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CuttingEdge.Conditions

, 23 Jun 2011 MIT
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A pre- and postcondition validation framework based on .NET 3.5 extension methods

Introduction

CuttingEdge.Conditions is a library that helps developers to write pre- and postcondition validations in their C# 3.0 and VB.NET 9 code base. Writing these validations is easy and it improves the readability and maintainability of code.

Dependency

CuttingEdge.Conditions is language independent and can be used with both C# 3.0 and VB9. The library can be run on machines that do not have .NET 3.5 installed. While the CuttingEdge.Conditions.dll assembly itself has a dependency on System.Core (.NET 3.5), users can safely add it to their .NET 2.0 projects (as long as the C# 3.0 or VB9 compilers are used).

Conditions

Writing precondition validations raises the quality of code. Code with validations is easier to understand and allows developers to find bugs faster, mostly during development instead of during debugging. Writing precondition validations however has always been the poor relation in programming. It takes time to write it and many developers I worked with (even the ones I respect) skipped writing them.

Skipping precondition validations will lead to code that is more difficult to use and is likely to be misused. It allows developers to pass invalid method arguments, which results in unexpected program behavior and those awful NullReferenceExceptions from deep down the call stack. It leads to a higher amount of bugs and thus more time spent debugging.

The CuttingEdge.Conditions library is an attempt to lower the barrier of writing precondition validations and make code more readable, thus resulting in better code, less bugs, and shorter development cycles.

To understand how CuttingEdge.Conditions tries to achieve this, let us first have a look at some code we might write on a daily basis. Here is an C# example of precondition validations, the old fashioned way:

void TheOldFashionWay(int id, IEnumerable<int> collection, DayOfWeek day)
{
    if (id < 1)
    {
        throw new ArgumentOutOfRangeException("id", String.Format(
            "id should be greater than 0. The actual value is {0}.", id));
    }
    if (collection == null)
    {
        throw new ArgumentNullException("collection", 
            "collection should not be empty");
    }
    if (collection.Count() == 0)
    {
        throw new ArgumentException("collection should not be empty", 
            "collection");
    }
    if (day >= DayOfWeek.Monday && day <= DayOfWeek.Friday)
    {
        throw new InvalidEnumArgumentException(String.Format(
            "day should be between Monday and Friday. " +
            "The actual value is {0}.", day));
    }

    // Do method work
}

That’s an awful amount of code for a few simple validations! Here’s how it looks if CuttingEdge.Conditions would be adopted:

void TheConditionsWay(int id, IEnumerable<int> collection, DayOfWeek day)
{
    Condition.Requires(id, "id").IsGreaterThan(0);
    Condition.Requires(collection, "collection").IsNotEmpty();
    Condition.Requires(day, "day").IsInRange(DayOfWeek.Monday, DayOfWeek.Friday);

    // Do method work
} 

That’s quite different, isn't it? It’s not only far less code; it’s also very readable. And please note that both methods have exactly the same contract. Both methods throw exactly the same exceptions and exception messages!

Besides these normal precondition checks, CuttingEdge.Conditions enables you to do postcondition checks as well. Unlike a precondition, the violation of a postcondition has purely an internal cause. It can be considered a bug. Throwing an ArgumentException in that case would clearly confuse the developer using that code. Because of this difference, CuttingEdge.Conditions will always throw a PostconditionException on a violation of a postcondition.

Here is an example of a postcondition check:

public ICollection PostconditionExample()
{
    object obj = Activator.CreateInstance(typeof(Collection<int>));

    Condition.Ensures(obj, "obj").IsNotNull().IsOfType(typeof(ICollection));

    return (ICollection)obj;
} 

The postcondition example shows two interesting things. Firstly, The Ensures extension method is used to start a postcondition validation. Secondly, method calls can be chained in a fluent manner as shown with the IsNotNull and IsOfType methods.

The API

The CuttingEdge.Conditions API has many validation methods that easily cover 99% of your validation needs. There are currently 412 extension methods for 53 different checks. The API can be divided in eight groups: 

  • Entry point methods
  • Null check methods
  • Type check methods
  • Comparison checks
  • Collection checks
  • String checks
  • Numeric checks
  • Evaluations

The number of methods will possibly grow over time, and please comment here, on my blog or on CodePlex if you think there are validations missing. I will consider adding them to the library. Also note that it’s easy for you to extend the API with your own methods, by simply placing extension methods in your own project. For more information on extending CuttingEdge.Conditions, please read the Extending CuttingEdge.Conditions wiki on CodePlex.

More Information

This third stable release of the CuttingEdge.Conditions library has just been released. You can download the source and runtime library from CodePlex. Please visit conditions.codeplex.com or my blog.

Happy validating!

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The MIT License

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About the Author

The .NET Junkie
Software Developer (Senior)
Netherlands Netherlands
I'm a freelance developer from the Netherlands, working with .NET technology on a daily basis, and officially diagnosed as a workaholic.

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralNice but .. Pin
Guido_d16-Feb-10 6:44
memberGuido_d16-Feb-10 6:44 
GeneralRe: Nice but .. Pin
VCSKicks16-Feb-10 6:51
memberVCSKicks16-Feb-10 6:51 
GeneralRe: Nice but .. Pin
The .NET Junkie16-Feb-10 7:43
memberThe .NET Junkie16-Feb-10 7:43 
GeneralRe: Nice but .. Pin
Paul Selormey23-Jun-11 16:03
memberPaul Selormey23-Jun-11 16:03 
GeneralNice! Pin
Jason Law9-Sep-09 15:38
memberJason Law9-Sep-09 15:38 
QuestionEnsuresWhileDebugging Pin
Alexey Romanov7-Aug-08 1:04
memberAlexey Romanov7-Aug-08 1:04 
AnswerRe: EnsuresWhileDebugging [modified] Pin
The .NET Junkie6-Sep-08 7:32
memberThe .NET Junkie6-Sep-08 7:32 
GeneralRe: EnsuresWhileDebugging Pin
Member 145294324-Jun-11 2:33
memberMember 145294324-Jun-11 2:33 
GeneralRe: EnsuresWhileDebugging Pin
The .NET Junkie24-Jun-11 4:53
memberThe .NET Junkie24-Jun-11 4:53 
GeneralWhy not design by contract Pin
danidanidani31-Jul-08 4:15
memberdanidanidani31-Jul-08 4:15 
AnswerRe: Why not design by contract [modified] Pin
The .NET Junkie31-Jul-08 4:44
memberThe .NET Junkie31-Jul-08 4:44 
GeneralRe: Why not design by contract Pin
danidanidani31-Jul-08 4:52
memberdanidanidani31-Jul-08 4:52 
QuestionLinFu? Pin
Judah Himango21-Jul-08 10:22
memberJudah Himango21-Jul-08 10:22 
AnswerRe: LinFu? [modified] Pin
The .NET Junkie23-Jul-08 1:53
memberThe .NET Junkie23-Jul-08 1:53 
Generalmaybe idea Pin
Mr.PoorEnglish17-Jul-08 22:48
memberMr.PoorEnglish17-Jul-08 22:48 
GeneralOne more question Pin
Mr.PoorEnglish17-Jul-08 23:40
memberMr.PoorEnglish17-Jul-08 23:40 
GeneralRe: One more question Pin
The .NET Junkie20-Jul-08 11:04
memberThe .NET Junkie20-Jul-08 11:04 
GeneralRe: One more question Pin
Mr.PoorEnglish20-Jul-08 12:35
memberMr.PoorEnglish20-Jul-08 12:35 
GeneralRe: One more question Pin
The .NET Junkie20-Jul-08 13:29
memberThe .NET Junkie20-Jul-08 13:29 
GeneralRe: One more question Pin
Mr.PoorEnglish21-Jul-08 0:58
memberMr.PoorEnglish21-Jul-08 0:58 
GeneralRe: One more question Pin
The .NET Junkie21-Jul-08 5:38
memberThe .NET Junkie21-Jul-08 5:38 
When you look at the the ValidatorExtensions.Collection.cs file in the CuttingEdge.Conditions project, you will notice that many extension methods have different type constraints. Each type constraint needs a different validator. For instance, there is the where TCollection : IEnumerable type constraint, and the where TCollection : IEnumerable<TElement> constraint. Same holds for the comparable struff and in the future the number of different type constraints might grow. This would lead to a forest off different ***Validator classes.

But besides all this, there is another problem. You need multiple Require() overload methods that each return a different Validator. This however infects the usability of the API. You would for instance place the IsNotNull method in the ClassValidator and the IsShorterThan methods in the StringValidator and CollectionValidator (and don't forget the GenericCollectionValidator). But when a CollectionValidator is returned, a user wouldn't be able to access the IsNotNull method. So we then need to implement methods on multiple Validator types. This will lead to double code, double documentation, and users having to browse more methods. Again, we can solve this to write IsNotNull and Evaluate as extension methods, but this lead two a lot of ***Validator classes and extension classes.

http://www.cuttingedge.it/blogs/steven/

GeneralExtension methods on .net2.0 Pin
geo_m17-Jul-08 1:53
membergeo_m17-Jul-08 1:53 
AnswerRe: Extension methods on .net2.0 Pin
The .NET Junkie18-Jul-08 9:07
memberThe .NET Junkie18-Jul-08 9:07 
GeneralRe: Extension methods on .net2.0 Pin
geo_m21-Jul-08 1:27
membergeo_m21-Jul-08 1:27 
GeneralRe: Extension methods on .net2.0 Pin
Qwertie6-Aug-08 12:04
memberQwertie6-Aug-08 12:04 

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