By Svish

2009-08-05 09:24:15 8 Comments

Tried to run Run Code Analysis on a project here, and got a number of warnings that said something like this:

CA1002 : Microsoft.Design : Change 'List<SomeType>' in 'SomeClass.SomeProtectedOrPublicProperty' to use Collection, ReadOnlyCollection or KeyedCollection

Why should I use Collection<T> instead of List<T>? When I look at the msdn documentation, they seem almost equal. After reading the error help for the warning, I found that

System.Collections.Generic.List(T)_is a generic collection designed for performance not inheritance and, therefore, does not contain any virtual members.

But what does this really mean? And what should I be doing instead?

Should I keep using List<T> internally, and then in the properties return a new Collection<T>(someList) instead? Or should I just start using Collection<T> instead of List<T>?


@Rob Levine 2009-08-05 09:30:20

In short, the generic list does not have virtual methods for Add, Remove etc, as it was designed to be fast, not extensible. This means that you cannot swap this concrete implementation out for a useful subclass (even though you can subclass it as it is not sealed).

Therefore, by exposing the List itself, you can never extend your collection to track add or remove operations (for example) without breaking the public contract of the class.

By exposing your collection as an IList or some-such, you can still use the List as the actual backing-store, but you retain future extensibility as you can swap out the concerete implementation later without changing the public contract of your class.

@Zoltán Tamási 2015-09-10 18:17:44

Just FYI, Collection<T> uses a List<T> instance internally.

@Simon P Stevens 2009-08-05 09:28:11

Collection exposes some virtual members (insert, remove, set, clear) that you can override and provide additional functionality (such as notification events) when the collection is changed.

You may not need this now, but it is a common requirement for classes that contain collections, so it's best to plan for it in advance. Because Collection is designed with extensibility in mind it's very flexible. If in the future you decide you need some extra feature in the collection you can just extend it without any change to the public interface of the class. If you had used a list, you would have had to change it to a collection which means it would have broken all of the callers of your class because they would have to be changed to use lists to.

List on the other hand is designed with performance in mind, so should only be used in specific cases where performance is very important. Because it is not extensible future changes to anything using a list will break everything else dependant on it. Normally List should only be used internally within very low level classes and not exposed to anything to reduce the chance of future breaking changes.

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