Indexer Examples
This page was last reviewed on Mar 20, 2023.
Dot Net Perls
Indexer. In C# an indexer provides array-like syntax. It allows a type to be accessed the same way as an array. Properties such as indexers often access a backing store.
In an indexer, we often accept an int parameter and access a backing array. We can initialize values in an indexer with an initializer.
An example. This program contains a class that has an indexer member, which itself contains a get accessor and a set accessor. These accessors are implicitly used.
Info This program includes a Layout class with an indexer. Layout contains an indexer that has get and set method bodies.
And These accessors have logic that ensures the array will not will be accessed out-of-bounds.
Note The array is termed the backing store for the indexer property in this example.
Result The program displays the first four valid elements from the Layout class. It shows the result of an invalid access.
using System; class Layout { string[] _values = new string[100]; // Backing store public string this[int number] { get { // This is invoked when accessing Layout with the [ ]. if (number >= 0 && number < _values.Length) { // Bounds were in range, so return the stored value. return _values[number]; } // Return an error string. return "Error"; } set { // This is invoked when assigning to Layout with the [ ]. if (number >= 0 && number < _values.Length) { // Assign to this element slot in the internal array. _values[number] = value; } } } } class Program { static void Main() { // Create new instance and assign elements // ... in the array through the indexer. Layout layout = new Layout(); layout[1] = "Frank Gehry"; layout[3] = "I. M. Pei"; layout[10] = "Frank Lloyd Wright"; layout[11] = "Apollodorus"; layout[-1] = "Error"; layout[1000] = "Error"; // Read elements through the indexer. string value1 = layout[1]; string value2 = layout[3]; string value3 = layout[10]; string value4 = layout[11]; string value5 = layout[50]; string value6 = layout[-1]; // Write the results. Console.WriteLine(value1); Console.WriteLine(value2); Console.WriteLine(value3); Console.WriteLine(value4); Console.WriteLine(value5); // Is null Console.WriteLine(value6); } }
Frank Gehry I. M. Pei Frank Lloyd Wright Apollodorus (null) Error
Intermediate language. A separate metadata table exists that stores the get_Item and set_Item methods, which implement the logic for the get and set accessors in the indexer.
Tip The .NET Framework implements properties in the same way as methods but with an additional table to provide more information.
Intermediate Language
.property instance string Item { .get instance string Layout::get_Item(int32) .set instance void Layout::set_Item(int32, string) }
Interface indexer. This program uses an indexer member on an interface type. The interface declares the indexer and leaves the get and set accessors empty.
Then The Implementation class declares an indexer with the same parameters. You can use the indexer through the interface type.
Here The IPerl type is an interface. The Implementation type implements IPerl and provides data for the indexer accessors.
Info In a real program, the set and get accessors might provide more detailed logic for preventing or reporting failures.
using System; interface IPerl { int this[int number] { get; set; } } class Implementation : IPerl { int[] _data = { 0, 10, 20, 30 }; // Default values public int this[int number] { get { // Get accessor implementation. return this._data[number]; } set { // Set accessor implementation. this._data[number] = value; } } } class Program { static void Main() { // Create an object instance. // ... Use the indexer through the interface type. IPerl perl = new Implementation(); Console.WriteLine(perl[0]); Console.WriteLine(perl[1]); Console.WriteLine(perl[2]); Console.WriteLine(perl[3]); // Use set accessor. perl[0] = -1; Console.WriteLine(perl[0]); } }
0 10 20 30 -1
Initializer. An indexer can be initialized just like other properties. We specify the square brackets around the index and assign it to a value. The syntax is unusual at first glance.
Start We create a "Farm" class. This class stores a string array of animals (strings) as a field.
Info The this-property is an indexer. In the Farm initializer, we create entries at indexes 1, 3 and 5 for animal names.
using static System.Console; class Farm { string[] _animals = new string[10]; public string this[int number] { get { return _animals[number]; } set { _animals[number] = value; } } } class Program { static void Main() { // ... Use an index initializer. Farm f = new Farm() {[1] = "cat",[3] = "bird",[5] = "dog" }; // Get values from farm by index. WriteLine(f[1]); WriteLine(f[3]); WriteLine(f[5]); } }
cat bird dog
Expression-bodied indexer. This example uses an indexer with the "expression-bodied" syntax. This is more like a lambda expression.
Important Please look at the "Apartment" indexer. The "get" keyword has an expression body to its right.
Also The "set" method uses an expression body. No parentheses are used. The special "value" keyword is used.
using static System.Console; class Apartment { string[] _furniture = new string[10]; public string this[int number] { get => _furniture[number]; // Expression-bodied indexer. set => _furniture[number] = value; } } class Program { static void Main() { var apt = new Apartment() { [0] = "chair", [1] = "bed", [2] = "desk" }; // Use indexer. WriteLine(apt[0]); WriteLine(apt[1]); WriteLine(apt[2]); } }
chair bed desk
Parameters. The parameter list varies depending on your requirements. In a collection that maps string keys to values, you will want to have an indexer that accepts a string.
2D collections. To simulate a 2D collection, you can use two parameters in the indexer. Because indexers are regular methods in the implementation, there are few limitations.
But Ref and out parameters are not allowed. You will need a custom method to use these parameter modifiers.
Framework. Indexers have been used throughout the .NET Framework in Microsoft's own code since the Framework was released. Many collections use indexers.
Tip This includes the Dictionary collection, which allows you to look up elements with the indexer.
Also ArrayList and List use indexers to simulate the built-in syntax of arrays in the C# language.
A summary. An indexer is a property accessor type. Indexers have more complex syntax than other properties. They provide array-like accesses on the class instance.
Dot Net Perls is a collection of tested code examples. Pages are continually updated to stay current, with code correctness a top priority.
Sam Allen is passionate about computer languages. In the past, his work has been recommended by Apple and Microsoft and he has studied computers at a selective university in the United States.
This page was last updated on Mar 20, 2023 (edit).
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