Why can't I declare C# methods virtual and static?

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I have a helper class that is just a bunch of static methods and would like to subclass the helper class. Some behavior is unique depending on the subclass so I would like to call a virtual method from the base class, but since all the methods are static I can't create a plain virtual method (need object reference in order to access virtual method).

Is there any way around this? I guess I could use a singleton.. HelperClass.Instance.HelperMethod() isn't so much worse than HelperClass.HelperMethod(). Brownie points for anyone that can point out some languages that support virtual static methods.

Edit: OK yeah I'm crazy. Google search results had me thinking I wasn't for a bit there.

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I don't think you are crazy. You just want to use what is impossible currently in .NET. Your request for virtual static method would have so much sense if we are talking about generics. For example my future request for CLR designers is to allow me to write intereface like this:

public interface ISumable<T>
{
  static T Add(T left, T right);
}

and use it like this:

public T Aggregate<T>(T left, T right) where T : ISumable<T>
{
  return T.Add(left, right);
}

But it's impossible right now, so I'm doing it like this:

    public static class Static<T> where T : new()
    {
      public static T Value = new T();
    }

    public interface ISumable<T>
    {
      T Add(T left, T right);
    }

    public T Aggregate<T>(T left, T right) where T : ISumable<T>, new()
    {
      return Static<T>.Value.Add(left, right);
    }

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Indeed, this can be done in Delphi. An example:

type
  TForm1 = class(TForm)
    procedure FormShow(Sender: TObject);
  end;

  TTestClass = class
  public
    class procedure TestMethod(); virtual;
  end;

  TTestDerivedClass = class(TTestClass)
  public
    class procedure TestMethod(); override;
  end;

  TTestMetaClass = class of TTestClass;

var
  Form1: TForm1;

implementation

{$R *.dfm}

class procedure TTestClass.TestMethod();
begin
  Application.MessageBox('base', 'Message');
end;

class procedure TTestDerivedClass.TestMethod();
begin
  Application.MessageBox('descendant', 'Message');
end;


procedure TForm1.FormShow(Sender: TObject);
var
  sample: TTestMetaClass;
begin
  sample := TTestClass;
  sample.TestMethod;
  sample := TTestDerivedClass;
  sample.TestMethod;
end;

Quite interesting. I no longer use Delphi, but I recall being able to very easily create different types of controls on a custom designer canvas using the metaclass feature: the control class, eg. TButton, TTextBox etc. was a parameter, and I could call the appropriate constructor using the actual metaclass argument.

Kind of the poor man's factory pattern :)

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You can achieve the same effect by just having a regular static method and then shadow it with the new keyword

public class Base 
{
    //Other stuff

    public static void DoSomething()
    {
        Console.WriteLine("Base");
    }
}

public class SomeClass : Base
{
    public new static void DoSomething()
    {
        Console.WriteLine("SomeClass");
    }
}
public class SomeOtherClass : Base
{
}

Then you can call the methods like so

Base.DoSomething(); //Base
SomeClass.DoSomething(); //SomeClass
SomeOtherClass.DoSomething(); //Base

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I come from Delphi and this is a feature among many that I sorely miss in c#. Delphi would allow you to create typed type references and you could pass the type of a derived class wherever the type of a parent class was needed. This treatment of types as objects had powerful utility. In particular allowing run time determination of meta data. I am horribly mixing syntax here but in c# it would look something like:

    class Root {
       public static virtual string TestMethod() {return "Root"; }
    }
    TRootClass = class of TRoot; // Here is the typed type declaration

    class Derived : Root {
       public static overide string TestMethod(){ return "derived"; }
    }

   class Test {
        public static string Run(){
           TRootClass rc;
           rc = Root;
           Test(rc);
           rc = Derived();
           Test(rc);
        }
        public static Test(TRootClass AClass){
           string str = AClass.TestMethod();
           Console.WriteLine(str);
        }
    } 

would produce: Root derived

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Comments
  • This kind of scenario means you should probably turn this into objects (not singletons).
  • I don't want to have to instantiate an object everywhere this helper method is used though.
  • Then use a singleton, or dependency injection, depending on which makes sense.
  • Possible duplicate of Why can't I have abstract static methods in C#?
  • Possible duplicate of How to implement virtual static properties?
  • -1 Because you forgot about generics. T.Add(leftT, rightT); has so much sense. Isn't it?
  • And how would you override your implementation in a subclass?
  • Yes, but the subclass' implementation would not be available from the base type in a static context, which is what the original question asked.
  • Yes, they do make sense, it's just a matter of semantics. I'd argue that if it makes sense to declare a static method inside a class, it makes sense to allow overriding it on a per-type basis. See the Delphi examples in this thread. You may argue that 'static' has a defined meaning; well, in C it has a very different meaning from C# and Java, for example.
  • @etrusco is right. Other languages, like Python, have virtual static methods. In those languages, the object is available for dynamic dispatch, but not passed to the method (since the method is static).
  • @SeeR: -1: I'll correct that if I'm wrong, but this doesn't solve the original problem.
  • @John Saunders: He want static virtual methods, but it's impossible - He must use instance methods for it. He also don't want to instantiate this class everytime he want to use this static (now instance) methods - this is why I created Static<T> class. Now he will only have only one instance of his class for the whole application. I think it's acceptable tax for such functionality. Aggregate<T> method is just an example how he can use it. So in summary we have static virtual replacement in c# - wasn't that the request in question?
  • @SeeR: Your approach works fine if the type in question satisfies a new constraint. Static virtual methods would allow such constructs to be used in type-safe fashion with types that didn't satisfy a new constraint. Alternatively, one could have the Static class not have a new constraint, but rather attempt to use Reflection to create an object with a special parameterized constructor. Unfortunately, I don't know any way to make that type-safe.