Null Safety in Kotlin - The Power of Nullable Types

Null safety is a powerful feature in Kotlin that helps eliminate null pointer exceptions, a common source of runtime errors in many programming languages. In this guide, we'll explore how Kotlin's nullable types work and how they enhance code reliability.

Nullable Types

In Kotlin, every non-primitive type is nullable by default. This means that variables can either hold a value of the declared type or be null. You denote a variable as nullable by adding a question mark after the type:

val name: String? = "John"
val age: Int? = null

Safe Access and Smart Casts

Kotlin provides safe access and smart casts to work with nullable types. Safe access allows you to perform operations on nullable variables only if they are not null:

val length = name?.length // Returns null if name is null

Smart casts allow you to treat a nullable variable as non-nullable after a null check:

if (name != null) {
val length = name.length // No need for safe access, name is treated as non-nullable here

Elvis Operator

The Elvis operator (?:) provides a default value for nullable variables when they are null:

val username = name ?: "Guest" // If name is null, "Guest" is used as a default

Safe Calls and Non-Null Assertions

Safe calls and non-null assertions are other ways to deal with nullable types:

val length = name?.length // Safe call, returns null if name is null
val lengthNotNull = name!!.length // Non-null assertion, may throw an NPE if name is null


Null safety in Kotlin is a robust feature that makes your code more reliable by preventing null pointer exceptions. Understanding how to work with nullable types, use safe access, and leverage operators like the Elvis operator and non-null assertions is crucial for writing safe and robust Kotlin code.

Happy coding!