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The Builder Pattern .net core

gary_woodfine profile image Gary Woodfine Originally published at garywoodfine.com on ・8 min read

The Builder Pattern is a creational Gang of Four (GoF) design pattern, defined in their seminal book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, in which they presented a catalogue of simple and succinct solutions to commonly occurring design problems.

The pattern is useful for encapsulating and abstracting the creation of objects. It is distinct from the more common Factory Pattern because the Builder Pattern contains methods of customising the creation of an object.

Whenever an object can be configured in multiple ways across multiple dimensions, the Builder Pattern can simplify the creation of objects and clarify the intent.

Builder Pattern

Let's explore the Builder Pattern and how developers can use it to construct objects from components. You may have already seen that the Factory Pattern returns one of several different subclasses, depending on the data passed in arguments to creation methods.
We'll now learn that the Builder Pattern assembles a number of objects in various ways depending on the data.

Advantages of the Builder Pattern

  • The builder pattern enables developers to hide details of how an object is created
  • The builder pattern enables developers to vary the internal representation of an object it builds.
  • Each specific builder is independent of others and the rest of the application, improving Modularity and simplifies and enables the addition of other Builders.
  • Provides greater control over the creation of objects.

The builder pattern is similar to the Abstract Factory Pattern in that both return classes made up of a number of other methods and objects.

The main difference between the Builder Pattern and the Abstract Factory Pattern, is that the Abstract Factory Pattern returns a family of related classes and the Builder Pattern constructs a complex object step by step, depending on the data presented to it.

Builder Pattern in Unit tests

The builder pattern is a popular pattern to use in Unit tests, in fact one of my favourite tools to use in Unit Tests is Nbuilder - A rapid test object generator, which if you read the source code also provides a great example of how to implement the builder pattern.

In his book Adaptive Code Gary Maclean Hall states the builder pattern is useful for encapsulating and abstracting the creation of objects, and provides an example of using the builder pattern to help clarify the intent of unit tests, by assisting to eliminate any unnecessary arrange code.

Example Builder Pattern

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C# Design Patterns Tutorial Sample Code

Software Design Patterns in C# and .net core

In software development a Software Design Pattern is a reusable solution to commonly recurring problems. A software design pattern is a description or template used to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations.

In 1994, the so called Gang Of Four (GOF) published their book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software in which they presented a catalog of simple and succinct solutions to commonly occurring design problems.

The book captured 23 Patterns that enabled software architects to create flexible, elegant and ultimately reusable design patterns without having to rediscover or reinvent the design solutions for themselves.

Through a series of blog posts on garywoodfine.com I will discuss these patterns and more on how C# .net core developers can implement these patterns in cross platform .net core software solutions.

Contents

Software Design patterns are typically categorised into three…

In this example, we are going to implement a very simple Builder Pattern and use it to create a Person class to contain some attributes to describe a person

  public class Person
    {
        public int Id { get; set; }

        public string Firstname { get; set; }

        public string Lastname { get; set; }

        public DateTime DateOfBirth { get; set; }

        public Gender Gender { get; set; }
    }


You may notice that we make use of an Enum to contain the value of the gender.

 public enum Gender
    {
        Male,
        Female
    }

There is nothing all that complicated about the class, it's a simple POCO class. We can now develop our Builder class, which again we will keep simple to help illustrate the point. The builder class will basically return the object in a string format.

 public class Person
    {
        public int Id { get; set; }

        public string Firstname { get; set; }

        public string Lastname { get; set; }

        public DateTime DateOfBirth { get; set; }

        public string Occupation { get; set; }

        public Gender Gender { get; set; }

        public override string ToString()
        {
            return  $"Person with id: {Id}  with date of birth {DateOfBirth.ToLongDateString()}   and name {string.Concat(Firstname, " ",Lastname)} is a {Occupation}";
        }
    }

The builder class in its simplest guise just a series of name constructor methods with arguments, you'll notice that they always return an instance of the class. The final method on the builder class is Build method will return the completed object. By convention this method is typically named Build or Create or something similar.

public class PersonBuilder
    {
        private readonly Person _person;

         public PersonBuilder()
        {
            _person = new Person();
        }

         public PersonBuilder Id(int id)
        {
            _person.Id = id;
            return this;
        }

         public PersonBuilder Firstname(string firstName)
        {
            _person.Firstname = firstName;
            return this;
        }

         public PersonBuilder Lastname(string lastname)
        {
            _person.Lastname = lastname;
            return this;
        }

         public PersonBuilder DateOfBirth( DateTime dob)
        {
            _person.DateOfBirth = dob;
            return this;
        }

         public PersonBuilder Gender(Gender gender)
        {
            _person.Gender = gender;
            return this;
        }

         public PersonBuilder Occupation(string occupation)
        {
            _person.Occupation = occupation;
            return this;
        }

         public Person Build()
        {
            return _person;
        }
    }

We can now make use of our Builder to create a person as follows.

   class Program
     {
         static void Main(string[] args)
         {

             var person = new PersonBuilder()
                 .Id(10)
                 .Firstname("Gary")
                 .Lastname("Woodfine")
                 .Gender(Gender.Male)
                 .DateOfBirth(DateTime.Now)
                 .Occupation("Freelance Full-Stack Developer")
                 .Build();

             Console.WriteLine(person.ToString());

             Console.ReadLine();
         }
     }

We build the object by instantiation the PersonBuilder then adding the properties, then the final method we call is the Build method. We then simply call the ToString() method to write out our values.

Using the Builder Pattern, we can avoid using large constructor methods to provide all the required parameters for constructing our object. Large constructor methods lead to unreadable and difficult to maintain code. It is possible that there may not always be the need to supply all arguments in constructor methods because in all probability they won't always be needed.

In the above code, I intentionally introduced a code smell, in the ToString(), you'll notice there is a lot of string interpolation and even additional concatenation. I primarily because I wanted to highlight how the .net core makes use of the builder pattern.

We can make use of the StringBuilder class, StringBuilder prevents having to recreate a string each time you are adding to it. Using the String class in C# means you are using an immutable object, but StringBuilder is much faster in most cases since it's not having to create a new String each time you append to it.

We can now refactor our ToString() method as follows.

public override string ToString()=>
         new StringBuilder()
            .Append("Person with id: ")
            .Append(Id.ToString())
            .Append("with date of birth ")
            .Append(DateOfBirth.ToLongDateString())
            .Append(" and name ")
            .Append(Firstname)
            .Append(" ")
            .Append(Lastname)
            .Append(" is a ")
            .Append(Occupation)
            .ToString();

We use the StringBuilder to create the string. You'll notice, that even though I said by convention you could use the Build or Create to define the method that will return your object, but you don't really need to rather you could opt for another name, in the case of StringBuilder it is ToString()

In the above example, we have implemented a simple builder pattern, however, it probably isn't easy to determine why this actually provides any benefit to developers. After all, from this simple implementation, you might be thinking but surely we could just simply use C# object initialisation and get exactly the result.

 var person2 = new Person
             {
                 Id = 10,
                 Firstname = "Gary",
                 Lastname = "Woodfine",
                 DateOfBirth = DateTime.Now,
                 Occupation = "Freelance Full Stack Developer",
                 Gender = Gender.Male
             };

The problem with this approach is that it is vry similar to passing arguments to a function, which inadvertently adds complexity to understanding the code.

The ideal number of arguments for a function is zero (niladic). Next comes one (monadic), followed closely by two (dyadic). Three arguments (triadic) should be avoided when possible. More than three (polyadic) requires very special justification – and then shouldn’t be used anyway.

Uncle Bob - Clean Code

There will invariably be situations when instantiating objects that you will need to call a function to do something to provide a value to that object. i.e. Generate a new ID which may need calling out to function to get a newly created Id value etc.

It is in situations like this that make the Builder pattern a much more viable option, and as defined in Philosophy of Software Design we are able to pull complexity downwards.

When developing a module, look for opportunities to take a little bit of extra suffering upon yourself in order to reduce the suffering of your users.
John Ousterhout - Philosophy of Software Design

Fluent Builder Pattern implementation

The standard definition the Builder pattern separates the construction of a complex object from its representation so that the same construction process can create different representations.

The Builder pattern provides step-by-step creation of a complex object so that the same construction process can create different representations is the routine in the builder pattern that also makes for finer control over the construction process. All the different builders generally inherit from an abstract builder class that declares the general functions to be used by the director to let the builder create the product in parts.

Builder has a similar motivation to the abstract factory but, whereas in that pattern, the client uses the abstract factory class methods to create its own object, in Builder the client instructs the builder class on how to create the object and then asks it for the result. How the class is put together is up to the Builder class. It's a subtle difference.

The Builder pattern is applicable when the algorithm for creating a complex object should be independent of the parts that make up the object and how they are assembled and the construction process must allow different representations for the object constructed.

If we consider a person object and think of all the different variations we could expect to create a person object. For instance, how do we deal with married woman? Considering in some cases we may need to take into consideration her maiden name.

It soon becomes clear that there are all manner of rules and variations we need to consider when building a person object. All manner of varying combinations and additional properties we will need to include.

Rules that may not be easy or convenient to incorporate in object initialization. We will also need to have the flexibility and adaptability to change or add additional methods in future developments.

In our first implementation of builder for a fluent interface of the Person class, we implemented the builder with no strings attached. We have not enforced rules for the order of assignment.

The code is simple and easy to understand but it does leave the builder class open to misuse. We can implement the basic expression builder with method chaining in C# .NET.

We're going to refactor our builder slightly to incorporate a new method Create which will accept Firstname and Lastname argument but more importantly we are going to remove the creation of the Person class from the constructor
and into Create method.

It also doesn't make much sense providing and Id to an object on creation, it is highly likely that a new Id should be created when the object is created. So we'll also remove the Id parameter from the Builder.

Implementing a fluent interface is a relatively straight-forward task that can be done through the use of method chaining. Method chaining is simply a set of assignment methods that return itself. The result from each method can then call the next assignment method, and so-on.

To guide the user and enforce rules of construction (such as, the Class can only be assigned once, followed by attributes), we utilize progressive interfaces. Where the method would return “this”, we instead return an interface for the next step in line.

   public class PersonBuilder
      {
          private Person _person;

         public PersonBuilder Create(string firstName, string lastName)
          {
              _person = new Person();
              _person.Firstname = firstName;
              _person.Lastname = lastName;
              _person.Id = Guid.NewGuid();
              return this;

          }
          public PersonBuilder DateOfBirth( DateTime dob)
          {
              _person.DateOfBirth = dob;
              return this;
          }

          public PersonBuilder Gender(Gender gender)
          {
              _person.Gender = gender;
              return this;
          }

          public PersonBuilder Occupation(string occupation)
          {
              _person.Occupation = occupation;
              return this;
          }

          public Person Build()
          {
              return _person;
          }
      }

We’ve implemented the Expression Builder pattern using method chaining. The class itself constructs a Person for us. We may then call any of the assignment methods to populate the fields and attributes of the Character class. Each method returns a copy of itself, allowing us to chain the assignment methods, one after the other, thus implementing our fluent interface in C# .NET. We can then finally call the Build() method to obtain the completed Person class.

Summary

We examined the Builder Pattern and seen how useful it is too create complex objects. We also looked at an example of how the .net core framework itself makes use of the builder pattern to provide common functionality string building functionality.

Posted on by:

gary_woodfine profile

Gary Woodfine

@gary_woodfine

Remote Full Stack Web Engineer Specializing in the C#, .NET Core, Azure, AWS, JavaScript, Node.js.

Discussion

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Editor guide
 

Great article, thanks!

I think that this example with 'Person' should be more complex,

Currently PersonBuilder.cs methods just assign properties, and method build just returns Person entity, so in this example, more relevant (I guess) is to create person entity and assign properties, see dotnetfiddle.net/Hu5nNb.

I understand that the idea of example if to show how to use 'Builder' pattern, but also I think it makes sense to show how pattern helps developers to design their code better, so I think it's better to show more complex example

Anyway, Thank You!

 

No worries.

I understand where you're coming from, but also bear in mind that Complexity is a subjective and relative term. What, may be simple to you may be complex to others. So when devising a sample one has to err on the side of simplicity.

In the article, I have provided links to more complex implementations of the Builder pattern implementations.

I will be updating the article later with some examples of how to implement a Fluent implementations which may include further implementations.

 

Hi Gray

Thank you for the article.
I have a small remark for the last example. If we want to 'lock' the builder in order to force using the 'Create' method, I think we should implement a private constructor, for the builder, and make 'Create' method static. In this way, we will be sure that we will have at any moment an instance of Person. Because right now, if I will call 'new PersonBuilder().Occupation(_something).Build()' it will fail because there's no instance for the '_person' yet created.

Thanks
Good luck.

 

Thanks for the feedback.

I will attempt to update the article to incorporate your input.

Thanks

 

I'd be interested in seeing how you implented the fluent aspe TS of the builder. I like the approach but not sure how to implement it, unless I'm missing something.

Great article btw

 

I'll try to update the article to include fluent aspects. Good idea!