Working with Lambda Expressions
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by Brian Mains
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.NET Framework Lambda's

There are a variety of extension methods defined in the .NET Framework that uses Lambda Expressions.  In the System.Core assembly, the System.Linq namespace features two static classes containing a variety of extensions for enumerable and queryable sources.  Some of those expressions are defined in the Where method, for example.  The Where method is defined as

Listing 1

Where<TSource>(IEnumerable<TSource>, Func<TSource, bool>);

Note the second parameter; the Func (or function in VB.NET) defines a lamdba expression.  The generic parameters are the key.  The first parameter is the type that is being evaluated in the lambda expression, and the second parameter is the value needing to be returned by the method.  I'll get to an example in a moment, but realize that the return type can be any value, such as a string, double, business object, etc.

So how do we use Lambda expressions?  In C#, the lambda expression is defined as

Listing 2

var items = list.Where(I => I.FirstName == "Fred");

Let's step through this.  First, the "=>" code notes a lambda expression.  The "I" parameter is the alias or name for the object of type <TSource> as shown above in the Func statement.  The first parameter is the object being iterated through, or the item type of the items in the collection.  For instance, if you have a List<MyObject>, "I" is a reference for the MyObject type.  Therefore, in our expression above, the result (which must be a boolean) only gets objects where the first name is "Fred."

Everything to the right of the "=>" is defining the criteria check for whether the method returns true and false.  So how is it used?  Here is another example I created in my application.  It works very similar to a delegate, but is also a cross between delegates and anonymous methods because the actual definition is on-the-fly.  I actually wrote one for an ASP.NET server control, which is the ListControl, because of its items collection

Listing 3

public static IEnumerable < ListItem > FindItemsWith(this ListControl control,
  Func < ListItem, bool > result)
  List < ListItem > foundItems = new List < ListItem > ();
  foreach (ListItem item in control.Items)
    if (result(item))
  return foundItems;

Note the use of the lambda expression as declared as Func<ListItem, bool>. The ListItem object is compared and the method returns a boolean. In the looping below, each item in the list control is iterated through. The lambda expression takes a reference to the ListItem object and returns the boolean expression; if it evaluates to true, it is added to the list, and the collection is returned to the caller.

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User Comments

Title: Complexity?   
Name: old ecard guy
Date: 2008-05-07 3:50:57 PM
The thing I am still looking for is a real life example where Lamba expressions actually simplify the code.

I would think it would be difficult for new developers to read an exiting code base that extensively used Lambdas. We'll see.

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