Fancy Ruby stuff done in C#, part 1: extension methods

Ruby is a very dynamic language, and you are able to do a lot of stuff with class extensions, meta programming, lambda functions and so forth. When I first experienced Ruby back in 2006 I was very impressed with some of the stuff possible – things that IMHO made C# look stale and static.

Not so any more. The recent updates to C# in 2008 (with .NET 3.5) and lately with .NET 4.0 has added functionality, that enables a more dynamic approach to C# programming, while still keeping the safety net of a strongly typed compiled language.

This is the first part of a small series, where I will take some of the goodies from Ruby and explain how to do it in C#.

Extending classes without subclassing

Most people a first exposed to Ruby through the web framework Ruby on Rails (Rails for short). Rails does a number of cool tricks. One of them is in the ActiveSupport part where the Integer class is extended with some extra methods called days(), weeks(), months(), and years(). This enables some “wow” effects when first looking at Rails code. You are able to do stuff like this:

short_period = 10.days
  => returns a Fixnum with value 864.000 (10 days in seconds)

10.days.to_s
  => returns the string "10 days"

long_period = 3.weeks
  => returns a Fixnum with value 1.814.400 (21 days in seconds)

And even create dates like this

realistic_deadline = 2.weeks.from_now

original_deadline = 5.days.ago

Doing this in C#

This stuff is not originally built into Ruby. The authors of Rails extended the Fixnum class with methods these methods. This is also doable in C#:

public static class IntegerExtensions
{
    public static Days Days(this int days)
        { return new Days(days); }
    public static Weeks Weeks(this int weeks)
        { return new Weeks(weeks); }
    public static Months Months(this int months)
        { return new Months(months); }
}

This introduces 3 new classes, that I will create now:

public class Days
{
    private int days;

    public Days(int d)
        { days = d; }

    public override string ToString()
        { return string.Format("{0} days", days); }

    public DateTime Ago()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddDays(-days); }

    public DateTime FromNow()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddDays(days); }
}

public class Weeks
{
    private int weeks;

    public Weeks(int w)
        { weeks = w; }

    public override string ToString()
        { return string.Format("{0} weeks", weeks); }

    public DateTime Ago()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddDays(-7 * weeks); }

    public DateTime FromNow()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddDays(7 * weeks); }
}

public class Months
{
    private int months;

    public Months(int m)
        { months = m; }

    public override string ToString()
        { return string.Format("{0} months", months); }

    public DateTime Ago()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddMonths(-months); }

    public DateTime FromNow()
        { return DateTime.Today.AddMonths(months); }
}

With these into place I can do this

Console.WriteLine(10.Days().ToString());
Console.WriteLine("{0}", 10.Days().Ago());
Console.WriteLine("{0}", 10.Days().FromNow());

DateTime originalDeadline = 2.Weeks().Ago();

DateTime realisticDeadline = 3.Months().FromNow();

Pretty neat, huh? If only we could loose the parantheses when calling the methods, but I guess we can’t have all. :-)

Continue to part 2.

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