Calling a Method

Beginner Topic: What Is a Method?

Up to this point, all of the statements in the programs you have written have appeared together in one grouping called a Main() method. As programs become even minimally larger, a single method implementation quickly becomes difficult to maintain and complex to read through and understand.

A method is a means of grouping together a sequence of statements to perform a particular action. This provides greater structure and organization for the statements that comprise a program. Consider, for example, a Main() method that counts the lines of source code in a directory. Instead of having one large Main() method, you can provide a shorter version that allows you to hone in on the details of each method implementation as necessary. Listing 4.1 shows an example.

Listing 4.1. Grouping Statements into Methods

 class LineCount {   static void Main()   {       int lineCount;       string files;       DisplayHelpText();       files = GetFiles();       lineCount = CountLines(files);       DisplayLineCount(lineCount);   }   // ... } 

Instead of placing all of the statements into Main(), the listing breaks them into groups called methods. Statements related to displaying the help text, a group of System.Console.WriteLine() statements, have been moved to the DisplayHelpText() method. All of the statements used to determine which files to count appear in the GetFiles() method. To actually count the files, the code calls the CountLines() method before displaying the results using the DisplayLineCount() method. With a quick glance, it is easy to review the code and gain an overview, because the method name describes the implementation.

A method is always associated with a class, and the class provides a means of grouping related methods together. Calling a method is conceptually the same as sending a message to a class.

Methods can receive data via parameters. Parameters are "variables" used for passing data from the caller (the method containing the method call) to the target method (Write(), WriteLine(), GetFiles(), CountLines(), and so on). In Listing 4.1, files and lineCount are examples of parameters passed to the CountLines() and DisplayLineCount() methods. Methods can also return data back to the caller via a return value(in Listing 4.1, the GetFiles() method call has a return value that is assigned to files).

To begin, you will reexamine System.Console.Write(), System.Console.WriteLine(), and System.Console.ReadLine() from Chapter 1. This time, look at them as examples of method calls in general, instead of looking at the specifics of printing and retrieving data from the console. Listing 4.2 shows each of the three methods in use.

Listing 4.2. A Simple Method Call

The parts of the method call include the namespace, type name, method name, parameters, and return data type. A period separates each part of a fully qualified method name.


The first item in the method call is the namespace. The namespace is a categorization mechanism for grouping all types related to a particular set of functionality. The namespace helps avoid type name collisions. For example, the compiler can distinguish between two types with the name "Program" as long as each type has a different namespace. The result is that the Main method in each class could be referred to using Awl.Windows.Program.Main() or Awl.Console.Program.Main().

System.Collections, System.Collections.Generics, System.IO, and System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters are valid names for a namespace. Namespaces can include periods within their names. This enables the namespaces to give the appearance of being hierarchical. This improves human readability only, since the compiler treats all namespaces at a single level. For example, System.Collections.Generics appears within the System.Collections namespace hierarchy, but to the compiler these are simply two entirely different namespaces.

In Listing 4.2, the namespace for the Console type is System. The System namespace contains the types that enable the programmer to perform many fundamental programming activities. Virtually all C# programs use types within the System namespace. Table 4.1 provides a listing of other common namespaces.

Table 4.1. Common Namespaces




Contains the definition of fundamental types, conversion between types, mathematics, program invocation, and environment management.


Includes types for working with collections of objects. Collections can generally follow either list or dictionary type storage mechanisms.


This C# 2.0 namespace works with strongly typed collections that depend on generics (type parameters).


Contains types used for working with data that is stored within a database.


Contains types for drawing to the display device and working with images.


Contains types for working with files and directories and provides capabilities for manipulating, loading, and saving files.


Includes types for working with strings and various text encodings, and for converting between those encodings. This namespace includes a subnamespace called System.Text.RegularExpressions, which provides access to regular-expression-related APIs.


Handles thread manipulation and multithreaded programming.


A collection of types that enable browser-to-server communication, generally over HTTP. The functionality within this namespace is used to support a .NET technology called ASP.NET.


Contains types that send and retrieve data over HTTP using the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).


Includes types for creating rich user interfaces and the components within them.


Contains standards-based support for XML processing.

It is not always necessary to provide the namespace when calling a method. For example, if you call a method in the same namespace as the target method, then the compiler can infer the namespace to be the same as the caller's namespace. Later in this chapter, you see how the using directive avoids the need for a namespace qualifier as well.

Type Name

Calls to static methods (Chapter 5 covers static versus instance methods) require the type name qualifier as long as the target method is not within the same class (such as a call from HelloWorld.Main() to Console.WriteLine()). However, just as with the namespace, C# allows the elimination of the type name from a method call whenever the method is available on the containing type. (Examples of method calls like this appear in Listing 4.4.) The type name is unnecessary because the compiler infers the type from the calling method. If the compiler can make no such inference, the name must provided as part of the method call.

At their core, types are a means of grouping together methods and their associated data. For example, Console is the type name that contains the Write(), WriteLine(), and ReadLine() methods (among others). All of these methods are in the same "group" because they belong to the Console type.


You already learned that scope bounds declaration and accessibility. Scope also defines the inferred call context. A method call between two methods in the same namespace does not require the namespace qualifier. Similarly, two calls within the same class do not require the type name because the scope is the same.

Method Name

After specifying which type contains the method you wish to call, it is time to identify the method itself. C# always uses a period between the type name and the method name, and a pair of parentheses following the method name. Between the parentheses may appear any parameters that the method requires.


All methods have from zero to n parameters, and each parameter in C# is of a specific data type. For example, the following method call, used in Listing 4.2, has three parameters:

System.Console.WriteLine(     "Your full name is {1} {0}",lastName, firstName) 

The first is a string and the second two are of type object. Although you pass parameter values of type string for the second two parameters as well, the compiler allows this because all types, including string, are compatible with the data type object.

Method Return

In contrast to System.Console.WriteLine(), System.Console.ReadLine() in Listing 4.2 does not have any parameters. However, this method happens to have a method return. The method return is a means of transferring results from a called method back to the caller. Because System.Console.ReadLine() has a return, it is possible to assign the return value to the variable firstName. In addition, it is possible to pass this method return as a parameter, as shown in Listing 4.3.

Listing 4.3. Passing a Method Return As a Parameter to Another Method Call

 class Program {   static void Main()   {       System.Console.Write("Enter your first name: ");       System.Console.WriteLine("Hello {0}!",           System.Console.ReadLine());   } } 

Instead of assigning a variable and then using it in the call to System.Console.WriteLine(), Listing 4.3 calls the System.Console.ReadLine() method within the call to System.Console.WriteLine(). At execution time, the System.Console.ReadLine() method executes first and its return is passed directly into the System.Console.WriteLine() method, rather than into a variable.

Not all methods return data. Both versions of System.Console.Write() and System.Console.WriteLine() are examples of such methods. As you will see shortly, these methods specify a return type of void just as the HelloWorld declaration of Main returned void.

Statement versus Method Call

Listing 4.3 provides a demonstration of the difference between a statement and a method call. Although System.Console.WriteLine("Hello {0}!",System.Console.ReadLine()); is a single statement, it contains two method calls. A statement generally contains one or more expressions, and in this example, each expression is a method call. Therefore, method calls form parts of statements.

Although coding multiple method calls in a single statement often reduces the amount of code, it does not necessarily increase the readability and seldom offers a significant performance advantage. Developers should favor readability over brevity.

Essential C# 2.0
Essential C# 2.0
ISBN: 0321150775
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 185 © 2008-2017.
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