Was this page helpful?
Your feedback about this content is important. Let us know what you think.
Additional feedback?
1500 characters remaining
Export (0) Print
Expand All
Important This document may not represent best practices for current development, links to downloads and other resources may no longer be valid. Current recommended version can be found here.

When to Use Delegates Instead of Interfaces (C# Programming Guide)

Both delegates and interfaces allow a class designer to separate type declarations and implementation. A given interface can be inherited and implemented by any class or struct; a delegate can created for a method on any class, as long as the method fits the method signature for the delegate. An interface reference or a delegate can be used by an object with no knowledge of the class that implements the interface or delegate method. Given these similarities, when should a class designer use a delegate and when should they use an interface?

Use a delegate when:

  • An eventing design pattern is used.

  • It is desirable to encapsulate a static method.

  • The caller has no need access other properties, methods, or interfaces on the object implementing the method.

  • Easy composition is desired.

  • A class may need more than one implementation of the method.

Use an interface when:

  • There are a group of related methods that may be called.

  • A class only needs one implementation of the method.

  • The class using the interface will want to cast that interface to other interface or class types.

  • The method being implemented is linked to the type or identity of the class: for example, comparison methods.

One good example of using a single-method interface instead of a delegate is IComparable or IComparable. IComparable declares the CompareTo method, which returns an integer specifying a less than, equal to, or greater than relationship between two objects of the same type. IComparable can be used as the basis of a sort algorithm, and while using a delegate comparison method as the basis of a sort algorithm would be valid, it is not ideal. Because the ability to compare belongs to the class, and the comparison algorithm doesn’t change at run-time, a single-method interface is ideal.

Community Additions

ADD
Show:
© 2015 Microsoft