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Forcing Derived type to apply custom attribute

, 28 Jan 2013 CPOL
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Introduction This article illustrates options to force attributes on derived types.


This article illustrates options to force attributes on derived types.


In .NET eco system, Attributes are not inheritable. This means any attribute applied on base class are not applied/inherited on derived class. This article looks at different options available to force the attributes on derived types at compile time and at run time.


There are two approaches (with different intentions)

1. Forcing at run time : The base class constructor code will check for the presence of attribute and throw error runtime if attribute is not changed.

2. Forcing at compile time: Using ObsoleteAttribute, the Mandatory attribute will be reflected at compile time and will raise the error. This information is taken from this question on

Using the Code

Forcing attribute at run time

  1. Creating a Custom Attribute
    class CustomAttribute : System.Attribute { }  
  2. In the constructor of base check the attribute
     publicBase() { CheckCustomAttribute(); } 
  3. If class type is base, skip the attribute check
     if (!(this.GetType() == typeof(Base))) 
  4. If class is derived type, check whether attribute exists or not.
    var attr = System.Attribute.GetCustomAttributes(
                            .SingleOrDefault(t => typeof(CustomAttribute)
  5. The IsAssignableFrom take care of any attribute that derives from CustomAttribute.

  6. Throw error is attribute does not exist.
    if (attr == null)
         throw new Exception(String.Format(
                             "Derived class {0} doesnot apply {1} attribute",

Forcing attribute at compile time

There is a special attribute ObsoleteAttribute. It is sealed so cannot be subclassed. The C# compiler has special handling for this attribute.

However to use Obsolete attribute rather awkwardly, It can be applied to a custom attribute. Then applying that custom attribute (on class/structs) will force compiler to show error

  1. Create a custom attribute
    public class MandatoryAttribute : Attribute{}
  2. Decorate the custom attribute with ObsoleteAttribute
    [Obsolete("MandatoryAttribute is required", true)]
    public class MandatoryAttribute : Attribute{}


  3. Apply Custom attribute to class/member to get notification (as compile time error) on any type
    public class Base
     public void SayHello() {}

Uncommenting MandatoryAttribute raises awkard compile time error.

This is awkawrd because the error message is like

“MandatoryAttribute’ is obsolete: ‘MandatoryAttribute is required’    <filename>    <projectname>’”

Download source code from src link for this post.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 1 PinmemberMatej Hlatky29-Jan-13 4:56 
QuestionI don't get this PinmemberJohn Brett29-Jan-13 2:30 

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