Properties in Visual C#.NET

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The previous section, Access Modifiers, demonstrated how you can use the private keyword to encapsulate a password, preventing access from outside the class This type of encapsulation is often too thorough, however For example, sometimes you might need to define fields that external
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5: Classes
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classes can only read but whose values you can change internally Alternatively, perhaps you want to allow access to write some data in a class but you need to be able to validate changes made to the data Still one more example is the need to construct the data on the fly Traditionally, languages enabled the features found in these examples by marking fields as private and then providing getter and setter methods for accessing and modifying the data The code in Listing 516 changes both FirstName and LastName to private fields Public getter and setter methods for each field allow their values to be accessed and changed
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Listing 516: Declaring Getter and Setter Methods
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class Employee { private string FirstName; // FirstName getter public string GetFirstName() { return FirstName; } // FirstName setter public void SetFirstName(string newFirstName) { if(newFirstName != null && newFirstName != "") { FirstName = newFirstName; } } private string LastName; // LastName getter public string GetLastName() { return LastName; } // LastName setter public void SetLastName(string newLastName) { if(newLastName != null && newLastName != "") { LastName = newLastName; } } // }
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Unfortunately, this change affects the programmability of the Employee class No longer can you use the assignment operator to set data within the class, nor can you access data without calling a method
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Declaring a Property Considering the frequency of this type of pattern, the C# designers decided to provide explicit syntax for it This syntax is called a property (see Listing 517 and Output 55)
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Listing 517: Defining Properties
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class Program { static void Main() { Employee employee = new Employee(); // Call the FirstName property's setter employeeFirstName = "Inigo"; // Call the FirstName property's getter SystemConsoleWriteLine(employeeFirstName); } }
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class Employee { // FirstName property public string FirstName { get { return _FirstName; } set { _FirstName = value; } } private string _FirstName; // LastName property public string LastName { get { return _LastName; } set {
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_LastName = value; } } private string _LastName; // }
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OUTPUT 55:
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Inigo
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The first thing to notice in Listing 517 is not the property code itself, but the code within the Program class Although you no longer have the fields with the FirstName and LastName identifiers, you cannot see this by looking at the Program class The API for accessing an employee s first and last names has not changed at all It is still possible to assign the parts of the name using a simple assignment operator, for example (employeeFirstName = "Inigo") The key feature is that properties provide an API that looks programmatically like a field In actuality, however, no such fields exist A property declaration looks exactly like a field declaration, but following it are curly braces in which to place the property implementation Two optional parts make up the property implementation The get part defines the getter portion of the property It corresponds directly to the GetFirstName() and GetLastName() functions defined in Listing 516 To access the FirstName property you call employeeFirstName Similarly, setters (the set portion of the implementation) enable the calling syntax of the field assignment:
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employeeFirstName = "Inigo";
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Property definition syntax uses three contextual keywords You use the
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get and set keywords to identify either the retrieval or the assignment
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portion of the property, respectively In addition, the setter uses the value keyword to refer to the right side of the assignment operation When ProgramMain() calls employeeFirstName = "Inigo", therefore, value is set to "Inigo" inside the setter and can be used to assign _FirstName Listing 517 s property implementations are the most common When the getter is called (such as in ConsoleWriteLine(employee2FirstName)), the value from the field (_FirstName) is returned