Regional and Locale Settings Affects Parsing Decimal Strings in C#

Yesterday, someone who was trying to use Jackknife, our gesture recognition library, reported that he couldn’t reproduce our results with our C# code. Naturally, we started looking into the issue.

Strangely enough, the code worked fine for me (both Debug and Release configurations). I then built the code under multiple versions of Visual Studio, tried both Windows 8 and Windows 10, and even built the code on Mono under Ubuntu. Everything was working as expected. He even sent me his compiled binaries so that I could try his build, yet to my surprise I was still getting correct outputs on all my machines.

Since our C++ code was working fine for him, I knew the issue was connected to .NET somehow. While trying to figure out what was causing this mind-boggling issue, I noticed that he was in Europe and I got this crazy idea that his operating system’s locale settings were interfering with something somewhere. As a last resort, I changed the regional settings on my computer to his region and voila! I was able to reproduce his problem!!

It turned out that in his region, decimal numbers are separated by commas, rather than periods, which is common in the US. Consequently, in that region the decimal number 123.45 is written as 123,45. In our tool, we were manually parsing CSV files. Since we hadn’t thought of issues like this, we were naively calling double.Parse() on strings containing decimals. Therefore, .NET was using the operating system’s locale settings to parse the string, giving completely different results than the ones we expected.

One easy hack to fix this issue was to force the locale of the current thread to “en-US” locale. The code excerpt below does exactly that:

In our C++ code, however, we were using std::stod which does not care about locale settings, so it was working fine.

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