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IObservable<T> Interface

Defines a provider for push-based notification.

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

public interface IObservable<out T>

Type Parameters

out T

The object that provides notification information.

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

The IObservable<T> type exposes the following members.

  NameDescription
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibrarySupported in .NET for Windows Store appsSubscribeNotifies the provider that an observer is to receive notifications.
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The IObserver<T> and IObservable<T> interfaces provide a generalized mechanism for push-based notification, also known as the observer design pattern. The IObservable<T> interface represents the class that sends notifications (the provider); the IObserver<T> interface represents the class that receives them (the observer). T represents the class that provides the notification information. In some push-based notifications, the IObserver<T> implementation and T can represent the same type.

The provider must implement a single method, Subscribe, that indicates that an observer wants to receive push-based notifications. Callers to the method pass an instance of the observer. The method returns an IDisposable implementation that enables observers to cancel notifications at any time before the provider has stopped sending them.

At any given time, a given provider may have zero, one, or multiple observers. The provider is responsible for storing references to observers and ensuring that they are valid before it sends notifications. The IObservable<T> interface does not make any assumptions about the number of observers or the order in which notifications are sent.

The provider sends the following three kinds of notifications to the observer by calling IObserver<T> methods:

  • The current data. The provider can call the IObserver<T>.OnNext method to pass the observer a T object that has current data, changed data, or fresh data.

  • An error condition. The provider can call the IObserver<T>.OnError method to notify the observer that some error condition has occurred.

  • No further data. The provider can call the IObserver<T>.OnCompleted method to notify the observer that it has finished sending notifications.

The following example illustrates the observer design pattern. It defines a Location class that contains latitude and longitude information.

public struct Location
{
   double lat, lon;

   public Location(double latitude, double longitude)
   {
      this.lat = latitude;
      this.lon = longitude;
   }

   public double Latitude
   { get { return this.lat; } }

   public double Longitude
   { get { return this.lon; } }
}

The LocationTracker class provides the IObservable<T> implementation. Its TrackLocation method is passed a nullable Location object that contains the latitude and longitude data. If the Location value is not null, the TrackLocation method calls the OnNext method of each observer.

public class LocationTracker : IObservable<Location>
{
   public LocationTracker()
   {
      observers = new List<IObserver<Location>>();
   }

   private List<IObserver<Location>> observers;

   public IDisposable Subscribe(IObserver<Location> observer) 
   {
      if (! observers.Contains(observer)) 
         observers.Add(observer);
      return new Unsubscriber(observers, observer);
   }

   private class Unsubscriber : IDisposable
   {
      private List<IObserver<Location>>_observers;
      private IObserver<Location> _observer;

      public Unsubscriber(List<IObserver<Location>> observers, IObserver<Location> observer)
      {
         this._observers = observers;
         this._observer = observer;
      }

      public void Dispose()
      {
         if (_observer != null && _observers.Contains(_observer))
            _observers.Remove(_observer);
      }
   }

   public void TrackLocation(Nullable<Location> loc)
   {
      foreach (var observer in observers) {
         if (! loc.HasValue)
            observer.OnError(new LocationUnknownException());
         else
            observer.OnNext(loc.Value);
      }
   }

   public void EndTransmission()
   {
      foreach (var observer in observers.ToArray())
         if (observers.Contains(observer))
            observer.OnCompleted();

      observers.Clear();
   }
}

If the Location value is null, the TrackLocation method instantiates a LocationNotFoundException object, which is shown in the following example. It then calls each observer's OnError method and passes it the LocationNotFoundException object. Note that LocationNotFoundException derives from Exception, but does not add any new members.

public class LocationUnknownException : Exception
{
   internal LocationUnknownException() 
   { }
}

Observers register to receive notifications from a TrackLocation object by calling its IObservable<T>.Subscribe method, which assigns a reference to the observer object to a private generic List<T> object. The method returns an Unsubscriber object, which is an IDisposable implementation that enables observers to stop receiving notifications. The LocationTracker class also includes an EndTransmission method. When no further location data is available, the method calls each observer's OnCompleted method and then clears the internal list of observers.

In this example, the LocationReporter class provides the IObserver<T> implementation. It displays information about the current location to the console. Its constructor includes a name parameter, which enables the LocationReporter instance to identify itself in its string output. It also includes a Subscribe method, which wraps a call to the provider's Subscribe method. This allows the method to assign the returned IDisposable reference to a private variable. The LocationReporter class also includes an Unsubscribe method, which calls the IDisposable.Dispose method of the object that is returned by the IObservable<T>.Subscribe method. The following code defines the LocationReporter class.

using System;

public class LocationReporter : IObserver<Location>
{
   private IDisposable unsubscriber;
   private string instName;

   public LocationReporter(string name)
   {
      this.instName = name;
   }

   public string Name
   {  get{ return this.instName; } }

   public virtual void Subscribe(IObservable<Location> provider)
   {
      if (provider != null) 
         unsubscriber = provider.Subscribe(this);
   }

   public virtual void OnCompleted()
   {
      Console.WriteLine("The Location Tracker has completed transmitting data to {0}.", this.Name);
      this.Unsubscribe();
   }

   public virtual void OnError(Exception e)
   {
      Console.WriteLine("{0}: The location cannot be determined.", this.Name);
   }

   public virtual void OnNext(Location value)
   {
      Console.WriteLine("{2}: The current location is {0}, {1}", value.Latitude, value.Longitude, this.Name);
   }

   public virtual void Unsubscribe()
   {
      unsubscriber.Dispose();
   }
}

The following code then instantiates the provider and the observer.

using System;

class Program
{
   static void Main(string[] args)
   {
      // Define a provider and two observers.
      LocationTracker provider = new LocationTracker();
      LocationReporter reporter1 = new LocationReporter("FixedGPS");
      reporter1.Subscribe(provider);
      LocationReporter reporter2 = new LocationReporter("MobileGPS");
      reporter2.Subscribe(provider);

      provider.TrackLocation(new Location(47.6456, -122.1312));
      reporter1.Unsubscribe();
      provider.TrackLocation(new Location(47.6677, -122.1199));
      provider.TrackLocation(null);
      provider.EndTransmission();
   }
}
// The example displays output similar to the following: 
//      FixedGPS: The current location is 47.6456, -122.1312 
//      MobileGPS: The current location is 47.6456, -122.1312 
//      MobileGPS: The current location is 47.6677, -122.1199 
//      MobileGPS: The location cannot be determined. 
//      The Location Tracker has completed transmitting data to MobileGPS.

.NET Framework

Supported in: 4.5.2, 4.5.1, 4.5, 4

.NET Framework Client Profile

Supported in: 4

Portable Class Library

Supported in: Portable Class Library

.NET for Windows Store apps

Supported in: Windows 8

.NET for Windows Phone apps

Supported in: Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Silverlight 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 (Server Core Role not supported), Windows Server 2008 R2 (Server Core Role supported with SP1 or later; Itanium not supported)

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

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