Interfaces in C#

Introduction

When hearing the name "Interface," one can easily guess that it's some sort of communicating media or joining line between two other mediums, namely classes here. Although the concept of interfaces in C# resembles this concept, there are few things to be made clear about this keyword and the concept behind it so that the C# programmer can best utilize its availability and can make the code more powerful.

Interfaces in C# are provided as a replacement of multiple inheritance. Because C# does not support multiple inheritance, it was necessary to incorporate some other method so that the class can inherit the behavior of more than one class, avoiding the problem of name ambiguity that is found in C++. With name ambiguity, the object of a class does not know which method to call if the two base classes of that class object contain the same named method.

The classes in C# can now make use of the keyword "interface" to inherit more than one behavior from different interfaces. When a class inherits from one or more interfaces, we say that the class is implementing that interface(s). The most important thing to remember about interfaces is that the classes can only implement the methods defined in the interface because in C#, an interface is a built-in keyword that declares a reference type that includes method declarations. In addition to methods, interfaces can define properties, indexers, and events that will be discussed later in this article.

Implementing Interfaces

First, we consider the following example that will clear the concept more. As we know that Mammals have both similar and dissimilar characteristics, so in this example, we have taken two sub-classes of Mammal: Human and Whale. Because Human is the only subclass that has the characteristic of intelligence that distinguishes it from the other subclasses of Mammal, the Human class inherits both the class Mammal and an interface IIntelligent that selectively describes it as separated from the other classes of Mammal.

using System;

namespace ConsoleApplication1
{
   public class Mammal
   {
      protected string Characteristis;
      public string characteristics
      {
         get
         {
            return this.Characteristis;
         }
         set
         {
            this.Characteristis=value;
         }
      }
   }
   interface IIntelligence
   {
      /// Interface method declaration
      bool intelligent_behavior();
   }

   class Human: Mammal, IIntelligence
   {
      public Human()
      {
          characteristics = "Human are mammals";
      }

/// Interface method definition in the class that implements it
      public bool intelligent_behavior()
      {
         Console.WriteLine("{0} and have intelligence",characteristics);
         return true
      }
   }
   class Whale: Mammal
   {
      public Whale()
      {
         characteristics = "Whale are mammals";
         Console.WriteLine("{0}",characteristics);
      }
   }
   class InterfaceApp
   {
      public static void Main(string[] args)
      {
         Whale whale = new Whale();
         Human human = new Human();
         /// The human object is casted to the interface type
         IIntelligence humanIQ = (IIntelligence)human;
         humanIQ.intelligent_behavior();

         Console.Read();
      }
   }
}

Using Methods, Indexers, Properties, and Event Declarations Within an Interface

Now, we consider the same example so as to explain the use of indexers, properties, and events within the interface. The code for the interface IIntelligent and the Main class InterfaceApp is changed.

interface IIntelligence
{
   /// Method declaration within the interface
   bool intelligent_behavior();

   /// Indexer declaration within the interface
   object this[int index]
   {
      get;
      set;
   }
   /// Event declaration within an interface
   /// testEvent should also be declared as a delegate before
   event testEvent IQEvent;

   /// Property declaration within an interface
   string IQProperty
   {
      get{}
      set{}
   }
}

Using "Is" and "As" Operators to Verify the Implementation of an Interface

Think what will happen if an object attempted to use a class as though the class had implemented a method that is not defined in it; you will get an exception at runtime. To remove this ambiguity, we use the "is" keyword to verify that the method exists in the class implementing the given interface.

I will use the same code of the Mammal class above for explaining this. Here, we need to change only the Main ( ) because we only need to check that our created object is either implementing the interface or not.

if(human is IIntelligence)

{
   IIntelligence humanIQ = (IIntelligence)human;
   humanIQ.intelligent_behavior();
}

In the example case above, when you will run it, it will give a warning that "the given expression is always of the provided type" and the validity is also been checked twice: one in using the "is" operator and the other when casting it to the interface type.

Therefore, we can use the "as" operator to cast and check the types more efficiently. The "as" operator returns an object type and null if the type mismatched whereas the "is" operator returns a Boolean value. Here, no warning will be generated.

IIntelligence humanIQ = human as IIntelligence;

if(null != humanIQ)

   {
      humanIQ.intelligent_behavior();
   }

Why Use Interfaces?

As a word of closing, I would describe the advantages and importance of using the interfaces provided by C#; they are as follows:

  1. To allow a class to inherit multiple behaviors from multiple interfaces.
  2. To avoid name ambiguity between the methods of the different classes as was in the use of multiple inheritance in C++.
  3. To combine two or more interfaces such that a class need only implement the combined result. The example code for this is provided as a source file to be downloaded.
  4. To allow Name hiding. Name hiding is the ability to hide an inherited member name from any code outside the derived class.


About the Author

Fatima Ahmed

Fatima Ahmed is a B.S. in Computer Sciences and recently working in VC++ and .NET applications. Her interests include teaching, helping others, travelling, writing articles on different topics and studying more and more.

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