In object-oriented programming, objects can be in a particular state in which it is not valid to call certain methods. This article explores a solution for when methods need to be called in a particular order.

Enforcing the order of method calls

For some classes, methods can only be called in a specific order. For example, when using TCP sockets, you first have to call Connect() before you can call Send(). This order is usually enforced at run-time, by throwing an exception when the methods are called out of order.

Consider this C# example:

using System.Net;
using System.Net.Sockets;
using System.Text;

var dest = IPEndPoint.Parse("");
var sender = new Socket(dest.AddressFamily, SocketType.Stream, ProtocolType.Tcp);
// sender.Connect(dest);
sender.Send(Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes("hello world"));

The call to Connect() has been commented out, and Send() complains about that”

Unhandled exception. System.Net.Sockets.SocketException (57): Socket is not connected
   at System.Net.Sockets.Socket.Send(Byte[] buffer)
   at Program.<Main>$(String[] args) in ConsoleApp4/Program.cs:line 8

This is enforced at run-time, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could enforce it at compile time?

Expose only callable methods in the interface

When we create a new socket, it should not have a Send() method on it, since we can’t call it anyway. Only after we have called Connect() we should obtain an object that has a Send() method. Creating a new socket will give us a IDisconnectedSocket, which specifies a Connect() method that returns an IConnectedSocket.

public interface IDisconnectedSocket
    public IConnectedSocket Connect(EndPoint remoteEP);

public interface IConnectedSocket
    public int Send(byte[] buffer);

We can only obtain a IConnectedSocket after calling Connect(), so it’s no longer possible to call Send() without calling Connect() first.

These two interfaces can even be implemented on the same type. The Socket class could implement all methods, but methods are still protected against out-of-order execution because the caller does not have the interface to these methods. For example, the following class converts the normal Socket to one that conforms to our interfaces:

public class SocketAdapter : IConnectedSocket, IDisconnectedSocket
    private Socket socket;

    private SocketAdapter(Socket socket)
        this.socket = socket;
    public static IDisconnectedSocket Create(AddressFamily addressFamily, SocketType socketType, ProtocolType protocolType)
        return new SocketAdapter(new Socket(addressFamily, socketType, protocolType));
    public IConnectedSocket Connect(EndPoint remoteEP)
        return this;
    public int Send(byte[] buffer)
        return socket.Send(buffer);

This class uses a private constructor and a Create() method here, so that it can return a IDisconnectedSocket. A constructor would return a SocketAdapter, and then someone could cal Send() on it.


This pattern does not protect against all out-of-order method calls. For example, we could still call Connect() twice on a IDisconnectedSocket. However, I think it is a powerful pattern to catch mistakes at compile time, and it could make it easier to use the class correctly.