Patrick Desjardins Patrick Desjardins - 3 months ago 21
C# Question

C# Lambda expressions: Why should I use them?

I have quickly read over the Microsoft Lambda Expression documentation.

This kind of example has helped me to understand better, though:

delegate int del(int i);
del myDelegate = x => x * x;
int j = myDelegate(5); //j = 25


Still, I don't understand why it's such an innovation. It's just a method that dies when the "method variable" ends, right? Why should I use this instead of a real method?

Answer

Lambda expressions are a simpler syntax for anonymous delegates and can be used everywhere an anonymous delegate can be used. However, the opposite is not true; lambda expressions can be converted to expression trees which allows for a lot of the magic like LINQ to SQL.

The following is an example of a LINQ to Objects expression using anonymous delegates then lambda expressions to show how much easier on the eye they are:

// anonymous delegate
var evens = Enumerable
                .Range(1, 100)
                .Where(delegate(int x) { return (x % 2) == 0; })
                .ToList();

// lambda expression
var evens = Enumerable
                .Range(1, 100)
                .Where(x => (x % 2) == 0)
                .ToList();

Lambda expressions and anonymous delegates have an advantage over writing a separate function: they implement closures which can allow you to pass local state to the function without adding parameters to the function or creating one-time-use objects.

Expression trees are a very powerful new feature of C# 3.0 that allow an API to look at the structure of an expression instead of just getting a reference to a method that can be executed. An API just has to make a delegate parameter into an Expression<T> parameter and the compiler will generate an expression tree from a lambda instead of an anonymous delegate:

void Example(Predicate<int> aDelegate);

called like:

Example(x => x > 5);

becomes:

void Example(Expression<Predicate<int>> expressionTree);

The latter will get passed a representation of the abstract syntax tree that describes the expression x > 5. LINQ to SQL relies on this behavior to be able to turn C# expressions in to the SQL expressions desired for filtering / ordering / etc. on the server side.