Types That Produce Collections

I’ve already touched upon the fact that a collection’s contents can change while an enumerator is enumerating the collection. If the collection changes, it could invalidate the enumerator. In the following sections on iterators, I show how you can create an enumerator that locks access to the container while it is enumerating. Although that’s possible, it may not be the best thing to do from an efficiency standpoint. For example, what if it takes a long time to iterate over all of the items in the collection? The foreach loop could do some lengthy processing on each item, during which time anyone else could be blocked from modifying the collection.

In cases like these, it may make sense for the foreach loop to iterate over a copy of the collection rather than the original collection itself. If you decide to do this, you need to make sure you understand what a copy of the collection means. If the collection contains value types, then the copy is a deep copy, as long as the value types within don’t hold on to reference types internally. If the collection contains reference types, you need to decide if the copy of the collection must clone each of the contained items. Either way, it would be nice to have a design guideline to follow in order to know when to return a copy.

The current rule of thumb when returning collection types from within your types is to always return a copy of the collection from methods, and return a reference to the actual collection if accessed through a property on your type. Although this rule is not set in stone, and you’re in no way obligated to follow it, it does make some semantic sense. Methods tend to indicate that you’re performing some sort of operation on the type and you may expect results from that operation. On the other hand, property access tends to indicate that you need direct access to the state of the object itself. Therefore, this rule of thumb makes good semantic sense. In general, it makes sense to apply this same semantic separation to all properties and methods within your types.

Source Of Information : Apress Accelerated C Sharp 2010


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