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3.1 Application startup

Visual Studio .NET 2003

An assembly that has an entry point is called an application. When an application is run, a new application domain is created. Several different instantiations of an application may exist on the same machine at the same time, and each has its own application domain.

An application domain enables application isolation by acting as a container for application state. An application domain acts as a container and boundary for the types defined in the application and the class libraries it uses. Types loaded into one application domain are distinct from the same type loaded into another application domain, and instances of objects are not directly shared between application domains. For instance, each application domain has its own copy of static variables for these types, and a static constructor for a type is run at most once per application domain. Implementations are free to provide implementation-specific policy or mechanisms for the creation and destruction of application domains.

Application startup occurs when the execution environment calls a designated method, which is referred to as the application's entry point. This entry point method is always named Main, and can have one of the following signatures:

static void Main() {...}
static void Main(string[] args) {...}
static int Main() {...}
static int Main(string[] args) {...}

As shown, the entry point may optionally return an int value. This return value is used in application termination (Section 3.2).

The entry point may optionally have one formal parameter. The parameter may have any name, but the type of the parameter must be string[]. If the formal parameter is present, the execution environment creates and passes a string[] argument containing the command-line arguments that were specified when the application was started. The string[] argument is never null, but it may have a length of zero if no command-line arguments were specified.

Since C# supports method overloading, a class or struct may contain multiple definitions of some method, provided each has a different signature. However, within a single program, no class or struct may contain more than one method called Main whose definition qualifies it to be used as an application entry point. Other overloaded versions of Main are permitted, however, provided they have more than one parameter, or their only parameter is other than type string[].

An application can be made up of multiple classes or structs. It is possible for more than one of these classes or structs to contain a method called Main whose definition qualifies it to be used as an application entry point. In such cases, an external mechanism (such as a command-line compiler option) must be used to select one of these Main methods as the entry point.

In C#, every method must be defined as a member of a class or struct. Ordinarily, the declared accessibility (Section 3.5.1) of a method is determined by the access modifiers (Section 10.2.3) specified in its declaration, and similarly the declared accessibility of a type is determined by the access modifiers specified in its declaration. In order for a given method of a given type to be callable, both the type and the member must be accessible. However, the application entry point is a special case. Specifically, the execution environment can access the application's entry point regardless of its declared accessibility and regardless of the declared accessibility of its enclosing type declarations.

In all other respects, entry point methods behave like those that are not entry points.