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GOF Behavioural Patterns with C#

By Barry Mossman from

The source code for this article's demonstration program is also available from this site. See the link at the end of this document. The program contains annotated example displays, and also displays some notes about each of the patterns, so if you are interested in starting to work with the patterns it may be a useful utility to have on your desktop during the learning period.

This is my third article about the GOF Design patterns. The first two articles studied the Creational and Structural Patterns, while this one looks at the Behavioural Patterns. The first article gave an overview of where the patterns came from, and a general discussion about the general techniques that they promoted. There is a link to that article at the end of this one, but I will firstly briefly recap a few of the points made there.

The GOF design patterns help address the following challenges :

  • design ready to accommodate change & growth

  • design flexible systems which come ready to handle reconfiguration and run time tailoring

  • code in manner to facilitate reuse during the development and extension phases ... ie. both external and internal reuse, so that we are rewarded by efficiencies as the project progresses, coming for investments made earlier in the project.

  • implement change in a way that doesn't overly shorten the system's useful lifespan

In a multi-person project the design patterns have the additional utility of providing a shorthand language with which to describe design options and specifications.

The design patterns were defined in the programming classic entitled "Design Patterns" by Gamma, Helm, Johnson & Vlissides. The four authors are commonly described as the Gang Of Four (GOF) for brevity. The subtitle of the book is "elements of reusable object-oriented software".

The GOF described various categories of patterns:

  • Creational Patterns

  • Structural Patterns

  • Behavioural Patterns <===== covered by this article

One of the book's key points is that the authors favour using "object composition" over "class inheritance" when designing our system's objects. This means that our objects are assembled at runtime from a number of helper classes working together to deliver the desired behaviour, rather than being statically defined at compile time using class inheritance. Objects that are created in this favoured way offer a great deal of runtime flexibility, and are better set up for future modification. A general theme of the design patterns is that they allow the composition of larger and more flexible structures from smaller helper classes.

The approach necessitates more physical classes, but is made more workable where the patterns are used as they help to bring an understandable structure to the design. The fact that the patterns are based upon system design structures that have been tested and refined over time is also of assistance.

Note that the advice is to only to "favour" object composition over class inheritance, not to stop using inheritance altogether. The two techniques work well together.

A summary of the patterns

Pattern Name

General Objective

Chain of Responsibility

Allows us to decouple a client's request for action, from the class that will implement it.

The client builds a chain of candidate classes (Handlers) to handle the request, and then passes the request to the chain. The client is simplified as it does not need to know which class will finally handle the request. The request is passed down the chain, one handler at a time, until one of them accepts responsibility for the request.

There is much flexibility as the chain is built at runtime, and the sequence can therefore be tailored by runtime or configuration conditions.


Allows us to make commands, or requests against an object, into objects themselves.

Potential OO benefits include grouping of command series into macros, providing undo support, facilitating command logging, persisting commands or macros via Save|Restore, queuing commands for later execution, and runtime tailoring of commands that are to be executed.


This pattern enables us to design a script language, it's syntax, and then implement an Interpreter to process requests that have been recorded in that language.

This allows us to create a flexible client that is capable of receiving and actioning high level request scripts written in a command language that we have designed to suit the users of our system.


Outsource, into a separate class, the task of iteration through an aggregate's members.

Allows generic navigation code able to address different aggregate classes. Client can open simultaneous independent cursors into a single aggregate instance, or an aggregate class can offer alternate methods of navigation without cluttering it's implementation or public interface.

An "internal" iterator can be created, allowing the client to ask the aggregate to step through itself applying a passed invocation list of methods against each of the aggregate's members.


Collect the rules of interaction between a number of classes (Colleagues), and encapsulate them into a separate Mediator class.

Clarify our application's big picture since the cooperation of the Colleague classes is collected together into the one place.

Can facilitate more reuse, and reduce the disruption caused by future enhancement. For example a new class of Mediator reusing Colleagues working together in a new way, or new Colleagues which could be coordinated in a familiar fashion by an old Mediator class.


This pattern allows a number of Observer classes to observe, and synchronize themselves to, the state of a Subject class.

Allows cohesion without tight coupling. Enables independent reuse, or enhancement of, Subjects or Observers.

Introduces flexibility as Observers can be added or removed at runtime, or subsequent versions could introduce new Observer classes with minimal disruption.


This pattern allows us to save, or restore, an object's internal state without violating it's encapsulation.

Addresses security considerations regarding information held within the Momento, also may be deployed such that only the object that created the Momento can use it for restoration..


This pattern is applicable for objects that need to be able to change between various states, and where the object needs to have differing behaviours for the different states.


This pattern allows us to encapsulate algorithms as classes in order to make them reusable, interchangeable or just hidden from the client.

Use of this pattern can help achieve the goal of having an application comprised of loosely coupled interchangeable parts, avoiding an overly monolithic implementation of our application.

The pattern can help to reduce the amount of sub-classing required in some circumstances.


The Template pattern permits us to offer flexibility and achieve reuse within application algorithms, while still being able to retain control over those elements of the algorithm which we want to run unchanged.

The pattern is related to the Strategy pattern. Where the Strategy pattern used delegation to vary the whole algorithm, the Template pattern allows inheritance to specify variation to portions of a flexible base algorithm


In this pattern we design a class, or group of classes, to be independent of the operations that will be performed upon it. The operations are collected together into a separate Visitor class, and the target classes (Elements) are designed to be "visitor ready”.

Use of this pattern can reduce the impact of future system changes, and can aid with source code organisation by having common types of Operation grouped together within the Visitor class.

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