C# - Delegates

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C# delegates are similar to pointers to functions, in C or C++. A delegate is a reference type variable that holds the reference to a method. The reference can be changed at runtime.

Delegates are especially used for implementing events and the call-back methods. All delegates are implicitly derived from the System.Delegate class.

Declaring Delegates

Delegate declaration determines the methods that can be referenced by the delegate. A delegate can refer to a method, which have the same signature as that of the delegate.

For example, consider a delegate:

public delegate int MyDelegate (string s);

The preceding delegate can be used to reference any method that has a single string parameter and returns an int type variable.

Syntax for delegate declaration is:

delegate <return type> <delegate-name> <parameter list>

Instantiating Delegates

Once a delegate type has been declared, a delegate object must be created with the new keyword and be associated with a particular method. When creating a delegate, the argument passed to the new expression is written like a method call, but without the arguments to the method. For example:

public delegate void printString(string s);
...
printString ps1 = new printString(WriteToScreen);
printString ps2 = new printString(WriteToFile);

Following example demonstrates declaration, instantiation and use of a delegate that can be used to reference methods that take an integer parameter and returns an integer value.

using System;

delegate int NumberChanger(int n);
namespace DelegateAppl
{
   class TestDelegate
   {
      static int num = 10;
      public static int AddNum(int p)
      {
         num += p;
         return num;
      }

      public static int MultNum(int q)
      {
         num *= q;
         return num;
      }
      public static int getNum()
      {
         return num;
      }

      static void Main(string[] args)
      {
         //create delegate instances
         NumberChanger nc1 = new NumberChanger(AddNum);
         NumberChanger nc2 = new NumberChanger(MultNum);
         //calling the methods using the delegate objects
         nc1(25);
         Console.WriteLine("Value of Num: {0}", getNum());
         nc2(5);
         Console.WriteLine("Value of Num: {0}", getNum());
         Console.ReadKey();
      }
   }
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

Value of Num: 35
Value of Num: 175

Multicasting of a Delegate

Delegate objects can be composed using the "+" operator. A composed delegate calls the two delegates it was composed from. Only delegates of the same type can be composed. The "-" operator can be used to remove a component delegate from a composed delegate.

Using this useful property of delegates you can create an invocation list of methods that will be called when a delegate is invoked. This is called multicasting of a delegate. The following program demonstrates multicasting of a delegate:

using System;

delegate int NumberChanger(int n);
namespace DelegateAppl
{
   class TestDelegate
   {
      static int num = 10;
      public static int AddNum(int p)
      {
         num += p;
         return num;
      }

      public static int MultNum(int q)
      {
         num *= q;
         return num;
      }
      public static int getNum()
      {
         return num;
      }

      static void Main(string[] args)
      {
         //create delegate instances
         NumberChanger nc;
         NumberChanger nc1 = new NumberChanger(AddNum);
         NumberChanger nc2 = new NumberChanger(MultNum);
         nc = nc1;
         nc += nc2;
         //calling multicast
         nc(5);
         Console.WriteLine("Value of Num: {0}", getNum());
         Console.ReadKey();
      }
   }
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

Value of Num: 75

Use of Delegate

The following example demonstrates the use of delegate. The delegate printString can be used to reference methods that take a string as input and return nothing.

We use this delegate to call two methods, the first prints the string to the console, and the second one prints it to a file:

using System;
using System.IO;

namespace DelegateAppl
{
   class PrintString
   {
      static FileStream fs;
      static StreamWriter sw;
      // delegate declaration
      public delegate void printString(string s);

      // this method prints to the console
      public static void WriteToScreen(string str)
      {
         Console.WriteLine("The String is: {0}", str);
      }
      //this method prints to a file
      public static void WriteToFile(string s)
      {
         fs = new FileStream("c:\\message.txt",
         FileMode.Append, FileAccess.Write);
         sw = new StreamWriter(fs);
         sw.WriteLine(s);
         sw.Flush();
         sw.Close();
         fs.Close();
      }
      // this method takes the delegate as parameter and uses it to
      // call the methods as required
      public static void sendString(printString ps)
      {
         ps("Hello World");
      }
      static void Main(string[] args)
      {
         printString ps1 = new printString(WriteToScreen);
         printString ps2 = new printString(WriteToFile);
         sendString(ps1);
         sendString(ps2);
         Console.ReadKey();
      }
   }
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

The String is: Hello World


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