The static keyword in C#

The static keyword declares members (attributes, methods) that are associated with the class rather than the instances of the class.

Sometimes it is desirable to have a variable that is shared among all instances of a class. For example, you could use this variable as the basis for communication between instances or to keep track of the number of instances that have been created.

You achieve this shared effect by making the variable with the keyword static. Such a variable is sometimes called a class variable to distinguish it from a member of instance variable, which is not shared.

Fig1. UML Object Diagram showing the Client class and two unique instances.

In this example, every object that is created is assigned a unique serial number, starting at 1 and counting upwards. The variable counter is shared among all instances, so when the constructor of one object increments counter, the next object to be created receives the incremented value.

A static variable is similar in some ways to a global variable in other languages.

Listing 1. Example marking the variable counter with the keyword static.

If a static is not marked as private, you can access it from outside the class. To do this, you do not need an instance of the class, you can refer to it through the class name.

Listing 2. Example referring to the static variable counter.

Sometimes you need to access program code when you do not have an instance of a particular object available. A method that is marked using the keyword static can be used in this way and is sometimes called a class method.

Listing 3. A method marked using the static keyword.
Fig 2. Output of the program is.

You should access methods that are static using the class name rather than an object reference.

Because you can invoke a static method without any instance of the class to which it belongs, there is no this reserved keyword applicable, because static variables and methods exist independently of any class objects, even when there are no objects of that class. The consequence is that a static method cannot access any variables other than the local variables, static attributes, and its parameters. Attempting to access non-static attributes causes a compiler error.

Listing 4. A complete example
Fig 3. Output for the complete example

You should be aware of the following when using static methods:

  • Inside the basic console application, we have the startup procedure Main. Main is defined as a static member, which means we do not have to have an instance of the enclosing class
  • Constants are considered static members. Therefore, they do not need to be-for that matter, they cannot be-marked with the static keyword.

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Understanding Inheritance in C#

Inspired from biological modeling, inheritance allows new classes to be constructed that inherit characteristics (fields and methods) from ancestor classes while typically introducing more specialized characteristics, new fields, or methods. A subclass is logically considered to be a specialized version or extension of its parent and by inference its ancestor classes.

In programming, you often create a model of something, and then need a more specialized version of that original model.

Fig 1. Shows the UML class diagrams that model the Employee and Manager classes.
Listing 1. A possible implementation of Employee class.
Listing 2. A possible implementation of Manager class.

These codes illustrate the duplication of attributes between Manager class and the Employee class. Additionally, there could be a number of methods applicable to both classes.
In object-oriented languages, special mechanisms are provided that enable you define a class in terms of a previously defined class.

One of its main mechanism is called Inheritance. Inheritance is a form of software reusability in which classes are created by absorbing an existing class’s data and behaviors and embellishing them with new capabilities.
The next figure shows the diagram in which the Manager is a derived class of Employee base class.

Fig 2. Class diagram using Inheritance.
Listing 3. The Employee class.
Listing 4. The Manager class that inherits from class Employee.

Single Inheritance

The C# programming language permits a class to extend one other class only. This restriction is called single inheritance. With single inheritance, a class is derived from one base class. C# does not support multiple inheritance.

Once created, each derived class can become the base class for future derived classes. Typically, the derived class contains the behaviors of its base class. Therefore, a derived class is more specific than its base class and represents a more specialized group of objects.

The next image shows the base class Employee and three derived classes: Engineer, Manager and Secretary. The Manager is also the base class from which the derived class Director explicitly inherits.

Fig 3. An example Inheritance tree.

The Employee class contains three attributes (Name, Salary, and BirthDate), as well as one method (GetDetails). The Manager class inherits all of these members and specifies an additional attribute, department, as well as the GetDetails method. The Director class inherits all of the members of Employee and Manager and specifies a CarAllowance attribute and a new method, IncreaseAllowance.

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The this Reference

Every object can access a reference to itself, called the this reference. The this reference can refer implicitly to the instance variable, properties and methods of an object.

Two uses of the this keyword are:

  1. To resolve ambiguity between instance variables and parameters
  2. To pass the current object as a parameter to another method

The following class demonstrates these uses.

Fig 1 The Use of the this Keyword

The first constructor receives three uint parameters which names are identical to the instance variables of the class. I did this to illustrate explicit use of the this reference.

Fig 2 This reference output

The explicit use of the this reference can increase program clarity in some contexts where this is optional.

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