C# Encapsulation Examples

Let’s start by focusing on encapsulation’s benefits to organizing our code by exploring some examples of encapsulation you may already be familiar with.


The C# libraries are organized into discrete units called namespaces. The primary purpose of this is to separate code units that potentially use the same name, which causes name collisions where the interpreter isn’t sure which of the possibilities you mean in your program. This means you can use the same name to refer to two different things in your program, provided they are in different namespaces.

For example, there are two definitions for a Point Struct in the .NET core libraries: System.Drawing.Point and System.Windows.Point . The two have a very different internal structures (the former uses integers and the latter doubles), and we would not want to mix them up. If we needed to create an instance of both in our program, we would use their fully-quantified name to help the interpreter know which we mean:

System.Drawing.Point pointA = new System.Drawing.Point(500, 500);
System.Windows.Point pointB = new System.Windows.Point(300.0, 200.0);

The using directive allows you reference the type without quantification, i.e.:

using System.Drawing;
Point pointC = new Point(400, 400);

You can also create an alias with the using directive, providing an alternative (and usually abbreviated) name for the type:

using WinPoint = System.Windows.Point;
WinPoint pointD = new WinPoint(100.0, 100.0);

We can also declare our own namespaces, allowing us to use namespaces to organize our own code just as Microsoft has done with its .NET libraries.

Encapsulating code within a namespace helps ensure that the types defined within are only accessible with a fully qualified name, or when the using directive is employed. In either case, the intended type is clear, and knowing the namespace can help other programmers find the type’s definition.


In the discussion of namespaces, we used a struct . A C# struct is what computer scientists refer to as a compound type , a type composed from other types. This too, is a form of encapsulation, as it allows us to collect several values into a single data structure. Consider the concept of a vector from mathematics - if we wanted to store three-dimensional vectors in a program, we could do so in several ways. Perhaps the easiest would be as an array:

double[] vectorA = {3, 4, 5};

However, other than the variable name, there is no indication to other programmers that this is intended to be a three-element vector. And, if we were to accept it in a function, say a dot product:

public double DotProduct(double[] a, double[] b) {
    if(a.Length < 3 || b.Length < 3) throw new ArgumentException();
    return a[0] * b[0] + a[1] * b[1] + a[2] * b[2];

We would need to check that both arrays were of length three… A struct provides a much cleaner option, by allowing us to define a type that is composed of exactly three doubles:

/// <summary>
/// A 3-element vector 
/// </summary>
public struct Vector3 {
    public double x;
    public double y;
    public double z;

    public Vector3(double x, double y, double z) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
        this.z = z;

Then, our DotProduct can take two arguments of the Vector3 struct:

public double DotProduct(Vector3 a, Vector3 b) {
    return a.x * b.x + a.y * b.y + a.z * b.z;

There is no longer any concern about having the wrong number of elements in our vectors - it will always be three. We also get the benefit of having unique names for these fields (in this case, x, y, and z).

Thus, a struct allows us to create structure to represent multiple values in one variable, encapsulating the related values into a single data structure. Variables, and compound data types, represent the state of a program. We’ll examine this concept in detail next.


You might think that the kind of modules that Parnas was describing don’t exist in C#, but they actually do - we just don’t call them ‘modules’. Consider how you would raise a number by a power, say 10 to the 8th power:

Math.Pow(10, 8);

The Math class in this example is actually used just like a module! We can’t see the underlying implementation of the Pow() method, it provides to us a well-defined interface (i.e. you call it with the symbol Pow and two doubles for parameters), and this method and other related math functions (Sin(), Abs(), Floor(), etc.) are encapsulated within the Math class.

We can define our own module-like classes by using the static keyword, i.e. we could group our vector math functions into a static VectorMath class:

/// <summary>
/// A library of vector math functions
/// </summary>
public static class VectorMath() {
    /// <summary>
    /// Computes the dot product of two vectors 
    /// </summary>
    public static double DotProduct(Vector3 a, Vector3 b) {
        return a.x * b.x + a.y * b.y + a.z * b.z;

    /// <summary>
    /// Computes the magnitude of a vector
    /// </summary>
    public static double Magnitude(Vector3 a) {
        return Math.Sqrt(Math.Pow(a.x, 2) + Math.Pow(a.y, 2) + Math.Pow(a.z, 2));


To duplicate the module behavior with C#, we must declare both the class and its methods static.


But what most distinguishes C# is that it is an object-oriented language, and as such, it’s primary form of encapsulation is classes and objects. The key idea behind encapsulation in an object-oriented language is that we encapsulate both state and behavior in the class definition. Let’s explore that idea more deeply in the next section.