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Restricting Accessor Accessibility (C# Programming Guide)

The get and set portions of a property or indexer are called accessors. By default these accessors have the same visibility, or access level: that of the property or indexer to which they belong. For more information, see accessibility levels. However, it is sometimes useful to restrict access to one of these accessors. Typically, this involves restricting the accessibility of the set accessor, while keeping the get accessor publicly accessible. For example:

private string name = "Hello";

public string Name
{
    get
    {
        return name;
    }
    protected set
    {
        name = value;
    }
}

In this example, a property called Name defines a get and set accessor. The get accessor receives the accessibility level of the property itself, public in this case, while the set accessor is explicitly restricted by applying the protected access modifier to the accessor itself.

Using the accessor modifiers on properties or indexers is subject to these conditions:

  • You cannot use accessor modifiers on an interface or an explicit interface member implementation.

  • You can use accessor modifiers only if the property or indexer has both set and get accessors. In this case, the modifier is permitted on one only of the two accessors.

  • If the property or indexer has an override modifier, the accessor modifier must match the accessor of the overridden accessor, if any.

  • The accessibility level on the accessor must be more restrictive than the accessibility level on the property or indexer itself.

When you override a property or indexer, the overridden accessors must be accessible to the overriding code. Also, the accessibility level of both the property/indexer, and that of the accessors must match the corresponding overridden property/indexer and the accessors. For example:

public class Parent
{
    public virtual int TestProperty
    {
        // Notice the accessor accessibility level. 
        protected set { }

        // No access modifier is used here. 
        get { return 0; }
    }
}
public class Kid : Parent
{
    public override int TestProperty
    {
        // Use the same accessibility level as in the overridden accessor. 
        protected set { }

        // Cannot use access modifier here. 
        get { return 0; }
    }
}

When you use an accessor to implement an interface, the accessor may not have an access modifier. However, if you implement the interface using one accessor, such as get, the other accessor can have an access modifier, as in the following example:

public interface ISomeInterface
{
    int TestProperty
    {
        // No access modifier allowed here 
        // because this is an interface. 
        get;
    }
}

public class TestClass : ISomeInterface
{
    public int TestProperty
    {
        // Cannot use access modifier here because 
        // this is an interface implementation. 
        get { return 10; }

        // Interface property does not have set accessor, 
        // so access modifier is allowed. 
        protected set { }
    }
}

If you use an access modifier on the accessor, the accessibility domain of the accessor is determined by this modifier.

If you did not use an access modifier on the accessor, the accessibility domain of the accessor is determined by the accessibility level of the property or indexer.

The following example contains three classes, BaseClass, DerivedClass, and MainClass. There are two properties on the BaseClass, Name and Id on both classes. The example demonstrates how the property Id on DerivedClass can be hidden by the property Id on BaseClass when you use a restrictive access modifier such as protected or private. Therefore, when you assign values to this property, the property on the BaseClass class is called instead. Replacing the access modifier by public will make the property accessible.

The example also demonstrates that a restrictive access modifier, such as private or protected, on the set accessor of the Name property in DerivedClass prevents access to the accessor and generates an error when you assign to it.

public class BaseClass
{
    private string name = "Name-BaseClass";
    private string id = "ID-BaseClass";

    public string Name
    {
        get { return name; }
        set { }
    }

    public string Id
    {
        get { return id; }
        set { }
    }
}

public class DerivedClass : BaseClass
{
    private string name = "Name-DerivedClass";
    private string id = "ID-DerivedClass";

    new public string Name
    {
        get
        {
            return name;
        }

        // Using "protected" would make the set accessor not accessible. 
        set
        {
            name = value;
        }
    }

    // Using private on the following property hides it in the Main Class. 
    // Any assignment to the property will use Id in BaseClass. 
    new private string Id
    {
        get
        {
            return id;
        }
        set
        {
            id = value;
        }
    }
}

class MainClass
{
    static void Main()
    {
        BaseClass b1 = new BaseClass();
        DerivedClass d1 = new DerivedClass();

        b1.Name = "Mary";
        d1.Name = "John";

        b1.Id = "Mary123";
        d1.Id = "John123";  // The BaseClass.Id property is called.

        System.Console.WriteLine("Base: {0}, {1}", b1.Name, b1.Id);
        System.Console.WriteLine("Derived: {0}, {1}", d1.Name, d1.Id);

        // Keep the console window open in debug mode.
        System.Console.WriteLine("Press any key to exit.");
        System.Console.ReadKey();
    }
}
/* Output:
    Base: Name-BaseClass, ID-BaseClass
    Derived: John, ID-BaseClass
*/

Notice that if you replace the declaration new private string Id by new public string Id, you get the output:

Name and ID in the base class: Name-BaseClass, ID-BaseClass

Name and ID in the derived class: John, John123

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