C# – Why explicit interface implementation

c++interface

I recently implemented a class like:

class TestClass : IDisposable
{
    RegistryKey m_key;
    public TestClass()
    {
        m_key = Registry.CurrentUser.OpenSubKey("Software", false);
    }

    public void Dispose()
    {
        // m_key.Dispose();
        IDisposable disp = m_key;
        disp.Dispose();
    }
}

If I uncomment the direct call to Dispose, I get error CS0117 ("'Microsoft.Win32.RegistryKey' does not contain a definition for 'Dispose'"). Some Googling led me to this thread, where I learned what was going on, so I now understand the mechanics of it. The MSDN documentation suggests that the author would prefer that I call Close() instead of Dispose(), but doesn't explain why.

What is the purpose of this pattern (which I think I've seen it in the IO classes as well)? In light of the fact that this was an intentional decision by the class author, how bad is the code above (the call to Dispose through the IDisposable interface)? It can't be too bad – after all, it's what would happen in a using statement, right?

[edits: 1) changed title from "non-public" to "explicit" 2) removed the explicit implementation from my code, accidentally left in from experimentation]

Best Solution

This is called explicit interface implementation. In your example since you define the Dispose() method as "void IDisposable.Dispose()" you are explicitly implementing the IDisposable interface as well.

This is normally done to avoid collisions. If Microsoft ever wanted to add another Dispose() method that did something else to RegistryKey they wouldn't be able to unless they used explicit implementation of that interface.

This is done often with the generic IEnumerable<T> interface. It requires you to also implement the non-generic interface IEnumerable. The only member in these two interfaces is GetEnumerator, with the generic one being more useful, so its usually implemented like this:

public clas SomeClass : IEnumerable<SomeOtherClass>
{
    public IEnumerator<SomeOtherClass> GetEnumerator ()
    {
        ...
    }

    IEnumerator IEnumerable.GetEnumerator ()
    {
        return GetEnumerator ();
    }
}

This way when you call an object of SomeClass's GetEnumator method, it calls the generic version, since the other one was implemented explicitly, allowing us to get the strong-typing generics allow.

See pages 166-169 of Programming C# by Jesse Liberty (I've got the fourth edition).