Tutorial :Difference in using Attributes/Interfaces in C#


This is not properly a question but something more like a thought I had recently. I'm taking XmlAttribute to XmlSerialize a class as an example: you can set attributes to a class to choose which properties should be serialized, but the same thing can be done quite easy by implementing a teorical interface IXmlSerializable (it does exist something similar, I don't remember) and by overloading a method "Serialize" for that class which just call Serialize on properties you want to serialize (this.myProp1.Serialize()), same for Deserialize

So what I'm basically saying: isn't Attribute method a bit redundant? (I like it actually, but I don't find it logically different from an interface)

Thanks for any answer, as I've said this is just a thought... hopefully someone will find it interesting

Update 1: Well I explained myself in a wrong way, what I'm asking is "why should I choose attribute instead of an Interface (or opposite)", not exactly this specific case (I took serialization because was the first thing that pop out in my mind), by the way thanks for your answer because they are very interesting


Well, from the best I can tell, they are logically different.

Implementing IXmlSerializable directly impacts the class itself, because you are adding an interface and one or more methods into the implementation of the class. In essence, You are making your own class directly responsibly for the it's serialization.

However, adding the XmlAttribute attributes does not directly impact the functionality of the class, instead you are just decorating it with attributes so that XmlSerializer can carry out the actual serialization functiohality. In this case, you are deferring the serialization to the XmlSerializer class, and providing just enough metadata about your class for XmlSerializer to do it's work.

This is why I prefer the latter attribute approach. When I'm writing a class, I want it to be serializable, but the last thing I care about is the specifics of the implementation, so I always start with thaqt approach and 99% of the time it works fine with very little work. However, if you did need more fine-grain control over the serialization, the implement the IXmlSerializable interface and write your own serialization code.


From the comments and downvote, maybe I should highlight my main point here: something that can save me hours of work (per type) and horrible code complexity is very much not redundant, but very, very welcome.

"quite easy"? OK; I'm pretty experienced at serialization, but the implementation for that is not what I call easy. Quite the contrary, in fact.

If you don't want to use attributes, there is an overload for XmlSerializer that allows you to configure it at runtime.

But I shudder whenever I hear "implement IXmlSerializable". The attribute approach is very quick and easy:

[XmlRoot("foo"), XmlType("foo")]  [XmlInclude(typeof(SuperFoo))]  public class Foo {      public string X {get;set;}        [XmlAttribute("y")]      public int? Y {get;set;}        [XmlElement("item")]      public List<string> Items {get;set;}  }  public class SuperFoo : Foo {}  

I challenge you to write a robust implementation of IXmlSerializable for that very simple example in under 2 hours... and remember that every line you write is a line you have to maintain.


The programmatic method of implementing the interface may give a bit more control (and likely more speed), but is harder to create and maintain than the attribute method. I mostly use attributes.


You can select properties to (not) serialize with attributes. Implementation of interface is serialization by code.

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