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Comparison<T> Delegate

Updated: May 2012

Represents the method that compares two objects of the same type.

Namespace:  System
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

public delegate int Comparison<in T>(
	T x,
	T y
)

Type Parameters

in T

The type of the objects to compare.

This type parameter is contravariant. That is, you can use either the type you specified or any type that is less derived. For more information about covariance and contravariance, see Covariance and Contravariance in Generics.

Parameters

x
Type: T
The first object to compare.
y
Type: T
The second object to compare.

Return Value

Type: System.Int32
A signed integer that indicates the relative values of x and y, as shown in the following table.

Value

Meaning

Less than 0

x is less than y.

0

x equals y.

Greater than 0

x is greater than y.

This delegate is used by the Sort<T>(T[], Comparison<T>) method overload of the Array class and the Sort(Comparison<T>) method overload of the List<T> class to sort the elements of an array or list.

The following code example demonstrates the use of the Comparison<T> delegate with the Sort(Comparison<T>) method overload.

The code example defines an alternative comparison method for strings, named CompareDinosByLength. This method works as follows: First, the comparands are tested for null, and a null reference is treated as less than a non-null. Second, the string lengths are compared, and the longer string is deemed to be greater. Third, if the lengths are equal, ordinary string comparison is used.

A List<T> of strings is created and populated with four strings, in no particular order. The list also includes an empty string and a null reference. The list is displayed, sorted using a Comparison<T> generic delegate representing the CompareDinosByLength method, and displayed again.


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;

public class Example
{
    private static int CompareDinosByLength(string x, string y)
    {
        if (x == null)
        {
            if (y == null)
            {
                // If x is null and y is null, they're
                // equal. 
                return 0;
            }
            else
            {
                // If x is null and y is not null, y
                // is greater. 
                return -1;
            }
        }
        else
        {
            // If x is not null...
            //
            if (y == null)
                // ...and y is null, x is greater.
            {
                return 1;
            }
            else
            {
                // ...and y is not null, compare the 
                // lengths of the two strings.
                //
                int retval = x.Length.CompareTo(y.Length);

                if (retval != 0)
                {
                    // If the strings are not of equal length,
                    // the longer string is greater.
                    //
                    return retval;
                }
                else
                {
                    // If the strings are of equal length,
                    // sort them with ordinary string comparison.
                    //
                    return x.CompareTo(y);
                }
            }
        }
    }

    public static void Main()
    {
        List<string> dinosaurs = new List<string>();
        dinosaurs.Add("Pachycephalosaurus");
        dinosaurs.Add("Amargasaurus");
        dinosaurs.Add("");
        dinosaurs.Add(null);
        dinosaurs.Add("Mamenchisaurus");
        dinosaurs.Add("Deinonychus");
        Display(dinosaurs);

        Console.WriteLine("\nSort with generic Comparison<string> delegate:");
        dinosaurs.Sort(CompareDinosByLength);
        Display(dinosaurs);

    }

    private static void Display(List<string> list)
    {
        Console.WriteLine();
        foreach( string s in list )
        {
            if (s == null)
                Console.WriteLine("(null)");
            else
                Console.WriteLine("\"{0}\"", s);
        }
    }
}

/* This code example produces the following output:

"Pachycephalosaurus"
"Amargasaurus"
""
(null)
"Mamenchisaurus"
"Deinonychus"

Sort with generic Comparison<string> delegate:

(null)
""
"Deinonychus"
"Amargasaurus"
"Mamenchisaurus"
"Pachycephalosaurus"
 */


The following example uses the Comparison<T> delegate to sort the elements of a collection of CityInfo objects. CityInfo is an application-defined class that contains information about a city and its population. The example defines three methods, CompareByName, CompareByPopulation, and CompareByNames, that offer three different ways of ordering the CityInfo objects. Each method is assigned to the comparison argument of the Array.Sort<T>(T[], Comparison<T>) method.


using System;

public class CityInfo
{
   string cityName;
   string countryName;
   int pop2010;

   public CityInfo(string name, string country, int pop2010)
   {
      this.cityName = name;
      this.countryName = country;
      this.pop2010 = pop2010;
   }

   public string City
   { get { return this.cityName; } } 

   public string Country
   { get { return this.countryName; } }

   public int Population
   { get { return this.pop2010; } }

   public static int CompareByName(CityInfo city1, CityInfo city2)
   { 
      return String.Compare(city1.City, city2.City);
   }

   public static int CompareByPopulation(CityInfo city1, CityInfo city2)
   {
      return city1.Population.CompareTo(city2.Population);
   }

   public static int CompareByNames(CityInfo city1, CityInfo city2)
   {
      return String.Compare(city1.Country + city1.City, city2.Country + city2.City);
   }      
}

public class Example
{
   public static void Main()
   {
      CityInfo NYC = new CityInfo("New York City", "United States of America", 8175133 );
      CityInfo Det = new CityInfo("Detroit", "United States of America", 713777);
      CityInfo Paris = new CityInfo("Paris", "France",  2193031);
      CityInfo[] cities = { NYC, Det, Paris };
      // Display ordered array.
      DisplayArray(cities);

      // Sort array by city name.
      Array.Sort(cities, CityInfo.CompareByName);
      DisplayArray(cities);

      // Sort array by population.
      Array.Sort(cities, CityInfo.CompareByPopulation);
      DisplayArray(cities);

      // Sort array by country + city name.
      Array.Sort(cities, CityInfo.CompareByNames);
      DisplayArray(cities);
   }

   private static void DisplayArray(CityInfo[] cities)
   {
      Console.WriteLine("{0,-20} {1,-25} {2,10}", "City", "Country", "Population");
      foreach (var city in cities)
         Console.WriteLine("{0,-20} {1,-25} {2,10:N0}", city.City, 
                           city.Country, city.Population);

      Console.WriteLine();
   }
}
// The example displays the following output:
//     City                 Country                   Population
//     New York City        United States of America   8,175,133
//     Detroit              United States of America     713,777
//     Paris                France                     2,193,031
//     
//     City                 Country                   Population
//     Detroit              United States of America     713,777
//     New York City        United States of America   8,175,133
//     Paris                France                     2,193,031
//     
//     City                 Country                   Population
//     Detroit              United States of America     713,777
//     Paris                France                     2,193,031
//     New York City        United States of America   8,175,133
//     
//     City                 Country                   Population
//     Paris                France                     2,193,031
//     Detroit              United States of America     713,777
//     New York City        United States of America   8,175,133


.NET Framework

Supported in: 4, 3.5, 3.0, 2.0

.NET Framework Client Profile

Supported in: 4, 3.5 SP1

Windows 7, Windows Vista SP1 or later, Windows XP SP3, Windows XP SP2 x64 Edition, Windows Server 2008 (Server Core not supported), Windows Server 2008 R2 (Server Core supported with SP1 or later), Windows Server 2003 SP2

The .NET Framework does not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see .NET Framework System Requirements.

Date

History

Reason

May 2012

Added a second example.

Customer feedback.

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