What’s New in Visual C# 4.0?
Visual C# version 4.0 offers new features that make it easier for you to work in dynamic programming scenarios. Besides dynamic programming, you have support for optional and named parameters, better COM interop support, and contra-variance and covariance. This article will show you how each of these features work and provide suggestions of
how they can be applied to help you be more productive.
To help you follow the path of C#, this article looks at the history of C#, today’s use of C#, and helps you understand the future of C# and what the language intends to provide for you. After you understand the theme of C# 4.0, you’ll learn about the new features of C# 4.0. Finally, this article will show you how to create a dynamic object of your own with late-bound calls to dynamic methods based on conventions.
C#: Then and Now
The previous major versions of C# were 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. There was a minor version 1.1 in April of 2003, but it didn’t significantly change the theme of the 1.0 release. I’ll discuss these versions in the following sections.
Microsoft first announced C# on June 16th 2000. It was the first high-level programming language that was built specifically to target the .NET Common Language Runtime. C# 1.0 grew its heritage from C++, but borrowed features from languages such as Delphi, Java, and others. In C# 1.0, Microsoft planned to provide an object-oriented, component-based language that was very simple to use. When Microsoft released C# 1.0 to manufacturing on February 13th 2002, it was an immediate hit and steadily grew in popularity.
When C# 2.0 rolled around, Microsoft finally added all of the features that should have been in C# 1.0. For example, generics was huge and is an important part of .NET development today. C# 2.0 also introduced anonymous methods, iterators, and nullable types. An interesting addition to C# 2.0, nullable types was a pre-cursor feature for what was coming in the next version, focusing on data.
Most developers work with data, which was the primary theme of C# 3.0. The largest C# 3.0 language addition was Language Integrated Query (LINQ). Most other language features added in C# 3.0 were primarily to support LINQ, but the new features; including implicitly typed local variables, anonymous types, object and collection initializers, lambdas, and extension methods, can have value on their own in development that doesn’t involve LINQ.
The next version of C# will be 4.0, which is the focus of this article. C# 4.0 will primarily focus on dynamic programming. The following sections of this article explain the dynamic programming features of C# 4.0 as well as other new features such as optional/named parameters and covariance/contravariance.
Why Dynamic Programming?
The dynamic programming story in C# can fall into fulfilling categories of need in the way of multiple-language integration, simpler reflection, access to HTML DOM in Web scenarios, and easier COM interop. Some of these categories of need might not apply to your particular situation, and that’s okay because there isn’t anything that says that you have to use a language feature just because it’s there. Therefore, I’ll give you an idea of how someone with a specific need might find value in C# 4.0 dynamic programming.
C# 4.0 will primarily focus on dynamic programming.
Most C# developers use multiple tools in a single application to accomplish complex tasks. If you’re writing WPF desktop applications, you’re using C# and XAML. It is quite possible that you might find some open source code that solves a problem, but it might be written in another language such as VB or F#. One of the benefits of .NET since its inception is the ability to have cross-language interoperability and the runtime is even called the “Common Language” Runtime (CLR). In recent years, Microsoft has created dynamic languages, such as IronRuby and IronPython, but developers don’t have an easy way to perform interop with dynamic languages. If you have this need, then you’ll welcome the ease with which C# dynamic programming makes interop between C# and dynamic languages possible.
When performing reflection to run a method on an object, there are several hoops to jump through, including obtaining a reference to an object type, getting a reference to a member info object, determining the type of bindings to use, and then invoking the member. While reflection has an undeniable coolness factor, it still feels like a hack and that’s where C# 4.0 dynamic methods can help. Later in this article, I’ll show you how to just call the object member.
If you write Silverlight applications, you might have the need today or in the future to access the HTML DOM containing your Silverlight control. C# dynamic programming makes this task easier.
Performing COM interop with C# has always been cumbersome; partly because of the need to write extra syntax for conversions, optional parameters, and more. This has left some C# developers with a touch of VB envy because VB has easier COM interop support. One of the purposes of dynamic programming in C# is to help the C# programmer write cleaner syntax in COM interop scenarios.
I’ve spent some time explaining some of the potential benefits of dynamic programming because it’s so new that the value might not jump out at you immediately. In following sections, I’ll share the how so that you can match it up with the why that you might care about. Before diving into dynamic programming, let’s look at a couple other new features of C# 4.0, optional and named parameters.
By: Joe Mayo
Joe Mayo is an author, independent consultant, and trainer specializing in .NET technologies. He operates the C# Station Web site (www.csharp-station.com) and is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). Joe is author of C# Unleashed (Sams) and C#Builder Kick Start (Sams). For more information about Joe, please visit www.mayosoftware.com.