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Posted 20 Mar 2011

C# Serialisation - The Best Way

, 20 Mar 2011 CPOL
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C# Serialisation - The Best Way
Serialisation - The Common Way

The most common way you find on the internet of serialising objects to streams in C# is the XmlSerialiser. Now, while this is a very good class to use it does have quite significant problems including the fact that it cannot serialise things such as color, font, timespan, etc. However, there is a better and often easier way of doing serialisation (that also doesn't require all the nasty XmlInclude attributes)...

Binary Formatter

The BinaryFormatter class is under the namespace: System.Runtime.Serialisation.Formatters.Binary.

(It's no wonder hardly anyone finds it... ;P)

Anyway, it is far better as not only can it serialise any object (so far as I know) but you also don't need to; Specify type you are going to serialise/deserialise; Have XmlInclude, XmlIgnore and other such tags (nor have extra members of classes just to get things to serialise properly) in fact, all you need is the Serialisable attribute on any class you wish to serialise. I'll give a simple example:

namepsace Test
    //The Serialisable attribute
    class TestClass
        public Color AColor = Color.Black;
        public TestClass()

        public static void Serialise(string Filename, TestClass TheObj)
            //Just to prove that it can serialise colors, set this to 
            //something other than the default so that we can tell if it worked after deserialising.
            TheObj.AColor = Color.Red;

            BinaryFormatter Ser = new BinaryFormatter();
            FileStream TheStream = new FileStream(Filename);
            Ser.Serialize(TheStream, TheObj);

        public static TestClass Deserialise(string Filename)
            TestClass RetClass = null;

            BinaryFormatter Ser = new BinaryFormatter();
            FileStream TheStream = new FileStream(Filename);
            RestClass = (TestClass)(Ser.Deserialize(TheStream));

            return RestClass;

So you can see (hopefully) that this is better than XmlSerialisation and can be adapted for any object and you don't need to use FileSTream either if you don't want to. I use a similar thing to the above but using a MemoryStream to serialise messages sent over a network. BinaryFormatter is a far more powerful and, so far as I can tell, faster class that cuts out a lot of the XmlSerialiser mess. :D


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


About the Author

Ed Nutting
United Kingdom United Kingdom

I am Edward Nutting, born March 1996 and I am currently a Computer Science and Electronic Engineering undergraduate at the University of Bristol, UK. I've been self-teaching programming since I was eight years old and have dabbled in many different areas from web development (where I had my own advertising startup) to low level operating system stuff (my current project Fling OS).

The articles and code on this profile are some of my early work (from when I was aged about 13 to 16) but despite my young age, it has been well received by CodeProject users. My more recent work has been for companies or on projects hosted on GitHub, CodePlex or BitBucket.

I keep an eye on many things techy and am open to any and all ideas, so please feel free to contact me if you think I can help! Smile | :)

Ed Nutting

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Comments and Discussions

Questionhi Pin
Nikos1722-Nov-12 0:35
memberNikos1722-Nov-12 0:35 
GeneralYes true this is only basic but as a useful tip BinaryFormat... Pin
EdMan19621-Mar-11 8:13
memberEdMan19621-Mar-11 8:13 
GeneralThis provides the basics for the serialization concept. Othe... Pin
NitinSingh20-Mar-11 22:44
memberNitinSingh20-Mar-11 22:44 
GeneralDanger! BinaryStream format is not persistent. Pin
Corvus Corax21-Mar-11 17:01
memberCorvus Corax21-Mar-11 17:01 

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