Encapsulation in Object-oriented Programming

People often get confused between abstraction and encapsulation. As we learn in the previous chapter, abstraction is a way of thinking, whereas encapsulation is a technique to implement abstraction.

Encapsulation is a technique to implement abstraction in code. Create classes and their members with appropriate access modifiers to show or hide details and complexity.

Encapsulation hides the data and implementation details show only the required members within a class, thus hiding complexity from other code. No other code needs to know about implementation detail and also can’t modify the code of the class’s data and methods.

Most object-oriented programming languages allow you to create classes and their properties and methods along with the access modifiers such as public, private, protected, and internal to show or hide data members and implementation details. Interfaces and abstract classes can also be used for encapsulation.

For example, the Student class has the following members:

As you can see, the FirstName, MiddleName, LastName, and FullName are data members and Save(), Subscribe(), GetSubscribedCourses() are methods.

In C#, we can implement encapsulation mostly using class, interface, abstract class, property, method, struct, enum, and access modifiers. For the above Student entity, we can create the Student class. Use properties for the data members and methods for the actions.

The following example demonstrates encapsulation.

Example: Encapsulation
public class Student
    private string _firstName;

    public string FirstName
        get { return _firstName; }
        set { _firstName = value; }

    private string _middleName;

    public string MiddleName
        get { return _middleName; }
        set { _middleName = value; }

    private string _lastName;

    public string LastName
        get { return _lastName; }
        set { _lastName = value; }

    public string FullName
        get { return _firstName + " " + _lastName; }

    public void Save() { 
        //write code to save student 

    public void Subscribe(Course cs)
        //write code to subscribe to a course

    private void Verify()
        //write code to verify student before subscribing

    public void GetSubscribedCourses()
        //write code to return all subscribed courses

Above, private fields such as _firstName, _middleName, and _lastName store the data privately to hide it from the external code so that they cannot modify it with invalid values. FirstName, MiddleName, and LastName properties use these fields in the getters and setters to return and set values to these fields. These are public properties so that they are visible and accessible to outside code via getters and setters. The FullName property internally uses private variables to return the full name of the student.

In the same way, the public Enroll() method is visible but it hides the implementation detail by internally calling the private Subscribe() method. External code cannot know and access the Subscribe() method because it is a private method.

Advantages of Encapsulation:

  • Hides data and complexities.
  • Restrict unauthorized access of data by allowing authorization before data access.
  • Allow validation before setting data.
  • Only the author of the class needs to understand the implementation, not others.
  • Makes applications easy to maintain.