Defining a Class

Defining a Class

When you define a class, you describe the characteristics and behavior of objects of that type. In C#, you describe characteristics with member fields.

    class Dog
     private int weight; // member field
     private String name; // member field

Member fields are used to hold each object's state. For example, the state of the Dog is defined by its current weight and name. The state of an Employee might be defined by (among other things) her current salary, management level, and performance rating. Chapter 8 includes a full discussion of member fields .

You define the behavior of your new type with methods. Methods contain code to perform an action:

    class Dog
     private int weight;
     private String name;
     public void Bark( )    // member method
     // code here to bark

The keywords public and private are known as access modifiers, which are used to specify what methods of which classes can access particular members. For instance, public members can be called from methods in any class, while private members are visible only to the methods of the class defining the member. Thus, objects of any class can call Bark on an instance of Dog, but only methods of the Dog class have access to the weight and name of a Dog. Access modifiers are discussed in Chapter 8.

A class typically defines a number of methods to do the work of that class. A Dog class might contain methods for barking, eating, napping, and so forth. An Employee class might contain methods for adjusting salary, submitting annual reviews, and evaluating performance objectives.

Methods can manipulate the state of the object by changing the values in member fields, or a method could interact with other objects of its own type or with objects of other types. This interaction among objects is crucial to object-oriented programming.

For example, a method in Dog might change the state of the Dog (for example, a Feed method might change the Dog's weight), interact with other Dogs (Bark and Sniff), or interact with People (BegForFood). A Product object might interact with a Customer object, and a Video object might interact with an EditingWindow object.

Designing a good C# program is not unlike forming a good team; you look for playersor objects, in the case of a programwith different skills to whom you can delegate the various tasks you must accomplish. Those players cooperate with one another to get the job done.

In a good object-oriented program, you will design objects that represent things in your problem domain. You will then divide the work of the program among your objects, assigning responsibility to objects based on their ability.

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