C-Sharp Mapping for Sequences

Ice for .NET supports several different mappings for sequences. By default, sequences are mapped to arrays. You can use metadata directives to map sequences to a number of alternative types:

  • System.Collections.Generic.List
  • System.Collections.Generic.LinkedList
  • System.Collections.Generic.Queue
  • System.Collections.Generic.Stack
  • User-defined custom types that derive from System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<T>.

The different mappings allow you to map a sequence to a container type that provides the correct performance trade-off for your application.

On this page:

Array Mapping for Sequences in C#

By default, the Slice-to-C# compiler maps sequences to arrays. Interestingly, no code is generated in this case; you simply define an array of elements to model the Slice sequence. For example:

sequence<Fruit> FruitPlatter;

Given this definition, to create a sequence containing an apple and an orange, you could write:

Fruit[] fp = { Fruit.Apple, Fruit.Orange };

Or, alternatively:

Fruit fp[] = new Fruit[2];
fp[0] = Fruit.Apple;
fp[1] = Fruit.Orange;

The array mapping for sequences is both simple and efficient, especially for sequences that do not need to provide insertion or deletion other than at the end of the sequence.


Mapping to Predefined Generic Containers for Sequences in C#

With metadata directives, you can change the default mapping for sequences to use generic containers provided by .NET. For example:

["cs:generic:List"] sequence<string> StringSeq;
["cs:generic:LinkedList"] sequence<Fruit> FruitSeq;
["cs:generic:Queue"] sequence<int> IntQueue;
["cs:generic:Stack"] sequence<double> DoubleStack;

The "cs:generic:<type>" metadata directive causes the slice2cs compiler to the map the corresponding sequence to one of the containers in the System.Collections.Generic namespace. For example, the Queue sequence maps to System.Collections.Generic.Queue<int> due to its metadata directive.

The predefined containers allow you to select an appropriate space-performance trade-off, depending on how your application uses a sequence. In addition, if a sequence contains value types, such as int, the generic containers do not incur the cost of boxing and unboxing and so are quite efficient. (For example, System.Collections.Generic.List<int> performs within a few percentage points of an integer array for insertion and deletion at the end of the sequence, but has the advantage of providing a richer set of operations.)

Generic containers can be used for sequences of any element type except objects. For sequences of objects, only List is supported because it provides the functionality required for efficient unmarshaling. Metadata that specifies any other generic type is ignored with a warning:

class MyClass
    // ...

sequence<MyClass> MyClassList; // OK

sequence<MyClass> MyClassLinkedList; // Ignored

In this example, sequence type MyClassList maps to the generic container System.Collections.Generic.List<MyClass>, but sequence type MyClassLinkedList uses the default array mapping.


Mapping to Custom Types for Sequences in C#

If the array mapping and the predefined containers are unsuitable for your application (for example, because you may need a priority queue, which does not come with .NET), you can implement your own custom containers and direct slice2cs to map sequences to these custom containers. For example:

["cs:generic:MyTypes.PriorityQueue"] sequence<int> Queue;

This metadata directive causes the Slice Queue sequence to be mapped to the type MyTypes.PriorityQueue. You must specify the fully-qualified name of your custom type following the cs:generic: prefix. This is because the generated code prepends a global:: qualifier to the type name you provide; for the preceding example, the generated code refers to your custom type as global::MyTypes.PriorityQueue<int>.

Your custom type can have whatever interface you deem appropriate, but it must meet the following requirements:

  • The custom type must derive from System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<T>.
  • The custom type must provide a readable Count property that returns the number of elements in the collection.
  • The custom type must provide an Add method that appends an element to the end of the collection.
  • If (and only if) the Slice sequence contains elements that are Slice classes, the custom type must provide an indexer that sets the value of an element at a specific index. (Indexes, as usual, start at zero.)

As an example, here is a minimal class (omitting implementation) that meets these criteria:

public class PriorityQueue<T> : IEnumerable<T>
    public IEnumerator<T> GetEnumerator();

    public int Count

    public void Add(T elmt);

    public T this[int index] // Needed for class elements only.

    // Other methods and data members here...


Multi-Dimensional Sequences in C#

Slice permits you to define sequences of sequences, for example:

enum Fruit { Apple, Orange, Pear }
["cs:generic:List"] sequence<Fruit> FruitPlatter;
["cs:generic:LinkedList"] sequence<FruitPlatter> Cornucopia;

If we use these definitions as shown, the type of FruitPlatter in the generated code is:


Here the outer sequence contains elements of type List<Fruit>, as you would expect.

Now let us modify the definition to change the mapping of FruitPlatter to an array:

enum Fruit { Apple, Orange, Pear }
sequence<Fruit> FruitPlatter;
["cs:generic:LinkedList"] sequence<FruitPlatter> Cornucopia;

With this definition, the type of Cornucopia becomes:


The generated code now no longer mentions the type FruitPlatter anywhere and deals with the outer sequence elements as an array of Fruit instead.

See Also