13.5. Classes And StructsΒΆ

C# has an alternate syntax to a class: a struct. Everything we have said so far about classes such an Rational applies to structs also! In fact you could change class into struct in the heading for Rational, and it would become a struct, with no further code changes in any of the code we have written!

public struct Rational
   // ...

So why the distinction? We have mentioned that new objects created in a class are accessed indirectly via a reference, as with an array. As a general category, they are called reference objects. We distinguished the types int and double and bool, where the actual value of the data is stored in the space for a variable of the type. They are value types. A struct is also a value type. In practice this is efficient for small objects of a fixed size. We made Rational a class because you have already seen the class construct with static entries, and classes are more generally useful. In fact being a struct would be a good choice for Rational, since it only contains two integers. Its size is no more than one double.

The behavior of a Rational is the same either way, because it is immutable. If we allowed mutating methods, then a class version and a struct version would not behave the same way, due to the fact the reference types can have aliases, and value types cannot.

There are some more complicated situations where there are further distinctions between classes and structs, but we shall not concern ourselves with those fine advanced points in this book.