day names, number formats — all you need.

And if you look at the source….

…you even get information what different methods can be used to fill the record with data. 

If you know that your external device will deliver measurement data in US format all the time, i.e. with ‘.’ as a decimal separator and you want to make sure that Delphi knows it you need to create TFormatSettings  either with a US-locale or you can also create one based on your system and set the delimiter manually. You have the option.

Here we create the record for US settings:

LFormat  is of type TFormatSettings . Mind that it does not have to be released as it is a record and not an object instance; even though the method is called create it is not a constructor that is called.

Alternatively, you can say:

So, whenever you encounter a string that has “12.5” as a number it will be able to parse that number no matter on what system your application runs.

Once you know that you have TFormatSettings  at your disposal it becomes really easy.

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