design-patterns - something - names for a class




Naming Classes-How to avoid calling everything a “<WhatEver>Manager”? (9)

A long time ago I have read an article (I believe a blog entry) which put me on the "right" track on naming objects: Be very very scrupulous about naming things in your program.

For example if my application was (as a typical business app) handling users, companies and addresses I'd have a User, a Company and an Address domain class - and probably somewhere a UserManager, a CompanyManager and an AddressManager would pop up that handles those things.

So can you tell what those UserManager, CompanyManager and AddressManager do? No, because Manager is a very very generic term that fits to anything you can do with your domain objects.

The article I read recommended using very specific names. If it was a C++ application and the UserManager's job was allocating and freeing users from the heap it would not manage the users but guard their birth and death. Hmm, maybe we could call this a UserShepherd.

Or maybe the UserManager's job is to examine each User object's data and sign the data cryptographically. Then we'd have a UserRecordsClerk.

Now that this idea stuck with me I try to apply it. And find this simple idea amazingly hard.

I can describe what the classes do and (as long as I don't slip into quick & dirty coding) the classes I write do exactly one thing. What I miss to go from that description to the names is a kind of catalogue of names, a vocabulary that maps the concepts to names.

Ultimately I'd like to have something like a pattern catalogue in my mind (frequently design patterns easily provide the object names, e.g. a factory)

  • Factory - Creates other objects (naming taken from the design pattern)
  • Shepherd - A shepherd handles the lifetime of objects, their creation and shutdown
  • Synchronizer - Copies data between two or more objects (or object hierarchies)
  • Nanny - Helps objects reach "usable" state after creation - for example by wiring to other objects

  • etc etc.

So, how do you handle that issue? Do you have a fixed vocabulary, do you invent new names on the fly or do you consider naming things not-so-important or wrong?

P.S.: I'm also interested in links to articles and blogs discussing the issue. As a start, here is the original article that got me thinking about it: Naming Java Classes without a 'Manager'


Update: Summary of answers

Here's a little summary of what I learned from this question in the meantime.

  • Try not to create new metaphors (Nanny)
  • Have a look at what other frameworks do

Further articles/books on this topic:

And a current list of name prefixes/suffixes I collected (subjectively!) from the answers:

  • Coordinator
  • Builder
  • Writer
  • Reader
  • Handler
  • Container
  • Protocol
  • Target
  • Converter
  • Controller
  • View
  • Factory
  • Entity
  • Bucket

And a good tip for the road:

Don't get naming paralysis. Yes, names are very important but they're not important enough to waste huge amounts of time on. If you can't think up a good name in 10 minutes, move on.


Being au fait with patterns as defined by (say) the GOF book, and naming objects after these gets me a long way in naming classes, organising them and communicating intent. Most people will understand this nomenclature (or at least a major part of it).


I asked a similar question, but where possible I try to copy the names already in the .NET framework, and I look for ideas in the Java and Android frameworks.

It seems Helper, Manager, and Util are the unavoidable nouns you attach for coordinating classes that contain no state and are generally procedural and static. An alternative is Coordinator.

You could get particularly purple prosey with the names and go for things like Minder, Overseer, Supervisor, Administrator, and Master, but as I said I prefer keeping it like the framework names you're used to.

Some other common suffixes (if that is the correct term) you also find in the .NET framework are:

  • Builder
  • Writer
  • Reader
  • Handler
  • Container

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is: is the name descriptive enough? Can you tell by looking at the name what the Class is supposed to do? Using words like "Manager", "Service" or "Handler" in your class names can be considered too generic, but since a lot of programmers use them it also helps understanding what the class is for.

I myself have been using the facade-pattern a lot (at least, I think that's what it is called). I could have a User class that describes just one user, and a Users class that keeps track of my "collection of users". I don't call the class a UserManager because I don't like managers in real-life and I don't want to be reminded of them :) Simply using the plural form helps me understand what the class does.


I'd consider the patterns you are using for your system, the naming conventions / cataloguing / grouping of classes of tends to be defined by the pattern used. Personally, I stick to these naming conventions as they are the most likely way for another person to be able to pick up my code and run with it.

For example UserRecordsClerk might be better explained as extending a generic RecordsClerk interface that both UserRecordsClerk and CompanyRecordsClerk implement and then specialise on, meaning one can look at the methods in the interface to see what the its subclasses do / are generally for.

See a book such as Design Patterns for info, it's an excellent book and might help you clear up where you're aiming to be with your code - if you aren't already using it! ;o)

I reckon so long as your pattern is well chosen and used as far as is appropriate, then pretty uninventive straightforward class names should suffice!


If I cannot come up with a more concrete name for my class than XyzManager this would be a point for me to reconsider whether this is really functionality that belongs together in a class, i.e. an architectural 'code smell'.


It sounds like a slippery slope to something that'd be posted on thedailywtf.com, "ManagerOfPeopleWhoHaveMortgages", etc.

I suppose it's right that one monolithic Manager class is not good design, but using 'Manager' is not bad. Instead of UserManager we might break it down to UserAccountManager, UserProfileManager, UserSecurityManager, etc.

'Manager' is a good word because it clearly shows a class is not representing a real-world 'thing'. 'AccountsClerk' - how am I supposed to tell if that's a class which manages user data, or represents someone who is an Accounts Clerk for their job?


Specific to C#, I found "Framework Design Guidelines: Conventions, Idioms, and Patterns for Reusable .NET Libraries" to have lots of good information on the logic of naming.

As far as finding those more specific words though, I often use a thesaurus and jump through related words to try and find a good one. I try not to spend to much time with it though, as I progress through development I come up with better names, or sometimes realize that SuchAndSuchManager should really be broken up into multiple classes, and then the name of that deprecated class becomes a non-issue.


We could do without any xxxFactory, xxxManager or xxxRepository classes if we modeled the real world correctly:

Universe.Instance.Galaxies["Milky Way"].SolarSystems["Sol"]
        .Planets["Earth"].Inhabitants.OfType<Human>().WorkingFor["Initech, USA"]
        .OfType<User>().CreateNew("John Doe");

;-)


You can take a look at source-code-wordle.de, I have analyzed there the most frequently used suffixes of class names of the .NET framework and some other libraries.

The top 20 are:

  • attribute
  • type
  • helper
  • collection
  • converter
  • handler
  • info
  • provider
  • exception
  • service
  • element
  • manager
  • node
  • option
  • factory
  • context
  • item
  • designer
  • base
  • editor




naming