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Creating String Representations of Custom Types
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The composite formatting feature relies on creating string representations of objects and values by calling the ToString method, which is defined in the System.Object class and inherited by all types. Unfortunately, the default implementation of this method simply returns the name of the type that contains it, which is pretty much useless. Listing 16-26 demonstrates the problem. Listing 16-26. Using the Default String Representations of a Custom Type using System; class Car { public string Manufacturer { get; set; } public string Model { get; set; } public string Color { get; set; } }
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CHAPTER 16 STRINGS AND CHARACTERS
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class Listing 26 { static void Main(string[] args) { // create two Car objects Car myVolvo = new Car() { Manufacturer = "Volvo", Model = "C30", Color = "Black" }; Car myFord = new Car() { Manufacturer = "Ford", Model = "Fiesta", Color = "Green" }; // write out the string representations of the Car objects Console.WriteLine("Volvo Object: {0}", myVolvo); Console.WriteLine("Ford Object: {0}", myFord); // wait for input before exiting Console.WriteLine("Press enter to finish"); Console.ReadLine(); } } In Listing 16-26, I create two objects from the Car class, representing a Volvo and a Ford. I then pass the objects to the Console.WriteLine method, using the composite formatting feature. The result of compiling and running Listing 16-26 is as follows: Volvo Object: Car Ford Object: Car Press enter to finish The string representation for both of these objects is the same, Car. If we want something more meaningful, then we need to create a custom implementation of the ToString method that knows about the details of our type. Listing 16-27 extends the Car class to include a more useful implementation of the ToString method. Listing 16-27. A Custom ToString Implementation using System; using System.Text; class Car { public string Manufacturer { get; set; } public string Model { get; set; } public string Color { get; set; } public override string ToString() { // use the composite formatting feature to create // a meaningful string representation of this object return string.Format("Manufacturer: {0}, Model: {1}, Color: {2}", Manufacturer, Model, Color); } }
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CHAPTER 16 STRINGS AND CHARACTERS
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class Listing 27 { static void Main(string[] args) { // create two Car objects Car myVolvo = new Car() { Manufacturer = "Volvo", Model = "C30", Color = "Black" }; Car myFord = new Car() { Manufacturer = "Ford", Model = "Fiesta", Color = "Green" }; // write out the string representations of the Car objects Console.WriteLine("Volvo Object: {0}", myVolvo); Console.WriteLine("Ford Object: {0}", myFord); // wait for input before exiting Console.WriteLine("Press enter to finish"); Console.ReadLine(); } } The overridden version of the ToString method in the Car class uses the composite formatting feature to create a meaningful representation of the object by using the object s property values. When we compile and run Listing 16-27, we get the following (more useful) results: Volvo Object: Manufacturer: Volvo, Model: C30, Color: Black Ford Object: Manufacturer: Ford, Model: Fiesta, Color: Green Press enter to finish Your custom types can override the ToString method to return string values that are meaningful in whatever way makes sense, but bear in mind that the ToString method is public, and so you should be careful if including the values of private fields and properties that you would not want exposed.
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Performing Custom Composite Formatting
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You can define custom format components and implement support for them using the System.IFormatProvider and System.ICustomFormatter interfaces. Let s imagine that we want to create a custom format component that we will use to format the string representation of Car objects. We want format component to be a combination of three characters: M to represent the manufacturer, O for the model, and C for the color. We want to be able to exclude one or more of the characters and be able to change the order of the characters to change the order of the information in the string representation of the Car. The first step is to create an implementation of the IFormatProvider interface. Listing 16-28 contains an implementation suitable for our example. Listing 16-28. An Implementation of the IFormatProvider Interface class CarFormatProvider : IFormatProvider { public object GetFormat(Type formatType) { if (formatType == typeof(System.ICustomFormatter)) {
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