New "Orcas" Language Feature: Lambda Expressions
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by Scott Guthrie
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Lambda Expressions Explained

The easiest way to conceptualize Lambda expressions is to think of them as ways to write concise inline methods.  For example, the sample I wrote above could have been written instead using C# 2.0 anonymous methods like so:

Listing 3

Both anonymous methods above take a Person type as a parameter.  The first anonymous method returns a boolean (indicating whether the Person's lastname is Guthrie).  The second anonymous method returns an integer (returning the person's age).  The lambda expressions we used earlier work the same - both expressions take a Person type as a parameter.  The first lambda returns a boolean, the second lambda returns an integer. 

In C# a lambda expression is syntactically written as a parameter list, followed by a => token, and then followed by the expression or statement block to execute when the expression is invoked:

<span lang=EN>params => expression</span>

So when we wrote the lambda expression:

<span lang=EN>p => p.LastName == "Guthrie" </span>

we were indicating that the Lambda we were defining took a parameter "p", and that the expression of code to run returns whether the p.LastName value equals "Guthrie".  The fact that we named the parameter "p" is irrelevant - I could just have easily named it "o", "x", "foo" or any other name I wanted.

Unlike anonymous methods, which require parameter type declarations to be explicitly stated, Lambda expressions permit parameter types to be omitted and instead allow them to be inferred based on the usage.  For example, when I wrote the lambda expression p=>p.LastName == "Guthrie", the compiler inferred that the p parameter was of type Person because the "Where" extension method was working on a generic List<Person> collection.

Lambda parameter types can be inferred at both compile-time and by the Visual Studio's intellisense engine (meaning you get full intellisense and compile-time checking when writing lambdas).  For example, note when I type "p." below how Visual Studio "Orcas" provides intellisense completion because it knows "p" is of type "Person":

Listing 4

Note: if you want to explicitly declare the type of a parameter to a Lambda expression, you can do so by declaring the parameter type before the parameter name in the Lambda params list like so:

Listing 5

Advanced: Lambda Expression Trees for Framework Developers

One of the things that make Lambda expressions particularly powerful from a framework developer's perspective is that they can be compiled as either a code delegate (in the form of an IL based method) or as an expression tree object which can be used at runtime to analyze, transform or optimize the expression. 

This ability to compile a Lambda expression to an expression tree object is an extremely powerful mechanism that enables a host of scenarios - including the ability to build high performance object mappers that support rich querying of data (whether from a relational database, an active directory, a web-service, etc) using a consistent query language that provides compile-time syntax checking and VS intellisense.


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