Deciding When and Where to Use Generics

Deciding When and Where to Use Generics


You want to use generic types in a new project or convert nongeneric types in an existing project to their generic equivalent. However, you do not really know why you would want to do this, and you do not know which nongeneric types should be converted to be generic.


In deciding when and where to use generic types, you need to consider several things:

  • Will your type contain or be operating on various unspecified data types (e.g., a collection type)? If so, creating a generic type will offer several benefits over creating a nongeneric type. If your type will operate on only a single specific type, then you may not need to create a generic type.

  • If your type will be operating on value types, so that boxing and unboxing operations will occur, you should consider using generics to prevent the boxing and unboxing operations.

  • The stronger type checking associated with generics will aid in finding errors sooner (i.e., during compile time as opposed to runtime), thus shortening your bug-fixing cycle.

  • Is your code suffering from "code bloat," with you writing multiple classes to handle different data types on which they operate (e.g., a specialized ArrayList that stores only StreamReaders and another that stores only StreamWriters)? It is easier to write the code once and have it just work for each of the data types it operates on.

  • Generics allow for greater clarity of code. By eliminating code bloat and forcing stronger type checking on your types, your code will be easier to read and understand.


In most cases your code will benefit from using a generic type. Generics allow for more efficient code reuse, faster performance, stronger type checking, and easier-to-read code.

See Also

See the "Generics Overview" and "Benefits of Generics" topics in the MSDN documentation.

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