[c#] Create Generic method constraining T to an Enum



8 Answers

I'm late to the game, but I took it as a challenge to see how it could be done. It's not possible in C# (or VB.NET, but scroll down for F#), but is possible in MSIL. I wrote this little....thing

// license: http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html
.assembly MyThing{}
.class public abstract sealed MyThing.Thing
       extends [mscorlib]System.Object
{
  .method public static !!T  GetEnumFromString<valuetype .ctor ([mscorlib]System.Enum) T>(string strValue,
                                                                                          !!T defaultValue) cil managed
  {
    .maxstack  2
    .locals init ([0] !!T temp,
                  [1] !!T return_value,
                  [2] class [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator enumerator,
                  [3] class [mscorlib]System.IDisposable disposer)
    // if(string.IsNullOrEmpty(strValue)) return defaultValue;
    ldarg strValue
    call bool [mscorlib]System.String::IsNullOrEmpty(string)
    brfalse.s HASVALUE
    br RETURNDEF         // return default it empty

    // foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
  HASVALUE:
    // Enum.GetValues.GetEnumerator()
    ldtoken !!T
    call class [mscorlib]System.Type [mscorlib]System.Type::GetTypeFromHandle(valuetype [mscorlib]System.RuntimeTypeHandle)
    call class [mscorlib]System.Array [mscorlib]System.Enum::GetValues(class [mscorlib]System.Type)
    callvirt instance class [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator [mscorlib]System.Array::GetEnumerator() 
    stloc enumerator
    .try
    {
      CONDITION:
        ldloc enumerator
        callvirt instance bool [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator::MoveNext()
        brfalse.s LEAVE

      STATEMENTS:
        // T item = (T)Enumerator.Current
        ldloc enumerator
        callvirt instance object [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator::get_Current()
        unbox.any !!T
        stloc temp
        ldloca.s temp
        constrained. !!T

        // if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.Object::ToString()
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::ToLower()
        ldarg strValue
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::Trim()
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::ToLower()
        callvirt instance bool [mscorlib]System.String::Equals(string)
        brfalse.s CONDITION
        ldloc temp
        stloc return_value
        leave.s RETURNVAL

      LEAVE:
        leave.s RETURNDEF
    }
    finally
    {
        // ArrayList's Enumerator may or may not inherit from IDisposable
        ldloc enumerator
        isinst [mscorlib]System.IDisposable
        stloc.s disposer
        ldloc.s disposer
        ldnull
        ceq
        brtrue.s LEAVEFINALLY
        ldloc.s disposer
        callvirt instance void [mscorlib]System.IDisposable::Dispose()
      LEAVEFINALLY:
        endfinally
    }

  RETURNDEF:
    ldarg defaultValue
    stloc return_value

  RETURNVAL:
    ldloc return_value
    ret
  }
} 

Which generates a function that would look like this, if it were valid C#:

T GetEnumFromString<T>(string valueString, T defaultValue) where T : Enum

Then with the following C# code:

using MyThing;
// stuff...
private enum MyEnum { Yes, No, Okay }
static void Main(string[] args)
{
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("No", MyEnum.Yes); // returns MyEnum.No
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("Invalid", MyEnum.Okay);  // returns MyEnum.Okay
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("AnotherInvalid", 0); // compiler error, not an Enum
}

Unfortunately, this means having this part of your code written in MSIL instead of C#, with the only added benefit being that you're able to constrain this method by System.Enum. It's also kind of a bummer, because it gets compiled into a separate assembly. However, it doesn't mean you have to deploy it that way.

By removing the line .assembly MyThing{} and invoking ilasm as follows:

ilasm.exe /DLL /OUTPUT=MyThing.netmodule

you get a netmodule instead of an assembly.

Unfortunately, VS2010 (and earlier, obviously) does not support adding netmodule references, which means you'd have to leave it in 2 separate assemblies when you're debugging. The only way you can add them as part of your assembly would be to run csc.exe yourself using the /addmodule:{files} command line argument. It wouldn't be too painful in an MSBuild script. Of course, if you're brave or stupid, you can run csc yourself manually each time. And it certainly gets more complicated as multiple assemblies need access to it.

So, it CAN be done in .Net. Is it worth the extra effort? Um, well, I guess I'll let you decide on that one.


F# Solution as alternative

Extra Credit: It turns out that a generic restriction on enum is possible in at least one other .NET language besides MSIL: F#.

type MyThing =
    static member GetEnumFromString<'T when 'T :> Enum> str defaultValue: 'T =
        /// protect for null (only required in interop with C#)
        let str = if isNull str then String.Empty else str

        Enum.GetValues(typedefof<'T>)
        |> Seq.cast<_>
        |> Seq.tryFind(fun v -> String.Compare(v.ToString(), str.Trim(), true) = 0)
        |> function Some x -> x | None -> defaultValue

This one is easier to maintain since it's a well-known language with full Visual Studio IDE support, but you still need a separate project in your solution for it. However, it naturally produces considerably different IL (the code is very different) and it relies on the FSharp.Core library, which, just like any other external library, needs to become part of your distribution.

Here's how you can use it (basically the same as the MSIL solution), and to show that it correctly fails on otherwise synonymous structs:

// works, result is inferred to have type StringComparison
var result = MyThing.GetEnumFromString("OrdinalIgnoreCase", StringComparison.Ordinal);
// type restriction is recognized by C#, this fails at compile time
var result = MyThing.GetEnumFromString("OrdinalIgnoreCase", 42);
Question

I'm building a function to extend the Enum.Parse concept that

  • Allows a default value to be parsed in case that an Enum value is not found
  • Is case insensitive

So I wrote the following:

public static T GetEnumFromString<T>(string value, T defaultValue) where T : Enum
{
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;
    foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
    {
        if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
    }
    return defaultValue;
}

I am getting a Error Constraint cannot be special class 'System.Enum'.

Fair enough, but is there a workaround to allow a Generic Enum, or am I going to have to mimic the Parse function and pass a type as an attribute, which forces the ugly boxing requirement to your code.

EDIT All suggestions below have been greatly appreciated, thanks.

Have settled on (I've left the loop to maintain case insensitivity - I am usng this when parsing XML)

public static class EnumUtils
{
    public static T ParseEnum<T>(string value, T defaultValue) where T : struct, IConvertible
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum) throw new ArgumentException("T must be an enumerated type");
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;

        foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
        {
            if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}

EDIT: (16th Feb 2015) Julien Lebosquain has recently posted a compiler enforced type-safe generic solution in MSIL or F# below, which is well worth a look, and an upvote. I will remove this edit if the solution bubbles further up the page.




Edit

The question has now superbly been answered by Julien Lebosquain. I would also like to extend his answer with ignoreCase, defaultValue and optional arguments, while adding TryParse and ParseOrDefault.

public abstract class ConstrainedEnumParser<TClass> where TClass : class
// value type constraint S ("TEnum") depends on reference type T ("TClass") [and on struct]
{
    // internal constructor, to prevent this class from being inherited outside this code
    internal ConstrainedEnumParser() {}
    // Parse using pragmatic/adhoc hard cast:
    //  - struct + class = enum
    //  - 'guaranteed' call from derived <System.Enum>-constrained type EnumUtils
    public static TEnum Parse<TEnum>(string value, bool ignoreCase = false) where TEnum : struct, TClass
    {
        return (TEnum)Enum.Parse(typeof(TEnum), value, ignoreCase);
    }
    public static bool TryParse<TEnum>(string value, out TEnum result, bool ignoreCase = false, TEnum defaultValue = default(TEnum)) where TEnum : struct, TClass // value type constraint S depending on T
    {
        var didParse = Enum.TryParse(value, ignoreCase, out result);
        if (didParse == false)
        {
            result = defaultValue;
        }
        return didParse;
    }
    public static TEnum ParseOrDefault<TEnum>(string value, bool ignoreCase = false, TEnum defaultValue = default(TEnum)) where TEnum : struct, TClass // value type constraint S depending on T
    {
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) { return defaultValue; }
        TEnum result;
        if (Enum.TryParse(value, ignoreCase, out result)) { return result; }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}

public class EnumUtils: ConstrainedEnumParser<System.Enum>
// reference type constraint to any <System.Enum>
{
    // call to parse will then contain constraint to specific <System.Enum>-class
}

Examples of usage:

WeekDay parsedDayOrArgumentException = EnumUtils.Parse<WeekDay>("monday", ignoreCase:true);
WeekDay parsedDayOrDefault;
bool didParse = EnumUtils.TryParse<WeekDay>("clubs", out parsedDayOrDefault, ignoreCase:true);
parsedDayOrDefault = EnumUtils.ParseOrDefault<WeekDay>("friday", ignoreCase:true, defaultValue:WeekDay.Sunday);

Old

My old improvements on Vivek's answer by using the comments and 'new' developments:

  • use TEnum for clarity for users
  • add more interface-constraints for additional constraint-checking
  • let TryParse handle ignoreCase with the existing parameter (introduced in VS2010/.Net 4)
  • optionally use the generic default value (introduced in VS2005/.Net 2)
  • use optional arguments(introduced in VS2010/.Net 4) with default values, for defaultValue and ignoreCase

resulting in:

public static class EnumUtils
{
    public static TEnum ParseEnum<TEnum>(this string value,
                                         bool ignoreCase = true,
                                         TEnum defaultValue = default(TEnum))
        where TEnum : struct,  IComparable, IFormattable, IConvertible
    {
        if ( ! typeof(TEnum).IsEnum) { throw new ArgumentException("TEnum must be an enumerated type"); }
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) { return defaultValue; }
        TEnum lResult;
        if (Enum.TryParse(value, ignoreCase, out lResult)) { return lResult; }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}



I do have specific requirement where I required to use enum with text associated with enum value. For example when I use enum to specify error type it required to describe error details.

public static class XmlEnumExtension
{
    public static string ReadXmlEnumAttribute(this Enum value)
    {
        if (value == null) throw new ArgumentNullException("value");
        var attribs = (XmlEnumAttribute[]) value.GetType().GetField(value.ToString()).GetCustomAttributes(typeof (XmlEnumAttribute), true);
        return attribs.Length > 0 ? attribs[0].Name : value.ToString();
    }

    public static T ParseXmlEnumAttribute<T>(this string str)
    {
        foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
        {
            var attribs = (XmlEnumAttribute[])item.GetType().GetField(item.ToString()).GetCustomAttributes(typeof(XmlEnumAttribute), true);
            if(attribs.Length > 0 && attribs[0].Name.Equals(str)) return item;
        }
        return (T)Enum.Parse(typeof(T), str, true);
    }
}

public enum MyEnum
{
    [XmlEnum("First Value")]
    One,
    [XmlEnum("Second Value")]
    Two,
    Three
}

 static void Main()
 {
    // Parsing from XmlEnum attribute
    var str = "Second Value";
    var me = str.ParseXmlEnumAttribute<MyEnum>();
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
    // Parsing without XmlEnum
    str = "Three";
    me = str.ParseXmlEnumAttribute<MyEnum>();
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
    me = MyEnum.One;
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
}



Hope this is helpful:

public static TValue ParseEnum<TValue>(string value, TValue defaultValue)
                  where TValue : struct // enum 
{
      try
      {
            if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(value))
                  return defaultValue;
            return (TValue)Enum.Parse(typeof (TValue), value);
      }
      catch(Exception ex)
      {
            return defaultValue;
      }
}



I modified the sample by dimarzionist. This version will only work with Enums and not let structs get through.

public static T ParseEnum<T>(string enumString)
    where T : struct // enum 
    {
    if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(enumString) || !typeof(T).IsEnum)
       throw new Exception("Type given must be an Enum");
    try
    {

       return (T)Enum.Parse(typeof(T), enumString, true);
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
       return default(T);
    }
}



As stated in other answers before; while this cannot be expressed in source-code it can actually be done on IL Level. @Christopher Currens answer shows how the IL do to that.

With Fodys Add-In ExtraConstraints.Fody there's a very simple way, complete with build-tooling, to achieve this. Just add their nuget packages (Fody, ExtraConstraints.Fody) to your project and add the constraints as follows (Excerpt from the Readme of ExtraConstraints):

public void MethodWithEnumConstraint<[EnumConstraint] T>() {...}

public void MethodWithTypeEnumConstraint<[EnumConstraint(typeof(ConsoleColor))] T>() {...}

and Fody will add the necessary IL for the constraint to be present. Also note the additional feature of constraining delegates:

public void MethodWithDelegateConstraint<[DelegateConstraint] T> ()
{...}

public void MethodWithTypeDelegateConstraint<[DelegateConstraint(typeof(Func<int>))] T> ()
{...}

Regarding Enums, you might also want to take note of the highly interesting Enums.NET.




If it's ok to use direct casting afterwards, I guess you can use the System.Enum base class in your method, wherever necessary. You just need to replace the type parameters carefully. So the method implementation would be like:

public static class EnumUtils
{
    public static Enum GetEnumFromString(string value, Enum defaultValue)
    {
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;
        foreach (Enum item in Enum.GetValues(defaultValue.GetType()))
        {
            if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}

Then you can use it like:

var parsedOutput = (YourEnum)EnumUtils.GetEnumFromString(someString, YourEnum.DefaultValue);



I always liked this (you could modify as appropriate):

public static IEnumerable<TEnum> GetEnumValues()
{
  Type enumType = typeof(TEnum);

  if(!enumType.IsEnum)
    throw new ArgumentException("Type argument must be Enum type");

  Array enumValues = Enum.GetValues(enumType);
  return enumValues.Cast<TEnum>();
}



I've encapsulated Vivek's solution into a utility class that you can reuse. Please note that you still should define type constraints "where T : struct, IConvertible" on your type.

using System;

internal static class EnumEnforcer
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Makes sure that generic input parameter is of an enumerated type.
    /// </summary>
    /// <typeparam name="T">Type that should be checked.</typeparam>
    /// <param name="typeParameterName">Name of the type parameter.</param>
    /// <param name="methodName">Name of the method which accepted the parameter.</param>
    public static void EnforceIsEnum<T>(string typeParameterName, string methodName)
        where T : struct, IConvertible
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum)
        {
            string message = string.Format(
                "Generic parameter {0} in {1} method forces an enumerated type. Make sure your type parameter {0} is an enum.",
                typeParameterName,
                methodName);

            throw new ArgumentException(message);
        }
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Makes sure that generic input parameter is of an enumerated type.
    /// </summary>
    /// <typeparam name="T">Type that should be checked.</typeparam>
    /// <param name="typeParameterName">Name of the type parameter.</param>
    /// <param name="methodName">Name of the method which accepted the parameter.</param>
    /// <param name="inputParameterName">Name of the input parameter of this page.</param>
    public static void EnforceIsEnum<T>(string typeParameterName, string methodName, string inputParameterName)
        where T : struct, IConvertible
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum)
        {
            string message = string.Format(
                "Generic parameter {0} in {1} method forces an enumerated type. Make sure your input parameter {2} is of correct type.",
                typeParameterName,
                methodName,
                inputParameterName);

            throw new ArgumentException(message);
        }
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Makes sure that generic input parameter is of an enumerated type.
    /// </summary>
    /// <typeparam name="T">Type that should be checked.</typeparam>
    /// <param name="exceptionMessage">Message to show in case T is not an enum.</param>
    public static void EnforceIsEnum<T>(string exceptionMessage)
        where T : struct, IConvertible
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum)
        {
            throw new ArgumentException(exceptionMessage);
        }
    }
}



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