Rex Logan Rex Logan - 2 months ago 13
C# Question

When to use ref and when it is not necessary in C#

I have a object that is my in memory state of the program and also have some other worker functions that I pass the object to to modify the state. I have been passing it by ref to the worker functions. However I came across the following function.

byte[] received_s = new byte[2048];
IPEndPoint tmpIpEndPoint = new IPEndPoint(IPAddress.Any, UdpPort_msg);
EndPoint remoteEP = (tmpIpEndPoint);

int sz = soUdp_msg.ReceiveFrom(received_s, ref remoteEP);

It confuses me because both
are returning stuff from the function. Why does
need a
does not?

I am also a c programmer so I am having a problem getting pointers out of my head.

It looks like that objects in C# are pointers to the object under the hood. So when you pass an object to a function you can then modify the object contents through the pointer and the only thing passed to the function is the pointer to the object so the object itself is not being copied. You use ref or out if you want to be able to switch out or create a new object in the function which is like a double pointer.


Short answer: read my article on argument passing.

Long answer: when a reference type parameter is passed by value, only the reference is passed, not a copy of the object. This is like passing a pointer (by value) in C or C++. Changes to the value of the parameter itself won't be seen by the caller, but changes in the object which the reference points to will be seen.

When a parameter (of any kind) is passed by reference, that means that any changes to the parameter are seen by the caller - changes to the parameter are changes to the variable.

The article explains all of this in more detail, of course :)

Useful answer: you almost never need to use ref/out. It's basically a way of getting another return value, and should usually be avoided precisely because it means the method's probably trying to do too much. That's not always the case (TryParse etc are the canonical examples of reasonable use of out) but using ref/out should be a relative rarity.