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C# equivalent to C "union"? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Is there a C# equivalent to the C union typedef? I have a 64 byte array that can either be byte or int (USB data packet). I would like to be able to access these bytes as either type. In C I would declare:

    typedef union byte_array
    {
    struct{byte byte1; byte byte2; byte byte3; byte byte4;};
    struct{int int1; int int2;};
    };byte_array

     

    ...and access them by:

    byte_array myarray;
    mybyte = myarray.byte1;
    myint = myarray.int1;

     
    How would I accomplish this in C#?
    Sunday, December 4, 2005 10:48 PM

Answers

  • C# doesn't natively support the C/C++ notion of unions. You can however use the StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit) and FieldOffset attributes to create equivalent functionality. I'll assume that you meant a 64-bit data structure, which would contain 8 bytes or 2 ints. If you really did mean a 64-byte data structure, you would need to define a struct with 64 bytes and 16 ints. (Probably better to use a byte[] and a int[].) You can find information here:

    http://winfx.msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dv_csref/html/163ab9b5-46f6-4d78-9025-f7bbba89b2e1.asp

    For instance:

    using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
    struct ByteArray {
      [FieldOffset(0)]
      public byte Byte1;
      [FieldOffset(1)]
      public byte Byte2;
      [FieldOffset(2)]
      public byte Byte3;
      [FieldOffset(3)]
      public byte Byte4;
      [FieldOffset(4)]
      public byte Byte5;
      [FieldOffset(5)]
      public byte Byte6;
      [FieldOffset(6)]
      public byte Byte7;
      [FieldOffset(7)]
      public byte Byte8;
      [FieldOffset(0)]
      public int Int1;
      [FieldOffset(4)]
      public int Int2;
    }

    One thing to be careful of is the endian-ness of the machine if you plan to run it on non-x86 platforms that may have differing endianness. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endianness for an explanation.

    Monday, December 5, 2005 2:59 AM
  • You can actually do the following:


    using System;
    using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
    struct byte_array
    {
     [FieldOffset(0)]
     public byte byte1;

     [FieldOffset(1)]
     public byte byte2;

     [FieldOffset(2)]
     public byte byte3;

     [FieldOffset(3)]
     public byte byte4;

     [FieldOffset(0)]
     public short int1;

     [FieldOffset(2)]
     public short int2;
    }


     



    However, you need to be careful as the 'int' datatype in the .NET Framework is actually a 32-bit integer not 16-bit. So 2 bytes actually make up 1 short.

    Monday, December 5, 2005 2:59 AM

All replies

  • There is no union in C#. Other options are necessary, such as unsafe code, or a class like this

    public class U {

    short s;

    //==================================================

    public U(short s) {

    this.s = s;

    }

    //==================================================

    public byte AsByte(byte index) {

    const short maskLeft = 0xF0;

    const short maskRight = 0x0F;

    switch (index) { // index: 0..3

    case 0:

    return (byte)((maskLeft & s) >> 4); // shift right 4 bits

    case 1:

    return (byte)(maskRight & s);

    default:

    return 0;

    }

    }

    }



     

    where the access code is written to favor bytes or shorts, whichever values are the most common. sorry about the code format

    Monday, December 5, 2005 2:40 AM
  • C# doesn't natively support the C/C++ notion of unions. You can however use the StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit) and FieldOffset attributes to create equivalent functionality. I'll assume that you meant a 64-bit data structure, which would contain 8 bytes or 2 ints. If you really did mean a 64-byte data structure, you would need to define a struct with 64 bytes and 16 ints. (Probably better to use a byte[] and a int[].) You can find information here:

    http://winfx.msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dv_csref/html/163ab9b5-46f6-4d78-9025-f7bbba89b2e1.asp

    For instance:

    using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
    struct ByteArray {
      [FieldOffset(0)]
      public byte Byte1;
      [FieldOffset(1)]
      public byte Byte2;
      [FieldOffset(2)]
      public byte Byte3;
      [FieldOffset(3)]
      public byte Byte4;
      [FieldOffset(4)]
      public byte Byte5;
      [FieldOffset(5)]
      public byte Byte6;
      [FieldOffset(6)]
      public byte Byte7;
      [FieldOffset(7)]
      public byte Byte8;
      [FieldOffset(0)]
      public int Int1;
      [FieldOffset(4)]
      public int Int2;
    }

    One thing to be careful of is the endian-ness of the machine if you plan to run it on non-x86 platforms that may have differing endianness. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endianness for an explanation.

    Monday, December 5, 2005 2:59 AM
  • You can actually do the following:


    using System;
    using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
    struct byte_array
    {
     [FieldOffset(0)]
     public byte byte1;

     [FieldOffset(1)]
     public byte byte2;

     [FieldOffset(2)]
     public byte byte3;

     [FieldOffset(3)]
     public byte byte4;

     [FieldOffset(0)]
     public short int1;

     [FieldOffset(2)]
     public short int2;
    }


     



    However, you need to be careful as the 'int' datatype in the .NET Framework is actually a 32-bit integer not 16-bit. So 2 bytes actually make up 1 short.

    Monday, December 5, 2005 2:59 AM
  • +1, David. We obviously posted our solution at the same time. :)
    Monday, December 5, 2005 3:00 AM
  • James,

    Great minds think a like. Looks like we posted the same answer at the same time. ;)
    Monday, December 5, 2005 3:00 AM
  • James,

    You may want to fix up FieldOffset for the Int2 field in your struct. It should be changed from 1 to 4.
    Monday, December 5, 2005 3:11 AM
  • Good catch, David. I was thinking it was the second int and therefore position 1, but the field numbering is based on the bytes. Serves me right for not dropping it into VS or Snippet Compiler and verifygin it before posting. Thanks!
    Monday, December 5, 2005 3:22 AM
  • Peter, David, James,

    Thanks for the help!

    So, to reference the "int1" above, would I do the following?


    myint = byte_array.int1
     


    I will modify the structure for "short" instead of "int" since the other end of the USB link thinks ints are 16 bits...;)

    Thanks again!
    Monday, December 5, 2005 12:17 PM
  • Yep that's right.

    Cheers

    David
    Monday, December 5, 2005 12:31 PM
  • David & James - if the data didnt have to 'match' the layout as presented by a C program, say, what would you recommend for storage of these data?
    Monday, December 5, 2005 7:51 PM
  • It would honestly depend on a variety of other factors. If I could detect the type of the incoming data, I would create two different structs and let the CLR lay them out optimally based on the underlying platform (x86, IA64, x64, etc.). Then I could select whichever data structure I needed at runtime. I might also consider an abstract base class with common methods and then two concrete classes that contain the data. Yet another option would be a generic type with element type specified as a template parameter. Lots of options and the best option depends on the problem at hand.
    Monday, December 5, 2005 8:58 PM
  • Works like a charm, did the following for a float / byte union

            [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
            struct byte_array
            {
                [FieldOffset(0)]
                public byte byte1;

                [FieldOffset(1)]
                public byte byte2;

                [FieldOffset(2)]
                public byte byte3;

                [FieldOffset(3)]
                public byte byte4;

                [FieldOffset(0)]
                public float float1;
            }
            private byte_array Revison;

    Ends up with IEEE float data in the bytes.


    Friday, March 23, 2012 7:51 PM
  • And that after only 6 years of coding. LOL.

    Regards David R
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Object-oriented programming offers a sustainable way to write spaghetti code. - Paul Graham.
    Every program eventually becomes rococo, and then rubble. - Alan Perlis
    The only valid measurement of code quality: WTFs/minute.

    • Proposed as answer by sanicks Monday, April 2, 2012 6:54 PM
    • Unproposed as answer by sanicks Monday, April 2, 2012 6:54 PM
    Friday, March 23, 2012 9:09 PM
  • Hi Everyone, i was traying to do this 
    c++ union struct in safe managed code

    C: code

    union VECTOR2 
    {
    	long data[2];  
    	struct
    	 {
    		long x;    
    		long y;    
    	};
    };
    

    i try this in c#

    using System;
    using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
    
    namespace myVector
    {
    
        [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit, Size = 8)]
        struct VECTOR2
        {
            [FieldOffset(0)]
            [MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.ByValArray, SizeConst = 2)]
            int[] data;
            [FieldOffset(0)]
            int x;
            [FieldOffset(4)]
            int y;
    
    
        }
    
        
    }

    but i get TypeLoadException, if i take out the [] in
    int[] data; declaration, the program load,
     but i can't access from c# using for example

             VECTOR2.data = {2,3}:
       //or
    	 VECTOR2.data[0] = 2;
    	 VECTOR2.data[1] = 3;

    because c# will not recognize it as an array or a pointer
    the goal is to can access at the same memory space
    using a 
    VECTOR2.data = {2,3};

    or individually
    using 

    VECTOR2.x = 2;
    VECTOR2.x = 3;

    if i use /unsafe and declare:
    fixed int data[2];

    it's works but... in unsafe mode! :(

    is there a way to can do that?¿?
    i don't know


    Thank, Sanicks (:

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 1:50 PM
  • struct VECTOR2
    {
        public int[] data;
        int x
        {
            get { return data[0]; }
            set { data[0] = value; }
        }
        int y
        {
            get { return data[1]; }
            set { data[1] = value; }
        }
    }

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 3:59 PM
  • Thanks you Louis, after a lot of failed attempts i get this way:

    class IVECTOR2
        {
            int[] _data;
            public int x
            {
                get{return _data[0];}
                set{_data[0] = value;}
            }
            public int y
            {
                get{return _data[1];}
                set{_data[1] = value;}
            }
            
            public int[] data
            {
                get{return _data;}
                set{
                    _data[0] = value[0];
                    _data[1] = value[1];
                }
            }
    
            
            public IVECTOR2()
            {
              _data = new int[2];             
            }
    
        }

    but your code is much cleaner, and there is a struct indeed!

    thank you so much,
    sanicks

     

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 8:11 PM