Dart: Check If a List is Empty [Example]

In Dart, a popular language used for building Flutter apps, lists play a critical role. They are akin to arrays in other programming languages and are used to store a collection of objects. However, when managing lists, a common requirement is to check whether a list is empty. This check is essential because actions on an empty list can lead to errors or unexpected behavior in your application. Ensuring a list has elements before performing operations like accessing or modifying its contents is a fundamental practice in robust Dart programming.

Understanding the isEmpty and isNotEmpty Properties

Dart provides two intuitive properties to check if a list is empty: isEmpty and isNotEmpty.

  • isEmpty Property:
    • This is a boolean property that returns true if the list has no elements.
    • Use Case: It’s often used in conditions to prevent actions on empty lists, like avoiding a RangeError when trying to access list elements.
    • Example:
List<String> fruits = [];
if (fruits.isEmpty) {
  print("The list is empty");

isNotEmpty Property:

  • This is the opposite of isEmpty. It returns true if the list contains one or more elements.
  • Use Case: Ideal for situations where you want to execute code only if the list has elements. It improves readability by avoiding the negation operator (!) used with isEmpty.
  • Example:
List<String> fruits = ['Apple', 'Banana'];
if (fruits.isNotEmpty) {
  print("The list has ${fruits.length} items");

When and Why to Use Each Property

  • When to Use isEmpty:
    • Use isEmpty when your primary concern is to check for an empty list and to avoid operations on such lists.
    • It is more intuitive when you’re explicitly looking to handle the “empty” scenario.
  • When to Use isNotEmpty:
    • Use isNotEmpty when you plan to execute code that relies on the list having elements.
    • It makes the code more readable and straightforward, especially in complex conditions.

Practical Examples: Implementing Checks for List Emptiness

Understanding how to check for an empty list in Dart is crucial, but seeing these checks in action within real-world scenarios is even more insightful. Here, we’ll dive into step-by-step examples using isEmpty and isNotEmpty, showcasing their practical applications.

Using isEmpty in a Conditional Statement

Imagine a scenario where you have a list of tasks in a to-do app, and you need to display a message if there are no tasks:

Initialize the List:

  • Suppose we have a list of strings representing tasks.
List<String> tasks = [];

Check if the List is Empty:

  • Use isEmpty to check if there are no tasks.
if (tasks.isEmpty) {
  print("No tasks to display. Enjoy your free time!");


  • This will display a message to the user if there are no tasks in the list.

Utilizing isNotEmpty in a Loop

Consider a situation where you’re working with a list of product names in an e-commerce app, and you want to print all product names if the list is not empty:

  • Initialize the List:
    • Here’s a list with some product names.
List<String> products = ['Smartphone', 'Laptop', 'Headphones'];

Check if the List Contains Elements:

  • Use isNotEmpty to ensure the list has items before iterating.
if (products.isNotEmpty) {
  for (String product in products) {
    print("Product available: $product");
} else {
  print("No products available at the moment.");
  • Outcome:
    • This code will iterate over the product list and print each product’s name. If the list is empty, it will print a different message.

Combining Both Checks in a Function

Let’s create a function in a library app that categorizes books. The function will take a list of book titles and categorize them based on whether the list is empty or not:

Function Definition:

void categorizeBooks(List<String> books) {
  if (books.isEmpty) {
    print("No books to categorize.");
  } else if (books.isNotEmpty) {
    // Assuming a categorization logic here
    print("Books have been categorized.");

Using the Function:

List<String> myBooks = ['1984', 'Brave New World'];

List<String> emptyBookList = [];


  • The function will respond differently based on whether the book list is empty or not, demonstrating a practical use of both isEmpty and isNotEmpty.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

1. Confusing null and Empty:

  • Pitfall: Assuming an uninitialized list (null) is the same as an empty list.
  • Avoidance: Always initialize your lists. Use list?.isEmpty ?? true to safely check for both null and empty lists.

2. Overlooking Lazy Evaluation:

  • Pitfall: Forgetting that methods like .map() do not execute immediately, leading to confusion when checking for emptiness.
  • Avoidance: Remember to apply .toList() on lazily evaluated methods before checking for emptiness.

3. Misusing isEmpty and isNotEmpty:

  • Pitfall: Using !list.isEmpty instead of list.isNotEmpty, which can lead to less readable code.
  • Avoidance: Choose isNotEmpty when you want to check if the list has elements, for better readability.

Advanced Use Cases

1. Nested Lists:

  • Challenge: Checking emptiness in lists of lists.
  • Strategy: Apply isEmpty or isNotEmpty checks at each nesting level or use list.expand((innerList) => innerList).isEmpty for a flattened approach.

2. Lists with Null Values:

  • Challenge: Lists containing null elements might not be considered ’empty’.
  • Strategy: Filter out nulls using list.where((item) => item != null).isEmpty to get true emptiness status.

3. Large Lists:

  • Performance: Checking isEmpty or isNotEmpty on large lists is efficient as these properties don’t iterate over the entire list.
  • Strategy: For more complex operations on large lists, consider lazy evaluation techniques like using Iterables.

Best Practices in List Emptiness Checking

  • Initialize Lists Properly: Avoid null references by initializing your lists.
  • Choose the Right Property: Use isEmpty for checking emptiness and isNotEmpty for presence of elements.
  • Consider Readability: Opt for code clarity and readability, especially in conditional statements.
  • Handle Exceptions: Be prepared to handle exceptions when working with lists, especially when accessing elements.


Understanding how to check for list emptiness in Dart is a fundamental skill. It’s crucial for writing robust, error-free code. Remembering these key techniques and their appropriate use cases can significantly enhance your Dart programming skills. Keep practicing these methods in your projects and always look for ways to improve and refine your approach.

Additional Resources

For further reading and resources to deepen your understanding of list operations in Dart:

  • Dart Language Tour: Dart Language Tour
  • Effective Dart Documentation: Effective Dart
  • Dart API Reference: Dart API
  • Books and Online Courses: Look for books and courses specifically covering Dart and Flutter, focusing on data structures and algorithms.
Hussain Humdani

Hussain Humdani

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