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Stream Class

Provides a generic view of a sequence of bytes.

For a list of all members of this type, see Stream Members.

         Derived classes

[Visual Basic]
MustInherit Public Class Stream
   Inherits MarshalByRefObject
   Implements IDisposable
public abstract class Stream : MarshalByRefObject, IDisposable
public __gc __abstract class Stream : public MarshalByRefObject,
abstract class Stream extends MarshalByRefObject implements

Thread Safety

Any public static (Shared in Visual Basic) members of this type are thread safe. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.


For an example of creating a file and writing text to a file, see Writing Text to a File. For an example of reading text from a file, see Reading Text from a File. For an example of reading from and writing to a binary file, see Reading and Writing to a Newly Created Data File.

Streams involve three fundamental operations:

  1. You can read from streams. Reading is the transfer of data from a stream into a data structure, such as an array of bytes.
  2. You can write to streams. Writing is the transfer of data from a data structure into a stream.
  3. Streams can support seeking. Seeking is the querying and modifying of the current position within a stream. Seek capability depends on the kind of backing store a stream has. For example, network streams have no unified concept of a current position, and therefore typically do not support seeking.

Stream is the abstract base class of all streams. A stream is an abstraction of a sequence of bytes, such as a file, an input/output device, an inter-process communication pipe, or a TCP/IP socket. The Stream class and its derived classes provide a generic view of these different types of input and output, isolating the programmer from the specific details of the operating system and the underlying devices.

Depending on the underlying data source or repository, streams might support only some of these capabilities. An application can query a stream for its capabilities by using the CanRead, CanWrite, and CanSeek properties.

The Read and Write methods read and write data in a variety of formats. For streams that support seeking, use the Seek and SetLength methods and the Position and Length properties to query and modify the current position and length of a stream.

Some stream implementations perform local buffering of the underlying data to improve performance. For such streams, the Flush method can be used to clear any internal buffers and ensure that all data has been written to the underlying data source or repository.

Calling Close on a Stream flushes any buffered data, essentially calling Flush for you. Close also releases operating system resources such as file handles, network connections, or memory used for any internal buffering. The BufferedStream class provides the capability of wrapping a buffered stream around another stream in order to improve read and write performance.

If you need a stream with no backing store (also known as a bit bucket), use Null.

Notes to Implementers:  When implementing a derived class of Stream, you must provide implementations for the Read and Write methods. The asynchronous methods BeginRead, EndRead, BeginWrite, and EndWrite are implemented through the synchronous methods Read and Write. Similarly, your implementations of Read and Write will work correctly with the asynchronous methods. The default implementations of ReadByte and WriteByte create a new single-element byte array, and then call your implementations of Read and Write. When deriving from Stream, if you have an internal byte buffer, it is strongly recommended that you override these methods to access your internal buffer for substantially better performance. You must also provide implementations of CanRead, CanSeek, CanWrite, Flush, Length, Position, Seek, and SetLength.


Namespace: System.IO

Platforms: Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 2000, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 family, .NET Compact Framework

Assembly: Mscorlib (in Mscorlib.dll)

See Also

Stream Members | System.IO Namespace | FileStream | MemoryStream | BufferedStream | Working with I/O | Reading Text from a File | Writing Text to a File

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