Both these words play a very important role in defining constants in an application (C#). At first sight, it seems like both
are same but that it is not he case. Let's understand them one by one to get a clear picture.
const itself means it will never change. If you are
specifying any variable as a
const that means the value of the
variable is never going to change inside the application.
How we declare a constant is, by using the
Basically, one can define
const only on primitive types like
double, etc. One should make sure that the value should be assigned at the
time of declaration itself and another important thing is whatever value is set
const variable, that value will be set at the compile time itself
and this value will get stored inside a .dll or an .exe. In later part, I'll
show you how we can see this value inside a DLL or an exe using an Ildasm.
Sample code to define a
const variable is as:
Another keyword is
readonly word also
sounds like a const but for the readonly variable you cannot change the value once it is
assigned. Means it is restricting us to a value assignment. Sample code to
readonly is as follows:
Combined sample code with bit more depth:
Please note, readonly variables can be assigned either at the time of
declaration or can be assigned value inside a constructor. These two are the
only places, where one can assign the value of a readonly ariable. For
readonly, value assignment is done at run-time and there is no
difference between a regular variable and a readonly variable in terms of memory allocation.
In the above code, let’s change the values of the
age variables inside the
Main function as:
Now the question is, if both have the same qualities then what’s the point in creating two different things. Well, this is not the case because
const is a compile
time constant and
readonly is a run-time constant. Most of us might be aware that the value of compile-time constants are set at the time of
declaration itself and this can be seen in ildasm also. Coming to run-time constants, these are set at run-time and that’s the reason that it is not
mandatory to assign readonly variables at the time of declaration itself as one can assign them in a constructor also as:
When to use what?
If the value is going to fix throughout the program and is never going to change in any circumstances, then one should choose const.
But on the other hand, if assignment of initial value depends on some
parameter/conditions and value needs to be decide at run-time, then one can opt
for readonly and based on that initial value of a readonly variable
can be set. But please note, once the value is assigned, further modification
is not at all possible till the lifetime of the application.
Now, let's jump quickly on ildasm to prove the value assignment for both
As I told earlier, that const are compile time constants and are assigned at the time of declaration itself. So, same can be proved via
ildasm using IL code. In ildasm, one can see the value of const variable in hexa but for readonly variable, there is no such value assigned in PI variable in ildasm.
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