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Strategy Pattern-C#

, 23 May 2014 CPOL
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Explaining the strategy pattern using C#

Introduction

Strategy pattern can be categorized as behavioral design pattern and is one of my favorite patterns just because it is simple and powerful. It can be considered in a kind of scenario where your object would perform a common action and that too selecting from various options available.

Background

Let’s understand the widely accepted definition of strategy pattern which you can find from various resources on net. “Strategy pattern defines a family of algorithms, encapsulates each one of them and makes them interchangeable.” Confused with the definition? let’s try to break it in three parts:-

1) Family of Algorithms- The definition says that the pattern defines the family of algorithms- it means we have functionality (in these algorithms) which will do the same common thing for our object, but in different ways.

2) Encapsulate each one of them- The pattern would force you to place your algorithms in different classes (encapsulate them). Doing so would help us in selecting the appropriate algorithm for our object.

3) Make them interchangeable- The beauty with strategy pattern is we can select at run time which algorithm we should apply to our object and can replace them with one another

Using the code

Let’s go through an example which would use the strategy pattern and would make everything clear. Suppose you have to write an application which could sort different types of objects, that means it can sort the scholar numbers of students in the university, the ticket numbers of railway passengers or even more the names of all people residing in a county.

The problem seems to be very simple and involves just one thing for all of them i.e. sorting. Now let’s try to recollect from our school days when our professors were teaching us algorithm designs. We were taught that the complexity of different sorting algorithms is a relative term- meaning it is based on the number and type of elements to be sorted. Not going into anymore algorithm science, suppose we have formulated (be it correct or wrong) that quick sort would be good for sorting names of county residents, the merge sort would be suitable for scholar numbers (ints/doubles) and heap sort would be best for sorting the railway passengers. This is the optimum scenario where we can apply the strategy pattern. We will be encapsulating all our algorithms and would select at runtime that which one we would be using. Have a look at the code below(In C# and can be applied in similar way to any oops supporting language) which would tell you how we are implementing strategy.

class Program
{
   static void Main(string[] args)
   {
      ISortingStrategy sortingStrategy = null;

      //Sorting the countyResidents
      List<string> countyResidents = new List<string>{ "ad","ac", "ax", "zw" };
      sortingStrategy = GetSortingOption(ObjectToSort.CountyResidents);
      sortingStrategy.Sort(countyResidents);

      //Sorting student numbers

      List<int> studentNumbers = new List<int>{ 123,678,543,  189};
      sortingStrategy = GetSortingOption(ObjectToSort.StudentNumber);
      sortingStrategy.Sort(studentNumbers);
      
      
      //Sorting railway passengers      
      List<string> railwayPassengers = new List<string> { "A21", "Z2", "F3", "G43" };
      sortingStrategy = GetSortingOption(ObjectToSort.RailwayPassengers);
      sortingStrategy.Sort(railwayPassengers);

    }

   private static ISortingStrategy GetSortingOption(ObjectToSort objectToSort)
   {
      ISortingStrategy sortingStrategy = null;

      switch (objectToSort)
      {
         case ObjectToSort.StudentNumber:
              sortingStrategy = new MergeSort();              
              break;
         case ObjectToSort.RailwayPassengers:
              sortingStrategy = new HeapSort();
              break;
         case ObjectToSort.CountyResidents:
              sortingStrategy = new QuickSort();
              break;
         default:
                    break;
      }
      return sortingStrategy;
   }
}
 

// Enum for different types of sortings.

public enum ObjectToSort
{
   StudentNumber,
   RailwayPassengers,
   CountyResidents
}

// Interface for the sorting strategy.

public interface ISortingStrategy 
{
   void Sort<T>(List<T> dataToBeSorted);
}

// Algorithm-Quicksort.

public class QuickSort : ISortingStrategy
{
   #region ISortingStrategy Members
      public void Sort<T>(List<T> dataToBeSorted)
      {
        //Logic for quick sort
      }
   #endregion
}

// Algorithm-Mergesort.

public class MergeSort : ISortingStrategy
{
   #region ISortingStrategy Members
      public void Sort<T>(List<T> dataToBeSorted)
      {
         //Logic for Merge sort
      }
   #endregion
}

// Algorithm-Heapsort.

public class HeapSort : ISortingStrategy
{
   #region ISortingStrategy Members
      public void Sort<T>(List<T> dataToBeSorted)
      {
         //Logic for Heap sort
      }
   #endregion
}

What a beauty! Our ISortingStrategy object would decide which algorithm to call. The great thing is suppose we realize that one of our algorithm is flawed we simply need to change the sorting algorithm reference in GetSortingOption method and in doing so we need not to change anything in the client code ( i.e the Program class). We can even decide the algorithm at runtime. Suppose during the peak hours when the number of railway passengers increase we can have another customized algorithm (say HugeDataSorting) in place. Based on the number of passengers the ISortingStrategy object would keep changing the reference to HeapSort or HugeDataSorting.

Points of Interest

Having learned strategy pattern think of applying this at places where you feel your objects needs to perform a similar action but that action has difference in the way it is being performed. Closing this with another practical example. Think of applying this pattern for a discounting system, which calculates a discount for different customers. So this system would decide at run time which discounting method to call based on type of customer.

History

Version 1- (23/05/2014)

License

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

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About the Author

Rahul Dhammy
Team Leader
United States United States
I am a software developer by profession presently working as an Lead Software Engineer in New York City. My passion is technology. I like to learn new things every day and improve my skills in terms of technology. I feel software development can be made very interesting if we inculcate the habit of "beautiful thinking".

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionVery helpful article PinmemberMember 110714289-Sep-14 22:49 
AnswerRe: Very helpful article PinprofessionalRahul Dhammy10-Sep-14 19:55 
QuestionStrategy Pattern Vs Factory Pattern PinmemberMember 1054417227-May-14 0:02 
AnswerRe: Strategy Pattern Vs Factory Pattern PinprofessionalRahul Dhammy27-May-14 0:24 
GeneralRe: Strategy Pattern Vs Factory Pattern PinmemberMember 1054417227-May-14 22:45 
Questionvery well explained on the strategy pattern. Well done... Pinmemberdotnetbuzzzzzzz25-May-14 21:51 
AnswerRe: very well explained on the strategy pattern. Well done... PinprofessionalRahul Dhammy27-May-14 0:25 
QuestionNot an article PinprofessionalRage23-May-14 2:12 

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