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Using Variance in Delegates (C# and Visual Basic)

When you assign a method to a delegate, covariance and contravariance provide flexibility for matching a delegate type with a method signature. Covariance permits a method to have return type that is more derived than that defined in the delegate. Contravariance permits a method that has parameter types that are less derived than those in the delegate type.

This example demonstrates how delegates can be used with methods that have return types that are derived from the return type in the delegate signature. The data type returned by DogsHandler is of type Dogs, which derives from the Mammals type that is defined in the delegate.

Class Mammals
End Class 

Class Dogs
    Inherits Mammals
End Class 
Class Test
    Public Delegate Function HandlerMethod() As Mammals
    Public Shared Function MammalsHandler() As Mammals
        Return Nothing 
    End Function 
    Public Shared Function DogsHandler() As Dogs
        Return Nothing 
    End Function 
    Sub Test()
        Dim handlerMammals As HandlerMethod = AddressOf MammalsHandler
        ' Covariance enables this assignment. 
        Dim handlerDogs As HandlerMethod = AddressOf DogsHandler
    End Sub 
End Class

This example demonstrates how delegates can be used with methods that have parameters of a type that are base types of the delegate signature parameter type. With contravariance, you can use one event handler instead of separate handlers. For example, you can create an event handler that accepts an EventArgs input parameter and use it with a Button.MouseClick event that sends a MouseEventArgs type as a parameter, and also with a TextBox.KeyDown event that sends a KeyEventArgs parameter.

' Event hander that accepts a parameter of the EventArgs type. 
Private Sub MultiHandler(ByVal sender As Object,
                         ByVal e As System.EventArgs)
    Label1.Text = DateTime.Now
End Sub 

Private Sub Form1_Load(ByVal sender As System.Object,
    ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles MyBase.Load

    ' You can use a method that has an EventArgs parameter, 
    ' although the event expects the KeyEventArgs parameter. 
    AddHandler Button1.KeyDown, AddressOf MultiHandler

    ' You can use the same method  
    ' for the event that expects the MouseEventArgs parameter. 
    AddHandler Button1.MouseClick, AddressOf MultiHandler
End Sub