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Anonymous Methods

Lambda expressions were added to the language in C# 3.0. Before that, there was a tool called an anonymous method. Anonymous methods still exist, and can be used, though they’ve fallen out of common use because lambda expressions are usually a superior option.

Suppose we have a variable called action, whose type is the delegate type Action. We want it to store a method with no parameters and a void return type.

We can assign it a normal, named method like this:

Action action = DoSomething;

void DoSomething()
    Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!");

Or, if we wanted to use a lambda instead of a named method, we could do this:

Action action = () => Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!");

The anonymous method version of this used the delegate keyword, and looks like this:

Action action = delegate { Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!"); };

Contrasted with a lambda (and a named method), anonymous methods must have a block body.

You can optionally include the parentheses if you want:

Action action = delegate() { Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!"); };

If you have parameters, the parentheses are mandatory, and you add them like this:

Action<string> action = delegate(string text) { Console.WriteLine(text); };
action.Invoke("Hello, World!");

One nice extra feature of anonymous methods is that in situations where a parameter is expected but goes unused, you can simply leave it off:

Action<string> action = delegate { Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!"); }
action.Invoke("This text is ignored.");

By comparison to lambda expressions, you get none of the little features that make lambdas short and easy to read. Because of that, you should usually prefer a lambda to an anonymous method.

Having said that (and the reason this article exists), there is one scenario where I still sometimes see anonymous methods used: giving events a non-null value. The book describes doing this with a lambda:

public event Action SomethingHappened = () => {};

But the following anonymous method version is not uncommon either:

public event Action SomethingHappened = delegate { };

Either version works fine, and you’ll see both (as well as the version that allows the event to be null, and using Action? instead of Action).