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Calling Synchronous Methods Asynchronously 

The .NET Framework allows you to call any method asynchronously. To do this you define a delegate with the same signature as the method you want to call; the common language runtime automatically defines BeginInvoke and EndInvoke methods for this delegate, with the appropriate signatures.

The BeginInvoke method initiates the asynchronous call. It has the same parameters as the method you want to execute asynchronously, plus two additional optional parameters. The first parameter is an AsyncCallback delegate that references a method to be called when the asynchronous call completes. The second parameter is a user-defined object that passes information into the callback method. BeginInvoke returns immediately and does not wait for the asynchronous call to complete. BeginInvoke returns an IAsyncResult, which can be used to monitor the progress of the asynchronous call.

The EndInvoke method retrieves the results of the asynchronous call. It can be called any time after BeginInvoke; if the asynchronous call has not completed, EndInvoke blocks the calling thread until it completes. The parameters of EndInvoke include the out and ref parameters (<Out> ByRef and ByRef in Visual Basic) of the method you want to execute asynchronously, plus the IAsyncResult returned by BeginInvoke.

NoteNote

The IntelliSense feature in Visual Studio 2005 displays the parameters of BeginInvoke and EndInvoke. If you are not using Visual Studio or a similar tool, or if you are using C# with Visual Studio 2005, see Asynchronous Programming Overview for a description of the parameters defined for these methods.

The code examples in this topic demonstrate four common ways to use BeginInvoke and EndInvoke to make asynchronous calls. After calling BeginInvoke you can do the following:

  • Do some work and then call EndInvoke to block until the call completes.

  • Obtain a WaitHandle using the System.IAsyncResult.AsyncWaitHandle property, use its WaitOne method to block execution until the WaitHandle is signaled, and then call EndInvoke.

  • Poll the IAsyncResult returned by BeginInvoke to determine when the asynchronous call has completed, and then call EndInvoke.

  • Pass a delegate for a callback method to BeginInvoke. The method is executed on a ThreadPool thread when the asynchronous call completes. The callback method calls EndInvoke.

    NoteImportant

    Always call EndInvoke to complete your asynchronous call.

Defining the Test Method and Asynchronous Delegate

The code examples that follow demonstrate various ways of calling the same long-running method, TestMethod asynchronously. The TestMethod method displays a console message to show that it has begun processing, sleeps for a few seconds, and then ends. TestMethod has an out parameter to demonstrate the way such parameters are added to the signatures of BeginInvoke and EndInvoke. You can handle ref parameters similarly.

The following code example shows the definition of TestMethod and the delegate named AsyncMethodCaller that can be used to call TestMethod asynchronously. To compile any of the code examples, you must include the definitions for TestMethod and the AsyncMethodCaller delegate.

using System;
using System.Threading; 

namespace Examples.AdvancedProgramming.AsynchronousOperations
{
    public class AsyncDemo 
    {
        // The method to be executed asynchronously.
        public string TestMethod(int callDuration, out int threadId) 
        {
            Console.WriteLine("Test method begins.");
            Thread.Sleep(callDuration);
            threadId = Thread.CurrentThread.ManagedThreadId;
            return String.Format("My call time was {0}.", callDuration.ToString());
        }
    }
    // The delegate must have the same signature as the method
    // it will call asynchronously.
    public delegate string AsyncMethodCaller(int callDuration, out int threadId);
}

Waiting for an Asynchronous Call with EndInvoke

The simplest way to execute a method asynchronously is to start executing the method by calling the delegate's BeginInvoke method, do some work on the main thread, and then call the delegate's EndInvoke method. EndInvoke might block the calling thread because it does not return until the asynchronous call completes. This is a good technique to use with file or network operations, but because it blocks on EndInvoke, you should not call it from threads that service the user interface.

using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace Examples.AdvancedProgramming.AsynchronousOperations
{
    public class AsyncMain 
    {
        public static void Main() 
        {
            // The asynchronous method puts the thread id here.
            int threadId;

            // Create an instance of the test class.
            AsyncDemo ad = new AsyncDemo();

            // Create the delegate.
            AsyncMethodCaller caller = new AsyncMethodCaller(ad.TestMethod);
       
            // Initiate the asychronous call.
            IAsyncResult result = caller.BeginInvoke(3000, 
                out threadId, null, null);

            Thread.Sleep(0);
            Console.WriteLine("Main thread {0} does some work.",
                Thread.CurrentThread.ManagedThreadId);

            // Call EndInvoke to wait for the asynchronous call to complete,
            // and to retrieve the results.
            string returnValue = caller.EndInvoke(out threadId, result);

            Console.WriteLine("The call executed on thread {0}, with return value \"{1}\".",
                threadId, returnValue);
        }
    }
}

Waiting for an Asynchronous Call with WaitHandle

You can obtain a WaitHandle using the AsyncWaitHandle property of the IAsyncResult returned by BeginInvoke. The WaitHandle is signaled when the asynchronous call completes, and you can wait for it by calling the WaitOne method.

If you use a WaitHandle, you can perform additional processing before or after the asynchronous call completes, but before calling EndInvoke to retrieve the results.

using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace Examples.AdvancedProgramming.AsynchronousOperations
{
    public class AsyncMain 
    {
        static void Main() 
        {
            // The asynchronous method puts the thread id here.
            int threadId;

            // Create an instance of the test class.
            AsyncDemo ad = new AsyncDemo();

            // Create the delegate.
            AsyncMethodCaller caller = new AsyncMethodCaller(ad.TestMethod);
       
            // Initiate the asychronous call.
            IAsyncResult result = caller.BeginInvoke(3000, 
                out threadId, null, null);

            Thread.Sleep(0);
            Console.WriteLine("Main thread {0} does some work.",
                Thread.CurrentThread.ManagedThreadId);

            // Wait for the WaitHandle to become signaled.
            result.AsyncWaitHandle.WaitOne();

            // Perform additional processing here.
            // Call EndInvoke to retrieve the results.
            string returnValue = caller.EndInvoke(out threadId, result);

            Console.WriteLine("The call executed on thread {0}, with return value \"{1}\".",
                threadId, returnValue);
        }
    }
}

Polling for Asynchronous Call Completion

You can use the IsCompleted property of the IAsyncResult returned by BeginInvoke to discover when the asynchronous call completes. You might do this when making the asynchronous call from a thread that services the user interface. Polling for completion allows the calling thread to continue executing while the asynchronous call executes on a ThreadPool thread.

using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace Examples.AdvancedProgramming.AsynchronousOperations
{
    public class AsyncMain 
    {
        static void Main() {
            // The asynchronous method puts the thread id here.
            int threadId;

            // Create an instance of the test class.
            AsyncDemo ad = new AsyncDemo();

            // Create the delegate.
            AsyncMethodCaller caller = new AsyncMethodCaller(ad.TestMethod);
       
            // Initiate the asychronous call.
            IAsyncResult result = caller.BeginInvoke(3000, 
                out threadId, null, null);

            // Poll while simulating work.
            while(result.IsCompleted == false) {
                Thread.Sleep(10);
            }

            // Call EndInvoke to retrieve the results.
            string returnValue = caller.EndInvoke(out threadId, result);

            Console.WriteLine("The call executed on thread {0}, with return value \"{1}\".",
                threadId, returnValue);
        }
    }
}

Executing a Callback Method When an Asynchronous Call Completes

If the thread that initiates the asynchronous call does not need be the thread that processes the results, you can execute a callback method when the call completes. The callback method is executed on a ThreadPool thread.

To use a callback method, you must pass BeginInvoke an AsyncCallback delegate that references the callback method. You can also pass an object containing information to be used by the callback method. For example, you might pass the delegate that was used to initiate the call, so the callback method can call EndInvoke.

using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace Examples.AdvancedProgramming.AsynchronousOperations
{
    public class AsyncMain 
    {
        // Asynchronous method puts the thread id here.
        private static int threadId;

        static void Main() {
            // Create an instance of the test class.
            AsyncDemo ad = new AsyncDemo();

            // Create the delegate.
            AsyncMethodCaller caller = new AsyncMethodCaller(ad.TestMethod);
       
            // Initiate the asychronous call.  Include an AsyncCallback
            // delegate representing the callback method, and the data
            // needed to call EndInvoke.
            IAsyncResult result = caller.BeginInvoke(3000,
                out threadId, 
                new AsyncCallback(CallbackMethod),
                caller );

            Console.WriteLine("Press Enter to close application.");
            Console.ReadLine();
        }
        
        // Callback method must have the same signature as the
        // AsyncCallback delegate.
        static void CallbackMethod(IAsyncResult ar) 
        {
            // Retrieve the delegate.
            AsyncMethodCaller caller = (AsyncMethodCaller) ar.AsyncState;

            // Call EndInvoke to retrieve the results.
            string returnValue = caller.EndInvoke(out threadId, ar);

            Console.WriteLine("The call executed on thread {0}, with return value \"{1}\".",
                threadId, returnValue);
        }
    }
}

See Also

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